Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry says the impact of a more than $1 billion investment by General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) will extend well beyond the walls of the local assembly plant. He says the effort to more than double the size of the facility will lead to construction jobs and boost the business of local suppliers and distributors. He believes the size of the investment shows Fort Wayne is becoming more of a “point of destination” for both residents and employers. During an interview on Inside INdiana Business Television, Henry said the city has worked for decades to overcome the loss of tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs in the 1970s and 1980s.
The expansion, announced last week, will include a pre-treatment facility, expanded body shop and boosted general assembly capabilities at the Roanoke plant. The automaker says it will also improve energy efficiency.
The complex produces GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado trucks and employs more than 4,000 workers. The Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance pegs the plant's overall economic impact on the region each year at more than $900 million.
Fort Wayne lost more than 30,000 jobs in the 1970s and 1980s, due in large part to International Harvester announcing plans in 1982 to close its plant. That facility employed more than 10,000 at its peak.
While manufacturing has been a big part of Fort Wayne's rebound since then, Henry says the loss of jobs made city leaders realize “we can no longer just be a manufacturing town.” While the industry remains a major economic driver in Fort Wayne, the mayor says the city has shown strength in other sectors, including education, health care and hospitality.
The General Motors project marked one of two major investments announced in the Allen County city last week. Parkview Health has detailed plans for an $80 million cancer facility on its Fort Wayne campus. The system says the Parkview Cancer Institute, slated for completion in late 2017, is the result of increased demand for cancer services. Groundbreaking on the 125,000 square-foot facility is expected late this year.
Fort Wayne has also released details of a feasibility study suggesting the city could support a potential downtown arena. Henry says the cost to build a 5,000-seat arena could reach $63 million. The study suggests attaching the facility to the Grand Wayne Center.