Businesses and city officials met on December 1 to show their Portage pride and learn more about what’s in store for the coming year. Hosted by the Portage Economic Development Corporation (Portage EDC), the annual meeting proved to be a success with numerous opportunities for exchanging business ideas, networking, and simply an opportunity for Portage businesspeople to catch up with one another.
“Our funding is 40% from the city and the other 60% comes from local business and industries for the organization. Today's the day that we bring all of those together, as well as city officials, other friends, and other business communities to talk about the good things going on and for each other. It’s also to recap what the previous year was like, and maybe what some of the future is,” said Andy Maletta, interim executive director and board president for Portage EDC.
The meeting was centered around the workforce in the City of Portage, and included a presentation from Shaun Sahloff, director of planning and fundraising at the Center of Workforce Innovations (CWI).
“Our mission is to serve as a catalyst for community and business investment by building and aligning Workforce Education economic development strategies, while accelerating economic growth in Northwest Indiana. What this really means is that we're here to serve businesses and job seekers and our communities. We work to serve these customers and achieve our mission through our strategic priorities in the initiative,” Sahloff said.
In his presentation, Sahloff explained how CWI can benefit Portage and Northwest Indiana and gave advice on how employers can strengthen their current teams and hire top-tier talent. He also discussed the obstacles that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused within the workforce and offered solutions on how to lessen the challenges on employers and employees.
“The workforce is a big main topic everywhere, and to have someone from the Center of Workforce Innovations here today to talk about workforce and some of the challenges and some solutions for people was really interesting.” Maletta said.
Maletta also had a chance to say a few words to the crowd, and gave a nod to Amy Parker, the former executive director for the Portage EDC. Parker stepped down from the position about a month ago and now works in a similar role at BNutty Gourmet Peanut Butter, also in Portage. While she no longer works for the EDC, she still holds her former employer in high regards and wishes them nothing but the best.
“So, a lot of you know, but a long-time familiar face is here today from the Portage EDC,” Maletta said. “Amy Parker has left the organization to go to work for BNutty, a tremendous company growing up here in Portage. We're really excited for her new opportunity so we're certainly going to miss her.”
Parker has been with the Portage EDC for over a decade and served as its executive director. She is extremely thankful for all the opportunities the organization gave her over the years.
“I couldn't have done what I did over those years without many of you so thank you very much for not getting rid of me. I will be around and obviously I'm still here, of course,” Parker said. “It feels weird not being in charge or in control, but I love it because I'm getting to see so many people that I didn't get to see before I left. I'm so happy to be here today. It's great to see everybody. I'm still part of this community and always will be and I want nothing but the best for everyone at the Portage EDC, and I also love my new company.”
Portage Mayor Sue Lynch was also in attendance and was thrilled to see many Portage businesses connecting at the event. Since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a virtual meeting last year, Lynch enjoyed getting to see everyone in person this time around.
“We've been a bit out of the loop with COVID, so it's nice to all get back together as a group again. The EDC is going to be working a lot with the city this next year. It's nice to be able to see all the faces that are here with EDC and connect with them. I'm a strong believer in partnerships and people working together because we can get so much more done for the city when we partner with businesses.”
Lynch also said, as mayor, she enjoys coming to events like these better connect with people on a more personal level.
“It gives me a chance as the mayor to get to communicate with the citizens and the business community in our city. I think it's important that people see the mayor to ask questions and just chat with. A lot of people don't know me, so I want them to be comfortable with me so that they can walk up and talk to me and ask me questions because I like that people feel comfortable just chatting.”
Likewise, many of the attendees also enjoyed the chance to network and chat with one another in person as well. They also felt the meeting offered a lot of insight to the economy and economic development within the city of Portage.
“I’m super interested in understanding economic development across the Region broadly and in Portage, which is an important area for us and lots of great work is being done here,” said Kasie Tenbarge, development director of United Way of Porter County.
“I’m always interested in the economic development side of things in our community because that obviously helps support the companies that are here. In turn, we can have jobs readily available for folks and then support our communities,” said Theresa Valade, founder and CEO of Success Trek Incorporated.
“It's about businesses, getting to know each other and understanding what's going on in the economy here in Portage," said Kevin Kosek, vice president of marketing and business development for REGIONAL Federal Credit Union. "REGIONAL wants to be a player at the table level. In order to be a player at the table, we have to come to events like this and get to meet the people who need us, and we need them."
“It's a good chance to connect with people that you don't get to see day in and day out,” added Mike Micka, vice president of development at Holladay Properties.
To learn more on what the Portage EDC has in store for 2022, visit https://www.portagein.org/