The Journal Gazette
Thursday, September 16, 2021 8:00 am

Regional partnership names new president

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

A Phoenix economic development professional with strong international ties will be the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership's next president and CEO, officials will announce today.

Stephane Frijia will step into the role on Oct. 11. John Sampson, the organization's founding president and CEO, stepped down at the end of March.

The Regional Partnership is an 11-county, public-private partnership dedicated to building a globally competitive region that attracts business investment.

The organization, formed in 2006, represents the combined interests of Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties.

Frijia, 40, is the Greater Phoenix Economic Council's senior vice president of strategy. He has worked in business development for the organization for more than 10 years.

Although born in the United States, Frijia was raised in Italy by his Italian-born parents. He returned to the U.S. to attend college at Arizona State University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in aeronautical management technology and a master's in urban and environmental planning.

Frijia, who is fluent in three languages, has played a key role in the Greater Phoenix Economic Council's international strategic initiatives. He also has worked on the national level.

“I love strategy,” he said during a phone interview. “I think I have a natural talent for big-thinking strategy.”

His current position, he said, gave him “the opportunity to experiment a lot.”

Frijia is turning his attentions to northeast Indiana, which he thinks is “primed for growth.” But he doesn't expect instant success.

“The results of the last few years are the results of a lot of years of work,” he said about the Phoenix area's rapid growth. “That didn't happen by chance.”

The married father of two plans to use his first couple of months on the job meeting people and getting acclimated. Then he'll dive into developing an action plan for 2022.

“We'll develop a robust calendar,” Frijia said, adding that he logged about 300 projects last year.

When it comes to wooing employers to invest in the region, Frijia isn't afraid to get aggressive, a word he used more than once during the interview.

“We'll earn our place at the table in those conversations,” he said.

Mark Millett, vice chairman of the Regional Partnership, chaired the group's search committee. 

“The CEO search process yielded several high-quality candidates, but Stephane's unique set of economic development experiences and skill-sets set him apart,” the Steel Dynamics Inc. CEO said in a statement.

“He has a clear history of successful execution, driven by partner collaboration and innovative marketing approaches,” Millett added.

Ellen Cutter, a search committee member and vice president of economic development for Greater Fort Wayne Inc., said her organization looks forward to working with Frijia.

Frijia said he wasn't looking for a new position when an executive recruiting firm contacted him on behalf of the Regional Partnership.

“But when I got the call, I was intrigued,” he said. “I realized northeast Indiana has a great story to tell.”

What sealed the deal for Frijia was the enthusiasm various residents have for northeast Indiana.

“There are a lot of people that love the place,” he said. “Newcomers, they pick up on that.”

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