Greater Fort Wayne Inc. has created an advanced leadership program to expand on Leadership Fort Wayne.

The chamber planned to roll out new leadership and mentoring programs at its annual meeting June 13 at the Arts United Center, 303 E Main St. Fort Wayne. This year’s meeting’s theme is Vision to Vibrant. The event was to include graduation of the most recent Leadership Fort Wayne class, a Q&A with business and community leaders, and GFW’s 18-month strategy. A 600 at-capacity crowd was expected to attend.

Leadership 2.0 - Next Level Leadership will be a 10- to 12-week curriculum, said Brenda Gerber Vincent, GFW’s vice president of community and corporate impact. Bridge Investors will seek to close the gap between the community’s corporate and entrepreneurial segments. That program was created after staff listened to the needs of small businesses and startups in the community, she said.

“We really want to make sure we equip our leaders in our community with the skills that they need to hit the ground running,” she said.

Leadership 2.0 will expand on leadership training. For example, participants will learn how to read financial reports as a board member as well as putting together a business plan. Those who have either been through Leadership Fort Wayne or been part of Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana can apply.

Bridge Investors will create matches between a startup and a GFW member for five years. The member will pay for the participant’s GFW fees to allow him or her to attend events and get mentoring.

Ellen Cutter, GFW vice president of economic development, said the relationship will be mutually beneficial.

“Some of these startups can bring value to their businesses,” she said.

Staff have four areas they’re working on including rolling out this fall a 5-year economic development strategy for all of Allen County, said GFW CEO John Urbahns.

Areas they’re working on:

• Improving the community’s quality and competiveness: Fort Wayne, New Haven and Allen County contract with GFW for economic development services, Cutter said. The contracts “define our activities but not our goal or vision,” she said. The collaborative strategy will “plant some flags around more visionary concepts in economic development.”

•Attract new businesses, talent and capital: “We’re working to leverage opportunity zones,” Cutter said. GFW is co-hosting a education session for investors, service providers and community leaders at 7:30-9:30 a.m. June 27 in the Calhoun Ballroom of the Grand Wayne Convention Center, 120 W. Jefferson Blvd. Registration for the free breakfast event is required and available at Fort Wayne has 10 census tracts that qualify as opportunity zones, lower-income areas where certain investments can have tax advantages. GFW is also identifying key development sites for potential investment to give to out-of-state investors.

• Develop an inclusive workforce and next generation leadership

• Support and celebrate local businesses

GFW was to announce this year’s inner-city visit to Louisville, Ky., Aug. 14-15 that will focus on neighborhood development to see how the city brought the community together to address some challenging areas. Especially how they leveraged downtown growth to help distressed areas, Cutter said. Last year, GFW sponsored a trip to Detroit. Alternating a regional trip with a national trip each year allows more people to participate, she said.

In addition to working with the city of Fort Wayne and New Allen Alliance that’s looking at revival in eastern Allen County, GFW is also working with the Hispanic and black chambers, Urbahns said.

Staff were to debut a new video that GFW uses for community events to replace its five bold projects one for the next 10 years that it rolled out in 2016 that included the revitalization of the riverfront and the former General Electric complex on Broadway. The new video should be available now on the GFW website at under the Bold Projects tab.

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