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5 Reasons To Start Your Business in South Bend, Indiana

The region helps entrepreneurs simplify the start-up process.

By Lindsey Hyde on September 12, 2022

EnFocus in South Bend, IN
Courtesy of EnFocus

Looking for the perfect location to launch your new business? Meet South Bend, a midsize city in Northern Indiana whose strong economy, business-friendly resources, access to the rest of the world and supportive community help simplify the entrepreneurial process. Need a little more information to seal the deal? Here are five reasons to start a business in South Bend.

An Encouraging & Passionate Community

South Bend residents love to support start-ups, whether it’s help with the beginning stages or simply shopping local once they are up and running. Start-ups will quickly get to know and appreciate their friendly, encouraging peers.

“What makes us unique is we have a very supportive ecosystem,” says Andrew Wiand, executive director of enFocus, a nonprofit that focuses on talent attraction and community development. “Access to mentors, access to community leaders who are willing to support the renewal has been just a huge asset.”

EnFocus, which Wiand cofounded in 2012, is the perfect example of an organization that supports entrepreneurs. It’s two-year paid fellowship program gives participants, or “fellows,” the chance to collaborate on meaningful projects in northern Indiana. They can either support existing enFocus incubations or launch start-ups, social impact initiatives or applied research projects.

“The enFocus model helps recent graduates develop core leadership and technical skills while also providing key business solutions and a talent pipeline to many organizations across the region,” Wiand says.

The IDEA Center at University of Notre Dame

University Access

The University of Notre Dame is home to an entrepreneurial gem, the IDEA Center. This hub provides the space, services and expertise needed for idea development, commercialization, business formation, prototyping, entrepreneurial education and student entrepreneurial efforts. Overseen by the center is Innovation Park, a unique collision space designed to catalyze business acceleration, entrepreneurship and collaboration.  It’s comprised of 80,000 square feet of shared space, private offices, conference rooms, labs and more.

“The university offers entrepreneurs a little bit of space, programming, brand and access to talent,” Wiand says.

A Skilled Talent Pool

While the University of Notre Dame churns out skilled individuals each year who are ready to thrive in the workforce, it’s not the only one providing access to talent.

The region is also home to Saint Mary’s College, Holy Cross College, Ivy Tech Community College and Indiana University South Bend. This means entrepreneurs have a wide selection of talented individuals they can hire once they’re ready to assemble a team.

“Whether it be early-on access to student internships to help with some things that are lower cost, or if you are maturing your business and making your actual hires — something that we do a lot is hire from the local universities for our professional and technical services positions,” Wiand says.

Saint Mary's College in South Bend, IN

Resources for Entrepreneurs

A slew of entrepreneurial resources can be found across South Bend. For example, the city owns Ignition Park, a landing area for companies ready to leave the University of Notre Dame’s Innovation Park, as well as businesses relocating to the area. The park offers coworking space, testing facilities and several other amenities.

Also ready to lend a hand are the South Bend Regional Chamber, North Central Indiana Small Business Development Center (located on the campus of Indiana University South Bend) and HustleSBE, which helps women and minority small-business owners scale their companies.

“The chamber as well as other economic development groups are very involved in trying to build that kind of road map for what type of start-up are you, and where might you dock in and receive some assistance, especially in the early days of just getting your company launched,” Wiand says.

Highly beneficial to start-ups is access to a regional labor force of roughly  1 million when taking into consideration that South Bend is in the center of a bistate region with access to nearby cities in Michigan as well.

South Bend International Airport

Terrific Transportation

Home to a strong transportation network, South Bend is one of the most accessible regions in the country, not to mention a thriving logistics hub. Whether a business needs to import or export goods or simply transport them to different regions within the U.S., the city has the means to move products from point A to point B.

For example, the region provides access to the Indiana Toll Road, two short-line and two Class I railroads, and the nearby Port of Indiana at Burns Harbor.

South Bend International Airport, which is just 10 minutes northwest of downtown, offers 12 nonstop flights, plus two private air carriers are ready to provide additional services to meet any need. In other words, South Bend companies have everything they need at their fingertips, drastically cutting down on any transportation challenges they might face.

This article was sponsored by the South Bend Regional Chamber and Visit South Bend Mishawaka.

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