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The Journal Gazette

Monday, May 30, 2016 10:00 pm

With millennials in mind

Eric Doden

Indiana’s economy has been making waves recently. Just this month, Chief Executive magazine announced that the state ranks first in the Midwest and fifth in the nation for doing business, and April marked the 10th consecutive month with employment above the state’s previous peak employment record from March 2000.

In fact, Indiana has added more than 152,100 jobs since January 2013, including 395 jobs announced in Allen County already this year. Most recently, Wal-Mart chose Fort Wayne to establish a milk-processing plant, which will create more than 200 good-paying jobs. The facility will be one of the largest milk-processing plants in the country – a quarter-of-a-million-square-foot, highly-efficient plant that will produce milk for more than 600 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club locations in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and northern Kentucky. And downtown, DuCharme, McMillen & Associates, a North American corporate tax consulting firm, announced plans to expand its Fort Wayne offices, moving into the new Ash Skyline Plaza and creating up to 43 new jobs.

While I understand many of Caroline Tsai’s concerns outlined in her piece "State offers new graduates few reasons to stay" (May 22), I am confident that the state, the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and Greater Fort Wayne Inc., along with many others, are addressing many of her and her classmates’ points about the region. Among others, Tsai notes that Fort Wayne is virtually unknown to outsiders and that Hoosiers, namely college-bound freshman and first-time job seekers, are moving to cities outside Indiana.

These concerns are no surprise. In 2013, Gov. Mike Pence and our team at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation identified population stagnation as the greatest threat to the state’s continued economic growth. After studying peer cities across the country, we developed and implemented the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative to combat this by enhancing regional quality of place. The goal is simple: to grow Indiana’s regions like northeast Indiana into nationally recognized destinations to live, work and play in order to attract and retain top talent to our state.

Thanks to our region’s bold and viable plan to transform its future, the state is providing $42 million in matching funds to help accelerate regional development in Fort Wayne and across northeast Indiana. Our Road to One Million Plan is already in the implementation phase, as the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority allocated $2.8 million in state funding to help finance the Skyline Tower in Fort Wayne, which will be home to more than 120 modern apartments, office space and retail space geared toward new grads and young professionals. The Skyline Tower is just one of the 38 short-term transformational projects planned in the 11-county region.

Our 10-year vision for Fort Wayne and Allen County includes five major projects to be completed between now and 2025. This $350-million implementation plan is expected to generate $3.5 billion in private investment over the next 15 to 20 years.

These projects include the $85 million downtown arena, $30 million redevelopment of The Landing, $100 million riverfront, the $250 million GE campus redevelopment and the $180 million STEAM Park, an education and entertainment and complex that will excite and inspire young people to prepare for 21st century workforce opportunities in science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

While the Northeast Indiana Regional Cities Initiative plan outlines projects over the next 10 years, we have witnessed tremendous progress here in Fort Wayne. We’ve had 10 years of strong momentum, catalyzed by Parkview Field, which opened in 2009. In just six years, this $54 million project resulted in more than $250 million in private investment, with the Courtyard Marriott, the Harrison, the Anthony Wayne Building, Randall and Superior lofts, the Embassy Theatre, the Ash Brokerage building, Cityscape Flats and Skyline Tower.

Indiana is not a sit-back-and-wait state. We have established ourselves as the best place to start or grow a business, and now we face a new challenge to fill the jobs we continue to create. This challenge, keep in mind, is a good one to have.

In partnership with local communities, businesses and industry leaders, Indiana is fighting its newest battle on all fronts as we work to train tomorrow’s leaders, inspire future entrepreneurs and attract new Hoosiers to the state for generations to come.