Northeast Indiana businesses now have new tools to attract talent to the region.

“Make It Your Own” is northeast Indiana’s new brand to bring in people ages 21–45 to live and work in the 11-county region.

Unveiled by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership on Feb. 14 and developed through a six-month process guided by focus groups and perception surveys, Make It Your Own is designed for businesses to use in their talent recruitment efforts to tell northeast Indiana’s story through a logo, tagline, marketing materials and narrative, according to a partnership statement

The regional partnership worked with national place marketing firm Development Counsellors International to develop the brand strategy. Britton Marketing & Design Group, a national firm headquartered in northeast Indiana, brought the brand to life.

Business owners can access videos and information on how to incorporate the logo and other materials into their recruiting efforts by going to https://neindiana.com/living-here.

Between 2010 and 2015, northeast Indiana’s 11 counties collectively lost an average of 1,000 people a year to other communities. Research also suggests that talent moves for a job opportunity first and for the community and quality of life second, according to the statement.

Throughout the region, economic developers including Michael Galbraith, director of the Road to One Million at the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, are working together to address the talent shortage.

“Northeast Indiana’s No. 1 business need is increasing our talent pool,” Galbraith said in the statement. “On average, we have more than 6,000 unfilled jobs in the region on our jobs portal. For our region to thrive in today’s global economy, we must grow our population to 1 million people by 2030. We must aggressively recruit and retain talented individuals across our region and the country so that they can be a part of northeast Indiana’s growth and momentum.”

Investing a community for talent

Nearly five years after the state of Indiana began the Regional Cities initiative to invest in statewide quality-of-place projects, 23 projects throughout northeast Indiana produced a total capital investment of $256 million, according to the statement. Projects include The Landing in Fort Wayne that’s an investment of millions of dollars to add shops, restaurants and housing as well as the North Manchester Early Learning Center, Fahl Aquatics Center in Columbia City and trail systems across the region.

With thousands of unfilled jobs and millions of dollars of investment in newly developed regional quality of place assets, Kate Virag, vice president of marketing and strategic communications at the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, said in the statement that now is the time to market northeast Indiana to the world.

“The strong branding strategy around Make It Your Own will increase our region’s positive brand awareness. Make It Your Own is rooted in our strong culture and history of innovation and manufacturing, while actively looking ahead to the bright future talent can experience in northeast Indiana. We are experiencing unprecedented momentum as a region, and we know the unique options our 11 counties offer to prospective talent,” Virag said. “For example, northeast Indiana residents name low cost of living, affordable housing, vast career opportunities, arts, culture, rural living, lake life and walkable, vibrant downtowns as some of the top attributes our region offers. Now is the time to welcome others to join our community and make northeast Indiana their own.”

Guided by research

As part of the development of the strategy, the regional partnership conducted two surveys: a national perception survey and a regional perception survey.

The national perception survey gathered information from 1,250 people ages 21 to 45 in Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit and Toledo, Ohio. The survey found 59 percent of those surveyed had no perception of the northeast Indiana region. Additionally, 55 percent of those surveyed reported they would be willing to relocate for the right job.

“Housing availability, housing cost and job opportunities are the most important factors in relocation for prospective talent. However, those same individuals have little to no knowledge of the extensive opportunities available in our region,” Virag said. “We will leverage the Make It Your Own brand to increase national awareness of what northeast Indiana can offer individuals.”

Those surveyed also identified the top sources of information as they search for jobs including family, the internet, friends, national rankings and work colleagues.

Regionally, over 1,400 residents filled out a perception survey. Residents identified the cost of living, community-mindedness and easy-going lifestyle as the top three strengths of the community.

While national talent attraction is the overarching goal of the branding initiative, the Make It Your Own brand can also bolster regional pride and showcase the strengths of the community internally.

National spotlight on northeast Indiana

John Sampson, president and CEO of the regional partnership, said strong brand awareness is key to northeast Indiana remaining competitive in the global marketplace and will encourage residents to embrace feelings of pride for their home and share it with others.

“Now is the time for us to act boldly and leverage our momentum, sense of identity and regional pride. The Make It Your Own brand encourages our residents to act as ambassadors to promote northeast Indiana. We believe that reaching talent outside of Indiana and showcasing the strength of our regional brand will increase the size and quality of the regional labor force, strengthening our business development and retention efforts,” Sampson said in the statement.

Regional businesses are encouraged to use the brand tagline, logo and key marketing messages to recruit talent nationally while advertising for open positions on job boards, career pages on business websites and other recruitment forums.

The Make It Your Own brand was developed as a long-term marketing strategy with a multi-year execution plan. Residents and businesses are invited to use the brand and share stories of how they have made northeast Indiana their own.

The project is sponsored by Indiana Michigan Power, Ambassador Enterprises, 3Rivers Federal Credit Union, NIPSCO, Old National Bank and First Federal Bank, with initial seed funding through the Regional Opportunities Council, the investor board of the Regional Partnership.

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