If northeast Indiana were a person, what kind of person would he or she be?
That, essentially, is the question area residents are being asked in the first series of “Our Story” workshops being conducted by consultants for the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. And if the three-hour workshop held in Auburn Sept. 15 is anything like the others underway around the 10-county region, coming up with an answer won’t be easy.
About two dozen people participated in the Auburn workshop. Many of them were there because they are involved in community organizations and boards. They want to make sure their stories end up being part of the “Our Story” brand the consultants are developing.
Visit Fort Wayne went one step further, emailing an appeal to supporters to take part in the workshops. “We want Fort Wayne’s hospitality industry to be part of Northeast Indiana’s story - but we must give our input to be a part,” the email said.
Ken McCrory, executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Partnership, noted at the beginning of the Auburn workshop that he had already participated in a five-hour beta test of the branding workshop in Fort Wayne.
“I went in there with an attitude and I came out of there very enlightened,” he told the workshop participants.
During the recent workshop in Auburn, consultants Scott Ochander and Tyler Borders divided participants into three-person groups, and led them through a series of exercises in which they described northeast Indiana’s personality. Some of the exercises were fairly open-ended, allowing people to choose from a list of suggested personality traits or write in traits of their own. Others required people to choose from specific character archetypes and roles.
After making individual selections, participants came up with a consensus of traits with their team members that they presented and defended to the rest of the room.
One of the traits almost all agreed on was “traditional.” There was disagreement on the term “friendly,” however. Several people said they thought residents were friendly to visitors or customers or people they met casually. While others said it was hard, as a non-native of the community, to really feel accepted.
The consultants also asked participants to pick traits they felt were most unlike the region’s personality. There was more consensus on this topic, with words like “risk-taker,” “rebellious” and especially, “liberal,” drawing big laughs of agreement.
The next series of workshops will focus on something the consultants are calling “messaging.” Ten of those also will be held around the area. Consultants will compile all the results to create a master story describing the area that can be used by economic develop organizations and others as a marketing tool.
To learn more about the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s “Our Story” branding workshops or to reserve a spot at one of the remaining sessions, visit www.neindiana.com/rsvp.
The workshop schedule is as follows:
• 7:00-10:30 a.m. Monday, Sept. 29, at Ramada Inn, 3855 Indiana 127, Angola
• 2:00-5:00 p.m. Monday, Sept. 29, at Waterloo Train Depot, 215 W. Van Vleek St., Waterloo
• 7:00-10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 30, at Noble County Public Library, 813 E. Main St., Albion
• 2:00-5:00 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 30, at Shipshewana Event Center, 760 S. Van Buren St., Shipshewana
• 7:00-10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, at Parkview Whitley Hospital, 1260 E. State Road 205, Columbia City
• 12:00-3:00 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, at Manchester University, JYSC Hoff Room - 2nd Floor, North Manchester
• 5:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, at Huntington University, 2303 College Ave., Huntington
• 7:00-10:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 2, at Clock Tower Inn, 1335 US 27 N, Berne
• 12:00-3:00 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2, at Wells County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development, 211 W. Water St., Bluffton
• 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2, at Pizza Hut Corporate Office, 7100 W. Jefferson Blvd., Fort Wayne
• 7:00-10:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 3, at Huntington University, 2303 College Ave., Huntington