The “Why” Behind Building a Global Economy

By: John Sampson on August 3rd, 2017

Vision 2030 Critical to Competitive, Attractive Economy

A reminder of our roots is in order for this month’s CEO Perspective.  I need it as much as anyone.  Early this morning I watched Simon Sinek’s powerful video on the “why.”  For me, as an engineer, I can get very focused on what we are doing and how we are going to do it; to my own discredit.  All 20 minutes of Sinek’s video were well worth the time and I recommend it to you.

“They don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” This could not be more important for the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and our region as we move forward together to both a promising and uncertain economic future.

I was challenged recently to explain why I have doggedly persisted in our mission to build, market and sell Northeast Indiana.  Specifically, I was asked, “why is the Regional Partnership consumed, distracted or completely driven by the multiple demands represented by the “build” element of our mission?”  After all, many of the early investors to the Regional Partnership will recall distinctly that we launched this regional endeavor in 2006 as the Regional Marketing Partnership.

For all of the stakeholders of the Regional Partnership, I owe a clear, compelling and consistent response to this important “why.” There is much data, benchmarking, best practices and anecdotes that my natural senses are screaming to reach for in reply to the question.  All of that is much more about justifying than answering.  The reports, trends and personal stories are all relevant and persuasive.  In contrast, all of that speaks to what and how, not why. 

As Simon reminds us, the why for each of us stems from our beliefs, not data.

I have shared the “Bob Ady” story multiple times.  It was an “aha!” moment for me when my beliefs of our mission changed in an instant.  I will spare you the long version only to say that Bob, a prominent national site selector with many contacts and clients, delivered us a healthy dose of reality in 2009, plainly and firmly telling all investors of the Regional Partnership, “I will never show your buildings or sites to my clients.”  This was an unpleasant truth. 

Yes, it was a defining moment, though not the answer to “why build a region capable of competing in a global marketplace?”

Since that moment, we have struggled to answer succinctly this important question.  We have fussed and floundered over the mission statement, sought input from our partners, rewritten the vision for the region and the Regional Partnership into a singular but less-than-perfect articulation and worked with consultants on identifying “swim lanes” for roles and responsibilities. 

All of that has been worthwhile on its own merits, but none of it speaks to the why.

So here goes.  Remember, I am an engineer so I have to use bullets.

I believe in our people.

  • I believe in the people and leadership of the City of Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana.  My belief is not based in political subdivisions but in who we are as people.  The Our Story Project in 2014 ratified that we are a people rooted in gritty determination to beat the odds. 

I believe in our potential. 

  • I believe that for many years we have not performed to our potential as an economic entity or as individuals.  Personal per capita income at 83 percent of the national average does not reflect our potential or even remotely define our future in business or personal acumen.

I believe in investing in us. 

  • I believe that investment in talent development, community development and economic development in response to the demands of regional employers is ALL that we have to market and sell to the global marketplace.  Our investment in people and community reflects who we are and is precisely why others would want to live and work here.

I believe in trust-based relationships. 

  • I believe that the Regional Partnership has earned the trust and respect of our partners, investors and stakeholders necessary to confront and resolve our region’s most difficult economic challenges. We have developed both the capability and capacity to convene, confront and collaborate in a way that is not about taking credit; it is about solving difficult challenges.  From talent development and infrastructure to air service and the Road to One Million, volunteer leaders from all sectors have come together with and through the Regional Partnership to accomplish what others thought not possible.

I believe in the power of collaboration. 

  • I believe the spirit of collaboration in our region has unleashed progress and accelerated growth beyond expectations.  Our region has demonstrated repeatedly that our learned behaviors in regional economic development, our code of ethics and the building of trust-based relationships is making a measurable and significant difference in our rate of progress.

I believe that our mission is integrated and unified.  

  • I believe that our “build” mission is critical to the market and sell components.  I do not see these activities as discrete or independent.  Together, they are an integrated continuum leveraging and supporting each part of the total mission to increase business investment throughout the region.

People, potential, investment, trust, collaboration and unity.  These elements frame why I believe that our approach to growing business investment must include building a region that is market competitive.  What we believe determines both the what we do and how we will move forward.  We may all state it differently, and some may articulate it even better. 

Our why defines everything about who we are and what we do.

The leadership team of the Regional Partnership said it best in response to the question, “Why do we exist as an organization?”  Our response is concise and clear, “We exist to create a more prosperous Northeast Indiana for its residents.”

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