University Economic Development Association


Award Category: Leadership and Collaboration
Project Site: Indiana University Kokomo Regional Transformation Initiative
Submitted By: Indiana University Kokomo
Contact: Michael Harris, 765.455.9225

Case Study


Our nation and the communities we serve are facing an almost perfect storm. We are experiencing a rapid shift from an economy of traditional industrial manufacturing, based on natural resources and labor, to an economy of knowledge, driven by innovation and entrepreneurship; further complicated by intense global competitiveness and uncertainty. In light of the many economic challenges, it is Indiana University Kokomo’s mission and obligation to offer hope, be forward looking, optimistic and work toward a future in abundance. A necessary condition is that higher education must embrace a leadership role in regional transformation.

We will achieve competitiveness through a high concentration of knowledge, skills, innovation and entrepreneurship capacity. Academic leadership, courage, humility and willingness to maximize opportunities are vital to the paradigm shift.

This shift requires a new model of leadership, one which is entrepreneurial. A key element in accomplishing this task and assuring a positive outcome, is reevaluating the role of regional campuses. We need to reaffirm our commitment to being ‘stewards of place’ and not only fulfill a responsibility to graduate world class students. IU Kokomo has a clear and emerging role in serving as a leader and partner in regional transformation. A recent AASCU survey of Presidents and Chancellors found fewer than half are closely linked to their communities; regional transformation is simply not a strategic priority. This has to change; regional transformation must be at the forefront of strategic planning for universities and embraced by academic leaders.

Although regional transformation is not a core value which has traditionally been integrated into institutions, it is now time for a paradigm shift to embrace this role in addition to academic excellence and student success. Academic leaders have the opportunity to shape discourse around the importance of being ‘stewards of place.’


The role of Indiana University Kokomo as a catalyst for regional transformation has been intentional, engaging, and strategic.  When Chancellor Michael Harris arrived in July of 2010, he immediately set a goal to meet 200 community leaders throughout the 14 county service area, and he surpassed that goal.  This set the foundation for enhanced relationships in all communities.  Immediately following, in October of 2010, Chancellor Harris was officially installed as the new Chancellor.  Rather than the traditional pomp and circumstance of a ceremony, Chancellor Harris insisted on an event that involved all communities in the region.  Over 60 organizations from the region came to campus and set up a booth to share their story, and the over 500 people in attendance gained a better understanding of the immense power and scope of the region.

Realizing IU Kokomo’s role as a convener and neutral guide for building collaboration, the campus hosted an event in May of 2011 that was two phase:  a gathering of regional organizations and a regional leader forum.  The meeting of the regional organizations was an opportunity to groups that have a regional focus to begin working together to further their efforts.  During the regional leadership forum, Chancellor Harris set the stage for the importance of metrics in regional transformation, and introduced the upcoming study commissioned by IU Kokomo that would identify metrics to gauge regional transformation in north central Indiana.

In July of 2011, IU Kokomo convened a summit of Mayors from North Central Indiana.  The 11 mayors in attendance discussed their views on regionalism, the importance of government, business, and education working together (the triple Helix), and also challenges in adopting a regional mindset.

The next meeting of regional leaders was held in November 2011.  The almost 100 participants came together to view the regional benchmarking study and discuss the findings.  A portion of the session was set aside to discuss the economic outlook of the region, the state, and the country.

In May of 2012, IU Kokomo hosted a “Regional Town Hall” meeting, attended by over 80 people.  This meeting included an analysis of the economic impact of IU Kokomo in the region, and a lively discussion concerning the future of the region and what must happen next.

Indiana University Kokomo has committed itself to regional transformation and has been very successful in developing a collaborative framework. We have initiated a variety of joint activities bringing regional partners, faculty, staff, students, and alumni together to cultivate a regional focus, collaboration and action. We are building on our role as ‘stewards of place’ to facilitate and expedite a complex and non-traditional framework for partnership and joint responsibility.

We embrace a Triple Helix framework which includes a university/campus, businesses, and governments collaborating together to assure economic development.


Indiana University Kokomo has become recognized throughout the region as a catalyst for regional transformation.   While difficult to measure the change in attitude or mindset, the conversation surrounding regionalism in north central Indiana is more lively, engaging, and substantive.

Since the latest meeting, IU Kokomo has been approached to convene the mayors and commissioners of a 6 county area.  We have been asked to guide these public officials to support the creation of a formal regional planning organization to be recognized by the EDA.  IU Kokomo was approached because the group is confident of the convening power of IU Kokomo.

An additional project resulting from efforts, IU Kokomo, Purdue University, and Indiana University are now working toward creating “The Indiana Innovation Platform: a Proof of Concept Accelerator”.  Indiana University Kokomo was selected as a partner in this effort and to serve as the face of the Accelerator in the region due to the enthusiasm, energy and dynamic actions in the area of regional transformation.

Future Considerations

Indiana University Kokomo will continue to convene leaders and engage in action oriented efforts to transform the north central Indiana region.  A Coordinator for Regional Engagement has been hired.  A new partnership with the Indiana Small Business Development Center has been forged.  Partnership with the Purdue Center for Regional Development will be further strengthened.  Efforts with the Office for Community and Rural Affairs in the Lt. Governor’s Office will be expanded.  At least 2 regional leader events will be convened each year, including business leaders, community leaders, and governmental leaders.  We look forward to innovative and entrepreneurial efforts to launch a bright and prosperous future for north central Indiana.  It is our responsibility.

Finalist Presentation

UEDA Awards of Excellence Finalists presented at the Annual Summit in Chattanooga on October 22, 2012. Summit attendees then voted for the best initiative in each category.