Small-business district advances

December 6th, 2017

By Dave Gong | The Journal Gazette

The Fort Wayne City Council voted Tuesday to establish the Summit City Entrepreneur and Enterprise District to encourage small-business growth in the city. 

The Entrepreneur and Enterprise District pilot program was established by the Indiana General Assembly through Senate Bill 514 last spring. According to City Council documents, the program is “designed to enable communities to leverage the past success of their Urban Enterprise Zones into districts of entrepreneurship and innovation more relevant to today's economic environment.” 

The Summit City Entrepreneur and Enterprise District is a total of 6.9 square miles throughout Fort Wayne, including the city's existing Urban Enterprise Zone just south of downtown. The district approved Tuesday also includes economic development target areas in older commercial corridors along Anthony Boulevard, Calhoun Street, Tillman Road, Goshen Road, and the empty big box stores along Coliseum Boulevard. 

The council's 6-2 vote was preliminary but is unlikely to change during next week's final vote.

“There's at least some of those economic development target areas in each of the councilmanic districts,” Community Development Director Greg Leatherman said. 

Participation in the program carries the potential for up to $1 million per year in state grant funding for five years, state Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, told the council. Lafayette was the other city chosen for the pilot.

“The legislature is always looking for ways to encourage small business growth and encourage people to start businesses,” GiaQuinta said.

The lawmaker said that while the legislature doesn't discourage manufacturing and industrial jobs, the program is focused on small businesses in modern fields. 

Leatherman said the target areas selected have been identified by the City Council as in need of help attracting investment to the corridor.

As part of the program, Fort Wayne and Lafayette can apply for up to $1 million in state grant funding from 2018 through 2022. Those funds will be awarded through the Indiana Economic Development Corp. from the Indiana 21st-Century Research and Technology Fund. The money must be used for entrepreneurship program support. 

“It's kind of an honor that we are in a sense a prototype here, a model, going forward,” said Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, who voted for the measure. “I would just point out that I think some $600 million of investment has been made in the 33 years I believe that the current Urban Enterprise Association has been in existence. So it has been a very good tool in the toolbox to help us revitalize areas that are maybe the hardest hit in the central part of the city.” 

Paddock is the City Council representative for the Fort Wayne Urban Enterprise Association, which oversees the Urban Enterprise Zone.

Councilmen Paul Ensley, R-1st, and Jason Arp, R-4th, voted against the measure. Councilman Russ Jehl, R-2nd, was absent Tuesday.

Along with Paddock, Tom Didier, R-3rd; John Crawford, R-at large; Glynn Hines, D-6th; Tom Freistroffer, R-at large; and Michael Barranda, R-at large, voted for the enterprise district.

Categories & Tags Business Climate