Marshall County Crossroads Aims to Improve Local Towns
Writer / Matt Keating
Creating quality hometowns is the goal of the Marshall County Crossroads members.
Ginny Munroe, Culver town manager, says the approach the Crossroads leaders take in Marshall County is as important as the mission to create high-quality hometowns.
“Our Crossroads team takes seriously a process that involves connecting, collaborating, communicating, engaging and creating,” she says. “We try to follow that process with everything we do. When we are connecting with each other, we are sharing our knowledge, experience, expertise and so on.”
For example, Munroe says what leaders are doing in Culver could be helpful to Argos, Bremen, Bourbon, Plymouth and LaPaz, and vice versa.
“Sharing information with each other and sharing a common mission to create great hometowns makes us all more efficient, more knowledgeable and more capable of achievement,” Munroe says. “The other aspect of our process is to engage our public. It’s the people we are working for who matter. What they experience of our communities is what matters.”
To achieve great hometowns, Munroe says they need to know what people want for their hometowns.
“What is important to them?” Munroe says. “Is it housing, recreational activities or health? We try to know what the priorities are, and then we collaborate among ourselves to try to make that happen. It’s about what the people we work for experience in our communities. Quality of life is our vision and that vision includes all aspects of a quality life – health, wellness, recreation, gathering, arts, culture, economic vitality and so on.”
The Crossroads team’s plans are built around what people experience in each of these areas of life.
“With the process we follow, we feel like we can create the best quality of life for everyone,” Munroe says. “Quality of life attracts business, workers and so on.”
Marshall County Crossroads is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that involves a collaboration of leaders from across the region that engages and inspires communities to connect, collaborate and create high-quality hometowns.
Martin Oosterbaan, who provides communications and marketing for Marshall County Crossroads, says the leaders work hard every day to help make the county’s hometowns better places to live, work and play.
“The team is made up of over 100 members who are otherwise generally aligned with a local government, business, civic or educational organization,” Oosterbaan says. “There are 22 members of the steering committee led by Kevin Overmyer, president of Marshall County Commissioners.”
The goal is the creation of healthy, livable, thriving and sustainable communities.
The team was originally formed in 2018 in pursuit of the Stellar Communities designation, a state program under Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch administered primarily by Indiana’s Office of Community and Rural Affairs and Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.
“The town of Culver achieved the Stellar designation in 2017,” Oosterbaan says. “The state program expanded after that to require two or more communities working together to apply for the designation. This change effectively acknowledged that we live in a regional economic environment, and no one town or city working alone can accomplish what several municipalities can accomplish working together.”
After discussions initiated by Overmyer, local leaders decided to bring all the communities in Marshall County together in an attempt to achieve the Stellar designation.
“After a difficult six-month planning effort, the team was named a finalist,” Oosterbaan says. “We presented our regional development plan to government officials in Indianapolis. The designation was not awarded that year to Marshall County.”
The team pursued the designation again in 2019, and this time it was awarded the Stellar designation.
“The impact of that designation was first-in-line status for millions in grant funding from the state for eligible quality-of-life projects and housing,” Oosterbaan says.
Oosterbaan notes that it became obvious early on to the members of the team how powerful they could be in shaping the future of Marshall County.
“By creating a shared pool of knowledge, experience and contacts, achieving difficult things became more routine, and previously impossible things became possible,” he says. “Following the Stellar designation, the team decided to remain together as a long-term planning group to set priorities and bring projects to fruition even after the four-year cycle for Stellar projects ends in 2023.”
The team incorporated as Marshall County Crossroads, adopted bylaws, and remains an all-volunteer organization operating on a small administrative budget funded by hometowns.
The Crossroads team is also supporting several arts-related projects, including renovations at the REES Theatre and the Bremen Community Center, as well as the establishment of arts-based learning centers throughout the county by staff members at Wild Rose Moon. An arts council has also been established.
“The team is currently working hard to position Marshall County successfully for project funding from the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, to be awarded later this year,” Oosterbaan says.
The team is also currently working hard on bringing the Blue Zones initiative to Marshall County.
“A Blue Zones program would be a first in the state, and is geared to making the healthy choice the easy choice, and by doing so, improving the statistics associated with wellness, obesity, smoking, etcetera,” Oosterbaan says. “This would be a huge, multiyear undertaking by our team led by our Health and Wellness subcommittee.”
Sean Surrisi, the Crossroads secretary and City of Plymouth representative, says Crossroads creates healthy, livable, thriving and sustainable communities that help current and future residents of all ages.
“The communities of Marshall County have been working together to improve our quality of life for many years,” Surrisi says. “Those efforts intensified in 2019 as we engaged residents for input in drafting what became the Crossroads Quality of Life Plan.”
The plan is based on three pillars including spaces, economy and capacity building.
“Within those pillars are all the components that make up a thriving community, from arts and culture to health and wellness to workforce development and much more,” Surrisi says. “Crossroads was formed to help keep the conversation surrounding these important aspects of our lives going.”
Surrisi notes that the nearly 100 members of the various Crossroads subcommittees are helping to drive that discussion, and are leading tangible projects to improve Marshall County.
“They say that you have to see it to be it,” Surrisi says. “We in Marshall County have seen that it’s already a great place to live, work and play. Crossroads has a vision of how the county could be even better, attracting new residents, growing our economy and building up our people. By continuing this hard but exciting work, Crossroads will make that vision a reality.”
“We have made it very simple for people to learn more and get engaged,” adds Kerri Langdon-Martin of Red Door Marketing, who assists Crossroads. “Visit our website, marshallcountycrossroads.com, or visit us across social media platforms @GreatHometowns.”
Overmyer says he is grateful for Crossroads.
“I would just like to say how humbled and grateful I am to see these people and towns all working together for the benefit of Marshall County,” Overmyer says. “It’s not always easy and we don’t necessarily root for each other’s high school teams, but this team is focused on making our hometowns truly great places to live, work and play.”