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City, county delay deadline

Parkview CEO to lead economic development plan

Local officials on Friday extended their deadline for restructuring the city and county’s economic development efforts until March 31.

And they announced that Mike Packnett, president and CEO of Parkview Health, has volunteered to lead the project, which is now focused on financial and legal details.

On Sept. 11, Mayor Tom Henry announced that Fort Wayne and Allen County officials planned to review and revamp the way various organizations work with new and existing employers.

The idea, they said, was to make the process easier to navigate so the county would be more competitive and could better compete for business investments and new jobs.

Officials would unveil the results of their closed-door talks by the end of the year, the mayor said then.

Henry was joined at both announcements by county officials and leaders of the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce, the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance and the Downtown Improvement District, or DID.

Officials in September said the effort might mean dissolving or dramatically refocusing the Alliance and the DID. That much seems certain, based on comments Friday.

“For today’s world, we think a very collaborative, unified entity is going to serve us best,” Packnett said after the formal remarks ended.

Henry said significant barriers between groups have been broken down.

Local leaders have looked to other cities to see what works well. Among the communities they’ve studied are Spokane, Wash.; Milwaukee; Lexington, Ky.; Louisville, Ky.; and Oklahoma City.

Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters said the private sector plays a leadership role in each.

Packnett said those cities have gone from good to great in their economic development efforts. City and county officials are trying to learn from them, he said. Packnett acknowledged some good wins in recent months. “But even in the midst of that success, if we don’t continue to get better, the world will pass us by,” he said.

Packnett, who moved to Fort Wayne in mid-2006, previously was a health system executive in Oklahoma City.

He served on the board of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, an organization that never split off its economic development staff into a separate entity, as the Fort Wayne Chamber did to help create the Alliance in 2000.

Jill Perillo, the Alliance’s board chairwoman, said during Friday’s announcement that she supports the restructuring work.

“I’m genuinely convinced that the end product will be very much worth the wait,” she said.

Chamber and DID chairmen made similar comments.

Packnett described the new 90-day timeline as “aggressive.” Officials said communities typically take 18 to 24 months to implement similar overhauls.

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