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Experts gauge northeast Indiana job growth

Dashboard offers fresh look at economic development

Silliman
Stafford
Sampson

FORT WAYNE -- Area economic development analysts say they prefer progress over pats on the back.

That mindset is driving the Northeast Indiana Regional Dashboard, a new measurement tool designed to chart the area’s growth. The initiative was announced Tuesday by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and the Community Research Institute at IPFW.

John Sampson is convinced that the way to gauge the region’s success – and failures – is by “getting the truth on the table.”

“It’s tough love,” said the Partnership’s president and CEO, speaking during a media roundtable at the Allen County Public Library. “It’s trying to know where we stand in relation to other communities.”

The Dashboard is a joint project of the Partnership’s Vision 2020 initiative and the Community Research Institute. Supporters say it will provide a common set of measurements for organizations, businesses and government entities. The goal is to shape strategies and public policy to improve the economy.

Developed by the Community Research Institute, the Dashboard compares northeast Indiana with 14 other regions whose economies are the same or better.

The areas include Dayton and Toledo in Ohio; Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, Mich.; Peoria and Rockford, Ill.; and Chattanooga and Knoxville, Tenn. Although northeast Indiana will fare better in some categories than its peers and take a beating in others, John Stafford said it’s all useful information.

“We could be improving, but if another community is doing the same or better, we’re not really improving,” said Stafford, director of the Community Research Institute. “We’re not comparing ourselves with the superstars of the U.S. economy.”

The Dashboard will measure employment, per capita income, gross domestic product, productivity and young-adult population, ages 25 to 44. The age bracket is important as boosters seek to retain up-and-coming talent.

Katy Silliman, director of Vision 2020, said the Dashboard was two years in the making. The project’s success will depend on its partners, she said.

“This is the first time the region has undergone this type of extensive analysis, …” she said in a written statement. “Moving the needle on this Dashboard cannot be accomplished through the efforts of any one organization.”

pwyche@jg.net

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