Revitalized Fort Wayne Good For Essex, Everyone

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Artist rendering of Electric Works project

Artist rendering of Electric Works project

The revitalizing downtown center of Fort Wayne, Ind. is being viewed as a breath of fresh air for the city. It is also considered a recruiting tool for Essex Magnet Wire, a longstanding business within the community.

Based in Fort Wayne since 1936, the Essex building is located on Wall St. just five blocks away from the $800 million investment into Electric Works. The development is a mixed-use campus that covers 39 acres surrounding McCulloch Park. It includes 18 buildings being repurposed into 1.2 million square feet of commercial, retail, residential, hotel, and community green space.

Matthew Leach, Vice President of Innovation and Head of the MagForceX™ Innovation Center, is based in the city and said that the rebirth is good for everyone, including the business he oversees.

“Having a vibrant area that is so close to where our employees are will be good for morale,” Leach said. “We recently opened our MagForceX™ Innovation Center and renewed the lease on our Essex Brownell and Essex Active businesses that are just miles away as well. The Electric Works project is going to help us to attract the best engineers, machinists, executives, and operators that we will need to continue to lead the marketplace.”

Essex is a Top 30 employer in Fort Wayne, according to research by Purdue University into full-time employment in the area, and it now can offer additional fringe benefits to its employees.

Electric Works is being led by RTM Ventures. Its development partner, Kevan Biggs, told REJournals.com that the vision for the renovation is being guided by attracting top talent for the local industries.

“This is a big, bold and massive project,” he said. “It’s just such a massive campus. You can’t venture into a project like this and take off a tiny nibble. We needed something of the right size and scale to have a meaningful impact.

“This is a place where creative people will congregate. It will be a desirable mix for businesses that want a higher quality location for their employees.”

Fort Wayne is in the midst of a real estate boon, with office vacancy being down to just 7 percent and industrial space only offering 4 percent vacancy.

The Electric Works sprawl is located on the former General Electric plant land which, according to John Urbahns -- president and chief executive officer of Greater Fort Wayne Inc. – said adds to the interest.

“Most people in the community have some sort of tie to that campus,” Urbahns said. “It represents a legacy of entrepreneurship, ingenuity and manufacturing in our community. It has long been at the core of our community. This is the next step. This project will impact not just downtown Fort Wayne, but the neighborhoods surrounding it. The size of this project is so significant, it makes it all the more important how we move forward.”

Leach agreed, adding that there is not only professional interest but personal excitement for the opening.

“Of course, from a business perspective, we look at this as a great tool to attract talented people to Essex but from a personal perspective, it is always good to see investment into the area you live and work,” he said. “Better restaurants, better entertainment space, and a more vibrant atmosphere is good for Fort Wayne not just Essex.”