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

  • 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

  • 02 Aug 2017 7:00 AM | Joel Crandall

    Join us for our next Hot Spot on Thursday, August 17 at Club Soda from 5:30-7:00 p.m.  We will recognize and meet the new YLNI Board of Directors!

    If you're new to Northeast Indiana or want to get more involved in our community, attending a hot spot is a great way to connect with a committee member or board member to discuss who we are. All are welcome - bring a friend!

    RSVP on Facebook
  • 29 Jun 2017 2:26 PM | John Felts

    Fifteen emerging leaders have been named to the 
    Board of Directors of Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana (YLNI), it was announced today.

    Effective July 1, Ryan Krueckeberg will begin a two-year term as president, and Savannah Robinson will serve as vice president.

    The Board of Directors, which meets monthly, is the governing body of YLNI that will guide the organization to fulfill its goals.

    ·Ryan Krueckeberg, President (Lincoln Financial Group)

    ·Savannah Robinson, Vice President (Barnes & Thornburg LLP)

    ·Sarah Verpooten, Secretary (Strahm Building Solutions)

    ·David Curry, Treasurer (Lake City Bank)

    ·Patrick Florea, Director at Large, Executive Committee (JH Specialty, Inc.)

    ·Abigail Zimmer, Vice President, Membership (Creative Financial Staffing)

    ·Kourtney Teegardin, Vice President, Leadership Development (Design Collaborative)

    ·Pone Vongphachanh, Vice President, Community Impact (Upstate Alliance of Realtors)

    ·John Felts, Vice President, Communications (City of Fort Wayne)

    ·Kelly Rentschler, Vice President, Social Programming (EASi An Aerotek Company)

    ·Chris Reeves, Vice President, Fund Development (ProFed Federal Credit Union)

    ·Vinod Vijayan, Director, Large of Technology (Eaton Corporation)

    ·Tim Zink, Director at Large, Living Fort Wayne (IPFW)

    ·Rena Burden, Director at Large, Leadership Development (Turnstone)

    ·John Foxworthy, Director at Large, Fund Development (Mahara Wealth Partners)

    The board's day-to-day activities include a variety of tasks, such as event planning, securing funding, and serving as advocates for the emerging professional demographic in our region. 

    "I’m honored to serve as the next president and feel privileged to lead our board of directors,” Krueckeberg said. “Our board is comprised of passionate and committed emerging leaders who are eager to help make a positive difference in our community.”

    Established in 2005, YLNI is a group of dynamic emerging leaders that aims to engage the community and make a positive impact in Fort Wayne and the surrounding area. The mission of the 2,500-plus person network is to attract, develop, and retain emerging leaders through community, professional and social engagement.

    To learn more about YLNI, the organization's board and committees, or how you can become a member of YLNI, visit 

  • 21 Jun 2017 2:02 PM | Kara Hackett

    Between the summer festivals, the TinCaps games, the outdoor concerts, food trucks and farmers markets, you might think things in Fort Wayne couldn’t get any better.

    But, if that is the case, then you would be sadly mistaken, my friend.

    This summer—perhaps more than any other—there are so many exciting things happening around town that it makes me want to sing.

    And since I can’t sing for you myself (lucky you), I’ve compiled a list of the city's five hottest recent headlines in the form of popular song lyrics.


    1. Straight Flowin’ on a Boat!

    Fort Wayne’s first authentic riverboat is officially cruisin’ down the big blue(ish) watery road (yeah). Her name is Sweet Breeze, and she’s offering river tours and private excursions as part of the city’s ongoing riverfront development plan. Yes, this means you can be on a boat like Leo right here in downtown Fort Wayne. This boat is REAL. So get your swim trunks and your flippie-floppies, and make a reservation at Fort Wayne Outfitters, sha-sha-shorty.

    Inspired by The Lonely Island, “I’m On A Boat.”

    The Full Story:

    2. It’s Electric! (Boogie, Woogie, Woogie.)

    You can’t see it (because it’s not done yet). But you gotta know it (because it’s going to be freaking awesome). Fort Wayne’s former General Electric campus near downtown is getting fully renovated into a mixed-use, multipurpose metropolis of excitement. And it’s Electric! They’re calling the project Electric Works (boogie, woogie, woogie), and it’s likely to include a year-round indoor farmers market, housing, culinary classes, and more. The tentative timeline for completion is 2020. Ooh, it's shakin'!

    Inspired by Marcia Griffiths, “Electric Slide.”

    The Full Story:

    Read More:

    3. I love this bar.

    It ain’t too far. Come as you are. Two new neighborhood bars are open, making the Fort Wayne suburbs feel a little more urban. HT2, an offshoot of Indianapolis’s Hotel Tango Artisan Distillery, opened in late May on the southwest side of town as an upscale cocktail lounge. And the 07 Pub opened in early June as a hyper-local sports bar on the south side. Just walkin’ right through the front door of either place will put a big smile on your face. No cover charge. Come as you are. Mmm, hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm.

    Inspired by Toby Keith, “I Love This Bar.”

    The Full Stories:


    07 Pub:

    4. Please don’t stop the music.

    Baby, are you ready? Cause it's getting close. We’ve heard talk about the Clyde Theatre for years now, and it’s finally happening. Even Keels Holdings and Sweetwater Sound are teaming up to make Fort Wayne’s first mid-size music venue a reality at Quimby Village where we’ll all be rockin’ on the dance floor (because it’s a stand-up only venue). Just let the music play, and once it’s started, it’s likely to bring the entire Quimby shopping center back to life. Keep on rockin' to it.

    Inspired by Rihanna, “Don’t Stop the Music.”

    The Full Story:

    5. Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

    Caught in a landslide? It’s your escape from reality. ArtLink recently purchased a virtual reality (VR) headset and highly coveted Google Tilt Brush software that allows artists to paint in virtual reality. And they’re allowing anyone in our community to rent the equipment for virtually nothing! So open your eyes, put on your VR headset and seeeeee the world like you’ve never seen it before. If you’re just a poor boy, you can easy come, easy go, and use this ridiculously expensive software for the bargain price of $5 for members and $10 for nonmembers. Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia!

    Inspired by Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

    The Full Story:


    HereSay, in partnership with YLNI, is a bi-weekly blog about our say on what’s happening here.  It is written by YLNI member Kara Hackett, and the opinions are her own. Photo by Matt Thomas.

  • 01 Jun 2017 8:00 AM | Joel Crandall

    On June 15, John Stafford of IPFW and Michael Galbraith of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership will host a panel discussion on the Regional Development Authorities (RDA)

    The YLNI Community Engagement and Advocacy (CEA) committee invites all members to come learn about our local tax and the history and structure of the state’s statutory RDA. Stafford will lead a discussion on local taxes, while Galbraith will explain the purpose and goals of the RDA.

    In 2015, the Northeast Indiana RDA was formed to apply for funds available through the state’s Regional Cities Initiative, which seeks to make Indiana a magnet for talent attraction by funding transformative quality-of-place projects. 

    The discussion will take place in the Ventura Room on the first floor of the 1st Source Building from 4:30-5:30 p.m. 

    If interested, please RSVP to Ashley Spranger at 

  • 25 May 2017 9:35 AM | John Felts

    Are you interested in improving your speaking and leadership skills?  Toastmasters is an internationally recognized organization with a proven curriculum that focuses on the development of presentation and leadership competencies. YLNI looking to gauge whether there are enough emerging leaders interested in forming a Toastmasters Club.  

    At least 20 interested people are needed in order to establish a club. If you’re interested and would like to learn more, please contact Leslie Snare at or Savannah Robinson at

  • 18 May 2017 11:06 AM | Kara Hackett

    The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana.

    One of my greatest frustrations with public projects is how long they take to happen.

    I live near the GE Campus, and I attended a meeting about it where developers mentioned ideas for the space, like a public market where farmers and vendors could sell their goods.

    I visited a similar space at the West Side Market in Cleveland last year, and I thought something like that would be amazing in downtown Fort Wayne. Hearing people talk about it at GE, I realized it could finally happen here. Awesome.

    Then someone raised their hand asked that fateful question: When can we expect to see this project finished by?

    The developers looked at each other for a moment before offering a tentative timeline of five years for the completion of Phase 1. “Considering everything goes according to plan, of course.”

    Five years. In developer-time, that’s incredible. That’s breakneck speed. I get it.

    But in Kara-time, five years is still a long way away, and that’s what frustrates me.

    I know things take time. I know I have to be patient. I know there are processes and systems to work with. But at the end of the day, every year feels like a long time in your 20s, and every day that something isn’t happening here, the sparks of excitement grow a little dimmer.

    I’m constantly wishing there was a way I could speed things up. I want to enjoy more of this city while I’m still young—while I’m still living here and still have time to enjoy it. But even though a grand scale renovation of something like GE might just have to wait, there are other local projects that we can make happen faster.

    In mid-March, city councilmen Dr. John Crawford proposed an income tax increase that would expedite Riverfront Development and make our city more walkable with improved sidewalks and alleys. When taxes were capped in the past, Fort Wayne Community Schools lost part of its transportation budget, so some of the money is going to fix sidewalks for kids who can’t ride the bus anymore.

    Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: Who wants higher taxes? And the answer is probably nobody. But if you want to see things happen with Riverfront Development in time for us to enjoy them (or if you simply want our local economy to succeed), then this tax increase is something that you should seriously consider contacting your city councilmen about, and here’s why.

    Crawford’s plan calls for a .15 percent increase of our current income tax, taking it from 1.35% in Allen County to 1.5% (which is still below the Indiana average of 1.59%).

    Overall, this change would cost taxpayers earning an average household income of $49,000 a year about $6 per month, or $73 per year. (Lower incomes would pay less, and higher incomes would pay more, yada yada.) If the increase goes into effect—charging everyone an equal rate of .15 percent—it will raise up to $79-million for Riverfront Development and up to $40-million for neighborhood sidewalk projects.

    That said, the reason I’m urging you to consider this tax increase is more complicated.

    It’s not just about beautifying the rivers or starting Riverfront Development. Actually, Phase 1 of Riverfront Development is already fully funded, and it’s happening no matter what. It’s set to start later this year with a promenade and treetop walk along both sides of the St. Marys River downtown.

    But the kicker is, unless this tax gets passed, a nice river walk is all that’s it’s going to be for a long time, and it’s not likely to turn a big profit.

    Crawford’s tax increase would go toward making spaces for offices, housing, retail and cafes along the river where our local economy could start earning its money back. And what’s exciting about that to me is that it means our city isn’t going doing things halfway. We’re going all-in. And when the Riverfront is fully complete, that’s when it’s going to start generating buzz, attracting the nation’s top employees, and making this region attractive to people who want more than “a nice place to raise a family.”

    As a conservative councilman, Crawford is interested in boosting local business and private investments in our region, so he proposed this tax increase because Riverfront Development is estimated to reap about $1 billion in investments. That’s an insane return rate.

    But the reason I’m writing to you about this tax in such direct terms is that it’s going to take a ton of public support to get it passed, and the critics have already made their case loud and clear.

    Three city council members opposed Crawford's proposal, and even state representatives and a national advocacy organization called the AFP have butted in and spoken out against the tax, simply because it's a tax. 

    But as The Journal Gazette editorial board noted, "decisions about the future needs of our community need to be made by the people of Fort Wayne and the council and mayor they've elected."

    As someone who lives here and has a stake in this region's future, I urge you to consider the long-term benefits of going all-in on Riverfront Development now. 

    If you want to see public projects like this happen while we’re young, if you believe this place is full of potential, you should email or call your local councilmen sometime before the (likely) July 11th vote and give this tax your support.

    I know it’s a tax, and I know that sucks. But to me, it’s worth it because, honestly, it’s a race against the clock, and time is what’s at stake. When I consider staying here, I wonder whether I should keep hoping for things to happen, keep shouting into the wind, or if I should go somewhere else where people are already investing and things are already happening—while I’m still young and free and the world is full of opportunities.

    The opportunities are so…alluring.

    What are you waiting for?


    Contact Your Councilmen

    The Fort Wayne Common Council is nine elected members (one from each of the city's six council districts and three at-large representing everyone).


    Michael A. Barranda


    John Crawford


    Tom Freistroffer

    1st District

    Paul Ensley 

    2nd District

    Russ Jehl

    3rd District

    Tom Didier  

    4th District

    Jason Arp 

    5th District

    Geoff Paddock

    6th District

    Glynn Hines

    Written communications may also be directed to the City Council as a group or to individual Council members and mailed to the office of the City Clerk, Citizens Square, 200 E Berry St., Suite 110, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 46802.

    Attending a Meeting

    Public hearings on the income tax increase will be scheduled soon. Watch the city website for announcements.

    You can also voice your opinions at City Council Meetings on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month at 5:30 p.m. in Room 35, Garden Level of Citizens Square Building. This is the time when citizens may address City Council as a group regarding any topic that is within the Council's authority. 


    HereSay, in partnership with YLNI, is a bi-weekly blog about our say on what’s happening here.  It is written by YLNI member Kara Hackett, and the opinions are her own. Photo by Matt Thomas.

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Fort Wayne, IN  46853

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