From the Mind of an Intern
Collin Kinniry Shared His Internship Experience
Uncertainty. As overstated as it might sound at this point, uncertainty is a word that follows all of us as days, weeks and months continue to pass. For me, uncertainty is a suitable word to encapsulate the emotions of finding an internship this summer. As I sat for weeks on end in the Lilly Library at Wabash College scrubbing through several job posting sites, this feeling of uncertainty continued to lurk over me. With most companies still on the fence with restrictions, it wasn't easy to discern what the various internships might look like when summer began.
Despite these concerns, I applied to several internships and went through the process of writing cover letters and completing interviews. As this process continued, I ended up hearing back from a few companies. While the uncertainty started to fade, I still had time to explore other internship options. Mainly, I wanted to see if I could find one more fitting to my academic concentrations. Then, one day, after rummaging through several Indiana-based internships, I found one internship position that piqued my interest: Business Attraction Intern for Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. At the time, I wasn't entirely sure what the position entailed, but I did know this internship was in the economic development space, which seemed quite fascinating.
Following this grand discovery, I decided to apply, and spoiler alert, I landed the internship! My internship this summer has taught me about the quality of economic movement that transpires in Northeast Indiana. It has given me this opportunity to share some of the more fascinating insights I picked up along the way. Though there is plenty to share, my time at the Regional Partnership left me with three prominent talking points:
- Learning Alongside Business Attraction
- Experiences with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC)
- Life as an Intern in Northeast Indiana
Learning Alongside Business Attraction
Before my internship, I only understood economic development and business attraction through my light research on the internet. Once I began my internship, I gained a hands-on understanding of economic development and learned the profound impact it has on the region. I first realized that there is certainly no shortage of people in the economic development world, but the collaboration among those in the area is more than encouraging. Internally, I joined the business attraction team, specializing in bringing business into Northeast Indiana.
Brandon Noll and Chad Ruston are two of the more relentless fighters that the region offers. Interning for Brandon and Chad allowed me to see the type of intensity it takes to bring business to Northeast Indiana. Whether traveling to a different city or meeting with someone locally, they represent the region with the utmost confidence. It is incredible to see their work in real-time as outside businesses begin to commit to joining Northeast Indiana. They do not do it alone, though. The collaboration between different organizations in the region has been another distinct observation. When something is on the table to improve the region, leaders across various private and public entities are quick to call on one another for support. I continually witnessed this theme throughout the summer.
Retracing back to uncertainty, I was never quite sure what to expect this summer. I couldn't have told you that I would be sitting across the table from Slovakian Delegates in a meeting inside of the Regional Partnership. I also didn't imagine attending an electrical vehicle seminar with some of the most renowned site selectors and executive automotive industry figures. Now, I can say that I did both things. I garnered a broader understanding of what international collaboration and the emerging automotive industry will look like in years to come. Finally, I knew that I would work with the Regional Partnership's Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) at the beginning of my internship. However, I didn't know the level of freedom the Regional Partnership would bestow on me to increase my technical skills. I quickly learned that I could solve problems with unique solutions due to the guidance of those at the Regional Partnership. After several weeks of learning, implementing, and testing, I now have a new tactical skill to bring with me in my professional career. I didn't come into the summer as a CRM expert, and I'm still not, but I at least learned that problem solving is not a one-way street. Solutions can arise from unfamiliar areas and a little bit of patience, which is what my work with the CRM taught me.
Experiences with the IEDC
About halfway through my internship, Linda Walczak from the IEDC allowed me to accompany her on her county tours. I went on five county tours with different members in the economic development realm and met several lively business owners along the way. I sat around numerous tables with some of the more prominent business executives in the region, and I heard the story about how the pandemic affected them and what they saw for their companies going forward. It was empowering to listen to the distinctive responses across different industries, and it opened my eyes to how resilient Northeast Indiana became amidst the pandemic. No matter what county I visited, all business leaders shared the same buoyant attitude as they progress into the following year. While most companies face and continue to face some form of hardship, they all continue to express innovation and modification to contest their obstacles.
I gained my second experience with the IEDC through a thoughtful invitation to attend the IEDC Quarterly meeting in Indianapolis. At this meeting, I met Indiana's new Secretary of Commerce, Brad Chambers. Speaking to the flexibility of my internship and the collaborative rhythm of the Regional Partnership, I attended an event with some of the most critical shakers for improving economic advancement in the state of Indiana. During this event, I felt the same developing and committed attitude towards the betterment of Indiana's economy. Listening to everyone at the meeting provided me with a greater appreciation of the work put in around me to improve the quality of life for Indiana residents. It was amazing to have this type of experience as a college student, and I appreciate the connections and memories I now hold.
Life as an Intern in Northeast Indiana
Working in downtown Fort Wayne was an experience that would surprise any intern. Looking out of the ninth floor of the Regional Partnership's suite every day provided me with an astonishing view of the downtown landscape. The cranes, traffic, and positive atmosphere surrounding the city are immediate symbols of the economic growth taking place around the city. Walking around during lunch hour left me with no shortage of places to grab a bite. Moreover, visiting The Landing during the lunch hour was always a treat. The glistening shops, aroma, and delightful restaurants made the occasional lunch outside the office a pleasure. During my trips outside of Fort Wayne, I had a similar experience. With the same upward momentum, towns like Auburn, and the unique feel of LaGrange County, gave me a fuller appreciation for what Northeast Indiana has to offer.
All in all, what seemed so uncertain at one point this year, blossomed into a summer experience that I will cherish for years to come. I initially didn't know what to expect, but what followed my uncertainty is more than what I could have asked for this summer. My internship at the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership allowed me to increase professionalism, see the region's promise, grow some of my technical skills, and cultivate several other qualities. From Business Attraction to the IEDC and traveling around the region, I am confident that my experience this summer was well worth it. I learned that uncertainty is not a barrier to growth but rather an opportunity to utilize strategy and learn new things. In my final years of college and beyond, I know uncertainty is a part of life, so I hope to mirror the same diligence that I saw throughout Northeast Indiana this summer. I am thankful for the people and the memories that made this summer one to remember. Special thank you to Linda, Brandon and Chad for their mentorship over the course of this summer.