The Evansville Regional Economic Partnership (E-REP), a unified organization advancing the interests of businesses while fueling economic and community growth, announced Tara Barney as CEO effective Oct. 1 and Greg Wathen as its president.
Merged April 1st of this year, E-REP formed by building on the trusted relationships and legacy of its predecessor organizations: the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana, the Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville and the Southwest Indiana Chamber. E-REP announced the leadership transition on Wednesday at its first annual meeting and dinner, thanking both Barney and Wathen for stepping up to the task to serve as Co-CEOs during a critical period for E-REP.
“The transformations of this past year would not be possible without the leadership of these two extraordinary executives,” said E-REP chair and Old National Bank Chairman and CEO Jim Ryan. “Tara and Greg took on a tremendous challenge and opportunity to align the legacy organizations moving our region forward.”
As CEO, Barney will lead E-REP’s over 1,200 members while partnering with the public and private sector to provide a more unified voice and resources to advance the region’s top priorities. This key leadership role will oversee strategic efforts to create an enviable quality of life that is broad-based and sustainable, enhance the dynamic business climate and expand global reach and competitiveness.
“Surrounded by a supportive board, an industry leading team and community partners with a vision for the future, I am grateful to lead this incredible organization and build upon a strong foundation,” said Barney. “With the confidence the board has entrusted in me, I look forward to utilizing my skills, expertise and experience in leading merged organizations to support the growth of our community.”
Named a top 50 economic developer in the nation several times through Consultant Connect, Wathen’s transition to president will allow him to drive the critical economic development work while leveraging his relationships and historical knowledge.
“E-REP has a bright future, and there is still a great deal of work to be done as we move forward,” said Wathen. “I am excited to continue to shape the economic and community development landscape while leveraging the unique value of both the public and private sectors to deliver success.”
Within the first six months, E-REP has already positioned itself as a community leader by submitting a $50 million Regional Economic Acceleration + Development Intiative grant that compliments existing strategic planning work and positions the region as a magnet for talent. Awards are expected to be announced in December.
“Timing couldn’t be better as the region moves into a new stage of growth in the dynamic global marketplace,” said Ryan. “The Executive Committee and I are confident in Tara’s tremendous leadership experience, particularly in managing a combined economic and chamber organization, as well as a keen understanding of today’s workforce needs. Combine that with Greg’s rich background in economic development, and our community is well positioned for growth.
Barney joined the Southwest Indiana Chamber in March 2018 as its President & CEO. Prior to joining the Southwest Indiana Chamber Tara served in a similar position with the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce for seven years. The Quad Cities Chamber is a business and economic development organization serving a bi-state metropolitan area of 400,000. Barney has more than 30 years of extensive chamber economic and community development experience. Barney holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Administration from Miami University and a M.P.A. from the John Glenn College of Public Policy at The Ohio State University. She also serves as a board member for the YMCA, and UE Advisory Board for the Center for Innovation & Change and the Louisville Branch Federal Reserve.
Prior to his work at the Coalition as its first President & CEO in 2007, Wathen worked as the Executive Director for the Perry County Development Corporation and was Public Affairs Manager for the Greater Louisville Economic Development Partnership. A graduate of Indiana State University, Wathen is Accredited in Public Relations by the Public Relations Society of America and held the position of president for the Bluegrass Chapter of the PRSA. He is a past president and served on the board of directors of the Indiana Economic Development Association, a statewide economic development organization with more than 400 members.