One base at a time, Region well-positioned for sustained success

Journal Gazette - OpEd by Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, The NIIC

Home runs wow baseball fans, but base hits win pennants. The series-winning grand slam is among the rarest events in baseball.

Consistent performance over time is the smart strategy for winning games and building championship teams. Confident, high-achieving teams plan their seasons around this sound coaching principle.

Confident communities should follow the same game plan. Nationally recognized economies are built on the consistent achievement of solid base hits.

Fort Wayne might lament after a superstar project strikes out in the fifth inning. Yet, as a confident community focused on long-term wins, we won’t give up or walk off the field. We won’t just “sit the bench” until that superstar comes up to bat again.

Instead, we retain our confidence, refocus on fundamentals, and pursue the next base hit.

Now is the time for results and for Fort Wayne to focus on revving up our economic engine by learning from past economic recoveries. Global consulting firm McKinsey & Company analyzed responses to past crises and used the data to develop an economic revival playbook (see the online article, “Lessons from the Past on How to Revive the U.S. Economy After COVID-19,” June 18). McKinsey recommended three winning strategies for rounding the bases of economic recovery.

First, invest in people. Ensure that individuals can keep their jobs, create a job or retrain for new jobs in what McKinsey describes as a “permanently changed world.”

Fort Wayne has gotten that base hit. Our region is investing in talent. For example, Northeast Indiana Works and the WorkOne Northeast centers are empowering people to make the transition toward more skilled positions by generously funding certification-based training.

Second, McKinsey’s research recognizes that economic trends will accelerate. If business sectors are already stressed, or groups are already disadvantaged, they will likely become more so during a crisis. Urban Institute analysis makes clear that our community must establish conditions for greater economic prosperity for our most vulnerable and historically-excluded citizens.

Another solid base hit. Our region is pursuing an equitable economic recovery that benefits all people. For example, the City of Fort Wayne and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation are working with SEED to present the nine-week Build Institute for emerging entrepreneurs. Build Institute covers business basics, develops participant confidence and benefits businesses started by women, minorities, veterans and others.

Third, McKinsey says, pursue long-term solutions. There are no silver bullets, no short-term fixes. Making the transition to a permanently changed economy requires investing in innovation and nurturing the uniqueness of local entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Bases loaded.

Our region is investing in a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem. That’s not new, and it’s not dependent on any one player. Developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem is not a future aspiration; it’s a present reality. It’s not about what might be; it’s about strengthening what exists already.

For example, over the past 20 years, the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center has built programs and services on four entrepreneurial pillars: human talent, expert networks, innovative workspaces and financial capital.

The results? Entrepreneurs launched 467 new products. Intellectual property increased in the form of 189 patent applications submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Home-grown business builders created more than 2,290 jobs to fuel our regional economy. Grants and investment capital secured exceed $91 million.

The innovation center is committed to offering equitable access to entrepreneurial programs. Now, we offer online, interactive entrepreneurial learning and tele-coaching options. And we’ve launched federally and locally funded initiatives to address prosperity gaps in the broader community and reduce barriers to success through Main Street entrepreneurial leadership and action.

Invest in people. Pursue equitable prosperity. Nurture entrepreneurial ecosystems. These are the game-winning plays of a confident community pursuing a strategy of substantive and inclusive economic prosperity.

It’s a winning playbook we can all follow.


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