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Hoping for ‘Greater’ city

Chamber-Alliance merger named; CEO, office up next

Packnett

Greater Fort Wayne Inc. is the official name of the new economic development organization that will represent the city and county, local officials announced Tuesday.

One Lucky Guitar, a local advertising agency, created the group’s name and logo. Matt Kelley, principal and creative director, said designers wanted something “bold, clear and powerful.”

Greater Fort Wayne Inc., a nonprofit, is a merger of the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance. The combined staff totals 26.

The organization’s goal is to create a common vision and “speak with one voice” when talking to employers about investments and job creation, said Mike Packnett, who is chairman of the transition.

Packnett, who is also president and CEO of Parkview Health, said next steps include hiring a new CEO, renting downtown office space, drafting a strategic vision and expanding the board, which now has about 36 members.

“We’ve got a long list of to do’s over the next few months,” Packnett said.

Until a new CEO is hired, the current Chamber and Alliance leaders will oversee day-to-day issues with the merger from their existing downtown locations until a joint office is leased.

Mike Landram, who has been president of the Chamber since 2009, said there are many unknowns about the new CEO position, but he’s interested in learning details and might apply. In the meantime, he hasn’t launched a job search.

“I love what I’m doing,” he said.

Mick McCollum, a longtime member of the Alliance’s board, has been leading the Alliance on an interim basis.

The newly formed board expects to launch a CEO search next week. The Downtown Improvement District was not part of the merger because as a pseudo-governmental agency that was created by state statute, it collects taxes from businesses operating in the designated area. There would be legal implications if it joined with two nonprofits.

But DID’s leaders plan to work directly with Greater Fort Wayne Inc.

Dozens of local business leaders and elected officials attended the announcement in a show of support that might have been easier for some than others.

County elected officials could have balked at the idea of combining city and county economic development efforts under one banner with the Fort Wayne name. But Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters said his ego won’t get in the way.

“I absolutely don’t have any reservations at all with the name,” he said after the formal announcement.

The organization’s mission and purpose, Peters said, are more important than its name.

sslater@jg.net

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