IU president to speak at economic development board meeting

A key component in economic development is an educated workforce, the Columbus Economic Development Board has maintained.

That connection is an important reason why the president of Indiana University will be keynote speaker at the board’s 40th anniversary celebration and annual meeting.

Michael A. McRobbie will address the board’s members and ticket holders to the Aug. 22 event at The Commons.

“We’ve placed over the years a high value on education,” said Jason Hester, executive director of the economic development board.

Hester added that the organization is appreciative of McRobbie’s acceptance of its invitation, considering that Aug. 22 also is the first day of classes for IU.

McRobbie, a native of Australia, has been IU’s president since July 1, 2007. He’s overseen the restructuring or establishment of eight schools within the university, and the construction of 70 facilities across all campuses within the Indiana University system. He’s also led three separate endowment campaigns of more than $1 billion, according to the university.

This isn’t the first time the Economic Development Board has had an educational leader give the keynote speech. Purdue University President Mitch Daniels had that honor in 2013, and Ivy Tech Community College President Tom Snyder followed in 2014.

“We try to find speakers the community will find of interest and also have a connection to the work we do,” Hester said.

The connection for the three presidents is that Columbus features IUPUC and Purdue Polytechnic, and an Ivy Tech campus.

Another highlight of the annual meeting will be showing a video commemorating the board’s 40th anniversary. It will features historical photos and interviews with key people during the board’s history, Hester said.

The board launched in 1976, a time when the national inflation and local unemployment rates both were in the double digits, Hester said. It was one of the first local economic development organizations in the state.

“We as a county were highly dependent on a few manufacturers. Out of that need came a dedicated effort to promote local economic development,” Hester said.

The organization quickly participated in the city’s strategy of recruiting direct foreign investment.

The board made its first international trip in 1978, Hester said, when executive director Dave Richmond accompanied then-Mayor Max Andress to France and Germany. Similar trips have followed nearly every year since.

The city’s biggest success in recruiting international firms came after regular trips to Asia began in 1982, starting in 1985 with Enkei America’s arrival in Columbus during the three-term administration of Mayor Robert Stewart (1984 to 1995). A total of 28 Asian-based firms now have a Columbus footprint.

In addition to highlighting the board’s birth and growth, the event will serve as an opportunity to review the past year’s accomplishments and future plans, including new initiatives, Hester said.

If you go

What: Columbus Economic Development Board’s annual meeting and 40th anniversary celebration

When: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 22

Where: The Commons, 300 Washington St., Columbus

Highlights: Keynote speaker is Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie. Retrospective video of the board’s history will be shown. Review of past year will be presented and future plans will be discussed.

Who: Open to the public, but ticket required

Cost: $45 for individuals, $360 for a corporate table of eight

Registration deadline: Aug. 12.

To register: Online at ColumbusIN.org, or by calling 812-378-7300

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Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at johannesen@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5639.