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Visitors Center hosts annual meeting

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Gerry Dick is the president of Grow INdiana Media Ventures.
Gerry Dick is the president of Grow INdiana Media Ventures.

Gerry Dick, Grow INdiana Media Ventures president, interviews Ivy Tech Community College President Tom Snyder.
Gerry Dick, Grow INdiana Media Ventures president, interviews Ivy Tech Community College President Tom Snyder.

Gerry Dick, host and creator of Inside INdiana Business, said the key to communities’ success and economic growth is developing effective partnerships.

Whether it is local government officials working with businesses or civic organizations sharing resources to make a greater impact, collaboration has increasingly become the way to get things done, he said.

Dick will talk about the power of partnerships at the 2014 Annual meeting of the Columbus Area Visitors Center on Tuesday.

Visitors Center officials suggested the topic, which Dick said is very timely because collaboration has become the buzzword in communities throughout the state.

“From a business and economic development standpoint, collaborations and partnerships on multiple fronts have really been very obvious and something we’ve seen as a real trend here in the state,” Dick said.

In Central Indiana, a number of counties are working together on economic development, instead of county vs. county, he said. Instead, county officials are selling a region and focus on partnerships.

Lynn Lucas, Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director, said the topic was chosen because collaboration has been critical to the center’s success. The Columbus Area Visitors Center as it exists today is actually the result of a partnership.

In 1994, the Visitor information & Promotion Commission and the Visitors Center merged to form the legal entity, Visitors Center Inc. (VCI).

“This organization has grown tremendously in the last 20 years, and we didn’t do that by ourselves,” Lucas said. “It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, but that you get it accomplished for the community.”

This is also a great time to discuss community partnerships because Columbus is experiencing a transition in leadership, Lucas said. The meeting provides an opportunity to emphasize the importance of solidifying existing relationships and building new partnerships.

“We have great partnerships at the national, state and regional levels and a great number on the local level as well,” Lucas said. “We don’t just talk about collaboration and partnerships; a lot of us really do work together to make good things happen.”

Dick said Columbus has a long history of collaboration at every level and its largest employer is a true corporate partner.

“There is probably not a better example in the state of Indiana where a corporate player does so much in concert with the community,” Dick said. “The obvious example is the bottom line impact that Cummins provides on a daily basis. Then you look at the architecture and arts and culture and all of the different contributions that Cummins makes in partnerships in the community and it’s also very substantial.”

Workforce development is among the top priorities of companies throughout the state, Dick said, and it should also be a point of emphasis for any community that has a valuable corporate partner.

When a company leaves a community, the community not only loses investment income and jobs, but also a partner that can help communities achieve what they want to,” Dick said.

He pointed to the Purdue Research Park as an example of the three-legged-stool partnership approach that utilizes the academic, public and private sectors to create a more powerful outcome for jobs and investments.

The Purdue Research Park network includes technology-based business incubators with four Indiana locations. It is is designed to create an entrepreneurial business environment, attract high-technology companies and launch new start ups.

“The educational system can’t do it alone, and companies can’t do it alone but if they work together maybe they can get at this issue of providing a workforce,” Dick said. “Without that base of workforce to fuel the future, it’s not going to happen.”

Another area of collaboration that Columbus and other Indiana cities have excelled in is sports tourism, Dick said.

“When you look at the initiatives Columbus and other communities around the state have focused on in attracting amateur sporting events, having the corporate players and community involvement is essential,” Dick said. “It’s that spirit of partnership and collaboration that has really built up sports tourism in places like Indianapolis and Columbus.”

Lucas said the Columbus Area Visitors Center annual meeting also provides an opportunity to recognize some of the community partners who have contributed to the center’s success.

“A lot of these partners are business people, and it’s all about maintaining and keeping Columbus and Bartholomew County thriving,” Lucas said.

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