Attracting & Retaining Talent in Our Community

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It’s hard to believe that the Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana (YLNI) will turn 10 years old next May. It seems like yesterday that I had just returned from college yearning for a way to connect with peers when I saw the posters promoting the launch of this new organization with the funny name, “YLNI.” In 2010 I had the honor of being YLNI’s President. More importantly, I’m proud to have supported the organization for all 10 years. YLNI’s mission is simple – to attract, develop and retain young leaders. And while some may have disagreed with its methods at times, there can be no doubt that the organization has been singularly focused on this incredibly important goal. You see, Fort Wayne is an aging community. Over the last two decades Fort Wayne has seen an outmigration of its young graduates, while the current workforce continues to age.

The problems are very real and are manifested in the population projections of the Indiana Business Research Center. The statistics show that Fort Wayne’s overall workforce will actually decrease by 1,000 people over the next ten years. During that same time period 23,000 workers will move into retirement age of 65+. The clear implication here is that without change retirees will bear an increased tax burden. Our community must continue to attract and retain young talent. Quite simply, Fort Wayne cannot survive if it continues to hemorrhage the very lifeblood that is required to sustain its future.

With challenge also comes opportunity. A retiring workforce also means an increase in job opportunities for young adults. Its low cost of living landed Fort Wayne as the 34th “Best City for Young Adults” as identified by Business Insider last December. Will Fort Wayne position itself as a community prepared to embrace these opportunities to attract young talent; or will it simply pass the tax burden onto retirees? I’ve made the decision to run for City Council to make a positive impact on our community. I have no intention of checking my experiences with attracting and retaining young leaders at the door. But our community has to make a decision. Is it happy with the status quo, or is it ready to have an honest conversation about its future? Because that future starts with our City’s Municipal Primary Elections on May 5th.

This piece appeared in the News-Sentinel as a guest editorial.