“My job is to get you there,” Mark Fisher, President of Dwyer Instruments, told the group gathered in Blue Chip’s Orleans Ballroom Thursday night at the Dinner Reception for the SiteLink Forum, hosted by the Economic Development Corporation Michigan City.
Fisher was the night’s keynote speaker, and his presentation was about more than just innovation. It was also about attracting – and retaining – top talent. Dwyer’s retention plan was the topic of Fisher’s TEDx talk, held at Valparaiso University, Fisher’s alma mater.
But Fisher’s message of “getting there” holds a larger promise to the attendees of the SiteLink Forum, which kicked off on Wednesday and runs through Sunday.
“The majority of our audience are economic professionals doing the same things Clarence [Hulse] and I do here,” said Katie Eaton, Economic Development Manager, Economic Development Corporation Michigan City, “But we also have seven Site Selectors who work as consultants for businesses looking to grow and expand anywhere and everywhere.”
The SiteLink forum, therefore, connects regional development professionals with the folks who can help them learn what businesses are looking for when they’re looking to move or expand.
“As soon as I hear of a Site Link event, I sign up to go. It’s a really great way to meet with the folks that have the businesses,” said Jack Johns, Project Coordinator at Macomb County Planning & Economic Development, “After a while they know who you are. Hopefully they call you and say ‘we have a project’ and then we can get our people to work.”
One of the benefits of the SiteLink Forum is that attendees like Johns don’t have to compete with so many people for the time of very few Site Selectors. Most other such forums host upwards of three hundred economic developers and usually no more than eight Site Selectors.
“I’ll never go over 75 attendees because I want the communities to have access to the Site Selectors,” said Paige Webster, President of Webster Global Site Selectors, who coordinated the event with Clarence Hulse, Economic Development Corporation Michigan City Executive Director.
Indeed, the room was abuzz with attendees networking with Site Selectors until dinner was served. While attendees ate, Fisher spoke about the reasons Dwyer Instruments chose Michigan City back in the 60s, and why they’ve stayed here ever since.
Fisher spoke of the region’s strong workforce and partnerships with the local universities. He also talked about what it takes to keep the right talent and help them grow. He mentioned the surprising value of a handwritten note that recognizes a person for specific accomplishments.
“People want to be seen and they want to be heard,” Fisher said of the easy-but-meaningful ways he creates a culture of success and innovation at Dwyer. “When somebody sees that you’re paying attention – maybe there was an idea they had that you implemented – it means that the work that they’re doing matters. It means that they matter.”
These insights are intended to help the economic managers help their local businesses achieve the success that Dwyer has enjoyed since 1931.
“Maybe they’ll see what we’re doing and take that back and explain to new businesses what works for us and maybe it’ll work for them,” Fisher said, adding “If it means businesses can be attracted to Michigan City by seeing the type of talent and facilities we have in Northwest Indiana, I think that’s great.”
“What Dwyer is doing is fantastic,” Hulse said, “They’ve got cutting-edge technology and practices and they’re right in our backyard.”
“They choose to stay here, invest here and grow here. We want other employers who might be thinking about Michigan City to hear that story,” Eaton said of the credibility Fisher brought as the keynote speaker.
“In this business, it’s all about relationships, so we want smaller, rural communities to be able to talk to the Site Selectors,” Webster said, noting the mass exodus of corporations leaving California, for example, “We try to give them an overview of what’s happening in the economy, what industry sectors are moving forward, and what the activities are.”
“We want them to know that Michigan City and Northwest Indiana are open for business,” said Hulse. “We’ve got a great workforce, great assets, a great downtown and great beaches, great universities and school systems, and great training opportunities.”
Over the weekend, Site Selectors and regional developers alike will explore more of Northwest Indiana, learning about all the things that make the Region a great place to bring a business.