Elkhart Chamber president testifies before U.S. House panel
Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Levon Johnson was in Washington, D.C. Wednesday to testify before Congress.
Johnson spoke at a hearing of the U.S. House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Growth titled “Bringing Prosperity to Left-Behind Communities: Using Targeted Place-based Development to Expand Economic Opportunity.”
Johnson said that Elkhart’s greatest economic successes were the result of local and regional initiatives — including its recovery from the 2008 recession, when the city’s unemployment rate climbed above 20 percent.
“National projections indicated it would take Elkhart 20 years, if ever, to recover,” Johnson said. “By 2012, we had mostly righted the ship. This was done by local and regional entities that believed in and understood Elkhart County business, communities, and that our resilience had prepared us for times like this.”
“Had we waited on outside solutions, we would still be six years away from our pre-2008 economic strength,” he added.
Johnson also cited the collaboration of the city’s business and health care leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw unemployment rates as high as 28.6 percent.
He said in crises, the city prefers to move at the speed of business, not bureaucracy — “too often, the wait in any other way is tiresome and frustrating.”
“Five times from 2008 to 2020, Elkhart has served as a convenient backdrop for presidential visits,” Johnson said. “While we appreciate the attention and theatre of political campaigns, we also believe that there is a purposeful and intentional speed of government and a speed of business.
In the future, Johnson said the city hopes to leverage local programs and partnerships to expand economic opportunities for both rural and urban communities.
“It is often said that rising tides raises all ships. But as I was recently reminded, that only matters if everyone is on the boat,” he said.
He said leaders in the South Bend-Elkhart region have established a goal to be in the top 20 percent of metro areas for minority income equity by 2030.
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