It Takes a Village

Jennifer Blomquist, Business People (as published January 2019)

The Northeast Indiana Innovation Center provides guidance and support to enhance the growth of local businesses.

Caption: Michele M. Boillotat, Executive Director of Women’s Philanthropy, Indiana University Foundation, speaks at IU First Lady Laurie Burns-McRobbie’s Women Entrepreneurs/Founders Meeting hosted by The NIIC.

Anyone who has raised a child will tell you: It’s hard work. You need to be patient and persevere, you need support from a variety of sources… but in the end, it is so worth it!

In many ways, the same holds true of breathing life into a business and growing it.

“At The Northeast Indiana Innovation Center, or The NIIC, we work to build, inspire and grow the home-town entrepreneurial community,” says Karl R. LaPan, president and CEO of The NIIC in Fort Wayne. “Places like The NIIC are necessary because business builders need assistance in navigating business potholes and risks. Business builders are often lonely and isolated and need to be surrounded with people who are like them and have a supportive team of people behind them.”

LaPan was selected 18 years ago to run The NIIC, which now consists of an entire 55-acre campus off Stellhorn Road on the city’s northeast side.

He says the concept for The NIIC came out of a medical task force commissioned by the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce in the mid 1990s.

By December of 1999, The NIIC was incorporated by a partnership of community organizations: the City of Fort Wayne, Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce, Allen County and then-Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW).

Regional business leaders also contributed to the organization under the direction of local cardiologist Dr. Michael J. Mirro.

“The NIIC is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation committed to growing the regional economy by creating new, high-quality and higher-paying jobs by incubating and accelerating entrepreneurial companies and by commercializing new technologies and innovations,” says LaPan. “The other purpose of The NIIC is to reverse the region’s ‘brain drain’ by creating an attractive business and social climate for area graduates to develop, grow and thrive.”

LaPan says the numbers tell the real success story as clients of The NIIC have produced over $114 million in revenue and secured more than $87 million in capital investments and grants.

“The NIIC often comes alongside our clients in the role of adjunct management team members, which is hugely important as we work to help our clients accelerate their business growth and increase their likelihood of success. The NIIC was designed to be an investment in the promise and potential of starting, growing and scaling sustainable businesses committed to our community’s success.”


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