From the CEO: Disability Inclusion is Good for Economic Development

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Image of a screen that says 'Key Pillars of Tourism Master Plan. Accessibility for all, regional assets, downtown and riverfront Fort Wayne, group business development, and tourism product development."

September 13 was Greater Fort Wayne’s (GFW) second Economic Development Summit. I attended with high expectations because last year’s panels were jam-packed with experts covering many of the issues influencing our community’s business development. This year’s event did not disappoint. As would be expected with an event like this, there were many stories highlighting the successes of our city and region. My eyes were opened wide to the innovations coming out of Fort Wayne companies in the areas of aerospace and defense. Session after session profiled accomplishments and stories of success.

The reason I am mentioning this in our newsletter is because those stories of success were stories of inclusion for those with disabilities.

The day started with a marketing video of our city. Wheelchair athletes at Turnstone were as prominently included as images of the TinCaps. Visit Fort Wayne Executive Director, Jill Boggs, provided a sneak peek of the soon-to-be-released Tourism Master Plan. One of its key pillars will be Accessibility for All. Kelly Updike, Embassy Theatre’s Executive Director, acknowledged that an accessibility audit of our historical venue is a part of their plan to ensure relevance and access for artists and patrons. Success of Riverfront Development included a boastful message of design to ensure access for all. Registration for the event, as with all GFW’s meetings, included questions regarding needed accommodations.

We are building a welcoming economy and a welcoming city that is gaining national recognition. Those of you who read this newsletter monthly, apply for grants, and work alongside AWS Foundation to build a more inclusive Northeast Indiana are getting more recognition as well. Travelers with disabilities spend $58Billion (with a B) per year on travel. Those with disabilities who visit Fort Wayne and surrounding communities, may also find their future home and workplace here. Let’s keep it up!! Keep reading and share the story and vision.