Need help describing northeast Indiana to prospective employees? There's a regional brand for that

What does it take to attract and retain talent in northeast Indiana? Many leaders believe the answer starts with building upon and promoting the region's unique identity as a place. 

The trouble is: An 11-county region is a difficult place to characterize in a short and catchy tagline. How do you convey the breadth and depth of experiences in a region that encompasses everything from city life to sprawling countryside and lake living?

For the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership (NIRP), the answer is: “Make it Your Own.”

On Thursday, Feb. 14, a package of graphics and words about this new regional brand were unveiled to local leaders, telling the story of how newcomers can capitalize on the wealth of resources and opportunities that northeast Indiana has to offer.

The new regional brand is an invitation for talent to discover all that northeast Indiana has to offer.

The new brand is the product of collaborative efforts between the NIRP, the global consulting firm Development Counsellors International (DCI), and the Fort Wayne-based Britton Marketing & Design Group. This team also took into consideration insight gleaned from public input sourced both within and outside of the region.

Sarah Reinecke, an Account Manager at DCI who worked on the project, says the team focused on data from cities, like Chicago, Columbus, Toledo, Detroit, and Dallas, where the region is most likely to attract talent, and getting this external feedback was a critical part of the process.

“Our research shows that the perception of Northeast Indiana is largely unknown, which means that we have a blank slate, and now is the time to educate potential talent on all that this region offers," Reinecke says. "Northeast Indiana has great assets, and it’s time that we tell the world about the great careers, affordability, and top-notch quality of life amenities."

Supporters believe that "Make It Your Own" encapsulates all of these selling points. The goal of the campaign is to attract and retain individuals ages 21-45, who are most likely to make a move for their careers.

In the words of NIRP President and CEO John Sampson, the choice for talent to move goes beyond simply relocating for a job. It’s also about building a life. Therefore, considerations like affordability, amenities, and opportunity all enter in the equation, too. The new brand builds on the wide-ranging perks of midwest living in the digital age, where talent doesn't have to pick and choose what they want. 

Northeast Indiana is affordable, eclectic, and up-and-coming, so they can have it all--or build it all--here, Sampson says.

“We're talking about selling to the world a place where companies can have their employees and their families grow to be a part of something amazing," he says.

But there’s more to a compelling brand than its face value. Along with appealing to potential talent, it has to take into account the area's history and evolution, says Kate Virag, NEIRP’s Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Communication.

Most importantly, it has to feel authentic to locals, too, she explains.

“A city is not a startup; a region is not a startup," Virag says. "We've been here. We have a long history of culture and a set of values. So we really thought that through and considered: How do we be rooted in history, but be forward-looking, as well?”

Northeast Indiana has a long history as makers, doers, and innovators. Farnsworth mass-produced the first televisions here. General Electric did the same with stoves, refrigerators, and washing machines. "Make It Your Own" speaks to that legacy, and looks ahead to what the future will bring as a new generation of makers rises up.

Ambassador Enterprises is one local company that stands to benefit from embracing the new regional brand. The organization is a philanthropic equity firm which recruits talent nationally. 

Ambassdor Enterprises invests in the community through programs like the SEED Challenge.

Ambassador’s Director of Impact Investing Kristin Giant, is a transplant herself, and she thinks the brand has great potential.

“I think one of the most exciting things about it is that it puts what we’ve felt (for some time) into words," Giant says. "How do we explain that our lives are good here because we live here, not despite (the fact we live here)?”
Kristin Giant says the new brand will help her company be more intentional in its recruitment efforts.
Giant explains that Ambassador plans to use the messaging in its external communications with candidates to position the region as an attractive place for people starting or building a career. Ultimately, she wants prospective employees to know that “our community is as cool as the job.”

Virag shares Giant’s sentiment in that there’s more than meets the eye in northeast Indiana. 

“When talking with a prospective resident, we know we need to make two arguments: the logical, bottom-line, dollars-and-cents argument, and the appeal-to-the-heart vision of what your life could be like here,” she says. “We believe 'Make It Your Own' makes both of those arguments and is a game-changer for Northeast Indiana. It provides a strong, bold, welcoming brand for all northeast Indiana businesses and residents to use in attracting talented, skilled individuals to our region.”

Read more articles by Lauren Caggiano.

Lauren Caggiano is a Fort Wayne-based writer. A 2007 graduate of the University of Dayton, she returned to Northeast Indiana to pursue a career. In the past 12 years she has worked in journalism, public relations, marketing, and digital media. She currently writes for several local, regional, and national publications.
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