Fort Wayne is a city with momentum and people can feel it. Progress on the riverfront, the downtown arena, The Landing and other development projects has generated an unprecedented level of excitement over the last year.
The city has 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.
With much to celebrate, we also recognize our challenges. This growth is just the beginning of a larger strategy to overcome two key issues facing our community today: wage decline and population stagnation.
Over the past few decades, we’ve seen a significant decline in our average wage. In 1990, it was 120 percent of the national average. If that had been maintained, our current average wage would be $61,000 per year, but in reality, it’s $41,000 (20 percent below the national average). That’s a 40-point decrease.
While our population is growing at just 0.7 percent, that is primarily because the birthrate is higher than the death rate. We still had 2,572 more people move out than move in over the last five years. This prevents Fort Wayne and Allen County from maintaining the workforce we need to increase our average wage and bring higher-paying jobs.
When studying best in class cities across the country, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation identified nine key principles for economic growth, which include a bold vision, a thriving downtown and quality of place improvements. The city has identified five key projects that, over the next 10 years, will help to increase our population growth rate to 2.1 percent, increase our average wage to meet or exceed the national average and increase our GDP from $30 billion to $60 billion over the next 15 years.
This $350 million plan—implemented in a fiscally responsible way—is expected to generate $3.5 billion in private investment over the next 15 to 20 years.
We have the opportunity to leverage our momentum and increase community pride. Working together, we’ll ensure that Fort Wayne is a nationally-recognized economy, a best in class city and a great place for people to live, work and play for generations to come.