The Regional Chamber serves as a complement to local and regional economic development organizations by creating a better environment, in which they can help attract, retain and grow businesses. The Regional Chamber serves as an added value to local chambers of commerce and their members as well. Most local chambers lack the resources necessary to mount sustained advocacy efforts for their members at the state and federal levels. The Regional Chamber provides that service on behalf of local chambers when appropriate and defers to the more intimate relationship between local chambers, their members, and their legislators when appropriate. Far from seeking to compete with local chambers of commerce, The Regional Chamber seeks to bolster the services local chambers are able to offer to their members.
In 1980, leaders of several large companies in Fort Wayne formed a group called the “Fort Wayne Corporate Council” to discuss how to positively contribute to the growth of the community. For nearly 30 years, what came to be known as the Northeast Indiana Corporate Council carried on that tradition.
Corporate Council members recognized that the economic future of Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana are inextricably tied to one another. In March 2003, the Corporate Council commissioned a study to look at facilitating and establishing a single vision for economic growth in the area, and a white paper titled “Northeast Indiana Economic Development Plan – Investing in our Future” was published from that research. In August 2003, the Corporate Council employed a full-time staff to carry out its mission for change and growth in economic viability for Northeast Indiana.
Facilitating regionalism, upgrading workforce skills for 21st-century employment, fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, and promoting government efficiency and effectiveness were the driving initiatives of the Corporate Council. The Corporate Council worked collaboratively throughout the region with local economic development groups, governmental agencies, foundations, educational institutions, and any entity that was linked to its mission.
Between 2003 and 2009, the Corporate Council successfully led efforts or collaborated to:
- Provide the leadership and initial funding required to create a new regional economic development marketing partnership organization, the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership
- Launch an organization for young people who want to take an active role in improving our region called Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana (YLNI)
- Restructure the regional workforce through active involvement in the Northeast Indiana Workforce Investment Board’s Strategic Skills Initiative
- Create the Northeast Indiana Graduate Retention Program
- Develop the Office of Joint Engagement at Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne in partnership with Purdue, Indiana, IPFW, and regional interests
- Assist in the research which led to a $20 million investment in education reform in Northeast Indiana entitled the Talent Initiative
In 2009, the Corporate Council recognized the need for a strong and unified voice that could advocate for the changes necessary to promote the best climate for economic development and job growth in Northeast Indiana. Over a six-month period, the Corporate Council studied and debated the concept of a regional advocacy organization. In June of 2010, by a vote of its membership, the Corporate Council became The Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana.
The mission of The Regional Chamber is to promote an environment in Northeast Indiana in which individuals, businesses, and communities thrive in a global economy. In pursuit of that mission, The Regional Chamber aligns our region’s priorities into a legislative agenda and presses for the passage of that agenda at the state and federal levels.