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Is Tech in the Fort Dead?

While I was CIO for the City of Fort Wayne I developed a vision for Fort Wayne, Indiana as the tech capital of the Midwest. Why not? We have significant broadband capacity, an abundance of colleges and universities teaching tech from engineering and security to gaming and networking. We also have a ready workforce, a history of innovation, great proximity to the rest of the country for logistics, one of the best costs of living, and a great quality of life in our community. While with the City I made a point to meet those in the tech community by regularly scheduling meetings to understand their unique offerings. After leaving the City’s employment the vision continues. Though I spent a significant amount of time learning about our tech community I was still shocked to learn just how large that community is. As I carry the vision of the tech capital of the Midwest into my consultancy I still hear the same concerns from the Northeast Indiana business community and technologist alike:

· We can’t find talented well-rounded technologists and the few we find don’t stay long

· There are no opportunities for tech talent in this area

Can this possibly be the case when Northeast Indiana has all the aforementioned qualities? Is there tech talent in the Fort? Are there real opportunities here in the Fort for technologists to develop? Is a needs gap holding our community back from achieving this vision? Can we compete with the rest of the region, the state, the country, the globe? I’m a bit of an optimist. I feel we can compete and win! Let’s hear what some others say.


What Others Are Saying

TK Herman, Aptera Software

Aptera Software demonstrates there is talent in Fort Wayne. Aptera has had the opportunity to go head to head with companies from the larger cities and are winning proposals. Aptera Software has been taking home some serious recognition. Recently they were given the opportunity to help the Allen County Public Library with phases of their web design. TK Herman says it can be hard to find good people, but the talent is here. They continually look for individuals that have a can do attitude, strong people skills, and of course strong technical skills. TK continues that the local schools are producing talented technical people; they just need to be given opportunities.


Adam Ferris, Brooksource

Brooksource suggests that individuals are looking more aggressively at contract opportunities. Probably due to this current economy they see talented individuals taking 4 – 5 week projects just to get the ball rolling. Candidates for full time employment realize that businesses are also rebounding and candidates are making employment decision not necessarily based on the salaries in the offer letter but on where they see the company 3, 5, and 10 years down the road. It was once hard to find individuals in Fort Wayne, but now it is easier. Businesses need to sell their company’s value over their salary. Is the company growing? Is there an opportunity to share in the rewards for exceptional performance? Is the cultural environment a good match?



Andi Udris, Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance

When Andi Udris visited technology companies in this area, he called it interviewing geeks; he found, oddly but probably not surprising, that marriage to a spouse with roots in the area brought a significant number of technologists to this area. He continues, business leaders may have some trouble finding them, but once in the area it seems easy to keep them. His inquiries found that a technical support community or a community of collaboration and an urban life style were missing.


Where Is Tech Happening

I learned our tech community was larger than I thought. I also learned it is quite broad. There are several communities of collaboration known to small pockets of technologists. At the risk of leaving some groups off below is a short list of networking and professional development opportunities.  Maybe your staff can benefit from one of these user groups.  Send us a note if you would like your technology user group included in this listing.

Organization / Area of Knowledge
Meeting date
Website for more information

Fort Wayne CIO Forum / CIO Leadership 
See website for schedule of events
Roving (set my the members)
7:30 AM 

Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) / Information Security 
3rd Thursday 
Ivy Tech 
6:30 PM 

.Net Users of Fort Wayne / .Net Development User Group 
2nd Tuesday 
Northeast Indiana Innovation Center 
6:30 PM 

Networking and Information Technology Association (NITA) / Telecom and related fields 
1st Thursday Sept - May 
Indiana Tech Andorfer Commons 
11:30 AM 

Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) / Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Business Intelligence 
4th Tuesday  
Northeast Indiana Innovation Center 
6:30 PM 

Project Management Institute - Northeast Indiana Chapter / Project management 
4th Wednesday 
Sept - May 
Don Hall's Guesthouse 
6:00 PM 


Finding Our Way Forward

What’s holding us back? Our tech community needs more collaboration and less internal competition. We need to look for opportunities to strengthen the offerings by collaborating and partnering with complementary organizations. We need to combine resources to scale up to meet the demands of the business community. Listening to our business community you hear it is not a zero sum game. Even though the economy has not healed there is work available for the well rounded technologist.

The tech community needs to leverage the many opportunities for professional development. In a tight economy with both the travel and training budgets cut we should not let these local opportunities go underutilized. Technicians need both technical prowess and soft skills.

Leaders need to lead. We need strong leadership, with vision, that sees the possibilities when we are working together on common goals and can articulate and gather support for that vision. Government can’t do it alone, and neither can the private sector. More than ever we need public private partnerships. Though the ideology of our various political parties seems far apart we need to start finding the areas where we agree upon and get things moving.

Business leaders and technicians alike must look for entrepreneurial opportunities. That means the tech community must produce and the business community must invest. Invest in the talent available. Take a measured amount of risk for the potential of a huge reward of a stronger local economy, increased innovation, and national recognition. Northeast Indiana has the talent and an environment to ensure continual development of the tech professional. We just need to open our eyes to the possibilities.

Call to Action

For Northeast Indiana to keep moving forward I encouraged increased collaboration and more promotion of the already existing, and development of new, communities of collaboration. There are talented individuals in the area. As IT leaders let’s actively mentor those individuals that require a little polish. Do you share the vision of Fort Wayne, Indiana as tech capital of the Midwest? Send me a note if you are part of a community not listed. The schedule will be posted at our website as well as others.

I see opportunities all around.  In the chaos of this economic downturn there are the building blocks of exponential growth.  Ultimately, I do see Fort Wayne recognized as the “Tech Capital of the Midwest”.  With your help this vision can be accomplished within the next few years. Grab hold of the vision.  Let's work together to create something special in Northeast Indiana.




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