The gist on regional partnerships
Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly
July 8, 2016
The gist on regional partnerships
Breaking down the relationships among the area’s development organizations
Whitney Wright | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly
The northeast counties of Indiana are bustling with activity to develop and benefit the greater Fort Wayne area, but keeping track of who does what can be confusing.
Many companies and individuals have already chosen to be a part of these organizations through financial investments and have undoubtedly heard of other similar organizations in the area, including the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana, Regional Opportunities Council, Greater Fort Wayne Inc. and Vision 2020.
Ultimately, all of the aforementioned partnerships, corporations and investment opportunities are geared toward making northeast Indiana a better place to live, learn and conduct business, much of which can be found under a mission called Vision 2020. What varies between the groups is where the focus is targeted and how these goals can be accomplished.
Northern Indiana Regional Partnership
The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, established in 2006, focuses on investing in the businesses in the greater Fort Wayne area through building, marketing and selling the region by working to develop talent and the infrastructure.
“The main goal [of the partnership] is to recruit companies that offer high-paying jobs, develop, attract and retain a skilled workforce and accelerate our regional population growth rate,” said Courtney Tritch, the partnership’s vice president of marketing.
The partnership is the only organization in the area that works directly with the region’s counties: Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Kosciusko, Lagrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley. The partnership finds leads for development and opportunities and then gives them to the individual local economic development organization, stationed in each participating county. The LEDOs can then submit proposals and, if the lead is interested, the partsnership will work with the LEDO in the county where the development will take place.
“It’s like handing off a baton,” Tritch said.
The partnership is run by two different boards: a governing board, which oversees the logistics and budgeting, and an investment board. The investment board may be better known as the Regional Opportunities Council and is composed of investors in the partnership, which means they invest $10,000 or more annually under a five-year commitment. Those on ROC have the opportunity to network, find project leads, help discern what major priorities the regional leadership should be focusing on and also set the direction for Vision 2020, a partnership initiative to develop the area into becoming a top global competitor.
Regional Development Authority
Upon applying to the state’s Regional Cities Initiative for the development of a northeast location, the Regional Development Authority was formed on June 24, 2015, so project leaders can apply for matching funds from RCI, which is run by the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
The RDA provides services for the same counties as the Regional Partneship and is made up of a board of five members involved in some kind of private business who were elected by a group composed of one commissioner from each of the 11 counties involved and 16 mayors. Potential board members were required to have at least five years of experience in transportation, regional economic development, business, finance, private sector and nonprofit sector or academia. They will serve for four years on the RDA board.
Although the partnership provides support to the RDA – through administrative assistance, setting up bank accounts and processing paperwork for project owners – it is a completely separate entity from the RDA, said John Sampson, the Regional Partnership president and CEO.
Currently, the RDA is developing a fee-for-service agreement with the partnership, which will then finalize the partnership’s involvement through fiscal support and by providing consulting services for project leaders to assist them with their documentation before submitting their project and financial proposals to the RDA, Sampson said.
Greater Fort Wayne Inc.
Greater Fort Wayne Inc., created in 2013 from the merger of the Economic Development Alliance and Fort Wayne-Allen County Chamber of Commerce and joined by Leadership Fort Wayne in 2014, is separate from the partnership. They have a handful of ties keeping them working alongside one another.
GFW Inc. works solely within Allen County and, as a major proponent of economic development, is the LEDO for Allen County. The LEDO office is located at the GFW Inc. office in downtown Fort Wayne. LEDO representative John Urbahns is a GFW Inc.employee, serving as the executive vice president of economic development, said Rachel Lott, director of marketing for GFW Inc.
Alongside economic development – including potential expansion and obtaining new employees from outside the area – GFW Inc. provides chamber services, focuses on graduate retention, leadership development, community engagement and business advocacy. It often works with the Downtown Improvement District, the Fort Wayne Downtown Development Trust, the Regional Development Authority and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and supports the partnership’s Vision 2020 five pillars: 21st century talent, business climate, entrepreneurship, infrastructure and quality of life.
Overseen by 58 board members, GFW Inc. is funded by investors of different levels – depending on the size of a business – with investment tiers beginning at $400 for a business with one to 10 employees and ending at $1,000 for businesses with 50-100 employees. It also receives revenue from programs and events and has a fee-for-service agreement with the county and city for economic development.
Investors have access to programs to develop talent, networking and lead groups, informational programs regarding legislature, incentive programs and ideas for business growth and affinity programs, such as discounts at Office Depot.
Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana
The Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana, developed in 2010, exists for policy and advocacy work at the Indiana state house and supports many of the same ideas as the partnership’s Vision 2020, including 21st century talent, world-class infrastructure and business climate. The Regional Chamber works on policies and legislation that would specifically benefit northeast Indiana, although some of its initiatives could also have an impact on the entire state, said Vince Buchanan, executive director of the Regional Chamber.
The Regional Chamber does not have a relationship with any specific area in northeast Indiana, members of the Regional Chamber sit on the boards of other organizations and vice versa. It also provides a hand for the Regional Partnership’s advocacy concerns on a state level because the partnership performs no advocacy itself.
The Regional Chamber is headed by 15 board members and two staff members and is solely funded by private investments, which range from $2,500 to $15,000, depending on the revenues and size of a business or investor. Investors in the Regional Chamber have access to and a voice in the activities occurring in northeast Indiana at the state house. They also have influence in the Regional Chamber’s advocacy focus at the state level and in which direction the growth and appeal of the area moves.