‘Allen County Together’ plan charts course for next decade of growth

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – The fastest-growing metro in the Great Lakes region is aiming for even more success in the next decade—and now there’s a plan to make it a reality. Community leaders this morning revealed the new “Allen County Together” (ACT) economic development action plan. ACT provides a blueprint for the next 10 years of building a nationally recognized economy in Allen County.

“The progress we’ve seen across Allen County over the past 10-12 years has been remarkable. There’s no question we’ve become one of the top communities in the Great Lakes region—but we can’t get complacent,” said John Urbahns, president and CEO of Greater Fort Wayne Inc. “The ACT plan challenges us to reach our full potential as a community, and lays out the next steps to get us there.”

The plan is designed to drive the Allen County economy forward by bolstering three community characteristics, each supported by a series of bold projects:

#1: High-Growth

  • Attract $1 billion in private investment to the riverfront in downtown Fort Wayne by the end of 2031.
  • Attract and grow 2,500 net new high-wage jobs by the end of 2031 in R&D, engineering, IT, regional headquarters, and tech-driven growth industries.
  • Build 2,500 on- and off-campus student housing units—and other amenities associated with local higher-education institutions—by the end of 2031 to help Fort Wayne become a widely recognized college town.

#2: Innovative

  • Become recognized as a “Top-10 Music City” by the end of 2031 through expanded festivals, music venues, training and education, and music-industry innovation.
  • Become a premier “Industry 4.0” automotive tech community and add 2,500 net new jobs in the automotive tech sector by the end of 2031.
  • Enhance Allen County’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by launching a $10-million venture fund and accelerator by the end of 2026, housed at Electric Works. Grow the venture fund to $25 million by the end of 2031.

#3: Inclusive

  • Close the disparity gap by providing financing to underserved individuals and small businesses via expanded local community development financial institution (CDFI) capacity. Deploy $10 million in CDFI funding by the end of 2026 and $25 million by the end of 2031.
  • Build catalytic development projects in southeast Fort Wayne that attract $100 million in capital investment by the end of 2026 and $250 million by the end of 2031.
  • Attract and grow 2,500 net new jobs in southeast Fort Wayne by the end of 2031.

ACT incorporates several existing plans from the community, including Start Fort Wayne’s Greater Fort Wayne Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Strategy, the City of Fort Wayne’s Southeast Strategy, the forthcoming All In Allen Comprehensive Plan, and others.

The plan builds on the significant momentum created in Allen County in the last decade or more, marked by accomplishments including:

  • Fort Wayne becoming the fastest-growing metro area in the Great Lakes region in 2020.
  • Four consecutive years of positive domestic migration in Allen County.
  • More than $1 billion in private investment in downtown Fort Wayne since 2009.
  • $2 billion in construction permits issued in Allen County in 2021—setting a new record for the third year out of the past four.

“The successes of Allen County have put our community in a position to be able to think long-term about economic development,” Allen County Commissioners Rich Beck, Therese Brown, and Nelson Peters said in a joint statement. “The work we do now will determine how fast and how successfully we move our community forward together through and past the challenges of today.”

“I continue to be encouraged by the positive momentum and investments we’re experiencing in Fort Wayne and Allen County,” Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry said. “I’m looking forward to additional projects and initiatives in our community as we come together to enhance an already award-winning city and county. It’s our time to make a lasting impact for individuals, families, and businesses.”

ACT was created with funding support from the City of Fort Wayne, Allen County Commissioners, and Indiana Michigan Power. Austin, Tex.-based TIP Strategies assisted in crafting the strategy.

As part of the discovery process for the project, the consulting team conducted 20 roundtables and dozens of individual interviews to gather information and ideas from more than 200 local stakeholders. These included business leaders, elected officials, educational leaders, developers, investors, community activists and advocates, and other stakeholders in Fort Wayne and Allen County.

“I applaud the community for being committed to tackling the issues that will position Allen County for a bright future,” said Tracye McDaniel, president of TIP Strategies. “Collaboration across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors is the cornerstone to building healthy, resilient communities, and we found that collaboration in our work in Allen County.”

“If we’re going to drive our community forward, we need to keep raising the bar—and that’s what ACT does. It challenges us to build a community with expanded, equitable opportunities for individuals and families to live their best lives here,” said Ellen Cutter, GFW Inc. VP of economic development. “Now we’ve got to do the work to make these projects a reality. We know it won’t always be easy, but if we work together, we can create a better future in Allen County.”

To view the ACT plan or request a presentation by a GFW Inc. staff member, visit act.gfwinc.com.

About Greater Fort Wayne Inc.

Greater Fort Wayne Inc. (GFW Inc.) serves Fort Wayne and Allen County, Ind., as its primary point of contact for economic growth. GFW Inc. focuses on prosperity and community vibrancy through economic development, advocacy, programs and resources that support business success, leadership development, graduate retention and community engagement.