Economic Case for Design Week Fort Wayne

April 12th, 2017

Design Week Fort Wayne originates in our need to better understand Northeast Indiana’s creative economy, nurture it, and help it to lead our community out of economic scarcity and into a culture of abundance. There is mounting data describing the massive potential of our creative economy, and that design-based companies encompass a majority share that potential.  In 2014, Wunderkammer Company began “Creative Census”, the first regional study of our creative economy, funded by the Knight Foundation.

Through Creative Census, we found surprising information about what our creative talent looks like, where it chooses to live, who it works for, what kind of work it does, and how much it gets paid.   Not surprisingly, design based businesses and talent made up the clear majority of creative economy activity.  The majority of our design talent is making well above our metro area’s median wage, and they are highly educated, nearly three times more likely to have a college degree than our regional average.

As for the economic value of the region’s creative economy, over $300 million is produced by the creative businesses themselves, and even more when the creative departments within non-creative businesses is accounted for.  These understandings of the Northeast Indiana creative economy by themselves are interesting, but not overtly impressive until one realizes that currently no economic development agency, at the local, regional, or state level recognizes the creative economy as a key industry, nor do any of these agencies have tools to help it grow and increase its competitiveness and productivity.

Though only a start, Design Week Fort Wayne is being developed out of this data, and to specifically fit within the current gaps of our economic development strategies to attract and retain creative talent, further build upon our region’s quality of place, and help to built new companies which will pull extra-regional funding into our economy, while also providing innovative new ways for our current businesses to compete within their own markets.

With a focus on quality design, Fort Wayne can once again become a city which is known for innovation and for making all of the things we consider modern as it has multiple times throughout its long history!

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- By Design Week Fort Wayne