Millennials setting course with hope, survey

June 8th, 2012

News Coverage:

Published: June 8, 2012 3:00 a.m.

Millennials setting course with hope, survey

Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette

Erica Hahn sees great potential all around her.

That’s the way it is with millennials, she said, referring to people who are 15 to 25 years old.

So the Vision 2020 coordinator refuses to be discouraged when reality falls short of her ambitious goals.

The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership – Hahn’s employer – early this year set out to gather good ideas from a 10-county region and empower young community leaders to make them a reality. So the group distributed an online survey with the hope of receiving at least 10,000 completed forms by June.

“We set that as a hairy, audacious goal,” Hahn said.

As of Thursday, about 3,000 completed surveys have been returned to the non-profit organization. Hahn, 24, is jazzed by the potential contained on the forms received and said she has been assured the response provides an adequate statistical sample.

Responses came in from all the targeted counties: Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley.

Vision 2020 was created three years ago to address northeast Indiana’s per capita income, which in 2009 fell to 79.5 percent of the national average.

Initiatives include addressing various quality-of-life issues, such as developing downtown Fort Wayne along the riverfronts.

The latest survey results will be released next month at a one-day gathering of millennials and community leaders.

The late-July event – dubbed the M2020 Spark Tank – will allow younger participants to convert their passions into practical projects that can be pitched to community leaders.

The two best ideas will be chosen to receive $500 each in seed money, Hahn said.

She is hoping for about 500 participants.

Tori Rowe, the Millennial 2020 coordinator, is interning with the Regional Partnership for the summer. The Fort Wayne native attends Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. After spending the past two summers in New York City and Washington, D.C., the 21-year-old returned to northeast Indiana this summer specifically to work on this project.

“The goal here really is to launch people into leadership and take ownership of their community,” Rowe said. “What we’re trying to do is eliminate barriers to millennials.”

Projects’ progress will be documented on a website, which Hahn hopes other young leaders in the region will follow and be inspired by.