This editorial was originally published Feb. 3, 2005:
When community leaders brainstorm for ways to invigorate downtown, their discussions center on big-ticket draws like a sports stadium or a downtown mall or a casino or a flashy boutique of name-brand retailers and swanky restaurants. Compared with those ideas, a new printing press sounds not so interesting.
But it is significant. Fort Wayne Newspapers' announcement that it will build a $35 million printing center next to its current Main Street offices may not mark the kind of downtown revival some leaders are seeking, but it does mark welcome investment of private money into downtown Fort Wayne.
This isn't the course that other metropolitan newspapers across the country have followed. Many, including the Indianapolis Star, have taken the opportunity of buying new presses to move their printing operations from downtowns to city fringes or suburbs. And it was an option considered for our project. So it speaks well of the city that Fort Wayne Newspapers is keeping its printing operations on Main Street. It also speaks well of public officials that the project is going ahead with a coordinated economic-development effort.
Ongoing construction reflects the growth that is a vital sign of life for a downtown, much as it is for a university or a hospital. The six-story tower that will go up across Van Buren Street from the newspaper's current building will be an important addition to the city's skyline and comes after the convention center expansion and library renovation.
The $35 million investment also reflects a commitment to the future of newspapers. The new presses will improve the print quality of The Journal Gazette and allow the editors to use color on more pages, making for a more vibrant and, in this visual age, more credible appearance. In a multimedia era, such an investment sends a signal to colleagues and competitors alike.
With savvy strategy, determination and luck, Fort Wayne could still see the kind of big sports, recreation or commercial developments that draw more people to the city center. Whether that happens or not, the construction of the new printing building, expected to start within a year, will mark an important sign of life in downtown Fort Wayne.