Do you consider yourself lucky to live in northeast Indiana?
I almost ended up a nurse, in somewhere like Indianapolis or Chicago. But instead, here I am, in Fort Wayne, living my best creative life.
And what's lucky about that?
Everything in my deck said this wasn't a hand I was going to play. (But that story isn't what this is really about.)
I could be anywhere in the country, but here I am in Fort Wayne, fully engulfed in a community with so much grit, so much prowess, so much...sheer willingness. I mean—what more could I ask for? A community that is willing to grow, willing to work hard, willing to give me a chance to make a difference.
That's lucky, because, it's not guaranteed everywhere, but Fort Wayne took a chance on me.
As a region, we're knee-deep in taking chances right now. From start-ups to developments, there seems to be change around every corner.
I'm grateful to live in a community where entrepreneurship prospers. Small businesses can flourish here. Individuals are willing to risk in pursuit of their dreams—and that's an energy I find myself inspired by on a daily basis.
I'm also aware of and thankful for the not-so-small businesses that choose to call Fort Wayne home. Those who provide us and our families with jobs, and their leaders who go above and beyond and invest their time, talent in treasure back into our community.
I feel honored to witness and have a voice in so many progressive, downtown development initiatives. I feel Riverfront Development's synergy already, barely into Phase I. I can't wait to see how Electric Works develops, what it becomes, who it attracts. I believe Arts Campus Fort Wayne brings collective focus to our ambitious arts aspirations. The energy from these (and more) is contagious; I feel it on a personal level.
All of these ventures elevate northeast Indiana regionally and nationally. We all are risking, together, to make this a reality.
Once you're in the flux of change, like any growing community, it can be easy to fall into the trap of suspicion. But I hope we never falter to accusation and resentment. I hope we never pigeonhole ourselves by rejecting others.
I've been fortunate enough to have some truly inspirational mentors in my life, who've taught me that our greatest assets are each other.
Susan Mendenhall, president of Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne and my former colleague, inspires me every time I hear her talk about the Arts Campus. My favorite pitch she gives? Historically, we've worried about our slice of the pie—when it comes to ticket sales, attendance, money and the like. Today, we're locking arms, and building a better bakery. Because we're stronger when we build an ecosystem where everyone thrives.
John Felts, who was my former coworker at Visit Fort Wayne and is the VP of Communications for the YLNI board of directors, lives by the saying "Work hard and be kind to people." I mean, this goes without explaining, right? Human capital is our greatest capital.
From a marketing perspective, every touch point we as businesses, events, places and even individuals builds the story of our community. To borrow from another person whom I highly regard—my friend and colleague, Matt Kelley—how do we put our Best Fort Forward as we go out and tell the story of our community, in light of understanding how we are influencing our brand?
Today, and every day moving forward, I hope we never forget that our ecosystem thrives when we all take a step back from our confusion, resistance and judgement, and know that we're always better, together. In the market of pride-inducing, awe-inspiring ideas, people, places and businesses, we're competing with our peer cities, not with ourselves. Let's build our story to be one where we challenge each other productively, build understanding in highest regard and continue to walk this path of change, hand in hand.
Written by Jasmine Bejar, all opinions are her own.