GFW Inc. Bridge Program wins statewide award for innovation

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Greater Fort Wayne Inc. today received a statewide innovation award for its Bridge Program. The Indiana Chamber Executives Association (ICEA) honored GFW Inc. with an Excellence Award for its work on the program, which pairs local entrepreneurs with corporate leaders to help bridge the gap between startup and success.

“We pride ourselves on being innovators and adjusting to meet the needs of the business community, so this is a great honor for us,” GFW Inc. president and CEO John Urbahns said. “The true stars here are our entrepreneurs and corporate leaders, working together to write the community’s next startup success stories.”

The Bridge Program is the brainchild of Brenda Gerber Vincent, GFW Inc.’s VP of community and corporate impact. Launched in June 2019, the program has connected 15 local startups with local corporations for a five-year partnership. Corporate leaders provide business advice and mentorship, as well as sponsoring their chosen startup’s chamber dues, among other benefits.

“Virtually all of our Bridge Entrepreneurs have made remarkable strides in the past year, and we’ve consistently heard that their Bridge Investors were a major part of that success,” Gerber Vincent said. “From coaching to financing to sharing a word of encouragement, these corporate leaders have been incredible allies for these entrepreneurs, and the results have already been impressive in just the first year.”

Companies participating in the inaugural Bridge Program cohort are:

Bridge Entrepreneur (Startup)Bridge Investor (Sponsor)
3r Interactive, LLCThe Hagerman Group
A Chance Re-Employment & Training Agency, LLCAmbassador Enterprises
Bounce Back of Indiana, Inc.1st Source Bank
CASS HousingOrtho NorthEast
Elevare LLCCarson LLP
Founders SparkParkview Health
House to HomeSummit City Chevrolet
Mercadito TaqueriaJPMorgan Chase
Out of a JamFort Wayne Mad Ants
Plowshares Food Hub Co.Wells Fargo
Simple Glow Candle Co.Deister Machine Company
SociallySeasoned, LLCSTAR Financial Bank
SoundWalkSweetwater
STRE.MEElevatus Architecture
Yeoman Service CenterRidge NAPA

The award was distributed as part of the ICEA’s Annual Meeting, which was held Friday in a virtual format. The ICEA gives Excellence Awards in five categories; the Bridge Program won the award in the “Innovative New Ideas” category. Nominees in this category were programs that were newly formed by Indiana chambers of commerce in 2019.

About Greater Fort Wayne Inc.

Greater Fort Wayne (GFW) Inc. serves Fort Wayne and Allen County, Indiana, as its metro chamber alliance and 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.