Fort Wayne Region Making Big Talent Play

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John Sampson leads the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. John Sampson leads the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.

With the state's unemployment rate at 4 percent, competition for talent has become a make-or-break proposition for some companies and Indiana communities. And in northeast Indiana, "The Road to One Million" is about more than expanding the region's population. It's about economic survival. Regional leaders say growing the population to one million residents will be critical to meeting expected job demand. "We know today, in a global marketplace, that work goes to where there is talent to do the work," says Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership Chief Executive Officer John Sampson. "If we don't have the talent, they will take that work elsewhere and the jobs that go with them."

In an interview on Inside INdiana Business Television, Sampson said $42 million in matching funds from the state's Regional Cities Initiative has sparked a transformation that extends beyond downtown Fort Wayne.

Economic development and community leaders say more than 107,000 jobs will need to be filled in the next decade in northeast Indiana, during a period in which some 22,000 workers will be retiring. With the unemployment rate at 4 percent, or lower, in the region, talent attraction and retention effort have taken on added significance.

"The Road to One Million" is led by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and Greater Fort Wayne Inc. and seeks to grow the region's population to one million residents by 2031. Currently, more than 700,000 people live in northeast Indiana.

Efforts to reach the ambitious goal center on a strategic plan that outlines dozens of quality of life projects and $1.5 billion in public and private investment over the next decade. The projects, ranging from downtown development to arts and culture to greenways, are designed to make communities more attractive, especially to young professional talent.

The talent effort helped northeast Indiana land one of three Indiana Regional Cities Initiative grants of $42 million in 2015.

Sampson says the high-profile projects are part of a broader effort aimed at growing a regional talent pipeline.

"We're going to focus on internships to better connect to young professionals and students with work-based learning opportunities," said Sampson. And we're already operating a regional talent portal so people know what kinds of opportunities are here."

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