The South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership gathered community leaders, partners, and stakeholders for its annual “Rally the Region” event on May 9. Representing the region’s five counties – Elkhart, Marshall, and St. Joseph counties in Indiana and Berrien and Cass counties in Michigan – the event included updates on activities and the Regional Partnership’s initiatives, including the 2022 Annual Report, the awarded $50 million READI (Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative) grants, talent development and retention initiatives, and more. 

“Every day, I have the privilege of hearing how people feel that the South Bend – Elkhart region is on an upward trajectory, with tailwinds and, more often than not, blue skies,” said Bethany Hartley, President and CEO of the Regional Partnership. “This feeling of forward momentum is not achieved by accident, nor is one that we should assume will continue in perpetuity without intentional direction, collaboration, and commitment to the shared vision of making our region the best place to work, explore, launch your next venture, and expand your business. Many of you in this room have been a part of our work in building the region of the future. Every day in our respective work we are striving to create a place we continue to be proud to call home.”

Hartley recognized the region’s recent national rankings, asking the audience to share the area’s strengths. Rankings include:

 Elkhart-Goshen MSA #3 & South Bend-Mishawaka MSA #15: Winter 2023 Top 20 Emerging Housing Markets – Wall Street Journal and
 South Bend #4: Best Places to Live in the U.S., 10 Most Affordable Cities – Forbes
 Elkhart-Goshen MSA #8:  Semiconductor Workforce Readiness – Lightcast
 South Bend #9: Most Beautiful and Affordable Place to Live in the U.S. – Travel + Leisure
 Indiana #1: Best Place to Start a Business – Forbes Advisor
 Michigan #14 & Indiana #19: GDP Growth Rate Trend – Site Selection Magazine
 Indiana: Ranked in top 15, Northern Indiana top of regions Startup Ecosystems – Startup Genome

Hartley also updated the audience on the status of the South Bend – Elkhart region’s $50 million READI grant. All of the region’s funds have been obligated and awardees are working with the Indiana Economic Development Corp. on the compliance process. Twenty-nine projects aiming to improve quality of life, quality of place, and quality of opportunity were awarded funds in the region. The initial READI funds awarded to the region will spur an anticipated additional $448 million in private and public funding.

The Indiana Legislature recently passed a state budget including an additional $500 million for a second round of READI funding. 

“As we look ahead towards the fully funded READI 2.0 program, we will once again rally as a region to present an aspirational and future-forward investment strategy on behalf of the region to the state of Indiana,” Hartley said. “We continue to prove that as a region we can come together to tackle tough issues, build transformative programs and facilities, and attract world class talent to work in our advanced industries and education institutions. Working alongside our municipalities, our county economic development partners, our nine Indiana higher education institutions, and our civic and industry leaders we will bring forward an undeniably compelling strategy to further developments that lead to population growth in the South Bend – Elkhart region.”

Andrew Wiand, Executive Director of enFocus, spoke on the talent attraction and development programs, WE+YOU and the LIFT (Labs for Industry Futures and Transformation) Initiative. The LIFT Initiative brings together business, community and educational partners in new and innovative ways centered on creating a diversified economy of the future based on technology and advanced manufacturing. The program brings opportunities for internships, apprenticeships and skills accelerators for regional college students and workers. WE+YOU showcases the opportunities and advantages of the region to the more than 40,000 college students who call the region home – during the school year. 

Rally the Region also included the premiere of the Regional Partnership’s Annual Report and video series. The three videos, produced by the team at CHUCK, feature an overview of the organization’s ethos, a story on the experience of one LIFT Initiative intern, and the impact of regional READI funding and Elkhart’s Tolson Center.

To view photos from the event, visit our Facebook page.