January 10, 2023 - Allen County attracted more than $589 million in new private investment in 2022 and, for the fifth consecutive year, posted positive numbers for attracting and retaining talent. Also, data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed the county’s population grew at more than five times the national rate, capping a strong year in economic and community development.
“Our work is all about helping Fort Wayne and Allen County grow, and 2022 was a success," said John Urbahns, president and CEO of GFW Inc. "This community is a leader in the Great Lakes region. We’re attracting and retaining people and capital at an extremely high level, and we’re already working to make 2023 even better."
GFW Inc. assisted companies that committed to investing more than $589 million in Allen County during the year. Other commitments included:
- 21 business expansions and relocations.
- 1,300+ new jobs.
- More than $84 million in new annual payroll.
Companies making major expansion and relocation announcements included:
- Dana Corp.
- Fort Wayne Metals.
- Lane 201 Boutique.
- Swiss Re.
- 3BG Supply Co.
Allen County issued more than $1 billion in building permits in 2022, making it the sixth consecutive year passing the $1 billion mark.
“We celebrate the successes of the private sector in Allen County amid challenging times. We are incredibly proud of the resiliency of all components of our community—individuals, non-profits, and the private sector—to weather the storms of the last few years. Allen County remains on a positive trajectory," Allen County Commissioners Rich Beck, Therese Brown, and Nelson Peters said in a joint statement. "The foundations of collaboration, shared success, and communication across all sectors cultivated over the last decade continue to benefit Allen County during this latest global challenge.”
GFW Inc. staffers met with representatives from more than 500 Allen County businesses in 2022. These visits are designed to help current Allen County businesses thrive and retain jobs.
With workforce development an increasing point of emphasis, GFW Inc. staff members and local business leaders made presentations to more than 2,300 local high-school students as part of the MadeByMe skilled-trades initiative. These presentations highlighted career opportunities in the skilled trades and advanced manufacturing in an effort to build these industries' workforce of the future.
Staff members also assisted more than 50 people and businesses as part of the GFW Inc. Disabilities Initiative. Supported by AWS Foundation, the initiative helps employers build an inclusive workforce and create accessible workspaces, and also helps newcomers with disabilities get connected as they settle into life in Allen County.
Alongside leaders from the public and private sectors, in January GFW Inc. released the Allen County Together (ACT) economic development action plan. The 10-year plan focuses on making the community more high-growth, innovative, and inclusive through a variety of bold projects. The ACT plan is the result of months of planning in consultation with public and private partners. Just one year into the plan, signs of progress include:
- $250M in private development underway near Riverfront Fort Wayne (ACT goal: $1 billion in private investment on the riverfront by the end of 2031).
- $50M investment (Village Premier) underway in southeast Fort Wayne (ACT goal: Build catalytic development projects in southeast Fort Wayne that attract $100 million in capital investment by the end of 2026 and $250 million by the end of 2031).
- Purdue Fort Wayne's Campus Master Plan was approved, paving the way for future student housing (ACT goal: Build 2,500 on- and off-campus student housing units by the end of 2031).
- Fort Wayne was one of nine communities in the country selected for a Gateways for Growth grant, supporting improved immigrant inclusion (ACT goal: Create a more inclusive community).
Talent Attraction / Retention
From a population standpoint, Fort Wayne’s growth rate was more than five times the national rate in 2021, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released in March 2022. The community again was among the fastest-growing metro areas in the Great Lakes region in 2021: Fort Wayne's growth rate (0.67%) was the second-highest in the region, behind Eau Claire, Wis. (0.71%) and ahead of metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) like Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson (0.62%) and Columbus, Ohio (0.47%). The Fort Wayne MSA includes Allen, Wells, and Whitley counties.
Meanwhile, Allen County added 1,299 residents due to domestic migration in 2020. It was the fifth consecutive year in which the county posted positive net domestic migration. Net domestic migration measures how many people moved into a community from other U.S. locales, versus how many moved away to other U.S. communities. The data represents a significant turnaround within the past decade:
Net Domestic Migration Growth/Loss by Year
- 2012: -1,082
- 2013: -245
- 2014: -800
- 2015: -161
- 2016: -597
- 2017: +81
- 2018: +772
- 2019: +1,514
- 2020: +226
- 2021: +1,299
In total, the county's population grew by 2,716 residents (0.7%) in 2021, also outpacing the national rate (0.12%).
Quality of Place
GFW Inc. assisted on several major quality-of-place projects designed to help Allen County attract and retain jobs and talent, including:
- Electric Works – The West Campus of the former General Electric facility opened in August 2022, when Fort Wayne Community Schools’ Amp Lab welcomed its first students. The food hall, Union Street Market, opened to the public in November. Do it Best, Electric Works’ anchor tenant, opened its new world headquarters on the campus in early December. Work continues on Phase II of the project, with a parking garage already open and residential units, a child care facility, and more under construction on the west side of Broadway just north of the railroad tracks.
- Riverfront Development – Construction is underway on Phase II, which focuses on attracting private investment to the downtown riverfront. The parking garage portion of the $89 million Riverfront at Promenade Park project opened in early 2022, and apartments and townhomes welcomed their first residents in November. Retail and office space is expected to open in early 2023, with Swiss Re committed as the anchor tenant.
- The Landing – The former Columbia Street West building is currently undergoing historic preservation with plans to reopen as two distinct bars and a boutique liquor store. The space is also being expanded to include 21 new housing units. This project is being overseen by the Model Group, the same developer that worked on previous projects on The Landing.
- Fort Wayne International Airport's Project Gateway – The expanded West Terminal opened in March 2022, and work continues on the broader $47 million terminal expansion. When Project Gateway is finished in 2025, the improvements will allow for two new gates, new jet bridges, an expanded ticketing area, additional restrooms, more convenient passenger pick-up and drop-off, and more.
- Improvements in East Allen County – In September, community leaders celebrated the grand opening of Grabill’s revitalized downtown streetscape, and October brought the groundbreaking for a new housing development near the New Haven Community Center. In recent years, a variety of projects in Grabill, Harlan, Hoagland, New Haven, Leo-Cedarville, Monroeville, and Woodburn became a reality as a result of the NewAllen Alliance winning a statewide Stellar Communities designation from the Indiana Office of Community & Rural Affairs.
“I continue to be encouraged by the positive growth we’re experiencing in our community,” said Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry. “The advances in new jobs being created, the retention of existing employees and businesses, and more people calling Fort Wayne and Allen County home are strong indicators that we’re succeeding. Collaboration and teamwork are making a positive difference.”
Chamber of Commerce
Highlights from GFW Inc. investor services and programs in 2022 include:
- In December, 46 individuals graduated as part of the Leadership Fort Wayne (LFW) program's Class of 2022, the 40th cohort in the leadership development program's history. The class pushed the number of LFW alumni past 1,500 since the program’s founding in 1983. Alums have gone on to serve on or lead nonprofit boards, hold elected office, and run businesses.
- The Onboard Fort Wayne and C-Suite Social programs welcomed 100 newcomers to the Allen County community via networking events, one-on-one assistance, and online resources. The programs were launched in 2020 to welcome new professionals and their significant others/families to the community, assisting local companies with one of their top challenges: attracting and retaining top talent.
- GFW Inc. hosted its first-ever Economic Development Summit event, with more than 400 people in attendance to gain insights from regionally and nationally recognized presenters including Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Ball State University economist Dr. Michael Hicks, and Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness. Panel discussions addressed the local entrepreneurial landscape, public higher-ed growth, and more.
- Twenty-four entrepreneurs participated in the GFW Inc. Bridge Program, which helps bridge the gap between startup and success. Each entrepreneur is sponsored by a corporate partner and receives business coaching, chamber membership benefits, and more.
- GFW Inc. assisted in celebrating 24 ribbon-cutting and groundbreaking ceremonies.
- Year-over-year, GFW Inc. membership was steady at about 1,300.
"We're proud to serve our local business community, from solo entrepreneurs to our largest employers," said Brenda Gerber Vincent, GFW Inc.'s chief impact officer. "I’m always thrilled when GFW Inc. members make connections and form relationships that lead to real wins for their companies—because when local businesses win, the community wins, too."
Several business expansions and attractions continue to work their way through the process in several areas of Allen County. And, the following 11 major building projects are expected to be in some stage of construction in 2023, representing a total investment of approximately $542 million:
- Electric Works (Phase II).
- The Landing (Columbia Street West renovation/expansion).
- The Lofts at Headwaters Park.
- Manchester University Fort Wayne expansion.
- New Haven Crossroads Duplexes.
- The Pearl.
- Project Gateway.
- Riverfront Development (Phase II).
- The Riverfront at Promenade Park.
- STAR Bank headquarters.
- Trine University Fort Wayne.
- Village Premier.
Additional projects are in the pre-development phase.
"We’re constantly trying to raise the standard of what’s possible in our community," Urbahns said. “Last year was a great year, but it’s in the past now. We're already pushing ahead to build a nationally recognized economy in 2023 and beyond.”