FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Greater Fort Wayne (GFW) Inc. welcomed more than 300 investors to the organization’s Annual Meeting tonight at the Sweetwater Performance Pavilion. The evening celebrated Allen County’s economic momentum and bold community leaders, and previewed the upcoming efforts to grow jobs, wages, and the economy. Gov. Eric Holcomb spoke to the crowd in a surprise appearance, praising Allen County’s recent economic successes.
“You are racking up the wins when it comes to all the new job announcements, business expansions, tourism records, being named one of the best places in the country to raise a family,” Holcomb said. “That doesn’t happen by accident. It comes down to the leadership and talent you have here.”
Holcomb presented the Sagamore of the Wabash award to Sweetwater founder and president Chuck Surack.
Five additional awards were presented during the evening, recognizing excellence in leadership and vision:
- GFW Inc. Chairman’s Award – Allen Glassburn: Established in 2015, this award honors GFW Inc. board members for outstanding accomplishments and performance to help promote the organization’s mission and vision.
- GFW Inc. Service Award – Ron Turpin: This award honors exemplary service to GFW Inc. and dedication to Allen County’s economic growth.
- Elected Official of the Year – Sen. David Long: GFW Inc.’s legislative priorities are directly related to building a stronger community and growing jobs and wages by creating the best environment to attract and retain talent and business.
- Maclyn Parker Swagger Award for Community Vision and Leadership – Barbara Bradley Baekgaard: This award is given to an individual who exemplifies the persistence and will to make Fort Wayne-Allen County a thriving community by being a strong advocate for economic development.
- Small Business of the Year Award – Steppin’ Up Physical Therapy: This award celebrates the success of small businesses and honors their contributions to Allen County’s economic growth. Businesses must be a Greater Fort Wayne Inc. investor in good standing, located in Allen County, have been in business for more than 5 years, have 50 or fewer full-time employees, have revenue between $500,000 and $5 million in 2017, and must be an independently owned and operated, for-profit entity.
GFW Inc. had a highly successful 2017 in all facets of the organization. The Allen County economy made major strides, with new jobs and payroll entering the market as companies expanded and relocated to the area. In total, GFW Inc. assisted companies investing a total of $242 million in Allen County. Other commitments included:
|Statistic||Highest Single-Year Total Since|
|28 business expansions and relocations||2013|
|1,838 new jobs||2005|
|$81 million in new annual payroll||Highest on record (stat kept since 2012)|
Major expansion and relocation announcements included:
|Fort Wayne Metals||337||$51.1 million|
|Android Industries||313||$14.7 million|
|Buchanan Hauling||180||$3.2 million|
GFW Inc.’s economic development staff made 530 visits to Allen County businesses and 252 visits to businesses outside Allen County during the year. These on-site visits are designed to build relationships, help current Allen County businesses thrive and retain jobs, and attract businesses to locate in Allen County.
Staff members also met with business leaders in more than a dozen cities including Chicago, Nashville, New York City, Washington, D.C., Dallas, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Toronto. These out-of-market visits with business leaders, entrepreneurs, developers, and investors—many of them Indiana expats—generated leads for several potential relocations and expansions currently under consideration.
Quality of Place
GFW Inc. championed several major quality-of-place projects designed to help Allen County compete for jobs and talent on a global scale, including:
- Riverfront Development – Construction is well underway on the project’s $100 million Phase 1. In December, a Minnesota-based private developer announced plans to build a $61 million mixed-use facility near the Riverfront with retail space, living space, and a parking garage.
- Sidewalk and Alley Repairs – Work began in 2017 on a total of six neighborhood sidewalk and alley projects, with a total of 35 projects planned for 2018. These projects were funded by a Local Income Tax adjustment passed in July 2017 by Fort Wayne City Council.
- Electric Works – The pre-development phase continues in the $440 million revitalization of the former General Electric campus. A recent market analysis confirmed the project’s catalytic potential to transform the local economy, as well as the ample market demand for office, apartment, and retail space on the West Campus. The project has already attracted national media attention from The Wall Street Journal and HuffPost.
- The Landing – Renovations of the historic district on Columbia Street began in February and now are in full swing. The project is headed up by Model Group, a Cincinnati firm specializing in revitalizing urban neighborhoods.
GFW Inc. also ran an extensive grassroots outreach program to increase awareness about the momentum in Allen County. Staff members presented the “Opportunity on the Edge of Greatness” pitch deck to 10,018 residents in 2017 as part of 107 meetings with neighborhood associations, high-school students, businesses, and other organizations.
Investor Services and Signature Programs
As Allen County’s chamber of commerce, GFW Inc. counts more than 1,300 members (investors)—the vast majority being small businesses. The organization surpassed its goal of recruiting 100 new investors in 2017 while increasing its retention rate to 92 percent, better than the national average for chamber organizations.
GFW Inc. hosted 267 events in 2017, with attendance up 20 percent from the previous year and attendee satisfaction exceeding goals. Leads groups, where professionals network and help grow business for one another, saw participants connect colleagues with more than 400 business leads.
In its 35th year, Leadership Fort Wayne (LFW) produced a graduating class of 63 individuals, its largest on record. LFW helps bolster the community’s talent pipeline by providing individuals with leadership training and education.
The GFW Fellows program continues to attract and retain top talent from universities near and far. Last year, 10 Fellows worked project-based internships at nine local companies, getting hands-on experience with core business functions. Many of these internships lead to full-time employment, as about 50 percent of GFW Fellows alumni report that they currently live and work in Allen County.
“We’ve made incredible progress in growing jobs, wages, and the economy, but the job is far from finished,” GFW Inc. CEO Eric Doden said. “We are in a worldwide competition for jobs and talent, and we will need bold leadership, energy, passion, and drive from across the community to continue growing opportunities for the people of Allen County. We must be relentless in our efforts to build a nationally recognized economy.”
About Greater Fort Wayne Inc.
Greater Fort Wayne (GFW) Inc. serves Fort Wayne and Allen County, Indiana, 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.