Emerging Leaders Alliance: 5 Questions with Danielle Falk
Danielle Falk, 29, was born in Bluffton. She has a degree in political science and has worked at Lincoln Financial Group for the last four years. Dani is a new member of the ELA.
As an emerging leader who are you?
My great-grandparents migrated to northeast Indiana in the 1920s for International Harvester. They gave me a strong foundation to build on. I jumped in. It's more than having family here. I have a lot of pride for the region. I want to keep that pride from my family going. Getting involved in groups like Junior Achievement and Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana (YLNI) got my feet wet with networking and opened doors for things like the Emerging Leaders Alliance. The doors keep on opening for me because of that involvement. I think it is important to have pride for Northeast Indiana and to be vocal about it. Ten years ago downtown was empty, and now it’s a completely different atmosphere. I want to be one of the people that help keep that momentum going.
What counties have you lived in?
I have lived in Wells County and Adams County. I was also a lake kid in Steuben County on weekends in the summer. My grandparents have a cottage on Crooked Lake. Because I grew up in Wells County, I am definitely a farm kid. My father is a farmer. My grandparents were small business owners in downtown Bluffton. They made me fearless to talk to strangers because of their community involvement. I want to build on that. Out of 30 grandkids, I’m the only one with a college education. Agriculture is still really important to Northeast Indiana and it shouldn't be seen as less important. Adams County is where I attended elementary school. My step-grandparents were very involved in the community too. I got to meet people and learn communication skills because of always being around adults. My parents worked in Allen County and in Adams County. I grew up in a blue-collar family and worked odd jobs to help pay my way through college.
What do you love about Northeast Indiana?
I love the sense of community. It’s a large city but small enough to know everyone. It’s a "love your neighbor" kind of region. Here, we have open doors and a supportive mentality. That is what Hoosier hospitality is and should be. I like it here because lots of people are okay with pulling up a seat to another table. The younger generation is so open to our differences and having a hard conversation, and then building a community around them. My favorite places in Northeast Indiana including Ouabache State Park, Fort Wayne Trails, Captain's Cabin on Crooked Lake, the Spencerville Covered Bridge, and the Arts United Center.
What would you like to see in Northeast Indiana in the future?
I would like to see the Electric Works project happen. It would take us into a new stratosphere for entrepreneurs while paying homage to the manufacturers that built this city on the hands of hard work. People see Indiana as a hard-working state, and I want to keep that going. We can bring this region into the future through these new projects. We are more than cornfields.
What is something that you have done in Northeast Indiana that you never expected to do?
I didn't expect to come back after college. I thought I’d move to a bigger city, but I kept coming back and thinking about what I could do myself to make it better, instead of waiting for others. Ten years ago, as a freshman in college, I didn’t think I’d come back home to live. Now, I own a house and I’m renovating it. I love making a difference and being able to see the difference that I’m making in the community. I think there’s real beauty in that.
by Stephen J. Bailey for the Emerging Leaders Alliance, a program of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership