West Central Indiana Economic Development District has a new name and now will be known as Thrive West Central.

“Our organization was created with a mission and vision to see our six-county region thrive through economic and community development as well as an area agency on aging and disabled resources,” Ryan Keller, executive director of Thrive West Central, said in a virtual news conference Thursday.

“Thrive West Central was chosen because it exemplifies who we are as an organization focused on helping communities thrive through the development of community assets and the improvement of quality of life initiatives in our region. We do this through innovative problem solving, quality service, and collaborative partnerships,” Keller said.

In July, Gov. Eric Holcomb moved the role of Metropolitan Planning Organization away from West Central and into the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp. 

The MPO targets federal funding for transportation projects and develops a 20-year transportation plan as well as three- to five-year transportation improvement plans, called TIP, which lists all transportation projects planned and funded for that period.

With that role removed, it was time to restructure West Central’s departments and redefine plans, Keller said.

Thrive has hired 12 new staff members this year, creating three divisions, Keller said, adding he plans to hire three to five more employees by the end of the first quarter in 2021. Some new staff includes Jon Ford, a state senator, who serves as director of business development; Kristine Krueger as community/economic grant specialist; and Alex Brown as economic recovery and resiliency coordinator. 

“We are nearing 50 staff members,” Keller said, adding Thrive’s 2021 budget is about $5 million.

“Most all of that goes back into providing direct or indirect services to our region, such as funding programs for other companies to perform services or using staff time to provide services directly to people,” Keller said.

The three new divisions are community development, economic development and aging and disabled resources, which is the largest of the three divisions representing about 60 percent of Thrive, Keller said, through state, federal and local funding. 

Thrive, which serves Clay, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion, and Vigo counties, is a designated Rural Planning Organization for small urban transportation planning through the Indiana Department of Transportation. Thrive has increased that program’s state funding from $30,000 to $125,000, Keller said.

West Central Indiana Economic Development District was established in 1968. On Dec. 1, it received a “doing business as” designation from the Indiana Secretary of State, changing its legal entity to Thrive West Central.

For the next 16 to 18 months, Thrive will focus on solutions and resources to help the region recover economically, especially in areas impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Keller said.

 Larry Moss, a board member and president of the Clay County Council, said he thinks that “with the difficulty we have had through COVID-19, we had a lot of challenges, but also it opens opportunities to evaluate where you are in the economy, in the programs you offer and the ability to meet people’s need in (the region’s communities). I believe going forward Thrive has positioned itself to become a leader in that regional response to a tremendous crisis,” Moss said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

By Howard Greninger