As the year and the decade come to a close, Portage Economic Development Corporation (EDC) members gathered Wednesday morning to reflect on the community’s economic success and share highlights with members.
Meeting at Woodland Park’s Sycamore Room, local businesswomen and men mingled before sitting down to a catered lunch from Clancy’s, a Portage mainstay. Bill Rathjen, vice president of the Portage EDC board of directors, said the purpose of the meeting was to celebrate what has been accomplished over the last 12 months, and look forward to Portage’s goals for 2020 and beyond.
The annual meeting is an opportunity for the Portage EDC to reconnect with partners while offering them an opportunity to network, all in the hopes of driving forward Portage’s economic growth.
“This event brings people together,” said Amy Parker, executive director of the Portage EDC. “If we can do business locally and with each other, that’s a great opportunity. This event offers a great networking opportunity to allow businesses to talk with each other.”
This year’s event highlighted the transitions in Portage over the last several years, namely in leadership. The year 2020 will see a new mayor, ready to take the reins. Both the current mayor and mayor-elect recognize the important role the Portage EDC plays in economic growth.
“The Portage EDC is really the outreach, the arm of the city, that can start the initial conversations to bring economic development and jobs to Portage,” said John Cannon, Portage mayor. “This event wraps up the year and the accomplishments of the year. It brings everyone together and jump-starts them for 2020 and they get to talk things over, collaborate on future plans, and that’s very important.”
“We need to form strong partnerships with the business community. We’ve got to help each other,” said Sue Lynch, mayor-elect of Portage. “Today I’m looking forward to meeting new people and interacting with them.”
The Portage EDC took time to thank Cannon for his service to the city and to introduce Lynch to the partners.
“I want you to come to the mayor’s office with your concerns. My door is always going to be open to our business community. You are the backbone of our community, and I respect that” Lynch said.
Looking to the future, the Portage EDC highlighted the work they have been doing with the students at Portage High School. Through their Manufacturing and Healthcare 360 programs, the EDC is offering students an opportunity to connect with local businesses, gaining a glimpse of the job opportunities available right here in our community.
“We work a lot with the high school to get tomorrow’s generation ready to be the workforce our businesses need,” Parker said. “We’ve got a lot of talent right here, and we want them to stay right here.”
Next year, the 360 program will be growing as the Portage EDC looks to partner with Junior Achievement. This new partnership will allow even more students to have greater access to career planning tools.
“We’re going to hold a JA day, which will be a bigger workforce type of event, where we’ll be accessible to all 2,500 high school students, talking about career planning and starting that path earlier for them,” Parker said.
Attendees also reflected on the growth Portage has had, particularly in retail and trucking. Over the last several years, eight new businesses have made their homes in Portage, leading to new jobs.
With a sly smile, Parker teased future progress.
“There are things on the horizon, but I just can’t speak to that yet. We do have some things in the works for 2020 that are very exciting,” she said.
No matter what the future holds, Portage EDC and its major partners - such as NIPSCO, Porter Health Care System, NorthShore Health Centers, Centier Bank, 1st Source Bank, Horizon Bank, and Holladay Properties - are ready to make Portage proud.
For more information on the Portage EDC, visit their website: http://portagein.org/