Summit City Match embarks on Fort Wayne pilot pairing program
By Chelsea Boulrisse | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry was accompanied by several local leaders April 9 to announce the start of Summit City Match.
This program, according to Henry, will match up entrepreneurs and small-business owners with the owners of vacant buildings in downtown Fort Wayne. The goal is to liven up and revitalize urban corridors that currently sit vacant, ready for the next big thing to fill their windows and floor plans.
“It helps these new businesses get a start in an environment that’s extremely competitive,” Henry said. “Without certain tools made available to you, the probability of your success is minimized greatly … What we want to do is give a boost to these individuals … to make sure that ultimately they are successful in whatever venture they choose to go into.”
The program, according to Henry, was inspired by Detroit’s Motor City Match program that achieved a similar purpose. After visiting Detroit and learning about the city started its program, Fort Wayne leaders came together and built a program that fit the needs of Fort Wayne business owners.
For 2019, the pilot for Summit City Match will cover just a 2-mile stretch of corridor on South Calhoun Street, including the very building that hosted the April 9 news conference.
“Our goal is to promote this space and others on South Calhoun and help identify other individuals that can turn this empty space into a brand-new business,” Trois Hart, director of Seed Fort Wayne, said. “This space exists and there is someone in the city of Fort Wayne that can turn this space into a business.”
Hart said that she would be overseeing the application and pairing process for the pilot of Summit City Match. She also shared that this program will provide new business owners with business planning resources. There is even some funding allotted for six to eight businesses to help get them off the ground.
While the program will be supportive of all sorts of business owners and entrepreneurs, a special focus is being placed on promoting businesses owned by women and people of color. John Dortch and Herb Hernandez, directors of Fort Wayne’s Black and Hispanic chambers, respectively, were especially thrilled to see their constituents welcomed into the program so enthusiastically.
“Being an old farm boy, I’m familiar with seeds,” Dortch said, referencing Seed Fort Wayne’s involvement in this pilot. “You plant it, you water it and you do whatever is necessary and it will grow. I’m very comfortable in saying that we are sure that this is going to grow.”
Building owners interested in having their space used are encouraged to apply by May 15. Business owners and entrepreneurs that would like to participate have until June 30 to put their names in.
After applications are received and the buildings have been inspected and evaluated, matches are expected to be announced in August.
“The biggest employer in our community is small businesses,” Henry said. “This is for individuals that want to take that road of life and give them some assistance and giving them the foundation to get started.”
City, JPMorgan Chase Partner to Promote Entrepreneurship from Fort Wayne Community Development