Kevin Brinegar and I spent most of June traveling and meeting with economic development and community leaders in seven Indiana regions. Our discussions centered on the new Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card and how the particular region compares to the state as a whole on various public policy metrics.

It can be difficult to convert lessons into economic development action, especially when the public is focused on numerous other priorities. While the state is doing well on most financial fronts, it lacks an adequate supply of skilled workers, affordable housing, and our rates of new businesses and jobs created by start-up firms rank 47th and 49th in the country, respectively.

Local leaders, working together as a region, are in the best position to improve their economic trajectory and, consequently, Indiana as a whole. That is why I was excited to read that Founders SparkStart Fort Wayne and the Venture Club of Indiana partnered to host the inaugural start-up event, BLAZE: NEI Regional Pitch Competition, which featured 10 promising companies. It took place on Jul. 9.

The founders pitched to a panel of investment judges and the community. The winner, CoolCorp Inc., offers unique cryotherapy products that speed up recovery to athletic injury trauma and post-operative surgery patients.

In addition to winning $3,000, CoolCorp also earned an automatic bid to compete at the 2019 Innovation Showcase on August 22 in Indianapolis.

Entrepreneurs needs a lot of help; trust me, I know better than most! BLAZE was a great example of regional leaders coming together to support northeastern Indiana’s start-up community. Whether it is entrepreneurship, education attainment, poverty, crime, or any other local challenge, regional leadership will play a critical role in shaping Indiana’s future.

Adam H. Berry is vice president of economic development and technology at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. He joined the organization in 2019.