Allen County attracts talent and jobs

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News release from Greater Fort Wayne:

Allen County attracts talent, jobs as calendar flips to new decade
Community sets new record for domestic migration in 2019

(January 2, 2020) – In 2019, Allen County continued its progress as one of America’s up-and-coming mid-sized communities. In addition to setting new records for building construction and attracting and retaining talent, the community welcomed several new quality-of-place projects including Promenade Park, setting the stage for future success. These economic wins, paired with a trio of national chamber of commerce awards, made for another strong year for Greater Fort Wayne Inc. and the Allen County community.

“In today’s economy, a community’s quality of life is crucial. If we want to attract businesses and create jobs, we need to be a place where people want to live, and the numbers show Allen County is making remarkable strides,” said John Urbahns, CEO of GFW Inc. “We will continue working to build a nationally recognized economy here in Allen County, living out our core values of inclusivity, collaboration, and results.”


Talent Attraction
Allen County added 691 residents due to domestic migration in 2018, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released in April 2019. The figure was the county’s best single-year total since the Census Bureau began tracking net domestic migration in 1991.

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. It was the second consecutive year in which Allen County posted a positive net domestic migration number.

The data represents a significant turnaround:

Year / Net Domestic Migration Growth/Loss
2012 / -1,057
2013 / -442
2014 / -674
2015 / -394
2016 / -424
2017 / +21
2018 / +691

In total, the county’s population grew by 3,141 people in 2018. With this strong growth, Fort Wayne was ranked the hottest real estate market in America for five consecutive months in 2019—July through November. Rankings for December are not yet available.


Economic Development
GFW Inc. assisted companies that invested more than $139 million in Allen County during the year. Other commitments included:

  • 21 business expansions and relocations
  • 1,187 new jobs
  • $52 million in new annual payroll

Major expansion and relocation announcements included:

In early September, Allen County officials announced they had issued more than $1 billion in building permits for the third consecutive year. They reached $1 billion by Aug. 27, the earliest date they had ever reached the milestone. The county had never eclipsed the $1 billion mark in any year prior to 2017.

“By mid-December, Allen County reached $1.5 billion in development that a decade ago was unheard of,” Allen County Commissioners Rich Beck, Therese Brown, and Nelson Peters said in a joint statement. “It is through a collaborative approach, exceptional customer service, and a development-friendly tax environment that we look for this to be the annual norm as we move into the next decade.”

GFW Inc. staff members made more than 500 visits to Allen County businesses in 2019. These on-site visits are designed to help current Allen County businesses thrive and retain jobs. In addition, staff members made more than 100 visits with businesses headquartered outside Allen County, including out-of-market investors and developers interested in investing in the community.

With workforce a key concern for local businesses, GFW Inc. spearheads a variety of workforce development programs including:


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:

“Fort Wayne and Allen County are experiencing unprecedented momentum as we work together to continue to build a great community. Collaboration is critical, and our collective emphasis on being committed to enhancing the quality of life for residents and businesses is having a meaningful impact,” Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry said. “Job growth and retention, high-wage employment opportunities, and new private investments are occurring in our community. We’re committed to being focused on doing everything possible to ensure Fort Wayne and Allen County are positioned for success now and in the years ahead.”

While implementing projects at home, GFW Inc. continued to lead learning opportunities in other best-in-class communities. In August, GFW Inc. staffers organized an Inter City Visit to Louisville, Ky., where a group of local leaders toured the Louisville community and heard firsthand the strategies used to revitalize neighborhoods. The visit complemented the City of Fort Wayne’s efforts to update its Southeast Area Development Strategy.


Chamber of Commerce
A year after winning Indiana Chamber of the Year honors, GFW Inc. won three national marketing awards from the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE): Best in Show, a Grand Award, and an Award of Excellence. Judges named three Best in Show winners, 10 Grand Award winners, and 41 Award of Excellence recipients out of more than 160 entries. Meanwhile, GFW Inc.’s VP of economic development, Ellen Cutter, was named to the ACCE’s “40 Under 40” list, which honors the best and brightest individuals under the age of 40 in the chamber industry.

GFW Inc. grew its member total past 1,350 while increasing its retention rate to 94 percent, outpacing the national average. Networking events remained popular; the 2019 Annual Meeting drew a crowd of more than 600 people, a new record. The event included the graduation of the 54-member Leadership Fort Wayne Class of 2019, as well as the debut of the “Vision to Vibrant” video showcasing the community to investors within and outside Allen County. In December, the GFW Inc. Holiday Night event attracted more than 500 attendees, the highest attendance in the event’s history.

In June, GFW Inc. launched the Bridge Program, an effort to boost the Allen County startup scene and connect the corporate community with the local startup ecosystem. Fifteen companies stepped forward as “Bridge Investors” to sponsor, connect, and mentor 15 “Bridge Entrepreneurs” for a five-year period. Plans are underway to onboard a second cohort of investors and entrepreneurs in 2020.

The Leadership 2.0 program kicked off in December, building on the Leadership Fort Wayne program. Leadership 2.0 was created in 2019 based on demand from Leadership Fort Wayne alumni who want to take their leadership skills to the next level.


Looking Ahead
Several business expansions and attractions continue to work their way through the process in several areas of Allen County. Meanwhile in downtown Fort Wayne, at least eight major building projects are expected to be in some stage of construction in 2020, representing a total investment of approximately $681 million. These projects include:

  • Riverfront Development (Phases II and III)
  • Riverfront Promenade (mixed-use development on the Premier Riverfront property)
  • The Lofts at Headwaters Park
  • Ruoff Mortgage Headquarters
  • Electric Works (West Campus)
  • The Landing
  • Boutique Hotel
  • Lutheran Downtown Hospital

Additional projects, particularly in east Allen County, are in the pre-development phase.

To set the table for future development, staff members will work with partners from Allen County and the City of Fort Wayne to create a tactical five-year economic development strategy for the community. Also in 2020, GFW Inc. will release an executive summary of the Allen County Business Survey, which was performed in the fall of 2019.

The GFW Inc. board of directors underwent routine changes as the calendar shifted to 2020. After a two-year run as board chair, Andrew Thomas (Ridge NAPA) shifted into a new role as past chair. Beth Goldsmith (Sold by the Gold at North Eastern Group Realty) ascended to board chair as of Jan. 1, while Dave Lucas (Indiana Michigan Power) moved into Goldsmith’s previous role of vice chair. John Burda (Wells Fargo) and Allen Glassburn (Glassburn Consulting) remain in their previous roles as secretary and treasurer, respectively.

“Our sole mission is building a nationally recognized economy,” Urbahns said. “To accomplish that mission, we will keep our standards at the highest level and keep innovating. Allen County has never had more momentum, but it’s up to all of us to keep pushing and achieve our potential.”


About Greater Fort Wayne Inc.
Greater Fort Wayne (GFW) Inc. serves Fort Wayne and Allen County, Indiana, as its primary point of contact for economic growth. GFW Inc. focuses on prosperity and community vibrancy through economic development, advocacy, programs, and resources that support business success, leadership development, graduate retention, and community engagement. To learn more, visit

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