This marked the 12th year for the Made in LaPorte County expo as students in grades 6-12 lined up to learn about future job opportunities that are available right in their backyard. Approximately 43 local firms set up booths for around 3000 students and community members in attendance throughout the day. Hats, candy, t-shirts, and lanyards were just a few of the gifts handed out by businesses to get folks over to their booth.
La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership (LEAP) alongside the Economic Development Corporation Michigan City (EDCMC), and the Unity Foundation of La Porte County created Made in LaPorte County to bring together the business community and school corporations in order for them to think about the future and take pride in their community. For LEAP Executive Director Bert Cook, this is his favorite event to see the community interact with the manufacturing industry and get excited about the future.
“The kids that come in will have a chance to be exposed to what manufacturing means and understand that it’s not what it was in the 70s and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a dirty job,” Cook said. “The hope is that we’re developing an interest and this will guide their experiences through the rest of school so they pick up some of those experiences they need and be able to come back here and fill great jobs for great money.”
City of La Porte Mayor Mark Krentz knows the importance of giving middle and high school students the opportunity to see what the job market offers right at home.
“This gives students and the community an opportunity to see what’s going on right in their own backyard because many folks don’t know what’s going on here, and under one roof we can accomplish a lot of connectivity for the students,” Krentz said. “We keep exposing the students to this kind of thing in hopes that there’ll be that light bulb that goes off,like, ‘Hey, this is pretty cool and I think I would like doing that.’”
The state of Indiana is undergoing a big push in career initiatives, and part of the high school graduation pathways is to have some employability experience. Director of career readiness at La Porte Community Schools Jen Hunt supports Made in La Porte County as the perfect opportunity for students to make connections.
“We’re using school right now as a training ground for interviewing and really developing those skills into adulthood,” Hunt said. “We need to collaborate as much as we can with our community and businesses here in town. We’re really happy with our partnership and that they support our school so much.”
The goal that LEAP, EDCMC, the Unity Foundation of La Porte County and other sponsors have in mind is that with this fresh awareness of local opportunities, they will not feel forced to move elsewhere and can fill good paying jobs right here.
“This is a great event for young adults that will be looking for jobs down the road, and if we start educating them early on what’s available in our community, we hope they continue to see all the amazing opportunities waiting here,” said Tom Dermody, founder of WeConnect. “LEAP has done an amazing job promoting the event and connecting with businesses, schools, and our future workforce.”
Warehouse manager and owner of CompressAir, Maverick Crowl, loves meeting people face to face so that he can share how amazing his company is andreflect on how they can make a great living with great benefits.
“We’re here today to meet with a lot of people we deal with in the industry,” Crowl said. “We need young, able-minded students and people to come in and fill these positions, so this is a great way for us to meet people in the area that are looking for careers.”
Frank Cardello, vice president of operations at Packaging Logic, Inc., is one of the biggest supporters of making sure that everyone in LaPorte County knows what all of the manufacturers do. Packaging Logic, Inc. has been in business for 25 years and has been a vendor at the expo since the beginning.
“I’ve been around the United States and there’s not a better place to have your family and grow than in LaPorte,” Cardello said.