When Lynn Reecer first moved to Fort Wayne from Dayton Ohio as a “trailing spouse” in 1993, she was reluctant.
Her husband got a job here, but she wasn’t sure that Fort Wayne was the best fit for herself and her family after living in bigger cities, like Chicago and Dallas.
Over the next two decades, she learned to love Fort Wayne, raising three children here and building a thriving real estate business for herself as Reecer Properties where she showed clients luxury homes around the city and its regional lakes.
“We have more than 400 lakes in northeast Indiana,” Reecer notes excitedly.
She says that over the years, it’s become easier to sell living in the Fort Wayne area to talented jobseekers nationwide, and that’s a good thing because the region offers more than 35,000 jobs requiring four-year-degrees or higher.
To help northeast Indiana’s employers fill these positions, Reecer sold her real estate business to Encore Sotheby’s in December 2018, so she could focus on a project that’s become her passion in the last eight years.
While Reecer continues to work for Sotheby’s as a Realtor and Broker heading up the Lynn Reecer Team, she also runs a nonprofit called Northeast Indiana Talent Attraction Inc.
"Employers don’t always realize how hard it can be to give someone an effective tour."
In this position, she works with regional employers to come alongside the talent they’re hoping to attract, showing jobseekers all that northeast Indiana has to offer in a personalized tours tailored to their interests.
While Reecer says that she’s had experience doing talent tours before, what makes her tours unique is that they don’t have a pre-determined list of places they must include. This way, she can make sure the experience is focused on what jobseekers are most interested in and helps them picture themselves here.
If they say they like dining, she takes them to see new local restaurants. If they have children, she shows them the award-winning Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and connects them to regional school systems.
After years of doing this, Reecer has found that providing an experience of a city goes deeper than what meets the eye; it’s also about the heart.
While she can share her own story with jobseekers, she wants to connect them to more people who live in the Fort Wayne area who are in the same stage of life—whether they are single young professionals, married, raising children, or empty nesters.
This gives jobseekers an immediate connection, Reecer says.
Over the next several months, she wants to add two or three more Talent Ambassadors to her team to help with tours.
Part of being a Talent Ambassador is thinking on your feet.
To understand what a Talent Ambassador does, I spent an afternoon with Reecer, following her around as she shares the Fort Wayne area with jobseekers from out of state.
Reecer tells me to show up at Matilda Jane Clothing Company’s corporate office at 2:30 p.m. on a Monday.
I’m wearing jeans and a nice shirt, driving my own car.
Reecer assures me that as a lifelong Fort Wayne resident and reporter I’ll know enough to help the potential new hire understand the benefits of living here. There’s no special training or official curriculum to be a Talent Ambassador. It’s more about the forms that our visitor has filled out prior to the tour.
What better way to discover northeast Indiana than to see it for yourself?
Northeast Indiana Talent Attraction Inc. is a service contracted through regional employers who are hiring job candidates.
A few weeks before each tour, Reecer connects with employers and talks with them about the talent they are hoping to bring on via email and phone calls. Then once a jobseeker has secured an interview in town, she sends them a simple questionnaire about their interests, hobbies, background, and feelings about moving.
Sometimes, the surveys come in last minute, on the night before the tour, which is part of what makes being a Talent Ambassador a position where you need to think on your feet.
“Employers don’t always realize how hard it can be to give someone an effective tour,” Reecer says.
The company we’re working with today is Matilda Jane, a Fort Wayne-based clothing company that designs outfits and accessories for girls, teens, and women. Our jobseeker is a 40-year-old woman who works in Charlotte throughout the week, while her husband and teenage daughter live in Philadelphia. She’s considering a move to Fort Wayne for herself, ideally, in a modern, urban loft apartment space where she can be surrounded by other professionals as she works. She’s also considering buying a house near downtown where she can move her whole family together.
“We have more trails than even Indianapolis, so we’re really proud of that.”
Her main desire is finding a place with character and accessibility.
“We have 100 miles of trails here,” Reecer mentions. “We have more trails than even Indianapolis, so we’re really proud of that.”
To start things off, our jobseeker wants to the see a local coffee shop. We take her Conjure Coffee where she orders a lavender latte and admires the space. She’s impressed to learn the history of companies like Conjure and Modbar in Fort Wayne. After all, Modbar is the sleek coffee brewing system at coffee shops like Conjure and Fortezza, which was developed in Fort Wayne and has been wowing coffee connoisseurs around the world.
Modbar's technology was developed in Fort Wayne and has been wowing coffee connoisseurs around the world.
Next, we drive through downtown on our way to the West Central Neighborhood.
Ideally, our visitor would like to be able to walk to as many amenities around town as possible she says. While there is not a grocery store downtown, she notes, there are other amenities, like restaurants and retail shops nearby.
When we arrive in West Central, Fort Wayne’s oldest neighborhood, full of character and community. The historic neighborhood often hosts its famous porch parties on Friday nights. On top of that, it’s home to a quirky variety of local favorites, like the Castle Gallery, the Arena Dinner Theatre, and West Central Microcreamery and Cafe.
These are the type of eclectic, unexpected things that make Fort Wayne special, I tell her.
On the tours, Lynn likes to get jobseekers out of the car to walk as much as possible. After gawking at the colonial-era houses that line the streets, we take our visitor to explore a few of the urban loft spaces downtown.
While there are many new living spaces developing in urban core, two projects that stand out as both historic and modern are Superior Lofts (already open) and the Landing (scheduled to open this summer). She’s also interested to hear about the development underway at the Electric Works campus.
On our way to the Fort Wayne International Airport to drop our guest off for her return flight, we drive through Southwood Park Neighborhood, my neighborhood, about 10 minutes from downtown. Here, you can still find historic homes and walkability. The Friendly Fox coffee shop, Foster Park, the newly redeveloped Clyde Theatre, and the 07 Pub are all only a short bike ride away.
A few weeks before each tour, Reecer connects with employers and talks with them about the talent they are hoping to bring on,
At the end of the day, our jobseeker has had a full experience, seeing the area from a local person’s perspective, and that’s the goal.
While a personalized city tour might not make or break a jobseeker’s ultimate decision, it can do a lot to share the local culture of northeast Indiana with talent across the country and dispel any misconceptions about what living in Fort Wayne is like.
After all, our region is evolving. The place we are today is not the same as it was yesterday. What better way to discover that than to see it for yourself?
If you’re interested in being a talent ambassador or learning more about Northeast Indiana Talent Attraction Inc., email [email protected] or visit www.neitalent.org.