The text of Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry’s State of the City address, delivered on February 10, 2010, at the IPFW Rhinehart Music Center.
Good evening. Thank you, Chancellor Wartell, for your warm welcome. I am honored to be here at IPFW, a key partner in strengthening the economy of Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana. Over 80 percent of IPFW students remain here after graduation. That success is shared by all our local colleges and universities, including Indiana Tech, the University of Saint Francis and Ivy Tech Northeast.
Workforce development, through higher education, vocational programs and trade apprenticeships, is an investment in our talent and our future. Manchester College’s decision to start a pharmacy program at Parkview Hospital’s Randallia campus is a prime example of the important role higher education plays in growing our economy. This is the only pharmacy program in all of northern Indiana. It will connect our powerful regional healthcare networks with one of the fastest-growing areas of employment.
In America, education has always created the chance for people to get ahead, and those opportunities are even more crucial now. We are improving the likelihood of job success through the new Talent Initiative, which is a result of our efforts with workforce and economic development agencies and educational institutions. Funded through a $20 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, the initiative will prepare our workforce for high-skill jobs focusing on science, technology, engineering and math. The Community Foundation, the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and its foundation, WorkOne, IPFW, Ivy Tech and local school corporations including Fort Wayne Community and East Allen are working hard to keep Fort Wayne working in a high-tech economy.
In fact, the six planned New Tech high schools, with a focus on project-based learning, will give Northeast Indiana a higher concentration of this innovative program than any other region in the country.
We are living in tough economic times, tougher than any we’ve seen in 75 years. The pain of these difficult times and the hardships experienced by many are something I carry with me every day as Mayor. Still, I am convinced that Fort Wayne will both survive and thrive. Why? Because we have the energy, the ideas, the spirit and the courage to take the tough and transform it into a brighter tomorrow for all of us.
We have a legacy of innovation that can come to life again. We are a proud, hard working people who never give up, who rise to every challenge and demonstrate the best in humanity when the going gets rough. That is why I am working every moment of every day to keep Fort Wayne working. That is why I believe that by working together, we can keep Fort Wayne growing. My friends, together we are stronger.
A story that best reflects that philosophy and my singular focus on job creation is our Fort Wayne General Motors plant. Although GM announced the closure of 14 plants last year, we not only weathered the storm, the local plant came out larger and stronger.
We can all celebrate the retention and attraction of those nearly 3,000 jobs. The decision to expand the Fort Wayne plant showcases our outstanding workforce, infrastructure, positive business climate and the incentives brought together by the City and County.
Nowhere is our “together, we are stronger” message more vital than in our economic development efforts. Our work with Allen County, the Regional Partnership, the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance, the Downtown Improvement District, and the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center shows our commitment to making this community more attractive to new jobs and business growth. We know we need available sites for industrial development, coordinated long-term infrastructure and new mechanisms like the Downtown Development Corporation to jumpstart business – and we are on it.
Making the best trucks in the world is part of our DNA. It is part of our innovation heritage. That’s why the fate of Navistar’s engineering facility is of such concern. I was pleased Navistar officials accepted my ‘invitation to meet with them. But you can be sure that I will continue to do everything in my power working with community leaders along with the Alliance plus state and federal officials to fight for these jobs in northeast Indiana. There is no better place to design the next generation of highly efficient trucks than here in Fort Wayne.
The success of Canlan Ice Sports and the two hotels now under construction have enhanced our city in unique ways. I brought together a consortium of seven local banks to make the downtown Courtyard by Marriott a reality. I wish to thank these banks for stepping up in these tough economic times. The Town Place Suites by Marriott and ice rink puts the spotlight on additional private developers who are building this remarkable facility. Thank you. These projects are creating full-time jobs and increasing our desirability for conventions and events, while adding 300 well-placed rooms. How many other communities can tout these wins in this economy?
As other cities cut vital services, lay off police officers and firefighters, and close facilities, Fort Wayne is working hard to maintain the City services our residents expect. Our City has been able to avoid any cuts in core services. Through strong fiscal management, hard work, and innovative, cost-saving measures, our City ended 2009 $2.3 million under budget.
That does not mean I am not concerned about property tax caps and how they will affect our future budgets, but Fort Wayne is well positioned financially. Other Indiana cities are discussing new revenue streams, but this is not needed in Fort Wayne. Let me reassure you, I will not put any additional burdens on our non-profit organizations, who are creating jobs and delivering important services.
Working together to keep Fort Wayne growing means a local government that is equipped and ready to lead, ready to welcome new jobs and ready meet the public’s expectations. That is why I am determined to find a community solution to the space needs of City and County government. With the plan to put public safety in the City-County Building and our administrative teams in 200 East Berry Street – the only workable solution, we have a chance to come together as a community, make things easier for our residents and make local government work better.
We must rise above the outmoded ways of doing business and make City and County government more efficient, responsive, and cost effective. We have a rare opportunity to do something that is right for today and right for generations to come. Let’s have the courage to get it done and be the one, great community I know we can be. Together, we are stronger.
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