All Things Stellar
How did we get here?
"I am here to share with you how the Marshall County Crossroads regional planning team arrived at its Great Hometowns: One Vision and the process this team undertook to get to where we are today.
So, here’s the story of a team of leaders who has for 7 years been sharing knowledge with each other and for the last two years has worked with a great sense of urgency to not just overcome some average county stats. The process we have undertaken started with defining a mission and a vision. It took some deep dives into our communities to understand the challenges, but today, we know that Great Hometowns are the mission and quality of life is the vision.
In Marshall County, we want the young people of our county to return to our hometowns because of what they are experiencing today! We want their experiences of our hometowns to one day evoke memories of the best schools in the state, the best parks and public spaces that conjure memories of family events, community gatherings, and beautiful natural assets. We want them to remember experiences that empowered them—whether it was to prepare them for higher education, a job, or a leadership role. We want them to remember how they celebrated their differences and commonalities, what motivated them to make healthy choices, and the experiences that showed them how the arts can affect the mind, body, and spirit. We want them to return to Great Hometowns because those hometowns make them proud of where they came from.
So, after much planning, we built our vision around 10 pillars of quality of life. It’s through the lenses of quality of place, housing, education and skills, arts and culture, health and wellness, workforce development, industry and entrepreneurship, transportation and trails, diversity and inclusion, and leadership capacity building that we’ll develop our Great Hometowns.
How did we get to this vision? After we connected and collaborated, we engaged our communities and residents through a rigorous process of community engagement, stakeholder engagement, and youth engagement. We used surveys (online and paper), kid-friendly activities, community event input sessions, community conversations, stakeholder workshops, and a youth workshop. We reached out to underrepresented population. We translated our engagement communications into Spanish so that we could reach our Hispanic population. Not only did we ask for input and feedback on our projects, but we also asked for input on the quality of life pillars and we asked residents to think about quality of life in Marshall County. As we conducted our public engagement activities and as we developed our plans, we utilized multiple forms of communication to keep our residents, businesses, stakeholders, and partners informed about our plans.
After we engaged, we focused on creating projects that would have impact. To know if our projects will have expected impact, we will “Measure” our progress. Finally, we included the word “Repeat” in our process because we believe in this process and that it is the means to a sustainable future." ~Ginny Munroe, Chair of the Leadership Capacity Building Committee
Our Stellar team has reached over 100 members, spanning seven great hometowns, and addressing 10 Live-Work-Play pillars that better our county. Read our Stellar plan to learn more about our One Vision approach to raising the Quality of Life in Marshall County!
Traveling the Crossroads
"As people from outside Indiana might consider us a fly-over state, it’s easy to see how people from outside of Marshall County could perceive us as a drive-thru county. Rather than viewing that as a bad thing, I think it highlights the potential and opportunity to impact people travelling through “the Crossroads” in a way that will have a ripple effect throughout our state and country.
As Indiana’s geographic location should be seen as an asset, the same is true with Marshall County. A 5-minute interaction with someone driving through the area could dramatically alter their perception of our community and state. When we realize how awesome of a responsibility what we represent is, we can start to see that our impact is exponentially increased with each visitor that passes through.
Just like a beating heart is the crossroads of the cardiovascular system, Marshall County and Indiana are focal nodes through which the life-blood of our nation flows. In this way, the health and well-being of Hoosiers within Marshall County and the surrounding area are inextricably linked with the overall health and well-being of our entire nation and the global community of which we all are part.
In the same way we are individually challenged to open our hearts to our neighbors as well as the stranger passing through, our challenge as a community is to be open and accepting of all people from all walks of life so that everyone who visits and lives in Marshall County might experience the selfless love and generosity that are at the heart of Hoosier hospitality." ~Matthew Celmer, Chair of Arts and Culture Committee
What is Stellar?
Launched in 2011, the Stellar Communities Program is a multi-year, multi-million-dollar investment initiative led by the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, which is overseen by Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch. The program works with self-selected regions on their vision for community and economic development, promotes local and regional partnerships and assists in implementing innovative solutions to challenges facing Indiana’s rural communities.
As a finalist region, Marshall County Crossroads will receive a planning grant and has been working with Ball State University’s Indiana Communities Institute to discuss project alignment and continued planning efforts.
The 2019 Stellar Communities Program designation will be announced on December 5, 2019.
Through the annual designation, the Stellar Communities Program provides resources for transformative quality of place community improvements by utilizing previous planning efforts, leveraging existing assets, fostering regional investments and stimulating continued growth. Visit in.gov/ocra/stellar for more information.
Marshall County Crossroads is a “self-selected region” and is composed of all within the boundaries of Marshall County. It is the planning group responsible for designing a Quality of Life Plan for Marshall County geared to making our great hometowns the best in the Midwest. Crossroads will work to implement the plan, and make appropriate refinements, as the years progress. Crossroads hopes to attain the Stellar designation as one way to bring the community’s ideas to life as quickly as possible.
"As Chair of South Bend Elkhart Regional Partnership’s Education and Workforce Committee, we are all learning as a region how much farther we can go when we work together. As the old African proverb states, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ This simple statement has created a vision in our region and counties that is spreading like wild fire! As Co-Chair of the Marshall County Crossroads Education and Skills Committee, I’ve seen firsthand the collaboration of all of the area schools and it has been inspiring.” ~Matt Davis, Co-Chair of the Education Committee
2019 Stellar Timeline
January - Marshall County Crossroads (Crossroads) receives formal feedback from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) about their unsuccessful 2018 effort to obtain the Stellar designation.
February - Based on community feedback, Marshall County Crossroads (Crossroads) makes the determination to pursue the Stellar designation again in 2019. Public engagement efforts begin, Stakeholder Survey launched.
April - Marshall County Crossroads (Crossroads) provides the formal Letter of Intent to the Office of Community and Rural Affairs. Later that month, Marshall County Crossroads is named one of the four finalist regions, and receives a planning grant from OCRA.
May - Crossroads Steering Committee expanded and subcommittee chairs are announced. Communications and marketing take shape while plans are laid to gain public engagement though participation in community events. The subcommittees: Arts and Culture; Diversity; Education and Skills Training; Housing; Industry & Entrepreneurship; Special Projects; Workforce Development; Communications and Marketing; Public Engagement.
June - First of two meetings held with between Marshall County stakeholders, Crossroads team, OCRA and Ball State’s Indiana Communities Institute
July - Liveable Communities Workshop conducted in Culver. Meeting with OCRA to review technical questions for developing the Regional Development Plan. Stakeholder meeting held at Swan Lake Conference Center to drill down on community input, help refine project focus.
August - Significant increases noted in social media engagement. Targeted stakeholder outreach sessions conducted in more remote southeastern section of the county. Youth Engagement Conference held with over 90 high-school students from all over Marshall County. Work on project financing is ongoing.
September - The Regional Development Plan will be finalized by Crossroads and submitted for review by OCRA and other supporting state agencies and departments.
November - The Crossroads team will make a formal presentation on November 12th in Indianapolis to the state representatives making the Stellar determination.
December - Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch will announce the 2019 winner of the Stellar designation.
“All of our communities invested in the Quality of Life Plan because we believe this is how we will have the most impact on our region and our future. Regardless of which areas of Quality of Life we invest in, we know that to have the greatest impact, we need to work together to leverage our collective knowledge, resources, and strengths. Collaboration is how this County is moving forward.” ~Judith Stone, County Council President and Regional Crossroads Committee
“It’s been great to see the County and communities working together to make things happen in Marshall County. We share a lot of the same issues, no matter which town you look at. Regionalism is going to help us solve workforce issues, housing, and quality of life. I’m proud of the massive team that has come together to do this work.” ~Kevin Overmyer, County Commissioners President and Regional Crossroads Committee
"Our 2019 Moving Forward survey confirms that residents rank multi-use trails, parks, historic preservation, and community wellness the highest among areas that they would like to see improved. We saw similar results with our Health and Wellness Survey. We want to achieve outcomes that will impact on these areas of quality of life.
Focusing on the highly ranked areas of quality of life will address some of the health assessment results that show we need to improve outdoor recreation and exercise opportunities. The upside to addressing these issues is that we should also attract new residents and a talented workforce to Marshall County because we know that Millennials choose place over job." ~Allie Shook, Special Projects Chair and Health and Wellness Committee
The best way to give our kids leadership opportunities is to involve them in what we are doing. We’ve started that process and what we are learning is that our kids want to have a voice in their future. We know now that to create plans about their future means we are making them authors of those plans.” ~Matt VanSoest, Chair of the Public Engagement Committee