Around 50 students from area schools travelled to Elkhart County for the first ever “What’s Next” conference, a weekend event constructed by the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce to encourage upcoming college graduates to consider Elkhart County as their new home after graduation.

The Elkhart Truth reported that students came from as far as Tennessee State University in Nashville, Calvin College in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo College to learn what makes Elkhart County a great place to call home.

“One of the things, especially from a chamber standpoint, as you talk about the South Bend Regional Partnership, really is workforce recruiting,”  Chamber President Levon Johnson said. “This came up because we’re trying to address that need for our business community.”

The weekend began with a tour of local businesses and activities during First Fridays in Goshen.

“Especially with millennials, just as important as the job, is the place that you’re moving to and this is an opportunity to handle both those things in the same weekend,” Johnson said.

On Saturday, students travelled to the IU South Bend Elkhart Campus to hear business presentations from Beacon Health Systems, Patrick Industries Inc. and Jayco Inc., followed by a job fair which included businesses such as Dometic Corp. and the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department. In the afternoon, they toured KemKrest, Dometic, Furrion and Welch Packaging and then spent the evening at the Crystal Ballroom at the Lerner Theatre, hearing from Nick Kieffer, President of the Goshen Chamber of Commerce; Mayor Phil Jenkins of Nappanee and Levon Johnson, President of the Elkhart Chamber. Chris Hooley with Berkshire Hathaway of Northern Indiana presented cost of living comparisons between the South Bend-Elkhart region and big cities.

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