Chelsea Schneider, Municipal Innovations Specialist

Kendallville is expanding the city’s sports complex, a project that received a boost from a regional economic development program where the state is providing grants to several communities for quality-of-life projects.

The project will make the complex, located near the city’s scenic Bixler Lake Park, more marketable for tournaments, Kendallville Mayor SuzAnne Handshoe said. The expansion will include new baseball diamonds, a soccer field, concession stand and pavement for the parking lot.

“It’s an economic development tool,” Handshoe said of the Regional Cities project. “They stay in our hotels and eat in our restaurants. It is all about helping us move to the next step for quality of life. We don’t have mountains and oceans. We have to improve the quality of life to offer young folks a reason to want to move here.”

In addition, the city also is extending a trail, which will allow users to travel from Rome City to Kendallville. Next up is an overhaul of the city’s antiquated wastewater treatment plant. The project will prepare the community for future economic growth and ensure the discharge of pure water, Handshoe said.

The city also has established an award to highlight community members who take care of their property. Two residences a month earn the Hometown Pride Award for maintaining their curb appeal.  The winners of the program, which runs from summer to early fall, receive a sign in their yard and a gift card to purchase flowers or other items to further increase their homes’ aesthetics.

The program has spurred surrounding neighbors to spruce up their yards as well, Handshoe said.

“My long-term vision is to bring back some community pride,” Handshoe said.

In reaching her goals, city leaders benefit from strong support by the city’s rotary and church community – through good times and hard times.

“For me, it is the love and support we all have for each other and that was evident in 2009 and 2010 when we had a 19.8 percent unemployment rate,” she said. “We came together as a community and opened a community table to serve 500 people a meal a day until we no longer saw the need. Now we have 2 percent unemployment.”

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