In Northeast Indiana, “good” is not good enough. We share a common goal of defying Midwest trends and breaking new ground, and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership is leading that effort in our 11-county region.
The Regional Partnership was formed in 2006 by a core group of business and community leaders who recognized the global market demanded a regional approach, and created the organization to market and sell Northeast Indiana to the rest of the world.
At the time, regional leaders were warning of a dangerous downward trend in regional per capita personal income (PCPI), which measures the average income earned per person. PCPI had been declining rapidly since 1995. Northeast Indiana residents were working just as hard, but for less money as compared to the national average.
Then, in 2008, after two years of selling the region, the Regional Partnership learned a difficult lesson: Northeast Indiana did not have the product necessary to attract new businesses to our region.
“We had stopped investing in ourselves as a community,” says John Sampson, president and CEO of the Regional Partnership. “We learned that if we did not invest in the improvement
of our own community, we could not expect others to do so either.”
Northeast Indiana knew it must do something to combat this trend. In 2010, with the guidance of the Regional Partnership, regional leaders launched Vision 2020 – a regional community development initiative focused on building a regional product attractive to businesses and individuals nationally and globally.
If the 11-county region – which today includes Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Kosciusko, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells, and Whitley counties – did not take serious efforts to increase regional PCPI, Northeast Indiana and Fort Wayne would eventually become irrelevant in the global marketplace.
“Over the last six years, we have had great successes through Vision 2020,” says Mike Packnett, CEO of Parkview Health.
Perhaps the biggest success, however, is the shift in thinking about regionalism.
“Ten years ago, counties were not working together in the way they do today. We have learned that we are better together and are now thinking, acting and making decisions with a regional mindset,” says Packnett.
Scott Glaze, CEO of Fort Wayne Metals and current board chair of the Regional Partnership says, “Thanks to more than a decade of collaboration, regionalism is now the bedrock of economic development in Northeast Indiana.”
The Burning Platform
Now, 11 years after the Regional Partnership began, Northeast Indiana has experienced six consecutive years of rising PCPI, which equates to nearly $6 billion in new income circulating in the region.
However, this success alone is not enough.
Recent research shows that population growth in Indiana is stagnant. Northeast Indiana is currently growing at a rate of 0.7 percent. At that rate, the region will lose nearly 9,000 people from the regional workforce in the next decade.
“Our competitor regions – places like Des Moines, Iowa and Raleigh, N.C., are growing at average rates of 1.8 percent annually. If we continue at our current rate, our competitors will attract the talent and business investment we need,” says Ryan Twiss, vice president of Regional Initiatives.
In 2015, the Regional Partnership won $42 million to invest in regional quality of life assets through the Road to One Million plan. This plan, facilitated by the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA), is aimed at tripling the region’s current growth rate to 2.1 percent, which will grow our regional population to 1 million people by 2030.
“That population growth will allow Northeast Indiana to stay competitive in the global economy, by attracting talent and fueling business investment,” says Sampson.
The Regional Partnership’s plan is to build a bigger, bolder and brighter future through its business and community development strategies and the Road to One Million plan.
Jim Clifton, author of “The Coming Jobs War,” says that in today’s global economy, we are in an all-out war for jobs.
Northeast Indiana understands that cities who not only appreciate the urgency of this global war for jobs, but have the resolve to compete and win, will rise up and become magnets for talent attraction.
The Regional Partnership leads the region in this tenacious fight to be a greater competitor in the global marketplace. It’s a fight for prosperity today and opportunity for future generations.
Will you join us as we make Northeast Indiana a more prosperous region for our residents?