The Secret Sauce

Greater Fort Wayne Inc. sees collaboration and communication as the key reasons behind the growing success of local businesses.
Dec 5, 2022
Jennifer Blomquist
Provided

Living in northwest Indiana, Tom Fife had heard good things about Fort Wayne. Today, Fort Wayne is home for him, his family and his business.

“I had a longtime background with corporate Giordano’s out of Chicago and was looking to open a restaurant in this market,” says Fife. “I was told that dining out is a very popular thing to do in Fort Wayne. After doing our due diligence, my business partner Russell Bry and I opened the Giordano’s off Diebold Road in October of 2021.”

With businesses locally and nationally still in the midst of recovery from the pandemic, the fall of 2021 was still a challenging time, but Fife credits Greater Fort Wayne Inc. as the glue that kept everything together.

“I joined GFW Inc. right off the bat,” says Fife. “It’s a wonderful organization and very valuable. It offers so many things throughout the year and provides a detailed calendar of events, which helps me as a business owner to know where to put my marketing dollars. That kind of support is fantastic.”

“We are the Local Economic Development Organization, or LEDO, merged with the Chamber of Commerce. We’re that one-stop shop, helping both existing businesses that are already here as well as those businesses that want to be here. When we do our job well, it helps business owners do their jobs well,” says Dan Watson, director of marketing for GFW Inc.

“In a lot of communities, there’s a LEDO and a Chamber of Commerce that are separate,” says John Urbahns, president and CEO of GFW Inc. “In 2014, we combined the two organizations together along with Leadership Fort Wayne. That way, we could be a little bolder and could do some things together that we couldn’t do separately. One of the developers that’s doing a couple of big projects downtown recently spoke at our Economic Development Summit and said he came to us because he knew we had a plan, and he knew we could implement it by working together. That’s so rewarding to hear because our focus every day is attracting people and capital. We want to attract people like Tom Fife and his family to live in the community and we also want to attract people who are investing in our community, like Fife is. We seem to have that secret sauce of figuring out how to get projects done, and have been successful at it.”

Urbahns also emphasizes the importance of GFW Inc.’s focus on diversifying the local economy to attract businesses and to retain them as well.

“Back in the 80s and 90s and now in the 2000s, we knew we had to diversify our economy with companies like Sweetwater Sound, Fort Wayne Metals and some of the other businesses that are really growing fast. That makes us much more recession-proof compared to being a single-company town that employs the vast majority of the population.”

Urbahns says even during the pandemic, many local businesses were thriving and, in some cases, expanding.

“We make it easy to do business and to move your business here,” says Watson. “We recognize that it’s a complicated deal to move a business into a new place. We have the tools, resources and collaboration efforts to make the process easy.”

The CEO of a local metal fabrication manufacturer, QuikCut, LLC, says location and collaboration are among the reasons the company has succeeded in Fort Wayne.

“QuikCut has never considered any other site but Fort Wayne for its operations for multiple reasons,” says CEO Mark Webb. “The centralized location in northeast Indiana is perfect for a manufacturer to have access to a strong supply base for both raw materials and services to provide our clients with the most competitive turnkey solution. The county, along with GFW Inc., has always been supportive of QuikCut by providing us with assistance when we have asked, which has allowed us to keep a mindset for growth.”

Both Watson and Urbahns say research shows the downtown development and riverfront projects, as well as the low cost of living and high quality of life, are drawing people from many places outside of Indiana to take a serious look at Fort Wayne. That was certainly the case for Tom Fife.

“Fort Wayne just has it going on,” says Fife. “This is a safe and family-friendly town and we’re a family-owned business. We offer a high level of hospitality, and spend time getting to know our customers and making sure they have the best experience possible. People have been extremely receptive to our approach and we feel right at home in Fort Wayne. This is our new home.” 

Greater Fort Wayne Inc.

Address: 200 E. Main St., Suite #800, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46802

Phone: (260) 420-6945

Website: gfwinc.com

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