Thursday, August 10, 2017

JEFF'S TAKE: $13.6M Impact From Out-of-County Guests

South Bend Region
Posted by: Jeff Rea
President & CEO
South Bend Regional Chamber on Thursday, August 10, 2017 at 9:00:00 am
 Comments (0)

We’re just a couple of weeks away from the 2017 home football opener as the Irish get set to take on Temple on September 2. There is a lot of excitement surrounding this season as the University gets set to unveil the completed Campus Crossroads, a multi-year construction project in which more than $400 million has been invested in Stadium enhancements and the construction of O’Neill Hall, the Corbett Family Hall, and the Duncan Student Center. Contractors have been working diligently for years to meet a construction deadline this month.

Students, faculty and staff, alumni, and fans will have seven opportunities this season to experience one of the best gameday happenings in all of college football right here in South Bend.

A disappointing 2016 season has fans ready to put the past behind and focus on the new season. Those fans will flock to our community from all over the world, many participating in an annual tradition, others crossing off one of those “bucket list” items. Others will seek to reconnect with their alma mater or longtime University friends. Regardless of why they come, our community stands ready to receive and welcome our guests and to provide them with an experience they can’t find anywhere else on a Saturday afternoon.

Many of our business partners have been gearing up for this for some time. Football season provides an important economic boost. The economic impact of a home football weekend is $15.1 million with $13.6 million being from visitors outside of St. Joseph County. In a typical season, we have six home games; this season seven.

Our hotel partners are most excited. We have some 52 properties with 4,331 rooms, and they all hope to be full throughout the season. We are anticipating two more hotel properties opening during football season, adding another 272 rooms to the mix. Our restaurant partners are equally excited and are anticipating some busy weekends ahead!

If you’ll be entertaining guests during the season, contact our team at Visit South Bend Mishawaka for recommendations on gameday and throughout the weekend. Go to for all the latest. I look forward to seeing you out on campus this fall!

Jeff Rea
President and CEO
South Bend Regional Chamber

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

We All Play a Role in South Bend Region's Success

Posted by: Jeff Rea
President & CEO on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at 2:00:00 pm
 Comments (0)

I had the opportunity to be in Nashville, Tenn., earlier this month with more than 1,000 Chamber of Commerce professionals from all over the world. Those leaders had gathered to share best practices and unique programs, as well as lessons on how they were tackling challenges in their communities back home.

It was an interesting collection of people. Every size city, town or region was represented from a broad geographic footprint. No two communities are exactly alike, but if you look hard enough, you’ll notice more similarities than differences.

I came away with added perspective on what is happening around the country.

My peers told tales of downtown redevelopment and revitalization. They spoke of the important roles colleges and universities play in their development efforts. They shared about efforts to retain young people and stop the out-migration of talent. I heard about workforce shortages and how communities are developing workforces to meet employer needs.

Quality of place improvement was a common theme, as was regional collaboration. I also heard about major infrastructure improvements, about how businesses were working with government and how technology was changing businesses and communities.

Sound familiar? I hope so. Similar efforts are happening across our region, and in some cases we are outpacing our peers. On others, we’re behind. While we love to come together and share best practices, we also recognize the competition is fierce. After all, we’re fighting for the same talent, jobs and capital investment.

We must keep pace.

Where our region lags behind is population growth. Nashville is adding more than 100 people per day. Charleston, S.C., is adding about 50 per day. By comparison, we’re adding about one person per day over the first half of this decade.

Population growth is a key factor in a company’s decision to grow in a community or relocate to an area. Low unemployment has left employers with the chief concern about whether they can attract the people they need to fill available jobs. We’ve seen first-hand that companies that like what our area offers opt to go somewhere else because the workforce is a concern.

New housing opportunities in our downtowns will help. As will new bike trail connections between communities and a faster connection to Chicago via the South Shore commuter train line. Other quality of place improvements are also a plus. If we do it right, the next three years could be transformative. Sputter, and we’ll fall further behind.

Key components of the Regional Cities Initiative were to grow population and build a national brand. The $700 million plus in planned improvements will help us do both. Construction on some of those projects has commenced; others will begin within the next year.

Physical improvements alone won’t drive growth. A coordinated regional effort is essential, as well as ambassadors from every part of the region touting the strengths they see and the opportunities that exist.

Which role will you play: a champion willing to roll up your sleeves and help make a difference, or a critic lobbing in complaints from the sidelines? What I found from my peers was a genuine excitement among its leaders and citizens for the progress in their communities. Our competition is fierce, we must keep pace, and we need you to play an important role in that effort.

Also published in the South Bend Tribune & South Bend Region enews

A Place for Talent

Posted by: YPN South Bend on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)


Cities across the country are competing with one another to attract talent. With availability of talent/workforce the number one consideration site selectors and businesses look at when relocating to a new community, retaining and attracting talent are critical to our region’s success.

While it would be nice to simply flip a switch to make talent stay here, it takes focus and effort not only by the Chamber but also from businesses and our cities to create an environment attractive to young talent.


The Chamber began to lay the groundwork to create a more favorable environment for young professionals (YPs) to become better connected when it started the Young Professionals Network (YPN) South Bend 12 years ago. Millennials are a key target group in talent development, and YPN provides the perfect vehicle for YPs to develop, connect and become empowered.

While YPN can’t singularly retain and attract talent, it’s one of the tools in the toolbox that creates a culture appealing to young people. Using events as its main platform, YPN offers its attendees abundant networking opportunities to meet their peers and gives them additional personal and professional connections.

In 2016, YPN presented 26 events with a total of 1,969 attendees and has 1,700 contacts on its email list. Events provide education and information, but the greatest benefit to YPs is building relationships with peers. Events are purposely held at different venues throughout the region to immerse YPs in their community so they get to know it better. YPs learn about new restaurants and attractions, hear from elected leaders and corporate CEOs.

Jennifer Speary, external sales specialist for Venue ND taps into YPN, using it as a resource to make personal and professional connections and referrals. “I like to stay engaged in what is happening in the cities of South Bend and Mishawaka, keeping up with news, events, projects, new businesses and other activities. The more I know about South Bend and Mishawaka, the better resource I can be to my clients here at the University of Notre Dame when scheduling activities for them outside campus,” said Speary.

INTERN South Bend Region

In the fall of 2013, the Chamber launched INTERN South Bend Region (SBR), a program to increase the quantity and quality of experiential learning in the South Bend Region. Connecting businesses to the next generation of talent is the key objective. The program provides students with real-world experiences, introduces employers to enthusiastic young people and engages interns with our community and each other.

The Chamber continues to partner with enFocus, the state and regional colleges and employers to increase the pool of post-secondary internship opportunities. Employers are encouraged to post their internships on the state portal,

An added component to INTERN SBR is the Summer Community Engagement Program, which provides opportunities for interns to network, learn and explore the good things going on in the South Bend Region. Summer interns participate in weekly challenges that expose them to the community while also making great connections with fellow interns.

In 2016, 154 interns representing 36 employers participated in the summer series. In a survey of last year’s summer interns, 100% of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the program positively influenced their perception of the area, and 79% indicated that they would accept a position from their summer employer.


Quality of Place

Our cities and businesses play an integral role, particularly with quality of place considerations, in creating an environment attractive for young talent.

“South Bend is increasingly a vibrant and inclusive community for its young professionals. The Smart Streets initiative, a recently completed project that attracted over $90 million in private investment, has redesigned the downtown streetscape to be more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly,” said South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

“Several new downtown apartment projects have already opened, and every month more shops, restaurants and food trucks are popping up to serve those who live and work downtown. Our place-making processes involve continuous community engagement, so residents can directly affect their neighborhoods,” he said.

With a workforce where 65% are under the age of 40, tech company KINETIC IT Solutions has had to work on creating a culture of ownership in the company to retain talent. According to Jim Peterson, owner of KINETIC, giving employees ownership in their area of expertise creates pride in their work and continues to build a strong corporate culture.

“The other side of working hard and taking ownership is having fun at and after work. It’s our opinion that enjoying your work and team is critical to having a great company,” said Peterson.

“The South Bend Region has made changes in the last 10 years that have grown the options to have fun with your team and with your friends. With great restaurants, engagement with YPN, and focus on retaining our local talent, we believe that our YPs see our area as a place to stay for their careers. For several decades, many YPs would look to larger markets to start their careers both for employment and social opportunities. The growth in our community has given professionals across all generations the ability to grow their careers while also having fun things to do after work. As our community continues to build opportunities for our YPs, we will see their numbers increase in our local businesses.”