Collaboration took center stage Oct. 20 at the Evansville Regional Economic Partnership’s annual Lunch with the Mayors event. Indiana mayors Lloyd Winnecke of Evansville, Charlie Wyatt of Boonville, and Greg Wright of Princeton, plus Brad Staton of Henderson, Kentucky, detailed important projects, reflected on their cities’ progress and challenges, and spoke of the area’s proven ability to work together.
“I’m not even sure you would have to give anyone in Indianapolis truth serum to give this answer, but I would say they would always say the greater Southern Indiana region is the best place for economic development collaboration in Indiana,” Winnecke said.
In an hour-long Q&A moderated by new Evansville Regional Sports Commission Executive Director Brandon McClish, each mayor answered questions about their cities in a “Jeopardy!”-style setting. Here are four takeaways.
Staton says Henderson is experiencing a “renaissance.”
“If you haven’t been to Downtown Henderson lately, you really have no idea what’s been going on over there for the last three or four years,” he said. “We are experiencing a renaissance of people who are willing to come in and invest money, open businesses, open restaurants, and the scene in Henderson’s Downtown … it’s actually very difficult to find a parking spot after five o’clock in most areas of our Downtown now. It wasn’t always like that for me growing up in Henderson.”
Infrastructure connectivity is a high priority in Princeton.
“We’ve got a road that we took money to connect an area of town where some housing developments have started,” Wright said about the estimated $4-million project linking South Second Avenue with Richland Creek Drive. “It’s a connectivity issue that we have there in town (in) an area that are kind of divided by farmland.” Princeton has committed $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for the project, which will join up to $1 million Patoka-Union Township TIF revenue to finance construction.
Boonville’s town square arches crown a source of local pride.
When asked to name a significant recent achievement, Wyatt pointed to a project years in the making. “I was sitting in my office, thinking, what can I do to make people remember what Boonville, Indiana, is …I thought, let’s put these arches up. And they might not remember Boonville, but they (might say), that was the place that had the arches,” he said of the $200,000 twin aches over Main and Locust streets. “They’re beautiful. They brought a lot of pride in the city. We finished our square project about three years ago. We saved our Downtown. We saved our Downtown square by redoing (it) for about $3 million, and this has been the cherry on top of the cake.”
Evansville’s Sunrise Pump Station is getting noticed for its creative thinking in community development.
“We really gave our consultants a big challenge. Let’s create something other than just a utility facility. … Hands down, this is a great project,” Winnecke said of the Evansville Water and Sewer Utility’s $729 million Renew Evansville response to a federal consent decree to reduce the number of combined sewer overflows in the city’s sewer system. “We’ve really created a nice destination spot there. It is great to come by, sit down on the swing, watch a barge float by, listen to the water gushing back into the river, knowing that the water that’s going back into the river is cleaner than it was when we took it in at the water treatment plant to begin the whole process. It was recently named the No. 1 quality of place project for large cities by AIM, which is the cities and towns association in Indiana. We’re super proud of this project.”