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The Journal Gazette

  • John Sampson

Saturday, January 09, 2016 10:09 pm

Regional Cities win a team effort

John Sampson

This one’s for you, northeast Indiana. Our state’s commitment to provide $42 million to match our region’s investment in the Road to One Million plan is all for you. We did it together.

As we look forward to 2016, it is now time to pause long enough to celebrate the significance of this achievement and to thank everyone who made this possible.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have received numerous heartfelt congratulations for this achievement. I am honored and humbled to receive each thank you. I sincerely intended to recognize the hard work and difficult decisions necessary to this huge victory in Indiana’s unique and transformative Regional Cities initiative. Yes, this is a big deal, and I appreciate being appreciated.

But let’s take a moment to reflect and celebrate what we have accomplished together as a region in this history-making victory. It is time to thank the hundreds of individuals and leaders of the region truly responsible for making our victory possible.

What did it really take to bring us to this moment in history? Let me recount the ways …

• It took the vision of a leader like Eric Doden to benchmark and learn from other successful regional cities as well as his courage to move the vision forward into reality against all odds.

• It took the leadership of Gov. Mike Pence and our state’s legislators who embraced risk to shepherd the Regional Cities statute through a very difficult legislative session.

• It took the persistence of the staff members of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, who conceived a competitive process to foster regional collaboration at a scale not thought possible in Indiana while untangling a few bureaucratic knots along the way.

• It took the support of economic developers in all 11 counties of northeast Indiana. Indeed a special breed unique to our region, the developers were willing to seize opportunity despite uncertainty, to sell the regional cities concept and to build the trust of local government. Without their leadership and risk-taking, we would not be celebrating today.

• It took the work of more than 30 community leaders from all 11 counties who were willing to commit their time and energy to serve on the steering committee. The committee members, led by chairs Karl Bandemer, Kathy Heuer, Tom Leedy and Tim Pape, gave up numerous hours to participate in council meetings, challenge community members to stretch their horizons and tour the region on a two-day bus trip to discover the heart of northeast Indiana.

• It took the leadership of my good friends and co-leaders in the process, John Urbahns of Greater Fort Wayne Inc. and Ellen Cutter of IPFW’s Community Research Institute. At all hours of the day and night, they were relentless, tireless, creative and driven by the hope of a better future for our region. These individuals sorted out numerous details and refused to give up in the "dark days" during the middle of the legislative session, when the state budget planners could only come up with a paltry $10 million for the Regional Cities initiative.

• It took the excellence of the staff members of the Regional Partnership. The team applied amazing determination and creativity to innovate solutions to problems like how to make a compelling case for the Road to One Million, how to raise the money to fund our proposal, or how to hang a huge four-story flag. These aren’t just staff members, they are amazing human beings uniquely committed to making impossible dreams come true for northeast Indiana.

• It took the dedication of regional funders willing to go way out on a limb to invest in a mere concept ahead of results. Our efforts would have fallen way short without this group of supporters. We can thank The Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne, the Allen County Capital Improvement Board, each county of the region, the Regional Opportunities Council of the Partnership and Greater Fort Wayne Inc., all of which collectively stepped up to achieve the scale of effort necessary to succeed.

• Lastly, it took the experience and expertise of very special consultants who went the extra mile to assure our success, including the teams at Fourth Economy and Britton Marketing, as well as the legendary John Stafford. Each person gave more of themselves than simply fulfilling their contracts. They brought it all. They contributed their passion for excellence and the Road to One Million became a reality thanks to their intellect and skill.

Literally hundreds of individuals from all across the 11 counties showed up in force to weigh in during focus group meetings, send notes of encouragement, share opinions, guide us when we were off track and respond to online surveys. The residents who make this a very special region are the difference-makers. It is for them and through them that this victory is won. We thank them all!

John Sampson is president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.