A few months ago, I was in a meeting with a global company looking for its next U.S. office and manufacturing facility. I took the opportunity to share why northeast Indiana is a great place to live and grow a business. I shared the community development efforts taking place and the collaborative nature of our business community that is leading to unstoppable growth.
The company leader then said, “That is great. It seems like an excellent fit, but why have I never heard of Fort Wayne, Indiana, before?”
While our brand awareness might be lower than we would like, that statement triggered a major realization for me – an exciting opportunity we have at our fingertips.
It's time to make the world aware of Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana. Now is the time to tell our story and put our region on the map as a place where businesses and individuals thrive. Our community has experienced immense growth over the past 10 years, and we aren't slowing down.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, northeast Indiana has steadily increased per capita income since the 2008 recession, currently at 82% of the national average.
In addition to raising wealth and prosperity, the region is experiencing population growth. The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported county-level population estimates, which showed growth of more than 30,000 residents throughout the 11 counties of northeast Indiana since 2010.
In Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana, we continue to increase marketing efforts, spur business investment and boost our economy. But we must do more. To bring more talent and jobs here. To increase awareness and the speed of our growth.
We must continue to work together as a community to put Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana on the map.
It is more important now than ever before that we come together and take the steps to change the pace. Every person in our community plays a crucial role in the continued growth, awareness and traction our community receives.
First, we must talk about the growth and momentum happening here. When we share with our family, friends and colleagues, we generate excitement and awareness of the revitalization efforts happening and draw attention to our focus on quality of life and our commitment to growth.
We must continue to grow and retain our businesses here. When we commit to keeping our companies and their expansion projects, we create more momentum and strength in numbers. Everyone here has a story, and those stories are powerful. We must continue to share our stories and our competitive business climate. Share them with our customers, companies within our supply chain and those within our networks.
We must also invest in talent. Collaborate with and support our local colleges and universities. Develop internship programs and look inside and outside of the region to fill jobs and find the talent we need. When we invest in talent, we encourage the growth and development of our workforce, which leads to better retention rates, stronger employee performance and makes us a magnet for the world's top talent.
It is crucial we unite as advocates and continue to change the dialogue. Our cost of living is one of our greatest assets as a community. The idea of affordable living which leads to a better quality of life is attractive to many individuals, families and businesses when relocating.
We should embrace this and share that we are a competitive and affordable place to live, work and play. By avoiding words such as “cheap” and “low cost,” we steer away from implications of a lower quality of life.
Finally, we must bring business and people here. Whether it's your own organization or an organization you are involved with, encourage that conferences, trade shows, national meetings and business meetings be hosted here.
Not only does this show our commitment to doing business here, it supports our tourism and hospitality industries and allows people the opportunity to experience our region for themselves, hands on, creating a higher level of interest and awareness.
We are a community that achieves more together. We see opportunity and we embrace challenges. Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has and will for the foreseeable future, bring challenges to our business community and to the lives of our community members.
If we come together and take these actions, we can increase the pace of growth. Together, we can put Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana on the map and come out of this stronger and better than ever before.
Nicole Satalino is business development manager for the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.