Record crowd attends 2019 Annual Meeting

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Greater Fort Wayne (GFW) Inc. showcased Allen County’s economic successes and bright future at the organization’s Annual Meeting. Nearly 600 people packed the Arts United Center, the largest crowd in the event’s history.

“This community has built incredible momentum, and we’re proud to play a role in that,” said Beth Goldsmith, vice-chair of the GFW Inc. board of directors. “Together with our partners, we had another record-setting year in 2018, and we’re just getting started. We have a plan to grow jobs, wages, and the economy at an even higher level going forward.”

Across the board, GFW Inc. had a productive 2018. Staff members assisted companies that invested nearly $337 million in Allen County. These companies’ commitments included:

  • 33 business expansions and relocations (highest single-year total since 2013).
  • 2,445 new jobs (highest single-year total on record – stat kept since 2001).
  • $115 million in new annual payroll (highest single-year total on record – stat kept since 2012).

Major expansion and relocation announcements included:

  • Sweetwater: 1,009 new jobs, $76.4 million investment
  • Midwest Service Supply: 230 new jobs, $1.1 million investment
  • Aardvark Paper Straws: 205 new jobs, $9.1 million investment
  • ElringKlinger: 150 new jobs, $23.2 million investment
  • Rural Sourcing: 130 new jobs, $3.4 million investment

In December 2018, Allen County officials announced they had issued more than $1 billion in building permits for the second consecutive year. The county had never eclipsed the $1 billion mark prior to 2017.

GFW Inc. staff members made more than 700 visits to Allen County businesses in 2018. These on-site visits are designed to help current Allen County businesses thrive and retain jobs.

Staff members also made 66 visits to businesses outside Allen County, making stops in cities across the country. These visits with out-of-market business leaders, entrepreneurs, developers, and investors opened direct lines of communication and generated leads for several potential relocations and expansions currently under consideration.

In May 2018, GFW Inc. joined with AWS Foundation to start the Employing People with Disabilities Initiative. The initiative is aimed at connecting local businesses with job placement agencies, specifically for people with disabilities. In less than a year, GFW Inc. established partnerships with nine employment agencies and met with 105 companies.

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 – Opening Day for Phase I (Promenade Park) is scheduled for August 2019. City officials and DAVID RUBIN Land Collective have begun planning for Phases II and III with a focus on attracting private investment.
  • The Landing – The redeveloped Columbia Street historic district is expected to be completed in the coming months. Model Group, a Cincinnati firm specializing in revitalizing historic urban neighborhoods, is overseeing the project.
  • Electric Works – A local funding package was approved in November for the redevelopment of the former General Electric campus. Novogradac & Co., a national accounting firm, forecasts the finished campus will spur $387 million in annual economic impact. Developers are currently working toward lease agreements with potential tenants. In January 2018, the project garnered national media attention from The Wall Street Journal.
  • Improvements in East Allen County – In December 2018, the NewAllen Alliance won a statewide Stellar Communities designation from the Indiana Office of Community & Rural Affairs. This designation unlocks funding for quality-of-place improvements like parks, trails, streetscapes, and more in Grabill, Harlan, Hoagland, Leo-Cedarville, Monroeville, New Haven, and Woodburn. GFW Inc. staff members assisted NewAllen Alliance personnel, most of them volunteers, with their Stellar application and presentation.

The quality-of-place improvements appear to be paying off. In 2018, Allen County’s population grew by 3,163 residents–691 of whom came via domestic migration. It was Allen County’s best single-year total for net domestic migration since the U.S. Census Bureau began tracking the statistic in 1991. 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.

In addition, named Fort Wayne the second-hottest real estate market in the country for October 2018.

Chamber of commerce

In June 2018, GFW Inc. won the Indiana Chamber of the Year award, given each year by the Indiana Chamber Executives Association (ICEA). Fort Wayne last earned that honor in 2003. Award applicants were judged by a panel of five chamber professionals, all located outside Indiana. GFW Inc. also won ICEA marketing awards for its website and its “Opportunity on the Edge of Greatness” marketing campaign.

GFW Inc.’s networking events remained a hit in 2018. In post-event surveys, those who attended GFW Inc. events gave an average satisfaction rating of 4.7 on a 5.0 scale.

Meeting notes

Highlights of this year’s Annual Meeting include:

  • Celebrating the year’s accomplishments.
  • Graduation of the Leadership Fort Wayne Class of 2019.
  • Q&A sessions with:
    • Ingrid Miller, COO of Rural Sourcing.
    • Chuck McQuaig, General Manager of Prairie Farms Dairy’s Fort Wayne Division.
    • Wendy Moyle, Owner and VP-Marketing at Shindigz.
    • John Dortch, President/Owner of Fort Wayne Ink Spot.
    • Aaron Robles, Founder of Founders Spark.
  • “Vision to Vibrant,” a new video touting the community.
  • The unveiling of a new program designed to bolster entrepreneurship in Allen County.

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.