Just a few years ago, Ft. Wayne, Ind., boasted one of the highest numbers of manufacturing jobs per capita in the nation, but economic shifts slashed employment in basic manufacturing and spawned advanced manufacturing opportunities that demanded more knowledge and skills from workers.
Under Mayor Graham Richard's leadership, the city is using technology to improve government effectiveness and drive the development of that new economy. Richard has overseen the implementation of a range of technological innovations, including automated meter reading and a broadband system that allows cops to use in-vehicle computers wirelessly and securely. The city is embarking on a partnership with Verizon to further develop broadband in the city.
"To move it to the innovation economy, it's not just about being in high technology," Richard said. "It's about how do you create initial new companies, and help the older companies grow and prosper with innovation and both technology and training."
The mayor said his biggest challenge ahead is getting people in the city to think big. "I've got to continue to get the people to be excited about the future," he said. "To see the sort of future you won't see looking in the rearview mirror. Technology that we've invested in the city and now this broadband; all of that helps people look forward."
Richard said optimism is taking hold in the city.
"I think there's a sense that Ft. Wayne is on the move. There is a can-do attitude, a more optimistic spirit. Even though we've had significant job losses of old-line manufacturing companies, it's a community awareness or sense that we are moving, that good things are happening."
Congratulations to this year's group of "Doers, Dreamers and Drivers," who appear in the March issue of Government Technology magazine.