Bethany Hartley has over a decade of experience in non-profit leadership and has been focused on economic development and entrepreneurship for her entire career. As President and CEO of the South Bend Elkhart Regional Partnership, she is catalyzing regional innovation throughout northern Indiana.

Bethany is also an entrepreneur herself. She operated her own marketing agency for over a decade and has a passion for helping other entrepreneurs and startups succeed.

Make sure to check out these clips in the episode:

  • [4:17] Tips for starting a side hustle in a recession
  • [10:56] Teaching entrepreneurship to high school students
  • [20:11] What Indiana county housed the most millionaires per capita?
  • [28:07] Connecting top-tier students with top-tier Hoosier companies
  • [37:06] 1 year of wins in the South Bend-Elkhart Region

In today’s episode you are going to hear about:

  • Learning how to learn
  • How the South Bend-Elkhart Regional partnership is connecting students in the region to local companies
  • How grit, resilience, and hard work make northern Indiana an epicenter for entrepreneurship and advanced manufacturing
  • Listen to the end because Bethany talks about a hidden gem in Northern Indiana that might need to be your next date night

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Episode Transcript

Matt: I’m Matt Hunker, CEO and co-founder of Powderkeg and on the show today we have the President and CEO of the South Bend Elkhart Regional Partnership Bethany Hartley.

Bethany: the personality of Elkhart County in particular, because it used to be the entrepreneurship capital of the world. It used to have the most millionaires per capita in that county. Which a lot of people are like what? 

Matt: Bethany Hartley has over a decade of experience in nonprofit leadership and has been focused on economic development and entrepreneurship . For her entire career as president and CEO of South Bend Elkhart Regional Partnership. She’s catalyzing regional innovation throughout northern Indiana.

Bethany is also an entrepreneur herself. She operated her own marketing agency for over a decade and has a passion for helping other entrepreneurs and startups succeed. That’s all coming up on this episode of Get IN.

Bethany, thanks so much for being here on the show today. 

Bethany: Thanks for having me. 

Yeah, we’re really excited to learn a about south Bend Elkhart region here about all the amazing things going on in startups, tech innovation. But before we do, I thought it might be helpful just to go back and learn a little bit about your background and Sure.

Matt: Where did you grow up? 

Bethany: Yeah, so I was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And then a job my father was working for Ameritech, which existed at that time. And that drew us down to South Bend area. And so, Most of my childhood was spent in Edward Michigan, which is technically a village, so most folks don’t know where that is.

But did K-12 there, small school system. Graduated with 120 people. And when it came time to look at colleges I really had no clue. I’m the first in my family and only to have a four year degree. 

Matt: Wow. Congratulations. 

Bethany: Thank you. 

Matt: That’s huge. My, my mom was that on her side of the family? Yeah, my mom too.

Really? Yeah. That’s crazy. That’s the first one. Yeah. 

Bethany: Yeah. That’s amazing. Yeah, so when it came to picking colleges, most of my friends were like U of M or MSU grew up next to Notre Dame, so those were, or Western Michigan. Those were like the choices. And I applied to a couple schools. I made poor decision like. Opted out of University of Michigan because I didn’t like their colors at the time. Rebel. That was like my profound 

Nate: decision making. What? Mazen Blue. 

Bethany: That’s not for you. It wasn’t. Now I’m pro mazen blue, but also gold and blue, so you know. There you go. Mm-hmm. But yeah, I ended up at Loyola University of Chicago, studied marketing. And minored in French, which has been less than helpful to say the least.

Matt: Oh, you lost me. I know. Crepes and I know 

Bethany: we, and then I took a year of Italian too, because originally I thought I was gonna do international business and French as a double major with a minor in Italian. So Cool. Yeah, doing a year of Italian tells me I’m not gonna do that. Not so, not so much. But it’ll, it comes in handy with travel, so.

I went to Chicago, very different experience than Edward Burg Edwards is primarily a homogenous community, majority white Caucasian community, and now they’re seeing more racial diversity, but at the time just really wasn’t there. And so going to Chicago was incredibly overwhelming, exhausting. I wasn’t a very good college student. Full disclosure, I just was. I didn’t, because in high school I didn’t really have to study, didn’t have to make friends. It was all proximity based. Right. You’re friends with your neighbors. Yeah. And school wasn’t that challenging for me, so going to Loyola was like, Oh my gosh. Okay. Wow. So overall, learned a lot.

Came home, I graduated in 08, so the peak of the recession. Oh, wow. And for those that aren’t aware, Elkhart it was the hardest hit by the recession. Yep. That was brutal. Brutal. We had a, a couple presidents come through and tell us how brutal it was. Yeah, that’s right. So I remember that I moved home, lived with my parents for a while, took a break.


Toph: by the way, you met Presidents of the United States? Yes, correct. That’s actually 

Toph: just for the listeners out there. Yeah, yeah. Just to clarify 

Bethany: that one. Yeah. Yes. Yeah, so came home I thought student loans weren’t real. I was like, oh, it’ll be fine. Like if I don’t take care of that, it’ll just go away, sort of thing.

And then life hit me in the face and it was like, no, you actually need a job. So I did some freelancing coached tennis for high. School worked at a retail boutique and then just started a side hustle where I did marketing consulting for small businesses. And that really put food on my plate.

And I kept doing that for 12 years. Wow. And had about a dozen or so clients at a time. I built their websites, did their social media, did their email marketing. All of it was new at that time, so I just happened to. Googling faster than the business owners. 

Toph: so basically, I mean, so you go from Michigan to Loyola to a major recession, so I’m just gonna become an entrepreneur.

Mm-hmm. That’s basically what you did. Yes. And, and for 12 years you start doing this marketing consulting. That’s amazing. Yep, yep. Yeah. Making lemonade. Right, right. Taking lemons and making lemonade. Yeah. 

Matt: I What made you choose marketing? 

Bethany: So I love creative work and I love coming up with ideas. All my personality assessments tell you I can come up with an idea like that.


Bethany: Closing it out was more challenging at the time I’ve learned. Sure. But yeah, so just the creativity and I love learning. So most of what I learned to do for clients was on YouTube, like how to build in constant contact at that time, you know? Use Facebook because nobody knew what Facebook was. So all of that was really interesting to me.

Yeah. And then building websites again, Google and YouTubed it. Yeah. Like how do I do that using Adobe Suite? How do I do that? Figure it out as you go. Exactly. I had a degree in marketing, but we didn’t actually apply any of that Right. In school. Yeah. Which again, I’m grateful for a lot of things that I got outta Loyola, but that application really came post-school.

So yeah. So. The most common thing for a lot of entrepreneurs, I needed health insurance. Didn’t have it when I was freelancing for a little while, and then I, so I started applying to jobs back in Chicago and landed at an organization called the Women’s Business Development Center. [00:06:00] Which is the oldest and largest women’s business center, and they have a staff, about 40 folks.

It was founded in 86. So under that roof they had an sbdc, a ptac, small Business Development Center, procurement Technical Assistant Center. Thanks for breaking that down. Yep. Women’s Business Center and a veteran business owners center. Wow. And they helped with government contracting like it was everyth.

That business owners needed with a primary focus on minority and female business owners. And so it was in the harder Chicago worked there for five years left as the director of marketing. It was such a great opportunity because nonprofit life, you do everything. Yep. Just like entrepreneurship life.

Yeah. Right. You’re everything all the time. Yep. So it was an awesome experience. And then from there my then partner and I just looked at quality of life and everybody’s like, oh, it’s so cool to live in Chicago. It is when you actually get to live. Mm. All we were doing was working. Yeah. He was commuting an hour each way.

I was com I didn’t mind my commute cuz I either biked or took a bus and that was great. Along Lake Shore Drive. Hmm. [00:07:00] But we didn’t really go to dinner. We didn’t see our dogs. I had to hire a dog walker that came every day like. So we had this talk about what, what do we want our lives to be? Are we ever gonna buy a home in Chicago?

Probably not. So then I started putting out feelers and I had a friend from high school whose father was on a Board of Boys and Girls Clubs in St. Joe County. And so they had a position open 

Matt: For those that don’t know St. Joe County. Yes. Can you describe 

Bethany: where that is? Yes. So it’s in Northern Indiana. It borders the Michigan border.

North Central is often what it can be referred to. As you walk acro. You can rock across the state line from St. Joe County. Yeah. It’s also the home of Notre Dame, so that’s a good focal point that folks really know, especially in the state. Sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Thank you. Yeah, no problem. No problem. It’s about 90 minutes from Chicago.

Well, 80 door to door for me. So isn’t, 

Toph: isn’t there also a beautiful, is it called St. Joe River or is it a lake? There’s, it’s a, there’s a river. Yes. And there’s an island. There’s some homes on an island. Like it’s get a, I think it’s around South Panama. 

Bethany: So there’s [00:08:00] Diamond Lake up in Michigan that has, that the river doesn’t have any islands.

Okay. With houses. For some reason to thought the river had an item. Animal houses. Hmm. I mean, Not that I, somewhere up 

Matt: there, see, maybe that’s wrong. Maybe that’s hidden Indiana. Yes. 

Toph: Hidden. Hidden gem. 

Matt: Yeah. The, the Deep, 

Bethany: deep Uhhuh St. Joe County, St. Joe Down Low River. Yes. 

Matt: Yes. So you started kind of researching it again online.

This is something I think is really interesting about you, that you, you feel empowered to go and learn how to do marketing, learn how to do social media. Yeah. Learn how to do tech. And I, I think that’s an important. Theme to call out because I think a lot of people get stuck at the, well, I don’t know how to do, right.

That thing. 

Bethany: Yep. Yeah, so I mean, one of my jobs post Boys and Girls Club was teaching entrepreneurship education for high school students. And what surprised me, because they all grew up Native Tech adopters, right? They all use it all the time. But they would often ask the most basic questions. Mm-hmm. Yep.

And so we had to teach how to Google. Mm. Because I’m like, [00:09:00] you can learn anything. Now it’s how do you chat G p T? Right, right. But like same concept. And so I never, I try not to ask any questions that I can find online the answers to, I still fail at it occasionally. 

Toph: Bethany, I literally was in a meeting today and I literally said, there’s a thing called Google and you www, I think it’s gonna be here to stay.

It’s called the worldwide web. It’s a like, go there and just devour. Right. Yeah, that’s so true. And I think a lot of people forget, they look at people like you and they’re like, oh my gosh, look how successful Bethany is. Right? Big CEO now doing all these things for this market, but it’s what you do behind the screen, right?

That’s so important. 

Bethany: Yeah. Yeah. I mean that. Preliminary research has been a part of everything I’ve done. I’m doing it right now for our organization. Mm-hmm. You know, who, who do we wanna become? What do we want to be, what are our peers doing? What does that all look like? So that’s just market research 1 0 1.

Yep. Then I’m going, I’ve already set up my interviews, right? Like, I’m gonna interview other CEOs from other organizations that are similar to ours [00:10:00] and understand what works well, what doesn’t. So yeah. So I, jumping back into career pathway. Moved to South Bend back moved back in 15. I had left the area in 11 and in 11, candidly, the region, there was nothing open after 7:00 PM on a weekend.

And so I was like, well, there’s really not much for me to do here as a 20 something person with no children, no attachments really. So that, and the economy was really poor, so I had to find opportunity with healthcare. So that’s what I did and, and. Life changes, right? And so came back to the South Bend Elkhart region.

My now husband and I live near the airport in South Bend and started doing Boys and Girls Club, realized civic service, civil service, really important. It wasn’t what compelled me every day to wake up and say like, I’m hungry to do this. And I’m hungry to raise money for it to market it. And so then got back into more entrepreneurship led economic development.

Mm-hmm. And teaching was awesome. I taught high school students for two years. We got to go into all [00:11:00] these companies, give them tours, give them exposure. The program’s called Startup Moxie, which. They have two branches up in Elkhart County and then St. Joe County. And then the RISE model is being applied across the state.

It’s what is, what is the RISE model? So it is immersive learning for high school students. Well, K-12, I think they’re expanding beyond high school, essentially, it’s. Kind of like my experience with marketing. Mm-hmm. You could learn the theory of entrepreneurship, you can learn what it, what the theory of business ownership is, but once you’ve truly adopted it and like seen it firsthand, you, these students get to hear from CEOs of massive companies, really small companies, and then they get to.

Gain exposure to that. So cool. Yes, and they build their own businesses. They build a business together. They can generate real revenue. Some of these companies have spun off and like ended up selling, like there’s one that exited in the college program. Wow. Yeah. He, and they actually didn’t acquisition when he was still in college.

They acquired a smaller business and then ended up selling that business to a bigger business. 

Matt: That’s so 

Toph: cool. Yeah. [00:12:00] Can we, can we dive into this a little deeper? Yeah. Please. I’m gonna back up just a second too. Okay. So there’s a program so that you go into K to 12 schools, or even start at high school to teach entrepreneurship.

Who funded it? What was the first school you approached? Who’d you approach in the school? How do people even know that this exists? One ex one, maybe one success story. Sorry. Like, like, so really like, dive into that deep. Yeah. 

Bethany: Yeah. So I joined the program in year two. It was originally founded by Iris Hamel, who I ran into.

Yep. And Larry Garone. So they founded this model and. What they did was they went to the schools. They started in St. Joe County, and so all the schools in St. Joe County send their students to this program. It is not on one specific school’s campus. So then they have a partnership with Ivy Tech, so students can receive 18 college credits by going through this year-long program.

Toph: And so it’s a, is this an, it’s an elective that the student opts in to go through this program? That’s right. Yep. As a part of their selection of courses. Yep. [00:13:00] 

Bethany: And it’s every day, seven 30 to 9:00 AM So they’ve gotta. And be there. And there are some core tenants like you have to dress appropriately for going into businesses and running your own business.

You have to be on time. We, I think we were a little, I think they’re more compassionate now because we were kind of like, if you aren’t on time or which is early, You can’t get in and you just go to your class, your next class at your school, because this is a privilege for them to be a part of, and it’s an application process.

There’s a limit to the number of students that can go. There’s no cost to students to be a part of this. And they, yeah, they tour 30 to 40. Sites, different companies across the region and also hear from about 30 to 40 speakers from the region as well. So it’s pretty incredible. And then I sit on the board of the startup Moxie Elkhart County version of it.

So there’s Saint Joe County that has about 40. Elkhart County has about 20 students in it. And again, they go all over the county, get to see, like, especially for us, a big thrust. We are an a, a manufacturing [00:14:00] region. Significant manufacturing region. Yeah. RV capital, the world’s up there. It sure is. And our neighbor is the, what is it, the healthcare or health tech?

Orthopedic. Orthopedic. There it is. Orthopedic Capital world. Yes. Yeah. That’s our, those are our friends in Kaco. You know, they 

Toph: contribute 50% of the US GDP for orthopedics. So that’s a 50 billion market. And, and so that, That area contributes 50% of that, roughly 25 billion to that one industry. Wow. Yeah.

Right here in Indiana. It’s pretty 

Bethany: incredible. It’s insane. Yeah. Yeah. Well, and manufacturing for our region is about, I think it’s 18 billion in G R P. Yeah. Gosh. Yeah. So it’s pretty significant. So the thing we’re looking at too, with students in my work I’m doing today is. They think manufacturing is boring, dirty, archaic, and it’s like, it sure isn’t.


Toph: Bright and shiny, funny, sexy. It’s 

Bethany: awesome. Right? Yeah. And there’s so much tech that goes into it. Yep. There’s so much innovation. I mean, it’s exceptional. So it’s awesome that students get that exposure. Yeah. Through this program, so they can see firsthand, oh, this is not. What I thought it [00:15:00] was. And that’s a big part of our retention strategy too, right?

That exposure. Yeah. Are you 

Nate: working with other like higher ed institutions up there to get them plugged in? I just remember coming through college, it was like, there were a few companies up there that did like the internship programs or that did the like post-graduate programs. And it’s like you’re going into the manufacturing industry and it’s.

It may from surface level, not have the sex appeal of like tech right. Or something like that. Are you working with 

any higher education? 

Bethany: Yeah, so our organization has a higher ed advisory council. So in the region, when you count our Michigan County, so we have, let me say this, in Indiana, our counties are Elkhart, St.

Joe and Marshall. And then in Michigan we have and cast so five counties about 729,000 residents on those five counties. We have in total 12 higher education across those five counties, nine of which are in the three in Indiana. So nine higher ed institutes in our region, which equates to about 35,000 students a year in our region.

We have been very intentional. We have a partnership with Notre [00:16:00] Dame that’s called the LIFT Initiative, which Which is specifically focused on advancing our industries, in particular manufacturing. And it is helping equip manufacturers with interns in these. Essentially industry forward auto positions, so interns can get exposure to what is manufacturing and also how do you adopt new technologies in manufacturing.

And so with that, that was a 42 million grant we received from the Lilly Endowment to do this with Notre Dame. Wow. And they stood up. There’s, we now have innovation facilities across the region. Some are on campus at Notre Dame, some are at other campuses like Ivy Tech, some are with our libraries. And.

We’ve placed, I think, 70 interns in the last two years in this program. So we provide a stipend. Wow. So we match employers. So our average salary for those, I believe is $19 an hour for interns. Sure. Yeah. And a housing stipend. That’s incredible. Where do we apply? Yeah, you go on our website South and elk

Yeah, we’re, we’ll link it up in [00:17:00] the show notes. Yes. Yeah. So that model, we actually have the opportunity to expand beyond manufacturing industry through the Ready Program, which is through the state of Indiana. So we’re expanding our model of matchmaking because that’s essentially what we are as a matchmaker of.

Here’s the employer, here’s the intern, and working with our network system to do that. And so we’re excited to expand that into business service. Tech, it, social services, education. We have a huge, again, we have a, because education, we have nine institutes. Mm-hmm. We have a lot of education employees and so how do we advance that as well?

So we’re really excited about that. 

Nate: What are the organizations where you’re, you’re placing interns at? Like, what are a couple of those? 

Bethany: So we’ve had interns at like Robert Weed, which is a manufacturer up in the region. What are they? So I just looked this up the other day. So they are a plywood company.

Okay. Which is fascinating. I just, we had a round table the other day and they were explaining what they do and like re Riley is up in our region that’s construction. Yep. So kind of hand in hand Lipper we’ve had we’re working on apprenticeship [00:18:00] model with them too. Some of our what are they called?

BMI Audit Services, which is one of the Grand Allen partner. Portfolio companies. I think SEMA Health, I think we’ve had some interns there. So it really, usually there’s about 30 employers a year. And something we’re being really intentional about is company culture, where we place interns because.

There’s some generational differences amongst, you know, a lot of our Elkhart County companies that we work with are generational family owned companies. Sure. And so we’re trying to instill certain values of like, here’s the next generation of employee, what does that look like? And how do you adapt? And a lot of them are being, are responding with the greatest outcomes.

Like just really being thoughtful about what is, what does our company culture look like? Because when you’re manufacturing, at least right now, you’re not work from. Yeah. Right. Like that just doesn’t happen. And so then you have to look at, okay, if our frontline isn’t at home, then how can our administrative be at home?

Right. Like, is that fair? So that came up a lot during Covid in our region quite a bit. Yeah, I bet. 

Nate: One [00:19:00] of my really good friends works for Welch Packaging. Oh yeah. And so when we gr when he graduated, well y all graduated from DePauw. Yep. And we were all going to take our first jobs. He spent the first nine.

months Of his, you know, professional career working as a, on the production line at Welch? Yep. Wow. And like building or like helping manufacture a cardboard boxes. Cause like one day, if you wanna like be a plant. You know, manager. Mm-hmm. You wanna work your way up in it. It’s like you’re not gonna get the respect from a frontline worker.

That’s right. If You’ve never 

done it. 

Bethany: Right. A hundred percent. And even the families, they do that. Like Brock Welch is on a board with me and he works in the company, obviously, and he, same thing. He had to do all the different positions to fully understand what’s happening and be a good manager and leader in their company.

That reminds me of 

Matt: one of Indiana’s biggest tech successes. I, I know I remember this distinctly at Angie’s List, at least for the first decade, or. Doesn’t matter if you’re a cxo. Mm-hmm. Or if you’re the founder, you, you’re starting your first couple weeks in the [00:20:00] customer support center. Yep. Taking calls with customers.

Yeah. And just getting to know, talking to Angie’s List members. I love that kind of mentality and philosophy when you think about It’s Absolutely. It’s awesome. Just into an organization. Yeah. 

Bethany: We were just having a conversation the other day at the Ivy Tech Elkhart. Campus and they have this beautiful I flex lab up there and it’s awesome.

It’s, you know, industry 4.0 and the conversation came up about the personality of Elkhart County in particular because it used to be the entrepreneurship capital of the world. It used to have the most Yeah. Millionaires per capita in that county. Which a lot of people are like, what? Because we don’t have any Fortune 500 s anchored in our region.

That’s just not a thing for us. Mm-hmm. We do have publicly traded companies, we do have innovative companies and we. So much, so much stuff. Like we are makers of things and you couple that with the power of Notre Dame, it’s pretty profound what our region is capable of and what we’re where we’re headed as a region.

But it was interesting because with entrepreneurship, right, you have to have so much grit to do it. And that’s [00:21:00] what these CEOs were all saying, the CEO of Ruth Riley, the Robert Weed President, it’s like, yeah, we stick it out. Right? We’re not, we’ve been through oh eight, you know, we’ve been through these things and we don’t have a short vision.

Right. We’re looking at a long-term strategy for the region, which is pretty awesome that that’s a 

Toph: hundred percent right. I mean, these words sometimes get overused, but that like perseverance. Mm-hmm. One foot in front of the other. Mm-hmm. And it’s so true, right? Yep. Taking a long-term view and the companies that do that end up being massive successful companies.

I have to also add one thing, so. You just said the Elkhart County was used to be known as that entrepreneurship capital world had more millionaires per capita than any other county. When, when was that? 

Bethany: Oh, it’s roughly, you’re gonna have to fast check me. I think it’s been at least a decade, maybe two. So it’s not that pa far, not that far 

Toph: along, no, no, not that far long ago.

Yep. That’s awesome. I have to do one more tie-in too. So you mentioned the company earlier that that manufacturers plywood, And I’ll bet you that they’re a major supplier to another city in Indiana that’s [00:22:00] known as the wood capital of the world because of furniture making. Mm-hmm. Which is Jasper. Yeah.

And, and so no doubt, probably that company is a major supplier to, to that market as well. Yeah. I 


Nate: thought you were gonna go with Batesville and the casket making 

Toph: company, 

Bethany: also a necessary industry. 

Matt: Yes. Yes. True. Absolutely yes. Find. Yeah. Quick break from our normal programming. I have Erica Schwer, COO from Elevate Ventures here in the studio today.

Erica, thanks for being here. Yeah, thanks for having me. And you’re gonna tell us a little bit about this Rally Innovation conference that’s coming up? Yep. 

Bethany: So it’s the largest cross-sector innovation conference in the world. We’re gonna feature six innovation studios, so think Hard Tech software, sports tech, ag, and food, healthcare and entrepreneurship.


Matt: be our catchall. I love that. So tell me what is, who’s it for? 

Bethany: Yeah, it’s for innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, honestly, anybody probably listening to this 

Matt: podcast. And it’s gonna be a multi-day thing that’s happening multi-day in downtown Indianapolis. Yep. People coming in from all over the country and maybe even all over the world to be here.

That’s our hope. Yep. 

Bethany: And the dates are actually August 29th to the 

Matt: [00:23:00] 31st. Perfect. And if people want to find out more information about speakers, tickets, things like that, where can they go? Yeah, so they just 

Bethany: go to rally and sign up for communi. And they can also get their tickets. 

Matt: I love it.

You heard it here. Rally We’ll see you 

Bethany: there. Yeah. No, it’s, oh, sorry, go ahead. Oh, 

Nate: well, I was just gonna say, right, so you talk about the, the grittiness of Elkhart County, the resilience there, like as you’re, you know, working as in the South Bend Elkhart region, what are the problems that you guys are, are facing and working to fix and, and working to 

Bethany: solve?

Yeah. Well, I think they’re very similar to the entire state of Indiana. We do an exceptional job of educating young people and talent. Right. We again, 35 students. 35,000 students every year. Yeah. We’re also really good at letting them go. Yep. And so we have to get better at keeping them. And there again, this is not new to anyone.

Talent is our thrust right now. It is the front and center for us. Like yeah, how do we amenitize our region [00:24:00] to be appealing because people are picking place over position. More than ever. So that’s a huge challenge for us. We’re actually also very timely. We are looking at healthcare for entrepreneurs.

How do we make that happen? Because the cost, again, Indiana has some of the highest healthcare costs and for startups, freelancers, small businesses, that Bill is a hefty one to foot. And you can’t be competitive as an employer if you aren’t able to offer healthcare that. So those are, those are two big things.

Childcare is another one. Mm-hmm. And that is a real economic issue. We’re losing workforce because we don’t have good childcare or we don’t have enough good childcare. Mm-hmm. These, again, these are not unique things to our region. So we’re really looking at that as well. And how might we, Create better accessible childcare.

You know, we have some companies like Chemcrest is putting they have healthcare facilities on their campus. Cool. Mm-hmm. Right? So you can go get a checkup, get a prescription written. What if we Oh, that’s huge. Yeah. What if we did [00:25:00] that with childcare? What if you were able to have your child on campus?

Yeah. Wherever you are. 

Nate: Okay. So as a young professional who left Marshall County Yes. What in 2015? Yes. And unfortunately didn’t, does not have plans to return back in. We’ll see about that. Sell me on it. What, what are you guys doing that’s gonna attract this young talent and keep them there in that South Bend Elkhart region?

Bethany: Yeah, so I think a big one. of our Biggest things has been our partnership with the state of Indiana. So this isn’t how I would sell sell. I’m just giving you some of the background and then I’ll sell. But between Regional Cities Initiative and the Ready Program, essentially that’s been $92 million from the state that we have been able to leverage for about $830 million worth of investment.

Wow. And that investment has been in quality of place. So if you go to South Bend if you’d ever been before a couple years ago, Howard Park was. I think it was a tennis court slash basketball court and some green. Now it’s a ice skating rink. A ribbon. [00:26:00] They do concerts out on the green. They have a fe a, what is it called?

A public house so you can have dinner there. It’s awesome. And the development, the housing around there. There’s multi-unit tenant homes, there’s townhomes It’s, we’re updating all of that. We’re modernizing. There’s also, so I also left, but I did come back, but when I left there, There was nothing to do.

Now there is something to do. every night And so that to me is this indication of more to come. Mm-hmm. So I have to make decisions some nights, right? I have to decide, do I wanna go to Danny Maid for a dance party on Saturday night, or do I wanna go see the zoo lights and walk around outside and see the animals as they’re like in their national habitat.

So that’s pretty awesome. There’s also, obviously Notre Dame. The sporting, the acti, the concerts they’re bringing. They’ve had Garth Brooks, we had Billy Joel. You know, we’re still, I’m still pushing for Beyonce. I haven’t Oh, that’d be huge. Nobody’s listening though. The snow concert, 

Nate: Garth Brooks, right.

Survived That 

Bethany: like snowed everywhere. It was a 

Nate: Yes. I heard it was an [00:27:00] amazing 

Bethany: experience. It was. And then he came back and the sun was shining, which was. Almost, I would have to say better. Yeah. So there’s these sorts of things going on. There’s a strong young professionals network. There’s new things popping up with social networks and social clubs for young professionals.

We do hear, it’s hard to be single. In our region. So we’re trying to solve for that. I’m not gonna stand up a dating service, but it is something that we’re looking at and I’m encouraging some of my friends to think about how might you solve 

For that. 

Nate: Yeah. 

I have a few buddies that could use someone’s help there.

Bethany: They’re back home. So yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s challenging for sure. And then I always get encouraged when I meet people that aren’t from the. So that’s a good indicator to me. Yeah. That like you chose to come here. Yep. And we also, obviously, again with our, some of our employers, they are recruiting talent to the region and so we hear firsthand what are they looking at and like.

Access to good education and healthcare. Those two things always. I do 

Nate: wanna preface that when Bethany says the region, it’s with a lowercase t. Yes. We’re not talking about the region. The region in north west Indiana. We’re talking about [00:28:00] the region of South Bend, 

Bethany: Elkhart. Yes. That region. Thank you.


Matt: Yes. Good clarification. 

Toph: Yes. No, I know. I 

Matt: mean, those things say inflated in my brain all the time. The region. 

Toph: So speaking of people in talent so one. That, so you mentioned 35,000 mm-hmm. Students and, and one thing that it seems to me that would, this is free and we could start doing it literally this next fall, we have all these bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, really talented you know, students mm-hmm.

Coming to these campuses all over Indiana, every single year at incredible World Class University. Some of ’em with number one, top five rankings in, in various colleges. Mm-hmm. They get taught the school chair, they get st taught where the cafeteria is and how to get from one building to another building.

But we don’t engage the innovative ecosystem and the, the employers. Mm-hmm. The startups, the scale ups, the corporates we’re not engaging them right there on the spot when they’re all excited. Mm-hmm. Gosh, it seems like if we did that, just start with that one thing that’s quote unquote free. Yep.

Wouldn’t be, wouldn’t cost money [00:29:00] where we just bring that community in, dove tell ’em into the onboarding program at each school. Because the kids don’t 

Bethany: know. Yeah. So we actually piloted that last year. Love it with what? Tell me about that. A regional talent brand called We Plus U South Bend Elkhart region.

So we built. They’re called we Welcomers which are like our regional ambassadors. So what we did is we found out there’s about 20 volunteers that we trained and explained, like this is what we, how we talk about the region and, and what we get excited about South Bend Elkhart region. Mm-hmm. And they went on to college campuses during welcome weeks and engaged with students and we gave them we had like a Plinko board that they could play, a wheel that they could play, and they gave us their email addresses for that.

Right? Mm. So, Yes. And then we also gave them swag. The Optin. Yes, exactly. Exactly. Came with the Plinko. Right? Right. And we give them swag. Right. So they got a cup or or a T-shirt. Like college students love free stuff. Everything’s great. Uhhuh. Yep. Yes. So we did that. And then the intention of [00:30:00] that too. And some of them won gift cards to regional restaurants or boutiques or whatever that may be, to help them understand what’s off campus.

The version 2.0 of that is yes to doing that. And how do we also do that experience of engaging employers in that process? Yep. Mm-hmm. So with these email addresses that we’re collecting, with these experiences, we’re creating, sharing that with our employers to say like, this is your direct connection to talent and you have to sell yourself.

Now you have to be present and show up because the big companies are showing. You go to Notre Dame, you see like an Accenture, you see a Deloitte. Well, now you’re starting to see those plus First Source bank. Right? Right. And Gibson and us, the South Bend Elkhart Regional Partnership because we want folks to know that.

There are so many career opportunities in our region. It’s pretty incredible. And when you look at smaller or startups, the opportunities for your personal growth are far and above than if you’re one of 10,000 or one 

Toph: of 20,000. Absolutely. Does Nud Dame break it up where, so you have a, you have a job fair for [00:31:00] students mm-hmm.

Where all employers are welcome to come. Mm-hmm. Right. And that could be anybody, any of the work, anybody, anywhere in the world. Do they have another job fair that’s like before that, that is for local companies slash Indiana c. That there’s kind of a job fair before the job fair. That, that, cuz sometimes when you have Apple rolling in, and by the way, if you’re listening from Apple, love you.

Right. But like, they’re, they’re whipping out options. I’m, I’m kind of getting a little crazy, but it’s like here, a hundred options for everybody. Yeah. Kind of a concept. And if you’re a scale up or a startup, you know in their, which I want to come back to something on web three and blockchain in a minute.

But is there, was there a sep a separate job fair? 

Bethany: So it’s interesting you mentioned this. I feel like you know things. We are partnering with the I A D C, Indiana Economic Development Corporation on a talent connection fair. That is this, essentially, it’s first and foremost it’s gonna be a forum on how to connect with talent at higher education institutes.

And second is this matching process and it will be regional companies that will be invited to do that. That’s awesome. Yeah. That’s so great. So yes, yes. Is the short [00:32:00] answer. Cool. 

Toph: So another real quick thing on, on people and talent. So it seems like there’s a little bit of a bur, so you’ve touched on industry four Oh mm-hmm.

You know, hard tech, manufacturing, et cetera, and all the orthopedics. Mm-hmm. Right. Et cetera. Those are amazing industries. And then there’s all these things now, these new industries burgeoning such as blockchain or Web three. Mm-hmm. And it kind of feels like that maybe there’s a little bit of an ecosystem kind of develop.

Around companies that are trying to, to, to solve pain points with blockchain. Mm-hmm. Web three. Mm-hmm. Et cetera. They’re coming out Notre Dame. Any any high level thoughts or observations 

Bethany: on that? Yeah, I think one connected thought to that is we startup South Bend Elkhart, our branded initiative for entrepreneurship, we are honing in on.

What are we already really good at with startups and with these sort of things? And so we’re looking at how might we identify companies that are solving regional problems because our problems tend to be everyone’s problems eventually. Eventually, right? Like that’s right. I was just with the Fed [00:33:00] Reserve and they said outright like Elkhart County is the tip of the spear when it comes to the economy.

Right? What happens in Elkhart County is probably what’s gonna happen. Can you expand 

Toph: on that for just a couple minutes? Yeah, 

Bethany: sure. Yeah. So similar to that whole recession discussion, right? Like the. Folks in our region tend to represent like the, this is why we call South Bend Beta City as well, because our, your first customer in our region will probably be similar to your first customer outside the region.

Yeah. And so we’ve got this beta city, we’ve also got tip of the spear language that we’re the bellwether for the economy. And so for. We’ve been for the 

Toph: national and global economy. Yes. That Bethany’s talking about here for our listeners. 

Bethany: Yes. And we’ve been studied, we worked with the Brookings Institute and C I C P here in Indianapolis, and they looked at our economy.

I mean, we are susceptible to automation pretty heavily again in manufacturing. So how do we. Harness that knowledge and be better. Right. And apply that knowledge and say, okay, for net gain Exactly. Improvement. Exactly. Which again, I go [00:34:00] back to, we have Notre Dame met Tier one Research Institute that is helping us do that.

Like Notre Dame is a significant regional partner. That’s huge. They’re, and they are invested in the region because the way the region goes is the way Notre Dame goes. They too have to attract world-class talent mm-hmm. To their campus to teach et cetera, and do research. Coming back to your question there is a lot of looking at spinoff.

When it comes to startups, so we’re being pretty intentional about that too. The Idea Center Kelly Rich is overseeing that now, and Ryan Krieger is really focused on this, is looking at what are these problems that, again, regional companies are happening that we could innovate around to create a new company.

Hmm. Or what are patents that are sitting on the shelves? At Notre Dame. Yeah. And how can we commercialize faculty? Right. So all of those things are happening and yeah, we just wanna get better at telling people. Speaking 

Toph: of that, tech transfer and commercialization at universities, one thing it’s really excited, exciting to see is it seems like universities are waking up and realizing sometimes they spend more time [00:35:00] trying to hold onto what they’ll never get.

Mm-hmm. Versus let’s just dial it all back. Mm-hmm. And, and. Sometimes I say, just give it all away for free, and you can do that for one or two or three years, and if you don’t like it, change your policy. And I do that to kind of shock the mindset, right? But, but like, like if we’re gonna try to commercialize something, if you wanna track the best entrepreneurs, right?

Mm-hmm. To take that thing and run with it, then say, Hey, we’re gonna take 10% equity and it’s non-dilutive, 10% equity up to the first. Million raises or just something, pick some just basic thresholds. And then it can be diluted after that. Mm-hmm. Because presumably the company’s gonna be very successful and you wanna get diluted a little bit.

Mm-hmm. Cause it’s gonna be a great outcome. But like, just really simplifying the equity and the reporting requirements around tech transfer. Yeah. And the universities that are doing that are starting to see already just returns in spades in terms of activity. Yeah. Because that’s what it’s all about.

You gotta have a lot of shot on goal. Right. Shots on goal to make stuff happen. So I think I just. It’s exciting to see what the universities are doing. Yeah. How they’re thinking differently. Yeah. 

Bethany: Well, and I think for us, we’re looking at [00:36:00] too, so with the Lyft initiative that I mentioned earlier, this partnership with Notre Dame, there’s this, it’s called Industry Labs, which is essentially it’s supporting regional companies.

Mm-hmm. And so they go into a company and they do an assessment and say like, Here’s where you could improve efficiencies, or here’s where you may adopt some AI or automation, and we can help you do that. They don’t just give the assessment and walk away At the same time, they’re also understanding. I can’t share who it is yet cuz it’s very new.

But there’s one of these companies they’ve worked with, they’ve done multiple projects and now that CEO is coming back and saying, you know, we have a spinoff idea. Mm. And bringing that to the idea center. So that’s what like gremlins rights. Right. And that’s the thing is like, or water on it and let it rip.

Right. Entrepreneurs always have new ideas, right? Yeah. And so they just need help operationalizing, commercializing those ideas. That’s where Idea Center has been significantly helpful. And that’s what we’re really focused on too, are the operators of these companies. Yep. So. 

Nate: So as you look through, like, you’ve been the, the ceo, president, and CEO [00:37:00] for a almost a year now, right?

Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. So what are some of the big things you guys have accomplished in the South Bend Elkhart region over the last 12 months? 

Bethany: Yeah, well, I think a few of them are surviving a leadership transition for our organization. Are we what? What did you learn through that process? Oh, Goodness that I can run on four hours of sleep.

Are you writing a book? Yeah. Right. We’ve actually talked about that, honestly, not me, but our region having a book written anyway. Oh, that’d be great. Yeah. I mean, tell us more about that. Yeah, so it’s funny because it keeps coming up, not just because I say it to prompt it but where we started as a region, In 2015 to where we are today is profoundly different, and the way I know that anecdotally is that there are more people that are proud to be from our region.

Mm-hmm. As opposed to saying it with shame. Yeah. Because that, that is a thing I think about every day. 

Toph: Because, and they should be proud, right? Yeah. All the stuff you just listed off, right. It’s insane, 

Bethany: right? I think if you think about [00:38:00] things like Idea Week that’s happening with, in partnership with Notre Dame at the Stba campus.

Take Studabaker campus, that’s where our office is. That was a decrepit dead building for 60 years that is now a vibrant hub of tech companies. That’s huge. And it actually has a high Purdue Polytechnic High School is in there and, which is amazing. Yes. And Purdue Polytechnic is in there. When did that get opened up?

So the, 20 16, 17, of course, heaven, right 

Nate: after I left. Yeah. I was like, I remember it being like worked on and everything, but not like up and 

Bethany: operational. Yeah, it’s, it was a regional cities project. That’s not the only reason. It’s up and operational, but that was part of the, the catalyst for it. Yeah.

There’s also a profound visionary, Kevin Smith, who runs that and Union Station, which has a data center inside of it. And so we think about those. We were talking about this a little bit, it’s the people that make the place. Mm-hmm. And we did a regional belonging survey, and that validated, that affirmed our belief that people have to feel a sex sense of [00:39:00] connection to other people to want to stay there.

And so whether that’s in a relationship, whatever that looks like, so Kevin’s one of those visionaries. Larry Gaer, Tony’s one of those visionaries. Tracy Graham is one of those visionaries. John Affleck Graves, who used to. A leader at Notre Dame. He’s retired now, but he was one that said Notre Dame has to be a part of this.

And so those folks are the ones that are like, Driving for my predecessor, Regina Emerton was one of those that’s like, we are better together. And going back to your question of like what have been successes over the last 12 months? Winning 50 million for the ready program. Pretty successful. Yeah, right.

Like one of five in the cut in the state. Wow. To win that. And that is catalyzing, we’re building out a. Regional startup hub called Momentum. It’s redeveloping a property in downtown South Bend. We’re also standing up a arts and culture incubator primarily for female and minority owned businesses in a neighborhood that didn’t exist before.

And that’s being done through incremental development as well. We have an aquatic center that is world class. We do [00:40:00] national competitions in Elkhart County. We also brought back online Hotel Elkhart There. Downtown hotel in Elkhart for, I think it was like a hundred years maybe. Wow. I stayed 

Nate: there for a wedding this past summer.


Bethany: Yep. Phenomenal. Pretty awesome. It is really nice. Right. And then you see Austin. Austin. It’s very 

Matt: a good weekend trip for anyone in 

Bethany: Indiana. Yes. This is very true. Yes. And the Riverwalk on in Elkhart County or downtown Elkhart, they’ve been. The river district has been significantly invested and continues to be.

We have a rooftop bar that didn’t exist before, like, okay, now you’re 

Toph: after my heart. I never have passed up a rooftop rooftop bar. Absolutely. 

Bethany: Yeah. And it overlooks the river, so like, it’s beautiful. That’s beautiful. Yeah. Yeah. Leaning into that river development’s pretty important for us. Yeah. I think when we record 

Nate: episode two right next year, we, I think we have to do it on the rooftop bar in Elkhart.

Oh, I 

Toph: like that. 

Matt: Let’s do it. Filter. Maybe we can take an RV up there. You fractured an Elkhart. Love it there. That must been pretty sweet. You need to get a mobile unit. Exactly. For sure. Exactly. Yeah. I love that. In 

Toph: all seriousness, I, I do want to [00:41:00] talk to one of those folks soon. Do it. That’d be huge. I would like to get some kind of a vehicle Yeah.

That we can use for 

Matt: multiple parts. I can give you a ride to. Just 

Nate: a giant RV with toast. Face on the side. 

Matt: Yes. 

Bethany: Toes here. We can say it on the side. 

Matt: Well, there’s a book that I was given in 2010 or 11 by the late Tony Shea. Mm-hmm. Founder of Zappos who invested heavily into downtown. Yes. Las Vegas, revitalizing that whole community.

And The book was called Triumph of the City. Mm-hmm. And it seems to me your story is almost like triumph of the region. Yeah. 

Bethany: Yeah. Well, we actually had, Tony Sheyy came to the region for Idea Week. Amazing. Yeah. And spoke about Hi the His model Yeah. In Las Vegas. Yep. And what he did, he did so much there.

So much. And that’s, that’s what it takes, right? Yeah. Again, our, I just heard the CEO of Cook Medical speak at an event and his. His thrust of business has to be at the table. Private sector has to be at the table, whether you’re talking about entrepreneurship, whether you’re talking about community [00:42:00] development, all of that.

It cannot be government, public sector only, like Craig. No 

Toph: more fiefdoms. No more fiefdoms, and no more silos. Yeah. Exactly. Put them all 

Matt: Exactly. Put that on the 

Bethany: bus. Yes. Might confuse a few people 

Matt: as you’re driving by. Exactly. What is, what’s happening, what’s talking about, 

Bethany: Yeah, so I just think in, I think too, in Elkhart and St.

Joe County, we’ve had net positive migration. Right. So we’ve had more people coming in, which is the first time in a decade. That’s amazing. And it’s like, that is a triumph. Okay. There we go. And Marshall County will come along. Yep. It has, its. It’s a great place. The park systems are incredible. The community.

We also help put a pool facility down in, in Marshall County in Plymouth. You’ve got Simba Chain is a spinoff of I Tamco. That’s Marshall County Plymouth. Tell us about that company. It’s incredible. That is our region’s bet on a unicorn. Yeah. Is Simba chain, I mean, they have won. Millions of dollars in D o D.

It’s a blockchain company. Brian Richie, who used to be at the Idea Center is now their ceo. And [00:43:00] what is interesting to me in the talent attraction piece is they’ve got remote workers all over the country. Yep. And I wanna figure out, that’s so great. How do I move you? Yeah. Into our region. Yes.

Because we we’re rolling out a remote worker strategy with make my move as well. Yeah. Yep. Great. Yeah, so like being pretty aggressive about that. Good. Yeah, good. And honing in on occupations that we hope eventually they’ll go from remote worker to working in the region. Candidly. There we go. Well, 

Matt: yeah.

Well we have so many different resources that you’ve mentioned that we will link up in the show notes for all of our listeners because there’s so much to explore Yeah. In that region. I really appreciate you being here, but before we end this conversation Sure. We wanted to do a quick lightning round.

Are you open to it? I guess 

Bethany: so. Absolutely. I mean, you’re editing may be required. Absolutely. 

Nate: Well, I will say, as we talk about Marshall County, near and dear to my home, the. Bourbon. Indiana is a proud member of Marshall County. Yes. And the So Simba chain is amazing as well as the Blueberry Festival. Yeah.

Heck yes. If [00:44:00] you haven’t made it to the Blueberry Festival in Plymouth, Indiana, you are missing out blueberry donuts. Yes. And ice cream Labor Day. Labor Day weekend. Yep. Yeah, it’s 

Bethany: phenomenal. Like over a hundred thousand people come to it to Plymouth. Oh wow. There’s helicopter rides. I will say, I went and.

I didn’t find like a, a actual blueberry unless it was in a donut or ice cream. Oh, no. Which I’m for that. Yeah. It was just kind of funny. 

Nate: Yeah. Oh no, that’s amazing. There’s no actual like fruit. It’s just like ice 

Matt: cream on, you gotta save some hidden gems for the lightning round. Oh, yes, yes, yes. You’re right.

Nate: You’re right, you’re right. Okay. Lightning round. Here we go. Outside of the amazing entrepreneurs, what is Indiana known for?

Bethany: When. I think I’m gonna answer this correctly. When I think of Indiana, I think of very kind people and very hardworking people. 

Nate: So what an amazing answer. I love that. Okay. What is, 

Toph: that’s the right answer because it’s your answer. That’s right. That’s right. Yes. 

Nate: Yeah. Correct. What is [00:45:00] one hidden gem in Indiana?

Bethany: It’s not very hidden, I mean, The dunes are pretty awesome. I haven’t been to this yet, and oh my gosh, now I’m not gonna remember. I’ve heard talk of a frog race, what? Down in southern Indiana. Oh, I can’t remember. That’s amazing. We’re gonna have to do a little research. Yeah, I can’t. That’s a frog 

Nate: race.

Yeah, they, okay. I’m gonna dive deeper. If you had to recommend one place to check out when you’re in the South Bend Elkhart region, like maybe go get dinner, see a show, whatever it would be, what are you recommending? 

Bethany: Oh, well, I’m a big fan of ykk, which is one of our breweries in Elkhart. That is amazing.

It is downtown Elkhart. So there also Venturi and Goshen is ne Neapolitan. Napoleon Neapolitan certified pizza. Oh, I really butchered that word, didn’t I? You nailed it. Incredible. You nailed it. Yes. Yeah. And First Fridays in downtown Goshen are pretty exceptional, so I love that. Yes, those are 

Nate: three great wrecks.

Okay, final question of the lightning round. Who is someone that we need to keep on our radar? Someone who [00:46:00] is doing something big? 

Bethany: Oh.

About 15 people came into my mind, to be honest with you. So I think the people that are doing something big, I could go through Susan Ford. Scott Ford what are they working on? So, Scott Ford works at Notre Dame as their VP of Economic Development, and he’s working on a lot. He works on the LIFT initiative with us.

Susan Ford is our board chair for Supe for Startup South Men Elkhart. She also works at Graham Allen Partners. Tracy Graham would be another one of those individuals that is doing something significant. I think his mantra or their mantra is a thousand digital jobs is what they’re striving for. They’re.

Our largest tech employer is under Grand Allen Partners, so they’re doing something significant. We have a lot of good folks in the cities too, and our, our leadership is pretty awesome. So, Honestly, the better question is who’s not doing something big? Ooh, I 

Toph: like that. I might drop, 

Bethany: but I [00:47:00] won’t name 

Matt: names.

So good. So good. Yeah. Bethany, thank you so much for being on the show. I know there’s so many more stories to tell, so I hope you’ll come back on the show and give an update, you know, in the future and maybe from a rooftop bar. 

Bethany: Yes, please. Thank you very much for having me. Really appreciate it. Thanks.

Matt: Eight. This has been Get IN a Powderkeg Production in partnership with Elevate Ventures, and we wanna hear from you. If you have suggestions for a guest or a segment, reach out to Matt or Nate on LinkedIn or on email to discover top tier tech companies outside of Silicon Valley in hubs like Indiana.

Check out our slash new. And to apply for membership to the powderkeg executive community, check out We’ll catch you next time and next week as we continue to help the world get in. Since you just listened to this podcast, you might be thinking about starting one for your company.

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