The city of Fort Wayne will continue to fund Greater Fort Wayne Inc.
In a 6-2 vote Tuesday, the Fort Wayne City Council approved a $125,000 appropriation for the economic development entity, half of the city’s annual $250,000 contribution. In January, the council withheld half of the annual contribution, citing concerns over how the agency funds its lobbying efforts and issues with what some councilmen called aggressive lobbying or intimidation against elected officials.
Greater Fort Wayne was created with the merger of the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance in 2013.
Speaking before the council Tuesday, Ron Turpin, chairman of the Greater Fort Wayne Inc. board of directors, apologized for any conduct that the council members may have felt was inappropriate. The allegation troubled the board, Turpin said.
"Going forward, Greater Fort Wayne makes the commitment to you that even though our representatives will lobby, persuade and argue with passion our positions, which we believe will make this community stronger, we will at no time use our position as chamber of commerce to threaten electoral retaliation for taking a position contrary to ours," Turpin said.
Turpin also said Greater Fort Wayne Inc. will provide a disclaimer on future advocacy materials stating that the organization’s lobbying is done on behalf of Fort Wayne’s business community and do not reflect the views of the city or county.
"We believe that this will address the concern expressed about making sure the business community, our citizens and our legislative delegation are aware that any policy positions taken by Greater Fort Wayne are Greater Fort Wayne Inc.’s only and not necessarily those of the elected officials and political units inside Allen County," Turpin said.
Additionally, Turpin presented the council with a breakdown of Greater Fort Wayne Inc.’s 2016 budget expenses in the realm of economic development. He noted that the organization’s economic development efforts are governed by a separate board of directors with its own 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. The board is also comprised of one county official, one city official and a private sector business leader.
"All funding uses are approved by this body to ensure the dollars allocated by the common council are to be used solely for the promotion of economic development," Turpin said.
Councilmen Jason Arp, R-4th, and Paul Ensley, R-1st, were the two who voted against it. Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, was absent.
In other business, the council introduced an ordinance proposing a new city wheel tax. A public hearing on that issue is June 7.