Seymour building on success

Officials seek public input on economic development plan

Seymour is among the best performing communities in Indiana when it comes to economic development, improving infrastructure and paying attention to what makes a community successful.

That’s what one analyst had to say as he assists the city with updating its comprehensive plan.

Mike Shaver, president of Carmel-based Wabash Scientific Inc., met with the city’s plan commission earlier this month to talk about steps being taken now to position the city to do even more great things in the next five years.

A series of workshops/forums is being planned to solicit information and ideas from the public on topics including redeveloping neighborhoods, improving and adding thoroughfares and infrastructure, park development and downtown revitalization.

Times, dates and locations of the meetings will be announced when they are set, said Seymour’s building commissioner Jeremy Gray.

Anyone can be involved in the development plan, Shaver said.

Information gathered during the hearings will be included in the update to the city’s comprehensive plan. Periodic updates are required so the city remains eligible and competitive to apply for state and federal grants.

“An update serves to measure progress and make adjustments where necessary,” Shaver said. “Analysis shows that Seymour is arguably among the best performing communities in Indiana.”

The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs has identified several vitality indicators to determine where a community’s strengths and weaknesses are. Those indicators include population growth, K-12 school enrollment, growth in income and increased assessed value which is based on economic development.

“Seymour is doing well in virtually every category,” Shaver said.

Another positive is that the growth Seymour is experiencing in population continues to be people with families, which is why it’s important to address the community’s current and future needs, he added.

Shaver said the Seymour/Columbus area has been one of the state’s most successful areas for decades because of planning and foresight from city leaders and support from community partners.

“Seymour often gets overshadowed by Columbus, but you, as a community have been successful without the benefit of one major benefactor,” Shaver said in reference to Cummins’ impact on Columbus’ growth.

Cummins also has made major investments in its operations in Seymour, creating hundreds of jobs, increasing the community’s assessed value and spending money to benefit preK-12 and post-secondary education and workforce opportunities.

Benefits from successful economic development in Seymour have been carefully reinvested, Shaver added.

“Lots of Indiana cities would happily trade places with you,” he said.

One of the ways Seymour stands out compared to other communities is its successful roads program, Shaver said. This year, the city is spending $2 million to repave streets and continues to plan for construction of the new Burkart South corridor and railroad overpass.

“Roads and infrastructure are broadly recognized as a state and national need. Everyone is complaining there is no funding for improvements, yet Seymour has enjoyed immense success,” Shaver said. “Very few other communities have achieved this level of infrastructure investment.”

That success can be attributed to Mayor Craig Luedeman, city engineer Nathan Frey and other city leaders’ efforts to obtain grants and financing for projects, Shaver said.

Recent attention and efforts from the city have turned to downtown revitalization and neighborhood redevelopment.

The addition of many new small businesses including restaurants, a coffee shop and other specialty retailers and professional offices have helped bring more people and investment to the downtown.

Shaver said with intense economic pressure on big box retail stores, the downtown has an opportunity to continue to grow and flourish.

The city also is looking to revitalize and redevelop some of the residential neighborhoods that are lower income including areas around Shields Park, the Seymour Middle School Sixth Grade Center and Margaret R. Brown Elementary School.

Redevelopment will include cleaning up and restoring or tearing down derelict properties, improving streets, sidewalks, drainage and sewers, adding bike paths and finding opportunities to build more affordable housing.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.