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Greater Fort Wayne gets $305,981 windfall

February 7, 2019

Greater Fort Wayne Inc.’s board faces a delightful dilemma.

The nonprofit economic development organization today received a $305,981 windfall with only one stipulation. The money must be spent on something that benefits downtown, said Mac Parker, who presented the check.

Parker, a semi-retired local attorney, was representing the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce Foundation, a nonprofit formed in 1976 to make it easier for charitable foundations to make donations in support of economic development.

The foundation’s board voted last year to distribute the remainder of its funds to a few recipients before dismantling the organization, Parker said. Among them were the Fort Wayne Public Art Commission, Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana and Greater Fort Wayne’s Fellows Program.

The last : and majority : of the money goes to Greater Fort Wayne, which was created in 2014 with the merger of the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance and is the area’s sole point of contact for economic development projects.

John Urbahns, who was named CEO in December, said the organization has no immediate plans for the money and isn’t in any hurry to spend it.

“We’ll evaluate things as we move forward,” he said during a phone interview Wednesday. “We’re looking at how we can assist in downtown development.”

Potential uses include marketing and site development, Urbahns said.

“I think it’s so great that there is so much momentum downtown already,” he added.

The Chamber Foundation began with more than 400,000 in its account even after making numerous grants over the years, Parker said.

The foundation’s board invested the money in index funds, a strategy that other foundations might consider too risky, he added.

“A lot of funds doubled over the years,” Parker said. “We were smart enough : or lucky enough : to invest it rather than just sitting it in (a bank) account.”

The Chamber Foundation was able to step in to solve some sticky situations over the years, including paying about $100,000 to hire a team of Ball State University professors and students to search for and retrieve all Native American artifacts from the land now occupied by General Motors’ local pickup truck assembly plant.

Parker said federal officials required the work be completed by an approved organization before GM could develop the land.

sslater@jg.net

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