State of Our Communities is in its seventh year in Wabash County and offers an opportunity for local leaders to give updates on successes in the previous year as well as goals for the current one. It is sponsored by Grow Wabash County. David Friese Nelson, editor Wabash Plain Dealer
State of Our Communities is in its seventh year in Wabash County and offers an opportunity for local leaders to give updates on successes in the previous year as well as goals for the current one. It is sponsored by Grow Wabash County. David Friese Nelson, editor Wabash Plain Dealer
Town of Roann’s Clerk-Treasurer Bob Ferguson’s decade-long dream is about to become a reality. He happily announced plans are in order to break ground for a new park in his community.

Known for being a showman, Ferguson used one of the community’s biggest stages – State of Our Communities Breakfast – to make the announcement. The opportunity to begin construction on the park in the spring was made possible through $400,000 donation by the estate of James Edward Turner. He was a Roann resident and graduate of Roann High School.

Ferguson said equipment is very expensive and expansive compared to the way playground’s use to be. “It’s not just go out, buy some monkey bars, set of swings, and then go play,” he joked.

The park, to be located in downtown Roann near the baseball diamond, now has a budget of more than $418,000. There was a time Ferguson had considerably less to work with; however, he never gave up hope on raising funds for the project. Oftentimes, he could be seen at area events wearing a QR code generator patch on his lapel enabling people to download donations for the park online.

“Every penny spent on this project is from donations,” said Ferguson. “I’m proud to say that no taxpayer money will be used on this project.”

Ferguson added: “I think about the park project and the downtown projects in Roann, and while we don’t have a lot of money … I think it is best summed up by Dr. Martin Luther King, who said ‘If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving.’”

His words resonated with the nearly 250 in attendance at Legacy Hall of the Honeywell Center last Thursday morning. Originally, a state of the city event, State of Our Communities is in its seventh year and offers an opportunity for community leaders to give updates on successes in 2023 as well as goals for 2024. This year’s event hosted representatives from each incorporated community in Wabash County including: Town of LaFontaine; Town of Lagro; Town of North Manchester; Town of Roann; and the City of Wabash; as well as the Wabash County Commissioners.

“Each year, this event never fails to leave the entire Grow Wabash County team energized and excited to embark on the next great projects in Wabash County,” said Tenille Zartman, president and CEO of Grow Wabash County. “Wabash County was exceptionally active in 2023, with all our communities leading exciting projects and programs to enhance the quality of life we cherish here.”

Among the many community highlights included:

Town of LaFontaine

Several new businesses have come to the community and to accommodate growth local residents are in the process of forming a new Main Street organization. The newly formed LaFontaine Community Alliance is seeking to mirror the likes of other Wabash County downtown organizations who are thriving such as Downtown Wabash, Manchester Alive, Lagro Canal Foundation, and Roann Heritage Group. Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) has already reached out to the LaFontaine organization to aid in their application process to become a Main Street member.

Town of Lagro

Recently opened is the Station 1 Firehouse Café, 910 Main St. An Economic Development Planning Grant was awarded to Lagro for $40,000 from OCRA through its Community Development Block Grant program. Economic Development Planning Grants help communities assess the current economic conditions and identify strategies to support existing businesses, attract new ones and compliment current technology and work skills initiatives. The Planning Grant program strives to encourage communities to plan for long-term community development with the aid of subject matter experts and community input. The applications being funded this quarter address utilities, economic development, downtown revitalization and comprehensive planning efforts.

Town of North Manchester

The community recently received a $40,000 Downtown Revitalization Planning Grant from OCRA. Downtown Revitalization Planning Grants encourage communities to plan for long-term community development efforts in various forms, such as business creation, increased tourism, historic preservation and other economic revitalization efforts.

A $50,000 matching-grant campaign for a North Manchester business incubator was recently announced by Indiana Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch.

Manchester Alive’s The Coop Small Business Hub would be the benefactor of the grant. A crowdfunding campaign has been launched by that Main Street Chamber Alliance organization with the goal of raising $50,000 for the matching grant. Manchester Alive is in the midst of a construction project that will result in a small business incubator and co-working space at 126 East Main Street. The grant money would come from the CreatINg Places Program of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA).

Town of Roann

The community continued improvements and growth to its business district including the first phase of their downtown renovation project during the fall. New sidewalks have been installed as well as 15 new streetlights.

City of Wabash

Among the numerous achievements Mayor Scott Long was able to tout during 2023 included the major news coming from Ford Meter Box Company, Inc. Ford took another step closer in the fall to bringing expansion to its 125-year-old company and to Wabash County. Officials broke ground on what will be a 300,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art, foundry on a 90-acre site in Wabash’s northeast industrial park on Ringel Avenue.

The estimated $300 million expansion will create up to 126 new, high-wage jobs by the end of 2027. Ford President Steve Ford noted that the expansion would be the largest in its history.

The city also will see infrastructure improvement in the future with the announcement of the completion of the overpass project for North East Street has been tentatively scheduled for Nov. 1, 2025. Officially known as the Wabash Local Trax Railroad Grade Separation, is set to begin construction by fall. The project, funded 80 percent by the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), will cost more than $8.5 million. The remaining 20 percent, to be funded by the City of Wabash, has already been allocated for the project, at no additional costs to the taxpayer, according to Long.

Wabash County

Wabash County Board of Commissioner Barry Eppley (District 3) gave an update on the both the Wabash County Courthouse tower repairs and the new Wabash County Sheriff’s Office & Jail.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the jail was held Dec. 8. Full occupancy of the $35 million facility is expected to take place by early spring, according to Eppley.

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