A Fort Wayne-based nonprofit is feeling the effects of the decision by the city’s redevelopment commission to end its agreement for the $440 million Electric Works innovation district. The chief executive officer of Joshua’s Hand tells our partners at WPTA-TV the nonprofit’s involvement in the project was set to bring a lot of work to minority, veteran, and women-owned businesses in the area.
Earlier this month, the commission unanimously voted to terminate its agreement with RTM Ventures, the developers of Electric Works, citing concerns about private financing that had not yet been secured.
Last November, RTM Ventures detailed its partnership with Joshua’s Hand, which it said would help address a shortage of skilled tradespeople in the region. One of the goals of the agreement was to have at least 15% of construction-related contracts during the project’s first phase come from Minority Business Enterprises and Women Business Enterprises.
“This is the first time that we know in history in Fort Wayne that any contractor has come to the minority community and said we’ll give you 15 percent of a $280 million project,” Cedric Walker, CEO of Joshua’s Hand, told WPTA. “Those are serious jobs and trades and careers for our community.”
The agreement was set to be implemented through the nonprofit’s workforce development division, Joshua Works. RTM Ventures said last year another goal was to have at least 20% of entry-level workers enter into stilled trades apprenticeship-track programs following construction.
Walker says the nonprofit will continue to work to provide such training, despite the commission’s decision.
“We’re going to do this whether they allow Electric Works or not. We’re still going to get getting people hired. We’re going to get them trained (and) them discover their shape, what they’re gifted and talented to do and we’re going to get them to employers in the community,” Walker said.
When the commission’s vote was announced, RTM Ventures released a statement saying it was shocked by the decision, but added, “This deal is not dead.” The developer says it still plans to begin construction on the $200 million first phase this fall.