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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, March 26, 2016 10:01 pm

'Our progress plate is loaded'

TOM SMITH

It’s time for an economic development summit meeting in Fort Wayne.

Currently, the city’s role in private development is the prime target for many pundits, political partisans and critics-at-large. Their allegations are rarely confronted or defused, leaving many people dismayed and divided.

A large part of the problem is the random buzz words and catchphrases that usually punctuate their complaints.

You regularly hear about crony capitalism and corporate welfare. Then comes the chatter that government has no business picking winners and losers; and if a project is so great, let the private sector pay for it.

For good measure, throw in the chronic complaints that businesses and developers need public support because of high taxes, over-regulation and too much red tape.

Regrettably, if there’s something of worth in these "debates," it gets lost in all these lame words and phrases.

This lazy language just substitutes stereotypes and invective for fairness and deeper discussion of these confounding issues.

I’ve never seen so many people struggling to keep up with all the city’s new and proposed developments. They want more than jargon, slogans and promotions. They want to hear clear, concise, defensible reasons why taxpayers should keep supporting so many high-dollar projects.

When you look at our list of big projects, it’s easy to see why they want answers. There’s The Landing, Cityscape Flats, riverfront development, the Ash and Skyline buildings, the Regional Cities menu, and maybe a new arena.

Mix in potential new neighborhood redevelopment projects like North River, Quimby Village and GE, and our progress plate is loaded.

If we’re going to do all this, we must stay focused and respectful. The first and best thing we can do is call a cease-fire in our war of words.

All these zingers are like buzz bombs that send people running for their bunkers. It’s time to stop the verbal barrages and sound the all-clear signal.

It’s time for our public and private economic development leaders, together with neighborhood and labor leaders, to convene and author a compelling case to justify and continue our present growth course or reset our compass for a new direction.

Having so many capable leaders, it makes no difference how or who starts the meetings. But we must act now because we’re approaching a tipping point in our community’s support for so many private subsidies and tax breaks.

We’ve done very well to date. The great success of Harrison Square and Parkview Field gives taxpayers reason to believe future investments will also succeed.

That sets the bar really high,and that’s what people are counting on.