Greater Fort Wayne Inc. discussed details of its 10-year strategic plan for economic growth as part of its presentation Dec. 1 with the Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana of their 2022 legislative agendas at Sweetwater, 5501 U.S. 30 W.

Additionally, the Northeast Indiana legislative delegation was on hand to answer questions and speak about topics that they plan to address this session.

Future growth

Greater Fort Wayne (GFW) Inc., the chamber of commerce and economic development organization for Fort Wayne and Allen County, highlighted as part of its plan the areas of economic and community development, transportation and infrastructure, entrepreneur and business development and education and workforce development.

“In January, Greater Fort Wayne will officially launch The Allen County Together Plan to address economic challenges our community faces and provide a 10-year strategic roadmap to success,” Melissa Beber, director of advocacy, Greater Fort Wayne, Inc., said.

Beber outlined some of the projects included in the Allen County Together Plan. These include:

• Advancing the downtown Fort Wayne riverfront

• Attracting and growing high-wage jobs in research and development and tech-driven industries

• Becoming recognized as a top 10 music city

• Being a premier industry 4.0 automotive-tech community

• Executing a catalyst development project in southeast Fort Wayne

Additionally, Beber announced the top legislative priorities expected to be put forth in the upcoming session, which begins in January and ends by mid-March. They include: Converting US 30 into a limited access highway; increased accessibility to high-speed internet and investment in broadband infrastructure.

“As federal funding for broadband is made available we want to ensure that residents in Allen County and throughout the region have adequate access to quality broadband for education, health and business needs,” she said.

Past success

Allen County appears to be building a creative and prosperous future on a successful foundation of past accomplishments.

“In 2020 Fort Wayne was the No. 1 fastest growing metro area in the Great Lakes region. It is not by accident. Our community has made the intentional commitment to invest in quality of place, making our community more competitive in attracting and retaining talent,” Beber said.

According to Beber, Allen County has enjoyed positive domestic migration growth for the past several years. Domestic migration growth means more people moved into Allen County than moved out.

Allen County accounted for two-thirds of Indiana’s domestic migration growth in 2020. The focus on quality of place with programs like Regional Cities (Initiative) and workforce initiatives has helped Indiana grow,” she said.

Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana agenda

The 2022 legislative agenda for the Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana centered on four policy priorities:

• 21st Century Talent that advances policies improving education, employer access to a qualified workforce and promote lifelong learning

• World-class infrastructure encouraging creatively financed, sustainable, and a future-ready infrastructure connecting northeast Indiana to the world

• A competitive business climate that supports tax, environmental, employment, and economic development policies that help the 11-county Northeast Indiana region thrive in a global economy

• Rural investment and re-investment encouraging and supporting policies that help the rural communities of Northeast Indiana be sustainable. Support agribusiness and technology rooted in rural Indiana

“Our legislative agenda is really upfront and fairly simple. We have four policy priorities You will notice that some of the items on Greater Fort Wayne’s legislative agenda also appear on our agenda. We support it 100%. I believe that support is both ways,” Bill Konyha, Regional Chamber CEO and president, said.

Beber acknowledged the two entities work together are creating a cohesive future for Allen County and Northeast Indiana.

“Both during and outside of session we work collaboratively with the Regional Chamber to bring a united voice of Northeast Indiana to the Statehouse,” Beber said.

Legislative delegation speaks

The legislative delegation at the luncheon spoke about various issues they expect to tackle during this session.

“What has always made Indiana the state of preference for people to build their businesses and live here is quality of place. Indiana is a great place to start and focus on business. I think we have set a great table for that,” Matt Lehman, House majority floor leader, said.

“Additionally, tax cuts are expected to be on the agenda. Prior to the federal windfall we were carrying some very large surpluses so we will have to take a look at giving some of that money back,” he said.

Other items include maintaining the underground water infrastructure and ensuring reliable broadband service in rural communities.

“The things below ground are just as susceptible to deterioration as bridges and roads. That is going to have to be a priority,” he said.

Additionally, the legislature is focused on providing quality internet service to rural communities.

“Rural area broadband is a high priority. We want to make sure we keep pushing that broadband out to those rural areas,” Lehman said.

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