What does it mean to be a Certified Tech Park for entrepreneurs?

“Entrepreneurial ecosystem” is a catchphrase that has caught fire in recent years and for good reason. Local economies are strengthened if and when individuals and companies embrace a symbiotic relationship to innovation and growth. 

The Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (NIIC) is working to do just that on the northeast side of Fort Wayne.

It's a nonprofit Certified Tech Park (CTP), among 23 other CTPs in the state. Its goal is to help business builders and entrepreneurs launch and grow successful business ventures. Last month, it announced that the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) has completed its re-certification review and extended its Certified Tech Park status through December 31, 2021.

Karl LaPanSo what does this mean for the Fort Wayne community? If you ask The NIIC’s President & CEO Karl LaPan, it’s synonymous with a seal of approval. 

“Recertification raises the bar on entrepreneurial excellence,” he says. “It helps ensure the services provided are appropriate, high quality, and deliver results. Typically, most other entrepreneurial support organizations do not have external quality measures of their programs and services and their effectiveness.”

The NIIC’s efficacy matters in the context of workforce development, in particular. As northeast Indiana attracts more tech companies, attraction begets attraction. 

“Knowledge-intensive and innovative companies want to be located with like-minded companies, have access to amenities, and be near the potential talent pipeline and assets," LaPan says, adding that both Purdue University Fort Wayne and Ivy Tech North are adjacent to the NIIC's location.

On a statewide level, Indiana is home to nationally-ranked universities for computer science, informatics, and engineering such as Rose Hulman, Purdue University, Notre Dame and Indiana University, according to the IEDC.

Part of the push statewide is to attract more tech companies and startups to the region that will keep these graduates in-state for jobs or for launching companies of their own.

3B Apps are among the success stories that have come out of The NIIC.

But why are industries in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) particularly important to entrepreneurial ecosystems? A report from the Brookings Institution looks at a group of 50 R&D- and STEM-intensive industries in the country, known as “advanced industries.” Per their data, this sector trains and employs about 80 percent of the nation’s critical STEM workforce.

In other words, attracting and developing opportunities for STEM businesses in the Fort Wayne area creates a sustainable ecosystem of innovation and growth that feeds itself. 

“STEM workers—from aerospace engineers and plant scientists to petroleum geologists, software developers, and skilled technicians—matter because they invent and install the technical innovations that sustain innovation and growth,” the report states. 

According to LaPan, companies and job seekers should use their local tech park as a resource because CTPs are known to be a workforce engine nationwide. He attributes this model's success to what it provides in access to talent, capital, workspaces, and networks.

“By locating in a Certified Tech Park, entrepreneurs are surrounded by a vibrant community that fosters meaningful connections and collaborations to the services needed to build, grow, and scale their venture,” he says. 
 
Learn more about the NIIC

Potential clients or tenants can learn more about the NIIC's programs and services by scheduling an appointment with a business coach at (260) 407-6442. 

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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