Vision 20/20 Survey Results



In 2005, YLNI formed with the intention to seek out and empower the region’s emerging leaders. We dreamed of contributions made by Gen Xers, Gen Yers and Millennials that would influence economic and cultural growth in Northeast Indiana.

Now, with more than one thousand hungry, optimistic individuals in our network, YLNI members proudly support one another, connect and volunteer - all while reversing the brain drain in our region and cultivating the positive characteristics this corner of the heartland can claim.

Vision 20/20 began when our Advisory Council, a group of influential community leaders, challenged us to return Northeast Indiana to a prosperous region to help bring back the swagger this community used to know so well. As those who would inherit the success or failures of the generations before them, YLNI boldly took the steps needed to engage our demographic.

Generous support from the Lincoln Financial Foundation pushed YLNI in the right direction. The Engage phase was born: the online Vision 20/20 survey obtained quantitative data from over 200 respondents regarding the strengths and needs of Northeast Indiana, as well as qualitative data - stories, hopes and dreams detailing the rich experiences of young leaders and their bold vision for our region.

This collection of information is not just survey results. It represents what an entire demographic hopes its future will become. YLNI aims to Empower the community at large by sharing our vision, and to inspire individuals to Execute the concepts embodied here.

Over 200 young leaders answered the call to engage with the community and speak for their demographic. The questions were straightforward: “What about Northeast Indiana is most attractive to you?” and, “What should Northeast Indiana concentrate on right now to make it a more attractive place to live?”

The answers, however, were anything but straightforward. It turns out there are many reasons young people choose to live in Northeast Indiana, and there’s a lot they’d like to help improve.

The young leaders surveyed, and those who provided feature essays in this book are not defined by their professions nor particular interests. We’ve found that a young leader is simply someone willing to help shape the community they call home. The particular visions shared in section three represent themes that recurred across our responses —some outrageous, some merely practical. The future of this region will require some brave thinking, practical planning and enthusiasm. YLNI’s visionaries love our community and share the common goal of helping realize its full potential.

Download the complete YLNI Vision 20/20 brochure to find out what 200 emerging NE Indiana leaders have to say about the future of our region.

Matt Kelley

What is your vision for our greater community?

For Fort Wayne, and our surrounding communities, to make the symbolic, brave decisions to truly be a higher reaching, more ambitious, eclectic, proud and, frankly, happy place. I’d like to see the return of optimism. I’d like us to commit to the city we want to be, and then get to work being it. I want to be the region’s jewel…even the state’s jewel. I want other communities to travel to Fort Wayne to find out how we did it, and to invite our civic and cultural leaders to their communities to talk about where we started, and where we ended up, and how we kept working at it even after we’d already arrived. Write about us the articles that make other communities jealous. This includes just everything: A vital, embraced downtown. Successful and diverse economic development. A roaring arts and cultural scene. A family-rich community that is interesting enough to not chase away single folks. The Midwest’s leading schools. Cold beer at a reasonable price.

Gina Leoni

Share with us your YLNI story – how did you get involved, what motivated you to join?

I moved to Fort Wayne August 2003 due to a transferring to from my employers MA location to our Indiana facility. The first two years I lived in Fort Wayne, I spent my free time just settling in – first finding an apartment and 7 months later, looking to buy my first house. Not being from NE Indiana or even the Midwest for that matter, I was having a difficult time adjusting! I searched for ways to get involved in the community, to make friends my age, but never really found my niche.

One day, while reading the Journal Gazette, I saw an article about a “Young Leaders” group event at the Dash In. I emailed the contact within the article and put my name on a list to get involved. I ended up missing the event at the Dash In due to a delayed flight, but kept in touch via email with the programming chair. I eventually agreed to come to a meeting, and dove in head first. I started planning YLNI’s now signature program, The Leadership Institute, with the other inaugural members of the programming committee. I started going to YLNI Hot Spots, checking out places in town I never heard of since I was new – all through the YLNI social committee events. I met a great group of friends and built my networks from YLNI, both professional and personal. I was elected to the YLNI Board of Directors in 2007 and just completed my first 2 year term. I plan on staying involved in hopes to help other new people in the community find their place and get involved in the Fort Wayne community!

Luke Squires

Share with us your YLNI story – how did you get involved, what motivated you to join?

My path to involvement with YLNI is somewhat unique I suppose. In late 2006, I was aboard an airplane on my way to Paris when another individual in my travel group offered me something to read. I accepted, and began reading a newsletter that discussed the urgency of downtown revitalization and all the merits of a vibrant and viable downtown. The letter focused on what would eventually become the Harrison Square project and discussed how the ballpark could spark other projects such as residential real estate and retail/shopping to sprout downtown. It called on people to get involved and have a voice in what would become the future of our downtown. After reading through it I assumed it to be an architecture/engineering based publication, I asked my generous travel mate, “What is Yul-Nee? He responded, “Yul-Nee?!?…”Oh”….”It’s Y-L-N-I.”

Shortly after my return to the states I decided to seek out more information about the group. I attended a HotSpot held at the 412 Club and met Tom Brookshire who headed up a YLNI task force focused on business/entrepreneurship. While downtown improvement was an interest to me personally, professionally, entrepreneurship was more my flavor.

That was all it took. I became involved in a small group of young professionals that brainstormed and implemented the “View from the Top” tour series and the “Entrepreneurial Think Tank.” Both projects gave young people direct access to some of the areas most successful business people. As a group we were very proud of what we accomplished with relatively little resources and thought we could contribute much more to the cause. One year later three of us were lucky enough to attain YLNI Board of Directors positions. The knowledge, friendships, and sense of accomplishment I have gained since that day on the plane will be with me for the rest of my life, both personally and professionally. One plane ticket to Paris……$1500, one YLNI membership…..$30, a sense of involvement and accomplishment that will last a lifetime….priceless.

Justin Stalter

What is your vision for our greater community?

I see Fort Wayne as a regional powerhouse centrally located between other major Midwest cities such as Chicago, Indianaplois, and Columbus, Ohio.

To be great, we have to start with a strong central core that links business, culture, and governmental services into a vibrant marketplace that will draw local, regional, and national business and visitors.

The community has to decide what it wants to be and market and sell itself to the fullest extent. The current “room for dreams” campaign conveys the notion that we aren’t anything yet which is why there is so much room.

I would like to see more public transportation options.

I think Fort Wayne should have intracity rail that, perhaps, would link major venues throughout the city. (West – Lutheran Hospital, Jefferson Pointe, St. Francis University; Central – Harrison Square, Grand Wayne, St. Joseph Hospital, Citilink , North River; East – Indiana Tech; North – the Coliseum, IPFW, Ivy Tech, Glenbrook Mall, Ice Arena, Concordia Seminary, Dupont and Parkview Hospitals)

In addition to intracity rail, I would like to see the return of regional passenger rail the links Fort Wayne with Chicago to the west, and Toledo, Columbus, and Pittsburg to the east. This regional connection would foster the growth of transient oriented development that could bring together regional rail, intercity rail, Citilink, and a taxi service.

I would like to see the downtown traffic grid restored to allow for Two-way travel on every street. One-way streets are great to move cars along quickly as possible through a place, but they are not great for bringing people to a place.