John Sampson will step down as president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership at the end of March, the organization announced late Thursday.
The Regional Partnership will immediately begin a national search for his successor.
Sampson, who turns 68 in April, is trading his executive position for a to-do list that includes tackling home improvement projects, volunteering for his church and spending time with his two grandchildren, ages 8 and 10.
Slowing down hasn't crossed his mind.
“I'm just moving on to do some other service things that are very important to me,” he said during a phone interview. “I've got things to do and people I want to help.”
Sampson was the founding executive of the Regional Partnership, an 11-county, public-private partnership dedicated to building a globally competitive region that attracts business investment.
The organization, formed in 2006, represents the combined interests of Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties.
Under Sampson's leadership, the Regional Partnership played a significant role in assembling and lobbying for “The Road to One Million,” northeast Indiana's successful bid for $42 million in state economic development funding awarded in 2016.
The Regional Cities Initiative, which selected three regions to receive grants, was designed to fast-track bold projects that improve quality of life, making regions more attractive to talented young workers. Thriving communities are more attractive to employers looking to invest, officials said.
Mark Millett, the Regional Partnership's vice chairman, praised Sampson's leadership.
“John's vision and passion for the Regional Partnership created a unique collaboration of regional constituents to drive economic development in northeast Indiana. It is the envy of the state, if not the country, in the business development arena,” Millett said in a statement.
Sherilyn Emberton, who chairs the board of directors, also lauded Sampson “for his passion, dedication and strategic focus on the region's economic strength and growth.”
She said the Regional Partnership's board is excited about future opportunities and the organization's “cohesive and focused team.”
David Findlay, a member of the board's executive committee, said search criteria will include a commitment to collaboration, which has been critical to the organization's success.
“It will be important that we focus our search on identifying a leader who will expand upon and carry forward the vision of our region to support business, build community and market our region to the world,” he said in a statement.
Sampson, who earned a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy, believes the region's standing in various rankings doesn't reflect how much it can achieve.
“There's nothing but upside potential for Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana,” he said.
Sampson also believes the motto of grandparents everywhere: Any day is a good day when it includes a hug from an 8-year-old.