Wednesday, January 30, 2019

KATE'S TAKE: After the Superintendent Selection

Posted by: Kate Lee
Director of Talent Engagement
South Bend Regional Chamber on Wednesday, January 30, 2019 at 12:00:00 am
 Comments (9)

This week I attended the board meeting of the South Bend Community School Corporation. Questions have been raised about the selection process of every superintendent hired since I’ve lived in South Bend--nearly 25 years. Based on conversations and observations, I have seen these same questions asked of corporations across our state; what changes the game is how communities move forward AFTER the superintendent is selected.

Our community doesn’t have the luxury of continuing to expend energy on drama, suspicion, and the casting of stones. Our students and educators deserve better. The people working to positively impact our community through private and public investments know that a strong public education system is necessary to ensure that each person reaches their full potential. Business leaders represented by the Chamber want graduates who are prepared to both benefit from, and contribute to, their continued growth.

We will never pick up the pace on equitable, positive change if we’re in a constant state of crisis. The best schools are not just the site of academic learning - but also places of welcome, stability, safety and the building of life foundations.

Let’s support Dr. Cummings as he works to establish a lean, collaborative and action-oriented administrative team to provide systemic stability and the support our principals and educators need to give their very best to the students they serve.

Let’s be honest about our big challenges, even when it’s uncomfortable – and work together – as a community of partners - to establish priorities and implement strategies that make it possible for ALL of our students to succeed.

Let’s establish strong relationships with the business and non-profit partners who stand ready to support our children and educators – giving the broader community meaningful ways to get engaged and truly feel they are part of Team South Bend.

Let’s hold each other accountable, with open minds, dignity and respect and not with tunnel vision and self-inflicted drama.

Let’s build the level of trust, both internally and externally.

It has taken bold action by local business and government leaders to ignite the positive change we’re seeing in South Bend. We are looking to our elected school board and Dr. Cummings to provide brave and bold leadership for South Bend Schools. We believe you see the value in celebrating successes and have the courage to acknowledge and present the very real challenges to our community.

Business leaders expect: clear goals to be set; relevant and accessible student data; strong and timely communication; and a community-wide, laser focus on the strategies selected to drive positive change. South Bend Schools can then ask for – and be prepared to accept - help to address the larger issues impacting student and school success.

As a community, we must do our part. We must not continuously restate what we think is wrong with our schools. If we want to drive positive, systemic change, we must develop a broader understanding of the challenges of public education – from rising expectations and reduced funding to overburdened educators and a high percentage of students who live in poverty.

Then, we all must act – playing whatever role we can to support our children and partner with our schools.

What if we do this so well that Dr. Cummings determines there is no better community to tackle these challenges with and no better place to spend the next decade (or more!) of his career, leading the team that transforms K-12 education in our city?

This is the time for action.

Friday, January 18, 2019

2019 Economic Outlook

Posted by: Jeff Rea, President & CEO
South Bend Regional Chamber on Friday, January 18, 2019 at 12:00:00 am
 Comments (0)
Jeff Rea

As the clock turned to 2019, a fair amount of nervous anticipation exists within the business community about what the New Year will hold. Many consecutive years of economic growth have leaders worried a slowdown might be imminent.

Historically, in the U.S., no economic expansion has lasted longer than a decade (March 1991-March 2001). The current expansion has now lasted more than nine years, leading to those concerns about what 2019 and beyond might hold for the economy.

The prognosticators have been busy looking into their "crystal balls" to offer insight on what the future might hold. Unfortunately, mine is no clearer than theirs, but we thought we'd weigh in as well as share some of that insight from others in this issue of my blog.

Nationally, experts predict that the economy should grow about 2.5%. Those same experts predict the Indiana economy should outpace the national economy, growing at 3.2%. Most growth is predicated early in the year, slowing as the year progresses.

The diversity of our economy in South Bend-Mishawaka-St. Joseph County area is a real plus and means we don't see as wide of swings as other areas might see when the economy surges or slows. We anticipate that this will mean slow and steady growth continuing in our area in 2019. We've been growing slower than the rest of Indiana, however, we'd like to see our area growth keep pace with that of the state prediction.

The fastest-growing sectors in terms of job growth included leisure and hospitality, and goverment, which includes school and hospitals. The biggest decline in employment was in private educational and health services. Indications are the recent growth in sectors like health care, the service industry, and warehousing and logistics should continue.

The last few years have seen more capital invested in and around the local communities than at any time in recent memory. We saw tax cuts, as well as many key public-private partnerships drive new investment, especially in our "city" centers. Many of those projects will near completion in 2019. Others announced recently will break ground in early 2019.

Moderate growth among several other key indicators like median income, population and gross domestic product have investors and our communities optimistic. At the same time, international trade uncertainty, rising interest rates and the availability of workforce allow some pessimism to creep in.

Many cite concerns about the challenges with finding workers needed to fill open spots. We don't anticipate that changing much in 2019. Unemployment should stay about the same, and as a result, the tight labor market will continue to drive hourly wages up. We see two potential fixes to the workforce shortage: increase our labor force participation rate (62.5% of all eligible workers do so) and grow our population. Efforts are underway to advance both of these fixes.

We anticipate the demand for housing will remain strong in the New Year. The experts say it's a sellers' market, with a lack of inventory driving some prices up. The number of new homes built rose again in 2018, and a significant amount of high-density residential projects were started, completed or announced. What happens with interest rates in 2019 could have a major influence on the housing market in the New Year.

Our recent successes with growth and development should be celebrated. These successes have also attributed
to a shift in attitude in the region.
This is huge. We must continue to strive to keep pace with the state and national economies. Otherwise, we'll fall behind.

Population growth and income growth should be our top priorities. A great roadmap has been laid out by our partner, South Bend–Elkhart Regional Partnership, to help guide growth in the coming years. We need to commit to seeing the plan through and working closely with our regional partners on enhancing growth opportunities. Here at the Chamber, we're all about seeing you and your business succeed. Onward in 2019, and we look forward to working with you as we seek to catalyze that growth.