Over the course of the past few decades, a shift has taken place when it comes to what’s important to young talent entering the workforce.
“When I was growing up it was about what you wanted to do,” says Kirk Moriarty, Director of Downtown Development at Greater Fort Wayne Inc. “For millennials and others, it’s about ‘Where do I want to do this?’”
This shift has important implications for community development strategies, putting focus not just on economic opportunities, but also what Moriarty calls “building a quality of place.”
“Our goal is to create a space, and a working environment, that is attractive to the workforce of the future,” he added. “The kind of people it’s so vital to attract.”
‘Quality of place’ is one of three key GFW Inc. objectives, designed to help facilitate the realization of a regional vision. The vision, articulated by the Regional Cities Initiative, is to grow the population of northeast Indiana from 750,000 to one million in the next ten years. This includes transforming Fort Wayne, the region’s metropolitan center, into a top 25 metro city in the U.S.
And development is underway to do just that. Specifically, Moriarty said, with the current Landing project.
“The Landing is a comprehensive redevelopment effort in Downtown Fort Wayne that looks at the last remaining vestiges of our history,” he said. “We have acquired seven buildings in order to execute an economic development project that is unified, has lasting ability, and revisits what it used to do 100 years ago — even 30 years ago — as a dynamic center of mercantile and entertainment.”
Moriarty said that the development team at GFW Inc. is working with individual business owners to help them find where they fit into this picture — figuratively and literally. He works to help investors find suitable space for their business.
“Given the particular limited availability at the street level, it’s a challenge,” he said. “And sometimes you have to get way out ahead of things to almost make space. [We have] personal relationships with business owners and brokers, to know what’s open and what fits best.”
“What’s really neat is that we [in Fort Wayne] are taking a great sense of pride and ownership. We tend to be softer-spoken about our accomplishments,” he added. “But slowly we’re becoming that community that’s a little more progressive and outspoken and proud of what we’ve done.”
And, he adds, what we continue to do.
“Don’t blink.” He says. Or you’ll miss “all the enormous change that’s here and that’s on the horizon.”