The northern Indiana economy may not be all that strong to most people, but Kay Cochrane sees it in a much different light.
That's part of why she took on the job as president and chief executive of the Workforce Development Group Inc.
"I left the community for 50 weeks as a fundraiser for a Catholic church in Fort Walton, Fla.," she explained. "I found out South Bend is the best place in the world to be."
Florida lacked economic opportunity, she said.
"I found that the lifestyle and professional opportunity in the northern Indiana region were much more vibrant," Cochrane said.Cochrane has been the interim director at Workforce Development Group since Aug. 6 after Juan Manigault resigned as he sought election as mayor of South Bend. Cochrane had the interim tag dropped on Jan. 11.
"Kay is an outstanding individual," said Jerry Langley, Notre Dame professor and chairman of the Northern Indiana Workforce Board.
Workforce Development Group has a contract with that board as the regional operator of WorkOne of Northern Indiana, serving five counties and more than 322,000 workers.
"She knows a lot about the work force issues in our region," he said. "She knows it, and she really cares about (it)."
Cochrane's background includes working more than six years with the predecessor organization of Workforce Development Group, the Northern Indiana Workforce Investment Board. Her background also includes 19 years of management experiences at colleges and universities including DePaul University in Chicago, Indiana University Kelley School of Business in Bloomington, and locally at Indiana University South Bend and Saint Mary's College.
"I want to use the skills I have developed to help our community develop a vibrant work force," she said. "I really enjoy the work that I am doing, the contacts that we are developing and the initiatives that we are pursuing for work force development in the region."
Developing new models of customer service in the WorkOne centers to further aid businesses and job seekers is one area she is already working on.
Cochrane also announced Wednesday that the Workforce Development Group recently received a $700,000 grant for career advancement accounts for occupations in advance manufacturing "that will benefit both individuals and employers."
Cochrane had plenty of praise for her predecessor, Manigault, calling him a good mentor."Those are awful big shoes to fill," she said.
But there will be new wrinkles with the new administrator.
"I have my own ideas," she said, "of how to give my unique style of management that I hope will influence work force development in the region."