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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, May 26, 2019 1:00 am

United effort essential in Electric Works push

Josh Parker, Kevan Biggs and Jeff Kingsbury

We are at a critical moment in the life of Electric Works,  and we need the support from our partners in the community now more than ever to make the vision of Electric Works a reality.

Since we began working on Electric Works three years ago, we have said this is a community project. And it has been, as demonstrated by the 91% of Allen County residents who voiced their support for Electric Works in a survey last year. It's why we are working side by side with the economic development leaders who are charged with growing jobs and creating a nationally recognized economy in Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana.

Electric Works has shined a national light on Fort Wayne and generated more than 224 million media impressions with coverage from the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Bloomberg and The Atlantic.

In addition to national media, we're working with national site selectors and national investors and lenders about investing in this community. We can report that investors and lenders, including large Wall Street capital sources, don't readily see the potential of Fort Wayne that we see in Fort Wayne. We can change that.

It takes time, it takes commitment and it takes a catalyst like Electric Works to increase jobs and wages. It also takes aggressive and bold leadership. The fight for talent and economic development is being waged on a global scale and we're competing with other communities, each united in working to make them the best. Fort Wayne deserves that, too.

We're not just telling the story of Electric Works; we're advocating for Fort Wayne, its proud past and its future potential. It should go without saying that to realize our full potential in Fort Wayne, we all need to advocate for this community.

There continues to be a small group of people in positions of influence and power, however, who are working aggressively to thwart the progress of this project and the potential of this community.

Unfortunately, this has undermined our efforts, resulting in skittish investors and reluctant tenant prospects for Electric Works. To those who seek to stop progress out of their own fear of change, financial profit or political gain, we're asking them to put the interest of this community ahead of their own and commit themselves to support Fort Wayne in moving this transformative project forward.

Despite these efforts, we have made enormous progress with pre-leasing interest and commitments of significant federal and state financial support that leave us on the cusp of success. However, the innovation district strategy used successfully in so many other cities, with a public-private partnership and significant leasing and programs from multiple anchor institutions to drive innovation in partnership with business, needs to be a regional economic development priority for Electric Works.

Our assessment is that this project will not move forward without a change in these conditions. The national reputation of this community and the possibilities for its next generation are at stake.

We continue to believe in the people and potential of Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana and are more committed than ever to overcome the challenges. We have recently engaged Eric Doden, the former president of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and CEO of Greater Fort Wayne, Inc., as a consultant with a focus on reaching our construction start goal by Nov. 1.

If it is clear that cannot be accomplished, Doden will work with us to restructure the deal or sell the property to make sure that everyone who has been on our team is made whole and that this community gets a catalytic project that it deserves.

Anyone who knows Doden will attest he will work relentlessly and passionately to ensure the success of this community, and we're pleased to have him join our team.

To the elected and appointed officials who have supported this project, to the business leaders and tenants that have thus far planned to create more than 225 new jobs at Electric Works, and to the thousands of citizens who have showed up to public meetings, attended tours of the campus, participated in neighborhood meetings and community events to share their vision of Electric Works and put signs of support in their yards, we're grateful; we couldn't have gotten this far without you.

We're also incredibly blessed by a talented group of local architects, engineers and consultants who have worked hard to deliver a great project and demonstrate Fort Wayne is a place for serious business and meaningful growth.

We want to again express our thanks to all of you in the community for your continued support, working alongside our team as we start construction of Electric Works by Nov. 1.

Josh Parker, Kevan Biggs and Jeff Kingsbury are partners in RTM Ventures, developer of the Electric Works project.