Regionalism has become a hot topic for state and municipal leaders across the country. It took a starring role in the Amazon HQ2 search, as the company stressed regional proposals, and has started to enter more mainstream policy consciousness as federal and state grants reward or require regional approaches. But what is regionalism and what does it cover?
At its core, regionalism is an approach to planning and problem solving on a coordinated basis within an inter-reliant area, rather than communities working in silos. The focus areas of regionalism can be diverse and usually depend on the needs of the metropolitan area, but generally encompass transportation, economic development, water, land use and master planning.
The Denver region boasts the nation’s first regional economic development entity — Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, and a metropolitan planning organization — Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) – that is tackling regional issues beyond transportation. During our trip, we will hear from representatives from the two entities and the Metro Mayors Caucus to learn how they incorporate regional thinking into their planning and problem solving.
Denver is an aspirational peer to Indianapolis and we continue to emulate the metropolitan area. The Indianapolis MPO is working towards becoming an independent organization — it has a regional approach to transportation funding but is currently organized under the City of Indianapolis as its fiduciary. If successful, Executive Director Anna Gremling sees the group potentially taking on more responsibilities outside of transportation funding. Additionally, much like Denver’s Metro Mayors Caucus, the Central Indiana Council of Elected Officials was launched to focus on enhancing regional cooperation in the Indianapolis metro area.
While positive steps are underway in Central Indiana, we have much to learn from our counterparts in Denver. We hope the panel offers important insights and experienced guidance as the Indianapolis metropolitan area continues to think regionally.