Rebooting a Rust Belt City: An Innovation Office for South Bend, 2013-2018


When Pete Buttigieg became mayor of South Bend, Indiana, in 2012, the city was struggling to overcome its image as a dying community. More than a thousand abandoned homes blighted urban neighborhoods, and the unemployment rate was more than 10%. Although these problems had their roots in the changing structure of the US economy, Buttigieg said he believed that more-efficient and more-effective government could help the city attract new businesses and residents, charting a path forward. In 2013, he hired Santiago Garces, a 2011 graduate of nearby University of Notre Dame, to create a new office that would identify opportunities for improving city operations and saving money. On a tight budget, Garces assembled a small team of business analysts, who used new technologies to help streamline and modernize the city’s code enforcement department, greatly accelerating the process of dealing with abandoned homes. Garces’s team then took on dozens of other projects to improve service delivery while also consolidating the city’s information technology resources, including outsourcing certain services to cut costs. The unit Garces created produced millions of dollars in savings during its first years and helped the mayor achieve some of his top policy goals. 

Tristan Dreisbach drafted this case study based on interviews he and Steven S. Strauss, John L. Weinberg/Goldman Sachs & Co. Visiting Professor at Princeton University, conducted in South Bend, Indiana in July 2018. Case published September 2018.

smart cities
business analytics
process mapping
abandoned properties
Focus Area(s)
City Management
Civil Service
Critical Tasks
Follow-up & monitoring
Goal setting
Making services accessible
Performance management system
Priority setting
Core Challenge
Capacity (capability traps)
Contracting out (creating semi-autonomous agencies)
Country of Reform
United States
Case Studies
Tristan Dreisbach