SOUTH BEND, Ind.–South Bend’s new mayor is pushing for more jobs and more industry. He says the city improved under the leadership of former mayor Pete Buttigieg, but that the state could help communities like South Bend, around the state, by stepping up its game.
“The 21st century economy is based off of people and so we’ve got to make sure we’re retaining our people and giving them the skills and attracting people from the outside, as well,” said James Mueller.
When Studebaker closed in the 1960s, it left South Bend somewhat without purpose. It was a one-company city, essentially, said Mueller. He credits Pete Buttigieg with restoring a sense of optimism and the state for creating an atmosphere where jobs can be created.
But, he says the state could do more.
“Our business climate’s very good. We have low tax rates, compared to other states. But, we lag behind in some of those quality of life indicators like education,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll see the state step up and start working on that to move our state forward.”
What South Bend has in common with other cities is the need to compete for jobs and people.
“Part of that is retaining and making sure we have a workforce that attracts employers and can fill the jobs of tomorrow and part of that is making sure we’re a community of choice,” he said.
You may have heard the word “placemaking”. It’s creating a place where people want to live and play, not just work. Mueller said that’s a goal for South Bend and the entire metro area, an industrial and manufacturing hub of northern Indiana.
“We have what’s called the South Bend-Elkhart Partnership that’s really taking on our regional economic approach,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out how can we partner together to move our region forward.”
Mueller said the city hopes to achieve a “critical mass” of industry and workers, to satisfy both needs.
PHOTO: Chris Davis/Emmis