The South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership has launched what it describes as a dynamic asset map that outlines the region’s workforce development, business innovation and entrepreneurship assets. The South Bend-Elkhart Digital Innovation Hub is part of the LIFT Network, which was created last year through a $42 million grant from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. The partnership says the hub fills a gap by giving industry leaders a central location to find a variety of resources they may need.
Leighton Johnson, director of education and workforce initiatives for the partnership, tells Inside INdiana Business the hub serves as a “virtual front door” to the LIFT Network.
“For anyone who’s looking to interact with LIFT or any of our region’s innovation assets…so whether they’re an entrepreneur, an entrepreneurial support organization, if they’re a business looking for some sort of technical services, or if they’re a company HR director looking to hire or develop talent, or if they’re a learner looking to engage in a program, this is the tool where they can come in, identify assets and even connect directly with those asset owners,” said Johnson.
The LIFT, or Labs for Industry Futures and Transformation, Network was created to formalize the collaborative opportunities among the region’s innovation, research and development, workforce training and educational assets.
“We have a really strong manufacturing sector here in the South Bend-Elkhart region and we also have a lot of innovation assets when you think of being home to a Tier 1 research university in Notre Dame and others,” said Regina Emberton, president and chief executive officer of the South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership. “How do we connect the manufacturing side with all of these assets to make sure we’re adopting new technologies in the future so that we’re able to thrive and really spread that economic prosperity into the future?”
The partnership says more than 250 assets across 100 organizations were identified during a nearly year-long asset mapping effort for the hub. Emberton says the industry response has been “phenomenal.”
“(The hub) really meets with the demand that our industry has here in the region for them to be able to grow and try new things,” said Emberton. “If you go back a decade, it was really hard for a company (such as) ITAMCO in Marshall County, you know, they’d be knocking of the door of the university and asking to connect with some expertise in a particular R&D area to launch a new product and they just don’t know where to go. You fast forward 10 years and now…this asset portal is able to make it very easy for a company.”
Emberton adds the hub could also serve as an economic development tool for the region.
“It’s not very common for a region the size of the South Bend-Elkhart region to have so many assets and so by mapping them together, categorizing them, tagging them and making them easily accessible, it not only demonstrates what we have to companies here across the region…but also people across the country and the world. So they can look online and identify the vast amount of resources and assets that are here.”
Looking forward, Emberton says the LIFT Network will next summer launch an internship program, providing interns with learning and training opportunities with manufacturers, as well as apprenticeship programs.
You can connect to the South Bend-Elkhart Digital Innovation Hub by clicking here.
Johnson says the hub serves as a “virtual front door” to the LIFT Network.
Emberton says the industry response has been “phenomenal.”