GOSHEN — Plans are coming together for how the South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership will employ a new tool for enhancing economic development in the area.

The Labs for Industry Futures and Transformation grant is aimed at boosting manufacturing in the region by promoting better access to innovative research and technologies, growing training opportunities for workers and students to gain skills in high-tech fields, and diversifying the range of industries here through attraction and entrepreneurship.

“Productivity, resilience and talent/skill development are the three main goals of the LIFT network,” said Regina Emberton, CEO of the regional partnership.

Emberton presented an overview of LIFT and general plans for how it will be directed during the Goshen Chamber of Commerce’s “Wake Up! Goshen” breakfast at Spohn Ballroom Friday.

The LIFT network was born from a $42 million grant the Lilly Endowment awarded the region this year. The grant, which started in July and will run through 2024, is administered through the University of Notre Dame.

The focus is on investing in innovation, particularly developing research facilities to keep up with cutting-edge technologies and provide training for workers and students.

“How do we support some of those facilities and make sure that they’re collaborating,” Emberton said.

She noted Notre Dame’s iNDustry Labs and the Elkhart Area Career Center as examples, as well as Ivy Tech’s plans to build a training center at the campus near Elkhart. The school was named to receive a $1 million share of LIFT funds for the project.

The partnership would also like to use the grant to help diversify industry in the region by attracting more companies and enticing entrepreneurial start-ups.

“The goal of this is to make it a competitive advantage for any business who’s locating here or moves here to have access to this network of innovation facilities and highly skilled talent and training,” Emberton said.

She expects firmer plans for the grant to come together by spring 2020.

The partnership, as a collaboration of economic development groups from 47 communities in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan, aims to advance the region’s economy through education, talent recruitment and retention, business attraction, inclusion and minority business development, and entrepreneurial development.

Aimee Ambrose can be reached at aimee.ambrose@goshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 316. Follow her on Twitter at @aambrose_TGN.

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