Progressing Northeast Indiana’s Regional Vision

By: John Sampson on February 27th, 2018

Vision 2030 Progress – One Year Later After Recasting Vision

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the “recast” of Vision 2020 to Vision 2030—the process to accelerate Northeast Indiana’s progress toward critical economic objectives.

We are working toward three goals: increasing per capita personal income against the national average, raising educational attainment to 60 percent and growing the region’s population to 1 million people.

Without a doubt, 2030 is an important milestone for our region’s future.

Why such lofty goals? A long-term view of where we are headed in our personal and professional lives is important for many reasons. Parents are famous for reminding and prodding us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Having a clear view of where we are in life – what we want to achieve, the steps along the way that mark our progress or warn us when we fall behind – is critical for us as individuals and the numerous corporate and civic organizations in which we serve.

Vision 2020 was a courageous step forward for the leaders of ten counties in 2009 to united around strategies to stop the “stealth decline” in annual per capita personal income. The Vision 2020 process became the framework to launch strategies to confront the constraints to growth of the region’s economy and achieve alignment to employers fighting for their place in a global marketplace. 

Early strategies in the Vision 2020 process emerged in talent, quality of place, infrastructure, business climate and entrepreneurship. Priorities were clearly identified that coalesced leadership and communities around our “Big Goal” for talent, air service at Fort Wayne International Airport, interstate access, downtown riverfront development in Fort Wayne, broadband, Elevate Ventures and others.

By 2016, it was clear that despite measurable progress under the strategies of Vision 2020, with the pace of change regionally, nationally and globally, we had to step up our game once again.

And then, Indiana’s Regional Cities program turned a bright spotlight to the stagnation of population growth and the urgent threat to employers and communities if we did not address the flight of skilled talent from communities all across the state. 

Our Long-Term Goals

It was clear that Vision 2020 had to become more targeted and nimble to keep pace. For the first time, the process would clearly identify specific and long-term objectives. 

By 2030, we agreed to:

  • Increase per capita personal income annually against the national average
  • Increase population to 1 million residents
  • Increase postsecondary credential and educational attainment to more than 60 percent

We also had to leave behind the confinement of pillars to achieve a collaborative committee structure around business attraction, talent attraction and talent development. The committees and subcommittees must be able to form, focus and move the region to action faster than the previous system of pillars and priorities. It was clear that stakeholders from all segments of business, community, foundations, education and not-for-profits were ready to move quickly, and we needed a system to get regional leaders organized and engaged.

Our Progress So Far

As we celebrate this milestone for regional visioning, what progress is now evident? 

Numerous initiatives have surfaced around the 2030 objectives.

Here's a list of just a few of our initiatives:

  • Build a current inventory of ready buildings and sites, mapping commercial broker processes and identifying potential for spec building financing
  • Continue efforts for interstate standards on U.S. 30
  • Train and deploy an “army” of regional brand ambassadors
  • Launch Hoosier Home Base, an online community where veterans and members of the military, both active and reserve, as well as their families, can discover like-minded individuals, find information about Northeast Indiana, and look for job opportunities relevant to their skills and experience
  • Enable the attraction and retention of international immigrants including university students
  • Launch a targeted marketing strategy to reach talented individuals in employment distress in Midwest communities; we call this our "lifeboat" strategy
  • Build a regional internship program, equipping and connecting employers and students for work-based learning experiences
  • Continue to expand FAFSA completion rate for college-bound students

We cannot overlook how much it has meant to the region to bring together numerous business and community leaders from all sectors to the regional visioning process. Their energy and commitment to moving our communities and growing the region’s economy inspires us all. This is the raw power of influence of the tribal leaders and local solutions that Jim Clifton writes about in the “Coming Jobs War”.

And again, we cannot overlook the inspiration to other communities to see a Midwest region rejecting the legacy identity of the “rustbelt.” While we struggle day-to-day for progress, other communities see our progress and believe that they too can create hope and a future for their residents. We must never forget that while we persevere to create our future, our neighbors believe that they too can shed an outdated reputation.

We have not arrived by any stretch of the imagination. However, for the region to pivot in one year’s time to a new model for speed and focus is impressive and unique. There is much work yet to do, and our progress to this point should be celebrated. 

When Jim Clifton visited Fort Wayne in 2013, I asked him to sign my personal copy of his compelling “Coming Jobs War”. I did not read it right away, thinking it would be nice to have a “Best Wishes” signed by Jim inside the cover to my book. When I finally got around to reading his note, I realized he left no trivial message for me and you, leaders of communities all across Northeast Indiana. 

“If you don’t fix FW and America…no one else is going to.”

Categories & Tags CEO Perspective