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Regional innovation conference addresses economic recovery issues

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Indiana’s hardest hit economic region will provide the backdrop for a Purdue University conference on building economic sustainability.

“Regional Innovation During Boom and Bust” will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 26 at the Hilton Garden Inn of South Bend. The conference, covering such topics as regional economic partnerships and resources for economic recovery, is sponsored by the Purdue Center for Regional Development (PCRD), in cooperation with Purdue University Calumet, Purdue University North Central and Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

The conference is aimed at community leaders, elected officials, planners, educators and economic development professionals.

Conference planners intentionally chose northern Indiana for the event, said Terri Lester, PCRD program manager and conference coordinator.

“We had already planned a couple of other programs in northern Indiana to deal with the secondary effects of jobs lost in the automotive and recreational vehicle industries,” Lester said. “After some discussion we decided to hold our conference there, as well.”

While statewide unemployment averaged 9.9 percent in April, the jobless rate was significantly higher in many northern Indiana counties. Elkhart and LaGrange counties posted the highest unemployment rates in April, at 17.8 percent and 17.7 percent.

The conference features talks by economic development experts and breakout sessions.

Richard Longworth, former Chicago Tribune reporter and author of “Caught in the Middle: America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalism,” is the keynote speaker. “Caught in the Middle” explores the challenges the Midwest faces as it adjusts to the global economy.

Other speakers include William Kittredge, director of national programs and evaluation for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA); Robert Sawyer, regional director of the Chicago office of EDA; and Nicholas Lammers, acting regional administrator of the Chicago office of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.

“We’ll also have breakout sessions featuring existing regional efforts, to demonstrate that going across geographic and ideological boundaries is acceptable, feasible, successful and beneficial to communities,” Lester said. “Another breakout session will showcase tools and resources that are available to communities, agencies and organizations to assist them with their economic recovery.

“It is our hope that attendees will leave the conference recognizing that acting regionally can be accomplished and is worthwhile to all involved.”

The EDA is providing financial support for the conference.

Conference registration is $60 and includes lunch. To register online or to print a mail-in registration form, log onto the PCRD Web site at http://www.pcrd.purdue.edu/ and then click on the conference link under “Upcoming Events.” The Web site also contains additional conference information.

The Hilton Garden Inn is located at 53995 Indiana 933, near the University of Notre Dame on South Bend’s north side.

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