Mayoral Candidates React to City's Job Rating

By Rachel Martin

November 6, 2011 Updated Nov 6, 2011 at 7:41 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – An article in The Fiscal Times rates Fort Wayne the best place to find a job in the nation.

According to an article in The Fiscal Times, Fort Wayne ranks first in the “Ten Best Places to Find a Job”. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said Fort Wayne’s job growth has risen by 3.9 percent since September 2010. The city’s unemployment rate is at 8.1 percent, which is less than the national unemployment rate of 9.1 percent.

“Those two figures alone speak volumes for our community,” said Mayor Tom Henry, Incumbent Democratic candidate. “There are a lot of partners involved and certainly our Administration’s been working day and night because jobs are the number one item on our agenda.”

Henry also credits the Fort Wayne-Allen County Alliance, the Northeast Indiana Partnership and Northern Indiana Chamber and a number of other agencies for the rating.

However, Republican Mayoral Candidate, Paula Hughes, said the statistics are about the Fort Wayne Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which consists of the Allen, Wells, and Whitley county areas, not just the city of Fort Wayne. Hughes said there has been a lot of development in the last year.

“I count a lot of that as part of the work we did in County Council and with the County Commissioners to really make sure that Allen County was a great place to do business,” Hughes said. “We got very proactive in reaching out to businesses and making sure they knew we wanted them to come to our community.”

Despite the ratings, Hughes said since Henry’s been in office, the unemployment rate has increased by 85 percent.

“We’ve actually seen a job loss of 14,000 jobs in both areas [MSA and the city],” Hughes said.

“My opponent can say what she wants as far as the job situation,” Henry said. “But the fact is our city is growing. We’re attracting more and more employers, the employers that are here are growing, and there are new start-up businesses that are happening all the time in our community.”

Hughes also said job opportunities are growing in Fort Wayne and Allen County. She mentioned companies like SDI LaFarga, General Mills, and Great Batch Medical who are developing plants in Allen County, and said companies like B.F. Goodrich and Vera Bradley are expanding.

“It’s about reaching out personally and building a connection with them,” Hughes said.
“When we heard that Steel Dynamics, Inc. (SDI) was looking at building a new facility somewhere in Northern Indiana, we reached out to them, we formed a personal relationship. We put the CEO and COO in a truck and we drove them around and sold them on Allen County. It’s that kind of hands on attitude that will make a difference in our city.”

Henry said if re-elected he cannot guarantee more jobs, but he can put resources in place to try and attract more employers and help current employers grow.

“It’s kind of a three-legged stool. We have to have finances in place to attract the larger employers, whether it’s tax abatement or certain kinds of financing, or access to capital, Henry said. “But for those who are here who want to grow their businesses we have to have those tools in place too, like façade grants, small business loans, and educational and training grants.”

Henry said during his term as Mayor, he has already put most of those tools in place as well as creating a strong financial foundation and meeting many other requests from voters on meeting quality of life needs.

“We’ve plowed snow, we’ve picked up leaves, we’ve picked up trash. We have a great recycling program. They [voters] have asked for all of those and I think this administration’s delivered,” Henry said.

But, Hughes said it is time for transformation in Fort Wayne. If she was elected Mayor, she said she will take Fort Wayne in a new direction.

“We’ve seen the last four years where it’s been a lot of the same old, same old. If you are ready for a new direction for the city of Fort Wayne, if you’re ready to take things to the next level, then I would ask for your support as Mayor,” Hughes said.

No matter what the outcome on Nov. 8, Henry said the most important thing is for voters to show up at the polls.

“I think that’s the most important thing right now,” Henry said. “My opponent and I have put together the types of packages that we feel the voters should hear now we’re asking them to come out and vote.”

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