Check back often for the latest news regarding Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana.

  • 01 Jan 2018 7:00 AM | Jasmine Bejar

    (photo: J K O'Donnell's Irish Ale House)

    That’s a wrap, folks—another year in the books. I’ve done a lot of reflecting on 2017 already, and what I’ve decided is that it’s time to look forward. It seems that every year promises more growth and excitement in northeast Indiana, and as a transplant who has made it her mission to be _very_ in tune to what’s happenin’ around town, I feel like 2018’s momentum is two feet in front of me, waving it’s wily arms, begging to be noted and taken advantage of.

    As an overly-enthusiastic and active community member, I couldn’t help but put together a run-down of what I’m most excited for in 2018.

    Eating at more local restaurants 

    Okay—this one is a bit vague, and nothing particularly new to 2018 relative to every other year, but I couldn’t start this list without stating the obvious. Fort Wayne, endearingly known as “The City of Restaurants,” seems to have new delicious, local food options popping up left and right (in addition to the longstanding favorites). Dash-In, Banh Mi Pho, J K O’Donnell’s, Bravas. Food trucks galore (I’m actually counting down the days until Lunch on the Plaza returns). And the biggest question I have right now: What’s going into the Ash Brokerage Skyline building where The Golden used to be? Only 2018 can tell! 

    Watching downtown continue to flourish 

    Riverfront Fort Wayne, The Landing, Electric Works, Arts Campus—there’s so much going on, I can’t wait to actually SEE this continue to progress. These amenities are necessities, and every year we’re closer to seeing them to fruition and improving our lives. 

    Biking—anytime and anywhere 

    It may be because we’ve been enduring sub-zero temperatures for weeks now, it may be because I got a new bike for Christmas, but regardless of the reason, I can’t wait for the weather to turn and to break out two wheels instead of four. It’s just two miles from my house to work, and did you hear that Fort Wayne just celebrated its 100th mile of trails? I’m ready to hop on! (Don't forget about Zagster—Fort Wayne's bike share—if you don't have a bike of your own!)

    photo: Dustin Keeslar

    Jammin’ at Middle Waves Music Festival 

    If you haven’t heard of the Middle Waves Music Festival yet, well, you may just be living under a rock. Middle Waves is the two-day destination music festival in downtown Fort Wayne at Headwaters Park that beckons 30+ regional and national acts, food, art experiences and so much more. This will be the third year for the festival, and the previous two boast national performers like The Flaming Lips, MGMT, Best Coast, Shannon and the Clams and Thao and the Get Down Stay Down.  It happens in September every year—be on the lookout for more announcements including official dates and lineup. 

    Getting more involved with YLNI 

    I first became involved with YLNI in 2015 when I was a senior in college (wow, three years already...where did the time go!), and I’ve since treasured the connections and opportunities it presents me with all of the time. I call 2018 the year I put my membership to its best use, going to more events, starting with the January Hot Spot on January 18 at 5:30 PM at Columbia Street West.

    A small, but mighty list looking forward to 2018. What's on your dock? 


    Written by Jasmine Bejar, all opinions are her own. 

  • 21 Dec 2017 11:00 AM | John Felts

    Congratulations to the 40 emerging leaders selected to the 2018 Leadership Institute!

    Allison Acosta (Johnson Controls)
    Tyler Bearman (JH Specialty)
    Steven Bressler (Ash Brokerage)
    Joe Burtnette (Lake City Bank)
    Monica Casanova (Allen County Public Library)
    Kristin Conley (Indiana Tech)
    Paige Doellman (SCAN, Inc.)
    Nate Edgington (Johnson & Johnson)
    Danielle Falk (Lincoln Financial Group)
    Morgan Ferguson (Omni Source)
    Kristin Giant (Impact Finance Center)
    Adam Hall (Strahm Building Solutions)
    Ashley Harman (80/20 Inc)
    Greg Hetrick (Manchester University)
    Hannah Hewes (Trine University)
    Samantha Jacobs (Noble County EDC)
    Cory Jenkins (SIRVA)
    Jon Kruse (Lincoln Financial Group)
    Justine Kuzniar (80/20 Inc)
    Tyler Lantz (Fort Wayne TinCaps)
    Simone LeClear (3Rivers Federal Credit Union)
    Dana Lorber (Walgreens)
    Jackie Martinez (Healthier Moms and Babies)
    Luke Mungovan (Lake City Bank)
    Erin Okeson (Visit Fort Wayne)
    Aaron Pretice (Micropulse Inc.)
    Steven Putt (Design Collaborative)
    Carrie Reeb (Fort4Fitness)
    Sarah Rodriguez (Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership)
    Gabrielle Sherbondy (Ash Brokerage)
    Haylee Shirkey (Parkview Regional Medical Center)
    Meghan Short (Sweetwater)
    Jennifer Simmons (Ivy Tech Community College)
    Thomas Starks Jr. (Ash Brokerage)
    A.J. Stites (First Insurance Group)
    Ryan Tuttle (Lincoln Financial Group)
    Jason Villarreal (Design Collaborative)
    Kelli Warner (Design Collaborative)
    Marshall Weadick (Lake City Bank)
    Taylor Yoder (Parkview Health)

    The 2018 Leadership Institute kick-off event is planned for Wednesday,  January 17 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Crazy Pinz Entertainment Center. 

  • 19 Dec 2017 5:32 PM | John Felts

    Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana (YLNI) joined Fort Wayne City Council today for a presentation and signing of the Fort Wayne Commitment and Inclusivity Pledge.

    Fort Wayne City Council signed the pledge on behalf of the citizens of Fort Wayne and promised to “promote a working environment that is welcoming and conducive to the success of all.” Councilman Dr. John Crawford introduced a resolution at last week’s city council meeting in support of YLNI’s inclusivity pledge.

    “In order for Fort Wayne to continue the positive growth we’ve seen over the last decade, we must continue to embrace perspectives from all walks of life and experiences to be truly diverse and inclusive,” Crawford said. “With this in mind, I support YLNI and call on business leaders in the community to take the pledge and show that we are committed to creating an environment for all people to succeed.”

    The pledge was created following the 4th annual My City Summit, which focused on
    supporting diversity and inclusion in our community. Since the summit, YLNI has worked with the local business community to develop a more inclusive, skilled, and diverse workforce.

    “YLNI’s mission is to attract, develop, and retain emerging leaders in Northeast Indiana, and we believe it is difficult to attract and retain talent if new residents don’t feel welcomed or included,” said Stephanie Veit. “We are asking the business community to support our pledge and help us attract the best talent to our region.”

    Fort Wayne City Council joined more than 40 local community organizations and businesses who have signed the pledge:

    1st Source Bank, 3 Rivers FCU, Acuity Mergers + Acquisitions, AEP, Arts United, Baker Street, Barnes and Thornburg LLP, Boys and Girls Club of Fort Wayne,  City of Fort Wayne, City of New Haven, Don Ayres Honda, Dupont Hospital, Embassy Theatre, Fort Wayne Black Chamber of Commerce, Fort Wayne Trails, Fort Wayne Metals, Fort Wayne UNITED, Greater Fort Wayne Inc., Hoppy Gnome, JP Morgan Chase, Kelly Automotive, Lake City Bank, Lincoln Financial Group, Lutheran Hospital, Manchester University, NE Indiana Works, Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, Ortho NE, Parkview Hospital, PHP, Questa Foundation, Radiation Oncology Association, Rea Magnet Wire, Ridge Napa, Stein Ad Promos, Star Bank, State Farm Insurance, Strahm, United Way, Voices of Unity, Weigand Construction, Wells Fargo Bank, Whittle Consulting, WPTA, Wunderkammer Company, Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana.

  • 15 Nov 2017 10:19 AM | John Felts

    Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana is proud to welcome back the Leadership Institute program in 2018!

    YLNI’s Leadership Institute connects emerging leaders with their peers and their community as they gain career skills. Through hands-on instruction, small group activities, and personal reflection, participants will develop skills needed to help them advance in their careers and community.

    The 2018 YLNI Leadership Institute takes place over six Fridays from January through April. The program kicks off Wednesday, January 17, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.

    All applications must be submitted by Friday, December 8, 2017 to be considered. We encourage employers to sponsor their emerging leaders' participation.

    For more information on different session topics, dates, and times, or to apply, please visit the YLNI Leadership Institute page.  

  • 23 Oct 2017 3:05 PM | John Felts

    Everyone should have a warm coat this winter.

    YLNI is proud to partner with SCAN in collecting new, warm coats for local children in need this winter. Donations will be accepted at the November Hot Spot on Thursday, November 16 at DeBrand Chocolatier in the Ash Skyline Plaza from 5:30-7:00 p.m. Cash donations will also be accepted towards purchasing a coat. 

    If you are unable to attend November's Hot Spot, please contact Kourtney at, and she will arrange a time to pick up your donation.

  • 19 Oct 2017 4:22 PM | John Felts

    Chris Polhamus has joined the Board of Directors for Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana, it was announced Thursday.  

    Chris will serve as the Director at Large of Technology, overseeing YLNI's website, web-based programs, technical support, and software.

    Chris was born and raised in Fort Wayne, where he currently works as an Account Manager for JH Specialty. Chris earned his bachelor's degree in Marketing from Butler University.

    He graduated from the YLNI Leadership Institute in 2014 and has been a member of YLNI ever since. In his downtime, Chris enjoys spending time with his family as well as being a sports enthusiast and outdoorsman.

  • 17 Oct 2017 12:52 PM | John Felts

    On October 17, the YLNI Board of Directors sent a letter to Fort Wayne City Council members in support of maintaining funding Fort Wayne UNITED. 

    Dear Members of Fort Wayne City Council,

    Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana writes in support of maintaining funding for Fort Wayne UNITED in the 2018 City of Fort Wayne budget.

    YLNI strongly believes Fort Wayne UNITED serves as an important initiative to our community’s efforts to enhance opportunities, advance youth advocacy, and help create a safer city for everyone, especially for black men and boys. This combination aligns with YLNI’s mission in attracting, developing, and retaining emerging leaders.

    YLNI advocates for and has taken action to support diversity and inclusion in our community. We hosted a “My City Summit” to speak specifically about this matter and launched a diversity and inclusion pledge that has been signed by over 50 community and business leaders, including leaders from Fort Wayne UNITED.

    We applaud the efforts of Fort Wayne UNITED Director Iric Headley and his passionate group of volunteers for providing hope for youth in Fort Wayne. We hope their efforts can continue well into the future.

    In closing, YLNI appreciates City Council for being good stewards of taxpayers money by reviewing the budget and implementing programs to advance our city and region forward. 

    Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.


    YLNI Board of Directors 

  • 15 Sep 2017 11:16 AM | John Felts

    John Hudson has been named to the Board of Directors for Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana, it was announced today. 

    In his role, John will serve as the Director at Large of Community Impact. His duties include enhancing YLNI’s community involvement efforts and drive initiatives that YLNI decides to support. 

    John has been engaged within YLNI since returning to Fort Wayne in 2009, such as serving as chair of Community Engagement and Advocacy (CEA) and most recently chair of YLNI the VOTE.

    Born and raised in Northeast Indiana, John works as a Graduate Architect for Viridian Architectural Design. He graduated from Ball State University with a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in Architecture.

    Formerly, John has been involved with Rotaract and served as a board member of Family and Children's Services dba Headwaters Counseling. He enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters.

  • 08 Sep 2017 3:41 PM | John Felts

    Join Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership to help welcome a group of 80 college students who are visiting Fort Wayne on an inbound talent attraction trip to learn about job opportunities in the insurance industry and quality of life in our region.

    YLNI encourages all members and young professionals to attend a meet and greet social event on Friday, September 15 at the Cityscape Flats. This is a unique opportunity to serve as ambassadors for our community, connect with future young professionals, and share with them all the great things that are happening in Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana. 

    The social event is free to attend and starts at 6:00 p.m. No RSVP is required. We hope to see you on Friday!

  • 23 Aug 2017 7:58 AM | John Felts

    Since 2013, I have been intimately involved with Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana in various capacities, and I currently serve as the organization's president. YLNI, which was formed 12 years ago by a small group of 20- and 30-something professionals and now has more than 200 members, has a laser focus on its mission to attract, develop and retain emerging leaders through community, professional and social engagement.

    I am also heavily involved in the arts and culture community in our city and, along with being on many local event and organization committees, I currently sit on the board of directors at Cinema Center.

    I feel that I have a unique perspective on our community thanks to the combination of my various civic roles over the years, my widely diverse group of friends, and my professional network. Because of this, I have heard many ideas as to what attracts and retains talent within our region.

    One thing I can say is that while affordability is a factor in attracting and retaining individuals in our community, it's never mentioned first. The idea of affordability is always mentioned passively and it's never the focus – usually encapsulated in flighty statements like, “It's so affordable here, too.” “Too.” “As well.” “Secondary.”

    My personal conversations and experiences aside, YLNI has proven evidence that, at least locally, young people in our community prioritize amenities over affordability.

    When we've conducted surveys within our membership to gauge quality-of-life priorities, arts and entertainment, dining and retail, and vibrancy and inclusivity are consistently the most common responses. Through our polling, YLNI's membership consistently encourages our local and state governments to partner with local and regional economic development organizations to find viable solutions that would allow financing for economic development projects to come primarily from private funding, with support from public funds.

    Our polling has not indicated a desire for us to explicitly advocate for maintaining the low cost of living. In fact, our local demographic supports quality-of-life investments, including initiatives such as the most recent local income tax increase.

    While it may be beneficial for northeast Indiana to advertise our region as an affordable place to live, going solely all-in on “affordability” is likely to fail. Outside of big metropolitan cities where the cost of living is high, our cost of living is comparable to other cities our size in our region, according to recent research by Niche. Even in those much larger cities, i.e., the Chicagos of the world, young people still flock because of the quality-of-life amenities offered.

    In order to stay competitive and increase our ability to attract and retain a diverse group of people, Fort Wayne needs to differentiate itself by investing in quality-of-life amenities.

    According to the Knight Foundation, it has been pointed out that “85 percent of millennials say they prefer urban-style living.” Large economic development projects in our city, such as the Riverfront development, The Landing, Parkview Field, Ash Skyline Plaza and Electric Works, among others, are quality amenities that add to the urban lifestyle.

    Like many other cities, Fort Wayne is looking to attract people right out of college. Many in this generation aren't planning to start families right away. They are seeking cities with opportunities to grow professionally and personally, with a vibrant urban setting being a main factor in their decision making.

    A new report from the anti-sprawl organization Smart Growth America and the real estate consultants at Cushman & Wakefield looked at companies that have made the decision to relocate to downtown areas in their cities between 2010 and 2015. They asked why they've made that choice and how they might empower others to follow suit.

    After conducting a survey of these 500 companies and interviewing executives at 45 of those businesses, they concluded that talent attraction and retention is the most common reason businesses decided to move to a downtown. Businesses just like those surveyed recognize that we need a vibrant urban lifestyle to attract and retain young people.

    YLNI members continuously express that we need a vibrant and diverse city to bring people here and keep them here. Without the investments we've made in our own downtown, and our community as a whole, we would continue to simply be an “affordable city,” and that would be the end of our story.

    I can confidently say that I would not be living in Fort Wayne today were it not for the quality-of-life improvements that we have invested in. One the biggest and most well-known of these improvements is Parkview Field in downtown Fort Wayne – a project that many looked down on, but it's now one of the crown jewels of our city.

    I can't imagine a Fort Wayne where we had merely rested on our affordability and failed to pursue projects that continue to take our city from good to great. I am proud of this community for its vision and willingness to challenge, and even move past, the naysayers, and I am looking forward to the continued growth and development in our future. I know I'm not alone in that. Ever onward and upward – I love Fort Wayne.

    Ryan Krueckeberg is president of Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana.

    Published in the Journal Gazette on August 21, 2017

P.O. Box 10774
Fort Wayne, IN  46853

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