Taking Indiana to the Next Level

Posted by: Jeff Rea President and CEO South Bend Region Economic Development on Monday, August 28, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

The busiest business in town might be the sign companies printing the “Help Wanted” or “Now Hiring” signs. It might be easier to tally the number of businesses that don’t have one of these signs than the number of businesses that do.

Generally, our economy is at full employment. Indiana’s unemployment rate currently stands at only 3.6%, Elkhart County at 2.6%, Marshall County at 2.9% and St. Joseph County 3.6%.

Employers say the ability to find good workers is holding back their plans for growth and making it difficult even to keep up with current orders. The State recognizes that if employers can’t find what they need locally, they’ll move jobs to other parts of the country and world with a better labor supply.  

At the same time, there are many workers in our marketplace that are unemployed, underemployed or in a career they don’t think is going anywhere. The state of Indiana recently launched Next Level Jobs Initiatives, a new program aimed at moving adults in those positions into high-wage/high growth industries.

The State’s top brass including Governor Holcomb, Blair Milo, secretary of career connections and talent; Steve Braun, commissioner for workforce development; and Teresa Lubbers, commissioner for higher education, have been traveling the state touting the advantages of the new $20 million, two-year Next Level Jobs program. They made a stop in Elkhart earlier this month.  

The new program has two basic parts. First, it will pay the tuition of an adult who wants to earn a career certificate in one of five high growth-high wage industries. Second, it will help offset the costs employers assume when they train new employees.

The Next Level Jobs program comes on the heels of the Next Level Roads program also unveiled by the Governor earlier this summer. The plan dedicates more than $30 billion over the next 20 years to improving the conditions of existing roads and bridges—both state and local, finishing major projects and building for the future. The Roads program aims to enhance Indiana’s position as a leader in freight and logistics.

If you have contemplated a career in health and life sciences, advanced manufacturing, business and IT services, the construction and building trades, or transportation-distribution-logistics, then the timing might be right for you? Those industries are the industries the State is targeting for the new program.

The career certificate programs will be available at Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University campuses throughout the state, including Ivy Tech’s South Bend and Elkhart campuses.

Do you have a business in one of those industries? Have you struggled to find the talent you need to grow and expand? Then the timing might be right for you as well as the program will assist your business in training those next generation workers. 

Employers will be eligible for up to $2,500 per new employee to qualifying companies to train and retain new hires. The Department of Workforce Development will launch a pilot of the grant for 2018 and 2019, using $10 million in Career and Technical Education Innovation and Advancement Funds.

Response to the new program has been strong with more than 1,200 applicants received in the first few days after its launch. To learn more about the program, potential employees and interested employers can visit Applicants will receive individualized contact from the Department of Workforce Development an eligible training provider within 48 hours.

Employers across the region are excited about what this new opportunity means for their business and recognize programs like this may just fill that need and be key catalyst for growth.

Campus Crossroads Provides a New Game Day Look

Posted by: Jeff Rea
President and CEO
South Bend Region Economic Development on Wednesday, August 16, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

We’re just a couple of weeks away from the 2017 home football opener as the University of Notre Dame prepares to take on Temple on Sept. 2. There is plenty of excitement surrounding this season with the recent unveiling of Notre Dame’s nearly completed Campus Crossroads project, a $400 million endeavor to update Notre Dame Stadium and integrate three new academic buildings into it.

There will be seven opportunities this season to experience one of the best game day experiences in all of college football right here in South Bend.

On Sunday, Fighting Irish fans will be offered a sneak peek of the renovated stadium during the New & Gold Game. It will include a scrimmage by the football team, a performance by the Notre Dame Marching Band and participation from the Notre Dame cheerleaders. Self-guided tours will be offered for portions of the newly adjoined Duncan Student Center (west side of the stadium), Corbett Family Hall (east), and O’Neill Hall (south).

The Campus Crossroads project has been a multiyear construction project, and contractors have been working diligently to meet a construction deadline this month so the stadium is ready for fans.

These fans will flock to our community from all over the world, many participating in an annual tradition and others crossing off one of their “bucket list” items. Still others will seek to reconnect with their alma mater and classmates.

Our community stands ready to receive and welcome these guests and to provide them with an experience they can’t find anywhere else on a Saturday afternoon in the fall.

Last year, Stadium Journey, a magazine and website that annually reviews sports stadiums around the world, rated Notre Dame Stadium as the best experience in college football. The rankings take into account food and beverages served, neighborhood, fans, atmosphere, parking, traffic, restrooms and overall return on investment. And that was before the recent improvements.

Many of our business partners have been anticipating this for some time. Football season provides an important economic boost to our county and region. The economic impact of a home football weekend in St. Joseph County is $15.1 million, with $13.6 million coming from visitors to the county. In a typical season, we have six home games, this season seven.

Our hotel partners are most excited. We have 52 properties with 4,331 rooms that all hope to be full throughout the season. We are anticipating two more hotel properties opening during football season, adding another 272 rooms to the mix. Our restaurant partners are equally excited and are anticipating busy weekends ahead

Residents of the area play an important role in the visitor experience as well. Let’s use this season to make our visitors feel especially welcome and let’s make sure they see all of the positive things happening here in our region. Who knows, some may come back for reasons other than football. Our businesses are hoping so.

Also published in the South Bend Tribune