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City aims for top 25 metros

Greater Fort Wayne to push economic development


If establishing Greater Fort Wayne Inc. in April was the windup, the $5 million pitch came Wednesday.

The nonprofit organization has launched a private sector fund-raising campaign to make Summit City one of the top 25 metros in the Midwest in terms of economic development.

Speaking before an audience of about 50 business and community leaders, Greater Fort Wayne CEO Mark Becker said the goal is for the region to be fertile ground for business growth, job creation and competitiveness.

Following his remarks, Becker said he wants a thriving economic climate to be the norm in Fort Wayne.

“There’s no reason it can’t be,” Becker said. “We have the resources to do it.”

Greater Fort Wayne – the merger of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance and the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce – already has eight corporate investors whose combined pledges total $1.2 million.

Becker declined to name the supporters.

Although the immediate goal is to raise $5 million over the next five years, Becker said efforts won’t stop there.

“We want to lay a foundation for Fort Wayne to prosper for years to come,” he said.

The money raised from corporate sponsors could be spent on research, entrepreneur programs, marketing, staffing and related expenses. The alliance and the chamber have provided some funding for the organization already.

Mike Packnett, a campaign chairman and president and CEO of Parkview Health, spoke during Wednesday’s announcement at the 1st Source Center on Main Street downtown.

The campaign comes on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and Packnett came across a phrase from the speech that fit.

“A ‘fierce urgency,’ ” he said, urging Fort Wayne leaders to seize the moment. “You don’t always hear that from the speech.”

To succeed, business people must remember that luring investments and nurturing enterprises means doing so in a global society.

“We’re not just competing against Ohio and Illinois,” Packnett said.

As for cracking the top 25 among metropolitan statistical areas, the Community Research Institute at IPFW will use a new Fort Wayne Competitiveness Index that will measure community and product development, business retention and expansion, business attraction, support for entrepreneurs, small-business innovation services and business advocacy.

The institute analyzed Midwest markets and determined that Fort Wayne was 52nd out of 100 mid-sized cities.

“As the largest metro center in northeast Indiana, we have a responsibility – all of us – to make greater Fort Wayne as strong as it can be for future generations and for our neighbors in the 10-county region,” Becker said in a statement.