Greater Fort Wayne Inc. highlights another strong year of growth in Allen County as the area sees more than $42M in new annual payroll and $770M in private investment in 2023.
FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Allen County celebrated another remarkable year in 2023, with over $770 million in new private investments and the successful attraction and retention of talent for the sixth consecutive year. Additionally, data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that the county’s population growth exceeded both state and national averages, signifying a strong year in terms of both economic and community development.
“Our efforts focus on fostering growth in Fort Wayne and Allen County, and 2023 has been a remarkable year,” stated John Urbahns, president and CEO of Greater Fort Wayne Inc. “Our community stands as a beacon in the Great Lakes region, excelling in attracting and retaining both talent and investment. With over $770 million in new private investments and a population growth surpassing state and national rates, we’re setting a high standard. We are committed to building on this momentum and making 2024 even more successful.”
Throughout the year, GFW Inc. supported businesses that pledged to invest over $770 million in Allen County. These commitments included:
- 20 business expansions and relocations.
- 700+ new jobs.
- More than $42 million in new annual payroll.
Companies making major expansion and relocation announcements included:
- Asher Agency
- Bolt Custom Truck
- General Motors
- Kuehnert Milk House
- North American Cold Storage
- SH America
- And more
Allen County issued more than $2 billion in building permits in 2023, making it the seventh consecutive year surpassing the $1 billion mark.
“We know Allen County is a great place to work, start a family, and build a business, but the word is getting out. Allen County’s 2023 Building Permit Valuation of 2 billion 17 million is a great litmus test indicating that growth and expansion continue into our future,” Allen County Commissioners Rich Beck, Therese Brown, and Nelson Peters said in a joint statement. “All community segments play into this success – our private sector, nonprofits, and the industrious individuals that call Allen County home. The Board of Commissioners is excited to be a part of the positive momentum we have and will continue to make decisions that help build our economy and improve quality of place. The creation of Fire Protection Districts and the securing of Broadband matching grants in 2023 are two accomplishments that increase the appeal of our county to investors and developers as we work to make the county safer and more connected.”
Throughout 2023, GFW Inc. staff met with representatives from more than 650 businesses across Allen County. These meetings were strategically focused on helping local businesses thrive.
Emphasizing the growing importance of workforce development, GFW Inc. staff members, together with local business leaders, delivered presentations to over 2,600 high school students in Allen County as part of the MadeByMe skilled trades initiative. These presentations focused on showcasing career paths in skilled trades and advanced manufacturing, to nurture the future workforce for these sectors.
In January 2022, GFW Inc. collaborated with public and private sector leaders to unveil the Allen County Together (ACT) economic development action plan. This 10-year strategy is dedicated to fostering a more high-growth, innovative, and inclusive environment in Allen County. Developed over several months with input from both public and private partners, the ACT plan has shown signs of continued progress two years into its implementation. Key achievements this year include:
- Significant progress was made toward our goal of 2,500 new on-campus and off-campus student housing by 2031. Purdue University Fort Wayne has issued an RFP for off-campus housing and is currently pursuing additional opportunities to support its campus master plan. Indiana Tech broke ground on Troder Hall, a 124-room dormitory set to open summer of 2024.
- GFW Inc. convened a task force of local leaders to tap into federal funding for infrastructure projects. Partners throughout Allen County worked together to secure $100M in funding for Fort Wayne and Allen County infrastructure projects.
- We exceeded the development-ready site goal in ACT, securing nearly 700 acres for Project Zodiac. This, in addition to approximately 200 acres owned by the City of Fort Wayne, will be the future home of a Fortune 100 tech company data center campus in Southeast Fort Wayne.
- $22M in funding was secured for a 26,000 sq ft addition to the Music Center at PFW, which will support growth in its music programs.
- In partnership with the Community Research Institute, GFW Inc. commissioned a comprehensive economic impact study that lays the foundation for planning at the 122nd Fighter Wing Indiana National Guard.
- GFW Inc. proudly partnered with Amani Family Services and Downtown Fort Wayne in developing a Welcoming Plan for Fort Wayne-Allen County. Immigration has long been a part of our community’s success, and we are committed to ensuring that our international workforce is supported and engaged in the Allen County economy.
- GFW Inc. hosted its second annual Economic Development Summit event, with more than 400 leaders in attendance to discuss pressing topics surrounding Allen County Together (ACT) implementation including inclusive economic development, innovation in aerospace and defense, talent attraction, tourism development, and Riverfront Fort Wayne.
“Allen County Together makes a powerful statement—not just about where we’re going, but about who and what we want to be: a high-growth, innovative, and inclusive community with economic opportunity for all,” said Ellen Cutter, Chief Economic Development Officer of Greater Fort Wayne Inc. The Economic Development Summit provides the opportunity to update the community on ACT implementation to ensure all partners are informed, coordinated, and energized by this important work.”
Talent Attraction / Retention
According to U.S. Census Bureau data released in March 2023, Fort Wayne again experienced population growth in 2022. In total, the county’s population grew by 0.6%, outpacing the state (0.29%) and national rate (0.38%) This growth positioned the community again as one of the fastest-expanding metro areas in the Great Lakes region.
Meanwhile, Allen County added 484 residents due to domestic migration in 2022. It was the sixth consecutive year in which the county posted positive net domestic migration. Net domestic migration measures how many people moved into a community from other U.S. locales, versus how many moved away to other U.S. communities. The data represents a significant turnaround within the past decade:
Net Domestic Migration Growth/Loss by Year
- 2012: -1,082
- 2013: -245
- 2014: -800
- 2015: -161
- 2016: -597
- 2017: +81
- 2018: +772
- 2019: +1,514
- 2020: +226
- 2021: +1,299
- 2022: +484
Quality of Place
GFW Inc. played a pivotal role in securing funds from the READI grant, totaling $30.5M, for numerous significant quality-of-life projects aimed at enhancing Allen County’s appeal for job creation and talent retention. Projects included:
- Riverfront Phase II – The next stage of the Riverfront development project is focused on establishing a dynamic, mixed-use district. This phase aims to offer a variety of housing options, new job opportunities, and seamless integration of existing neighborhoods and key areas within the riverfront. Milestones in this phase include the City of Fort Wayne issuing an RFP to redevelop the former Pepsi site, plans by More Brewing Company to invest approximately $6 million to construct a two-story restaurant and brewery featuring a riverfront patio and terrace, and securing $6 million in READI funds aimed at delivering public park amenities.
- Park’s Edge Phase I – (formerly known as Village Premiere) – Park’s Edge Apartments, situated near McMillen Park and Community Center, represents a $64 million investment. Located in the heart of Southeast Fort Wayne, it offers convenient access to local shopping, restaurants, and public transportation.
- Trine Fort Wayne – Trine University has committed over $45 million to initiate the construction of its Dr. Earl D. and Melanie Brooks College of Health Professions facility, set to open in summer 2024. This new 110,000-square-foot facility, developed collaboratively with Parkview Health, is expected to employ 100 faculty and staff while accommodating nearly 700 students.
- Lofts at Headwaters – The Lofts at Headwaters Park, a $87 million development, is strategically positioned at the northeast corner of Clinton and Superior streets. This six-story mixed-use project will feature apartments, townhomes, retail spaces, and a 651-space parking garage.
- Arts Campus Fort Wayne – The full renovation and expansion of the Arts United Center includes an investment of more than $42 million. The objective is to both expand and modernize the facility, enhancing accessibility for visitors and performers. These renovations are also aimed at improving the functionality of spaces for local theatre, dance, and music productions, all while maintaining the architectural integrity of Louis I. Khan’s original design.
- Crossroads Multifamily in New Haven – Crossroads, a $5M investment, is poised to add more housing to meet the growing demand within the City of New Haven. The project features a three-story commercial building along State Road 930, offering space for businesses, offices, and apartments.
- Project Gateway– Fort Wayne International Airport (FWA) is the second largest commercial service airport in Indiana, but it previously had the smallest terminal building. Project Gateway is expanding the number of gates to allow the airport to use 11 aircraft parking positions simultaneously to better serve airline partners and our passengers. FWA’s West Terminal Expansion is complete, and work began this year on the East Terminal Expansion.
“Fort Wayne and Allen County are on the move and leading the way in providing a positive and inviting business climate to attract and retain companies and employees,” said Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry. “The growth being experienced in our community is a strong indicator that we’re on the right track in being a recognized location to invest in and succeed. The City’s partnership with Allen County and Greater Fort Wayne Inc. is making a lasting and meaningful difference.”
Chamber of Commerce
Key achievements of GFW Inc.’s investor services and programs in 2023 include:
- In November, the Leadership Fort Wayne (LFW) program celebrated the graduation of 51 individuals from its Class of 2023, marking the 41st cohort in the program’s history. This class brought the total number of LFW alumni to over 1,500 since its inception in 1983. These alumni have notably contributed to the community, serving on or leading nonprofit boards, holding elected positions, and leading businesses.
- The Onboard Fort Wayne and C-Suite Social initiatives successfully integrated 100 new residents into the Allen County community. These programs, launched in 2020, provide networking opportunities, personalized support, and online resources to welcome new professionals, along with their families and significant others. They are designed to aid local companies in attracting and retaining exceptional talent.
- Sixteen entrepreneurs participated in the GFW Inc. Bridge Program, which helps bridge the gap between startup and success. Each entrepreneur is sponsored by a corporate partner and receives business coaching, chamber membership benefits, and more.
- The Intern Experience in 2023 exceeded its target by impacting 220 college students from 23 states and 8 countries interning at Allen County-based businesses, more than doubling our initial goal of reaching 100 interns. Through a series of nine engaging weekly summer events, this program not only showcased the best of what Fort Wayne and Allen County have to offer but also significantly increased interns’ desire to reside in Fort Wayne post-graduation, from 59.7% to 75%.
- GFW Inc. assisted in 18 ribbon-cutting and groundbreaking ceremonies to support and celebrate businesses choosing to grow here in our community.
- GFW Inc. experienced significant growth in its membership, adding 155 new investors this year, marking a 38% increase compared to 2022. Additionally, our investor base now averages 1,350 members. With a member retention rate of 90%, Greater Fort Wayne Inc.’s member loyalty is among the strongest chambers of commerce nationwide.
“It’s an honor to support our local business sector, ranging from individual entrepreneurs to our most prominent businesses,” expressed Brenda Gerber Vincent, GFW Inc.’s Chief Impact Officer. “It is incredibly rewarding to see GFW Inc. members forge connections and build partnerships that translate into tangible successes for their businesses. When our businesses succeed, our community thrives.”
Allen County is poised for continued growth, with numerous business expansions and attractions steadily progressing. Our economic development team continues to work with more than 100 leads and 14 active projects, including Project Zodiac. In 2024, several major building projects are anticipated to be underway. including:
- Riverfront Development Phase II
- The Lofts at Headwaters Park
- Former Pepsi Site Redevelopment
- New Haven Crossroads Mixed-Use Development
- Parks Edge Development
- Roosevelt Reserves – Southeast Housing
- Project Gateway Phase II (Fort Wayne International Airport)
- Trine University Fort Wayne – School of Health Sciences
“As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, we take pride in reflecting on a decade of substantial growth in Fort Wayne and Allen County,” stated Urbahns. “Moving forward, our strategy is firmly centered around the Allen County Together Plan (ACT), which is instrumental in our goal to develop a nationally recognized economy. We are motivated by the progress we have made and are excited to build on this momentum, together.”