As an entrepreneur new to the area, I wanted to share with you how northeast Indiana has exceeded my expectations time and again in the year I have been here.
I am a native Californian and moved to Fort Wayne to start a robotics R&D company called Targamite. I have been so pleased with what this region has to offer an entrepreneur. I am not sure those native to the area can fully see just how impressive the assets here are … and they are impressive.
This region has a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem, and I have had positive experiences all along the way. Trine University students helped us create a marketing plan. Adaptive Micro-Ware, a local engineering and R&D company, helped us work through three stages of prototypes. Elevate Ventures, the state’s entrepreneurial assistance arm, has been connecting us to the right people and is even contemplating investing directly in our company. The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership is helping us tell our story statewide and won us over with the great quality of life here through their “Your Story Made Here” videos. And most importantly, the supply chain here is something completely unexpected.
My decision to actually locate the business in Fort Wayne came from a realization that Northeast Indiana is a remarkably resource-rich environment for developers of complex, electro-mechanical devices. The greater region literally has hundreds of smaller to medium-sized electronic component suppliers and manufacturers, metal suppliers and fabricators, plastics suppliers and fabricators, independent mechanical engineering firms, IEEE engineers, contract manufacturers, and final assembly and fulfillment providers. Why? They have been supplying the cluster of automotive and aerospace companies located here with services and components for almost a century. How does this help a start-up? Samples and services might be available at no cost. They are across the street, not on the other side of the planet. They will work with small orders and give you deep price breaks to help ensure your success. This can make the difference between failure and success in the start-up context.
Indiana contract manufacturing also can be surprisingly competitive, even with China. How can this be? I never would have known had I not been here that the large agricultural community in Indiana has a dynamic relationship with smaller contract manufacturers. We are talking about a well-educated, English-speaking workforce with a Midwestern work ethic. Their delivered manufacturing rates, especially at lower volume levels when the start-up ramps a product into the marketplace, can be comparatively cost-effective, with high-quality output and delivery time-horizons that cannot be matched by China. Moreover, these suppliers are particularly well-suited for volume fluctuations, intermittent demand and scaling, as the labor pool is purely on-demand. As there is an abundance of such manufacturing facilities, competition keeps prices attractive. And Indiana final assembly houses are already set up for pallet shipments to Amazon and other major U.S. fulfillment centers, which can be a logistical nightmare from China.
After a year of hard work developing the technology and spending money on vendors throughout Indiana, we are now at the advanced, pre-production stage of development of this product, which offers a quantum leap in functionality at a tenth of the price of the competition.
This region has proven itself to be a great place for entrepreneurs. I expect my company to do well here, and I hope to become a valued employer and leader within the community. A big thank you to all the organizations and individuals who have helped me along the way. I look forward to growing my business here in Northeast Indiana!