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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
The final completed home of the Renaissance Pointe neighborhood.

Furthermore …

Associated Press
A snowstorm that covered Moscow last weekend also closed the main highway between Moscow and St. Petersburg – stranding motorists for three days.
Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Sweetwater Sound is a growing company with good jobs – for employees who can meet its high standards.

Unfilled jobs in city could be magnet

“What’s Wrong with Fort Wayne?” read the headline in Friday’s Wall Street Journal.

Not that much, it turns out, and we already know the problems the story addresses.

The city’s unemployment is much higher than in pre-recession 2006, the story notes, but the jobless rate is still below the national average. The problem, according to the newspaper, is that even with thousands of people looking for work in northeast Indiana, many jobs go unfilled.

Dig deeper, though, and many residents will find few surprises. Fort Wayne Metals is a growing company with good-paying jobs – if you are a technician who knows how to perform electrical work, machine repair and other skilled duties. Sweetwater Sound is growing too – and wants workers who both understand the technology behind its sound equipment and are also great people persons, a combination of skills not exactly prevalent.

Other jobs require fewer skills – and pay far less. Teacher aide jobs are open – paying at most $11.79 an hour with no benefits.

While the Wall Street Journal sees this as bad news, another way of looking at it is the city has good jobs available – ones that could well attract skilled workers to the city.

And a bright spot of the region’s economy was overlooked – northeast Indiana has apparently reversed its slide in income in relation to the national average. Yes, area residents earn only 79.9 percent of the national average – but that rate has improved three consecutive years.

Future bright for Hanna-Creighton

In mid-March, city officials and developers showed off the first of 66 new homes being built in southeast Fort Wayne near the Hanna-Creighton area. Friday, a mere 10 months later, they were back for another milestone – all 66 have been built and leased.

“They’re all rent-to-own homes, and they’ve all been rented,” Mayor Tom Henry said in the home in the 2100 block of Weisser Park Avenue, the last to be rented, as neighborhood residents and leaders looked on. The project marked an $11 million investment in a neighborhood in need of a, well, renaissance.

Developer Kevan Biggs, president of Biggs TC Development as well as Ideal Suburban Homes in Decatur, noted the number of people and groups involved in the truly collaborative development. With a new YMCA, the Urban League, the Pontiac Branch Library and a bus station all nearby, the neighborhood has several attractions. “Residents from all over the city of Fort Wayne chose Renaissance Pointe to have their home,” Biggs said.

Yes, some tax money was used, but it didn’t come from local property taxes. The project was financed by a mix of private investment, state tax credits and federal grant money.

And to help residents prepare to move from renters to owners, Biggs TC Development works with them to help build or improve their credit to eventually qualify for a mortgage.

Henry believes all the development along Weisser Park and Gay and John streets will lead to more improvements in the area.

“You’re going to see some great things happening in a neighborhood that deserves it,” he said.

Russian traffic jam one for the record

Anyone who has ever been caught on the highway in a bottleneck caused by a snowstorm knows the range of emotions that idling or crawling in traffic can cause.

Fear. Impatience. Hunger. Hope. Surrender. Bravery. Despair. Utter boredom.

Multiply those by three – and then by more than 10,000 – and you’ll have an idea of what went on last weekend on the Russian highway that connects the nation’s two largest cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg.

The two feet of snow that fell Friday was ample and troublesome, but hey, this is Russia, and the residents aren’t exactly strangers to snow. But some local officials decided to close exits to their cities and towns, clogging the interstate with heavy traffic as well as heavy snow.

Observers said the traffic jam stretched 100 miles and involved 10,000 vehicles. As a result, some motorists were stuck for three days. One driver said on a radio show Sunday evening he began his journey Friday in St. Petersburg and traveled just 124 miles in two days.

To make matters worse, Russians reported that roadside cafes realized they had a captive customer base and jacked up the price of food and, especially, cigarettes.

After the road began reopening Monday, authorities discussed ways of preventing future traffic jams of that magnitude.