Trine University No Longer Pursuing Economic Development In Steuben County

By Scott Sarvay
By John W. Davis

March 21, 2011 Updated Mar 21, 2011 at 11:21 PM EDT

STEUBEN COUNTY, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - "I think very clearly today our commissioners sent a very clear message that their priority is not about economic growth and jobs," said Trine University President Dr. Earl D. Brooks.

An economic development initiative is up in the air in Northeast Indiana.

"I think it pushed our local elected officials on the (Steuben) county side a little out of their comfort zone," said Angola Councilman David Martin.

Martin was on a planning committee who worked with Trine University and Steuben County officials on the economic development initiative.

Trine University offered up a 50/50 economic development funding match plan.

University leaders asked Steuben County and smaller counties like Angola, for $6.9 million towards its $13.8 million economic development project.

The plan includes building an Entrepreneurship Business Incubator Center, a Commercialization Lab and a Bio-Medical Research Center.

Trine University would own the buildings but school officials said the community would reap a lot of benefits, including: business start-up and expansion programs.

University leaders said that would lead to jobs, and a more diverse workforce, eventually lowering the Steuben County unemployment rate of 11%.

Meanwhile, the City of Angola made a one million dollar pledge along with smaller five figure pledges by Fremont, Orland and Hudson.

Angola was going to pay for their million dollar pledge with INDOT Major Moves funds that are available to toll road counties.

Major Moves funding is earmarked for economic development.

Meanwhile, Steuben County Commissioners vote "no" Monday morning on the funding request.

However, Steuben County Commissioners offered up a possible counter-proposal.

Steuben County would loan Trine University the money interest-free until 2016.

Trine University President Dr. Brooks does not seem very interested in that idea.

Dr. Brooks told Indiana's NewsCenter that he will try to partner with neighboring counties on the economic development initiative.

Brooks said the economic development initiative was initially a $28 million dollar proposal that included a Movement Sciences and Orthopedics Center.

However, Brooks revealed that portion of the project is being moved to Fort Wayne with the support of Parkview Hospital.

"At the end of the day they did not want to consider it. That is now off the table. The City of Angola continue working as hard as we can on economic development," said Martin.

However, with the Steuben County Commissioners voting "no", the Angola City Council voted to take back their million dollar pledge.

Indiana's NewsCenter has learned Steuben County has access to the same INDOT Major Moves funding.

Angola received about $4 million in 2006.

Steuben County received more than $30 million.

In the past, the money has been used for road repairs and infrastructure in Steuben County.

However, Angola Mayor Dick Hickman said Trine's economic development/jobs initiative met the criteria for Major Moves funding to be used.

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