When Andy Maletta got the call to serve as executive director of the Portage Economic Development Corporation (EDC), he jumped at another chance to give back to his own community.
“My background includes 30 years as the vice president of Marketing for Indiana Beverage in Valparaiso,” Maletta said. “My marketing experience helped me, in turn, to sell the city and market the City of Portage. It was a leap of faith after leaving the security of my long-time job and turning my attention home.”
“I have lived in Portage my whole life,” he said. “I have been a member of the school board for the past eight years and served on the township advisory board. I was able to enter the realm of public service and really enjoyed getting out and meeting with other people in the business community.”
Portage EDC works closely with the city’s government officials and its economic, redevelopment, and planning teams to provide support for businesses looking to grow and/or relocate to Portage. The organization’s mission is “Business Attraction – Business Expansion – Business Retention”.
“We help to make that connection, not only between the business and residential communities, but at the same time connect businesses with each other that may be able to help each other with various issues down the road. Engagement of the business community is the key," Maletta said.
During COVID-19, Maletta said that for the Portage EDC, as well as businesses across the country, it became a challenge to conduct business as usual.
“Those times when you couldn’t meet with people face-to-face and engage were difficult,” he said. “We spent a lot of time this year re-engaging and reaching out just to reestablish those connections. But, despite those challenges, we want everyone to know that Portage is open for business 24/7. We’re here!”
Besides attracting new developments, Maletta said that Portage EDC is turning its focus on retention and expansion. Future projects include a downtown plan for Portage.
“That is a pretty exciting project,” Maletta said. “Portage has a business district on Route 6 businesses on Willowcreek Road and Central Avenue, but not a true downtown. We are working with the city to better understand how that should look and are in the planning phase of the process.”
Another focus of the Portage EDC is workforce development. The Portage EDC partners with educational organizations and local businesses to host its annual Workforce 360 program, which allows high school students to visit manufacturing and health care businesses for hands-on experience.
“Through the 360 programs, Healthcare 360 and Manufacturing 360, we partner with businesses, industry, health care providers and vocational organizations to take students out into the community to get a hands-on look at the opportunities out there,” Maletta explains. “It’s an offshoot of what Portage EDC is doing locally and is something we are doing to help give our companies exposure. We provide an overview of what students need to do to train and eventually get a job and work at a particular business or industry. It’s something near and dear to my heart as a member of the school board and someone with an interest in the future of this community.”
In his spare time, Maletta is a huge sports fan, rooting especially for the Cubs, the Bears, and Notre Dame teams, but enjoys quiet times as well.
“I coached Little League baseball and coached basketball in town when my kids were younger,” he said. “We enjoy the beach. We enjoy being home. The pandemic brought us a new appreciation that sometimes it is kind of nice to hang out in your own backyard.”For more information on the Portage EDC, visit its website at portagein.org.