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Group tackles community's negative perceptions

If reshaping Terre Haute's future seems like a big project, letting go of negative perceptions of its past may be just as difficult.

But that's the goal of the massive "Quality of Life/Community Image" action team within a civic, volunteer group calling itself Terre Haute Tomorrow. The organization, made up of local leaders, met Friday morning to unveil their 10-year plan for the community.

There are five key areas outlined in that plan, including economic development, workforce readiness, leadership development and infrastructure. But quality of life and community image is the first "action team" on the list and probably the one with the broadest mission.

"Everything we do adds or detracts from our image as a community," said Norm Lowery, president and CEO of First Financial Bank and chairman of the quality of life action team. He was speaking Friday morning to about 75 participants in Terre Haute Tomorrow at the First Financial Bank conference center on South Seventh Street.

There are several subcommittees within the quality of life team, including the Wabash River Development and Beautification group, better known as Riverscape. Charlie Williams, co-chairman of the Riverscape subcommittee, said he prefers the expression "Quality of place" to "quality of life." The Riverscape group has 10 years of momentum and its goal is to "reinvent Terre Haute and its quality of place."

In the Internet age, the city's online image is critical, said Kristin Craig, co-chair of another subcommittee, this one dealing with the city's Internet image. Her subcommittee is working to improve what people see when they "Google" Terre Haute, she said. The subcommittee has also produced an easy-to-email "welcome packet" for visitors or prospective new residents. It is available on the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce webpage. The packet includes activities, events, recreational facility information and much more.

"I think it answers a lot of the immediate questions people have about Terre Haute," Craig said.

Another subcommittee under "quality of life/community image" is the entrepreneurship group, headed by Shelley Klingerman, executive director of Downtown Terre Haute, Inc. This group is committed to fostering a vibrant, collaborative and creative atmosphere for entrepreneurs in the city.

Entrepreneurs create new jobs, new opportunities and new growth, Klingerman said standing in the LaunchTerreHaute meeting rooms at 683 Wabash Ave. LaunchTerreHaute provides meeting space for entrepreneurs to share ideas and benefit for each others' expertise, she said.

"Everyone in our community can benefit from entrepreneurship," said Ethan Page, founder of Crossroads Events, a sports events management and timing business. He was preparing for an upcoming race while working on his laptop last week inside the LaunchTerreHaute meeting space.

Additionally, there are nine subgroups under the quality of life action team to promote diversity and minority inclusion. They all work together, making for a single mega-group under the leadership of Mel Burks, CEO of Hamilton Center. On Friday, about 30 members of this committee met to discuss their first concrete steps under Terre Haute Tomorrow: A walk planned for the spring or summer.

The goal of the diversity subcommittee is to promote minority participation in the key groups and leadership posts in the city, Burks said. That is critical to the city's future, he said.

"If our community wants to grow, well, you've got to open up," Burks said. He noted that the only other racial minorities at the Friday morning THT meeting were the people he brought with him. He hopes to see that change in the next several years, he said.

Burks also said for the diversity group to succeed it must stick together and hold on to its inclusive vision for the future. If not, others with less benign agendas regarding race relations may carry the day, he said.

"I want to be on the side of history that is going to carry the day for everyone," Burks said.

 For more information about Terre Haute Tomorrow, visit the organization's webpage at www.terrehautetomorrow.com.

From the Terre Haute Tribune-Star
Posted: Saturday, January 31, 2015
By Arthur Foulkes
812-231-4232 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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