Big improvements at Fort Wayne International Airport and a major investment from Amazon are fueling the emergence of what some describe as an e-commerce hub in northeast Indiana. The online retail giant has built two massive fulfillment centers in Fort Wayne over the past year, and Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership CEO Stephane Frijia says the company’s investment bodes well for the region’s future. “I think it creates an opportunity to actually think about what we can do now that’s going to affect the economy 10, 20 years from now.”
Speaking with Inside INdiana Business Host Gerry Dick at last week’s Engage Northeast Indiana event, Frijia said e-commerce could be a big economic driver.
“We had a tour with some site selectors about three or four weeks ago, and one of them was keenly interested in exploring opportunities around the airport just because we have the assets. We’ve got land to be developed. The demand is there. E-commerce is not going away,” said Frijia.
Amazon opened its first fulfillment center, a 630,000-square-foot facility near the airport in December 2021. Our partners at WPTA-TV report the company began operations at it’s second facility of similar size near U.S. 30 this fall. Each facility is slated to employ more than 1,000 workers.
Frijia said having such a large presence from Amazon in Fort Wayne is a good indicator for other businesses looking to relocate or expand.
“What happened with Amazon is that primarily, they choose where they go because they already do the due diligence,” he said. “So the question is if we’re good for one of the top-end centers for Amazon, we could be good for so many others that are basically on par. It’s beyond investment; the market approval speaks volumes.”
Fort Wayne International Airport is in the midst of a major expansion of its West Terminal. In September the airport revealed its newly-renovated passenger area, with more expected to open in January. The airport last month reopened Terminal Drive, which had been closed since July 2021 due to the project.
From a regional economic development standpoint, Frijia says the region is winning its fair share of projects.
“This year, we had about 45 different companies that looked at us very closely, that showed interest in northeast Indiana. That’s on top of other projects that the state is working on,” he said. “We are now in the position where how do we transact on them? We’re getting tons of looks. Demand is never higher than before. So, we need to start thinking about the tools that we have available, how we apply them, and how we find the right business cases to make those companies choose us.”
The efforts are all part of an ongoing economic development and quality of place initiative in the region, particularly in Fort Wayne. The $286 million first phase of the Electric Works mixed-use innovation district is slowly coming to completion, and the region recently approved $15 million in Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative grants for five projects.