enFocus Expands to Elkhart

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enFocus fellows serve as "sponsored problem solvers" to assist businesses with growth. (photo courtesy enFocus) enFocus fellows serve as "sponsored problem solvers" to assist businesses with growth. (photo courtesy enFocus)

A South Bend-based nonprofit is expanding to Elkhart County to, among other things, address a major labor shortage. enFocus Inc. will have an office at the Launch Elkhart small business incubator and plans to work with public and private clients to "create and deploy innovations" in the area.

enFocus is a one-year fellowship program in which recent college graduates work as "sponsored problem solvers" to assist with community development and incubate new businesses. The fellows also work to help businesses find efficiencies to reduce costs.

The organization is supported by the University of Notre Dame, which says it will first work with the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County to study the labor market, looking at supply and demand, labor flow, workforce readiness, labor force participation as well as factors hindering employment such as lack of transportation, criminal history and drug dependance.

The nonprofit will also be tasked with helping manage Vibrant Communities, which is a portfolio of nearly 80 action items "designed to build pride and foster a greater sense of place and community in the county," according to Notre Dame. 

Lex Dennis, chief strategy officer for enFocus, says the goal of the expansion is to effectively double the size of the organization from eight to 10 fellows annually, to 20 or more. He says Elkhart was chosen for the expansion because of its "entrepreneurial spirit," adding it would be a "fertile ground for fledgling entrepreneurs."

One of enFocus' main objectives is to help reduce the outflow of talent from South Bend and neighboring communities. The organization says nearly 80 percent of the 46 fellows who have graduated from the program have stayed in the area. 

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