Fort Wayne ‘Corporate Zone’ Makeover Aims to Boost Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs | News, Sports, Jobs

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Valbruna Slater Steel invested $ 45.5 million in its Taylor Street plant between 2012 and 2016, saving $ 1.44 million in taxes – by far the most invested during this period by any area company. company, which includes Mullinex Packages, OmniSource, Rea Magnet Wire, and Deister Machine Co. (file photo by Kevin Leininger of News-Sentinel.com)

The city’s 4-square-mile corporate zone is fast becoming the 6-square-mile Summit City entrepreneur and business district. (Image courtesy City of Fort Wayne)

Established in 1984 to boost the economy in the city’s aging industrial core, the Fort Wayne Urban Enterprise Association was scheduled to close at the end of 2018. Instead, with help from state and government lawmakers. city ​​council, it seems ready for a new life, a bigger footprint and a new mission adapted to the needs of the 21st century.

The Council is considering a bill introduced this week that would expand the 3.99 square mile corporate zone to the 6.0 square mile “Summit City Entrepreneurs and Business District (SEED)” a district similar to Lafayette, was cleared earlier this week by the General Assembly of Indiana. Although the original mission and boundaries of the corporate area are incorporated into the proposal, SEED would build on the achievements of the past 33 years by including some of the city’s traditional trade corridors and targeting small business creation and other entrepreneurial activities.

And it will do so with the help of a $ 1 million annual grant over five years that city officials hope will help attract additional jobs and investment to the area.

“The state almost let (the corporate zone) go to bed, but Fort Wayne and Lafayette said they shouldn’t be looking at them all the same. Two were doing good things, ”said Greg Leatherman, the city’s director of community development. “So they extended it as part of a five-year pilot program that focused more attention on (corporate) start-ups. It will be up to us to put (the money) where it will do the most good.

Businesses in the current corporate zone are entitled to a number of benefits, including tax deductions on property and property improvements and tax credits for improvement loans and for hiring residents of the area. zoned. According to city spokeswoman Mary Tyndall, between 2012 and 2016, average annual employment in the area was 2,974, with an average salary of $ 42,962, slightly above the local average.

Meanwhile, an average of $ 21.7 million in new capital has been invested in the area, aided by $ 1,416,763 in average annual local incentives that the Enterprise Association provides through a 20 percent valuation of benefits. provided to businesses in the area. The association also operates an ‘incubator’ for start-up businesses on Wayne Trace, helps with lighting, sidewalks and graffiti removal, and offers business loans, neighborhood grants and a college scholarship program. for residents of the area.

None of this would change in 2019 if the board were to crash SEED. As to how best to use that $ 5 million from the state, however, that will be up to the 12-member corporate zone board of directors, which will work with the state to develop guidelines that could allow start-up capital, loans, serve as matching funds for grants or in other ways yet to be determined.

“We want to see a fill of new businesses along our corridors and where the gaps are. I’m delighted, ”said Gina Kostoff, Executive Director of the Enterprise Association. Many added corridors, such as Bluffton Road, Calhoun Street, Fairfield Avenue, Broadway, South Anthony Boulevard and parts of Coliseum Boulevard have already been designated “economic revitalization zones” by the city. Coliseum, Leatherman noted, is struggling to fill vacant big-box stores, but the program could also help projects already on the table, such as the redevelopment of General Electric’s former campus.

If SEED develops the economy here and in Lafayette as hoped, Leatherman said, other corporate areas of the state could undergo a similar transformation.

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