Inside INdiana Business

Job change for Northern Indiana economic development official

Regina Emberton (center) is all smiles after hearing the South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership will receive $50M from the READI program. (IIB photo/Gerry Dick)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — One week ago, South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership President and Chief Executive Officer Regina Emberton celebrated as the region discovered it was one of five to receive the full $50 million award from the state’s Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative. Seven days later, Emberton announced she is leaving the organization that led the READI campaign for northern Indiana. She’s been named CEO of ChoiceLight Inc., a telecommunications firm in South Bend.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Emberton explained how she will continue to work in the economic development arena.

“I’ve seen firsthand just what a profound effect that the fiber network can have on communities’ competitiveness on innovation, workforce, workforce readiness,” said Emberton. “I think that ChoiceLight has a unique opportunity going into the future to be able to extend that dark fiber infrastructure, but also to improve other assets and facets of our innovation ecosystem.”

Emberton was the inaugural president of the partnership, having joined the organization in 2013. The nonprofit represents 47 communities across northern Indiana and southwest Michigan. During her time, the partnership also received a $42 million Regional Cities Initiative grant and a $42 million grant from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc.

That grant helped the partnership launch the LIFT Network, an initiative that focuses on creating a diversified economy based on technology and advanced manufacturing.

She’ll leave the partnership, knowing progress was made.

“We have built a culture of regional collaboration, developed a thoughtful strategic plan, secured unprecedented financial resources, and established the long-term infrastructure that will support economic development efforts going forward,” said Emberton.

In her new role at ChoiceLight, Emberton says she’ll continue to push development and the innovation ecosystem through infrastructure.

“ChoiceLight’s dark fiber is among our region’s most vital infrastructure assets,” says Emberton. “ChoiceLight has a unique opportunity to extend dark fiber infrastructure and improve other facets of our innovation ecosystem that will enable companies to adopt new technologies and compete in the 21st century.”

ChoiceLight, which began as a public-private partnership, maintains approximately 280 miles of fiber that serves 325 organizations. such as government, healthcare and education institutions.

Emberton succeeds Mary Jan Hedman who retired after nearly 15 years with the organization. Emberton says she’ll remain with the nonprofit through February to help with the transition.

The executive committee of the regional partnership has launched a national search for her successor.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the momentum here in the South Bend – Elkhart region and to be able to continue as part of that in this in this bit of a shifted focus,” said Emberton.

Click here to view the South Bend – Elkhart: Northern Indiana READI proposal.