We will implement economic development tactics that will counteract disadvantages by championing established neighborhood businesses and developing future entrepreneurs.

OPPORTUNITY and equity are vital components to the success and economic growth of southeast Fort Wayne. Bridge of Grace believes equity is the path to prosperity and strives to close the opportunity gap for the residents of Mount Vernon Park. By implementing economic development strategies, we aim to cultivate local entrepreneurs, retain existing businesses, and create an environment where locally owned businesses can prosper.

Once a thriving and occupied retail destination, southeast Fort Wayne is now home to the least amount of retail establishments in the city. After listening to community members, we learned this untapped market is full of would-be entrepreneurs but challenges including inequities, risk, and lack of experience create hesitance. There is also a strong buying power among the southeast Fort Wayne population that is not being met by the current market. Money is leaving the area instead of being reinvested back into southeast Fort Wayne.

To address the challenges of entrepreneurship, Bridge of Grace is working to decrease racial inequities and socio-economic issues associated with economic development. Because accessibility, proximity, and resources have become barriers to some residents of our underserved community, our vision is to create a multi-retailer market center that will serve both the entrepreneur and consumer. Bridge of Grace is planning to establish market spaces to reach our surrounding neighborhoods. This space can also be used to host pop-up retail events, farmers markets, business incubators, and training sessions.

We will empower entrepreneurs in the southeast area of the city by providing access to existing, unused retail spaces and seasonal outdoor market spaces where they will be able to test and grow their business ideas. To generate interest, Bridge of Grace will assist in marketing and promotion. Local entrepreneurs will be able to sell their products and develop a consumer base in a low-risk setting with hopes they will grow their business and aid in the economic revitalization of their community.

Renovation projects to redevelop unused space will be catalysts to create innovative partnerships with other organizations dedicated to economic development. This model will bring together nonprofits, state government, traditional and non-traditional lenders, local businesses, and national experts. We will also be able to tap into our solid construction volunteer base. Our financial and business partnerships will ensure the success of this venture.

In the second phase of this plan, we will work toward permanency of retail spaces and add an anchor business that will generate foot traffic to the area. Large-scale and long-term assistance, including business plan assistance, will be available for entrepreneurs eager to grow their business and economic development impact. Providing technical and financial planning aid will help transform ideas into functioning businesses, creating more accessible employment opportunities in the future. Similarly, we will continue to reach out to existing business owners to determine what resources and support they may need to strengthen their existing businesses.

Through each phase, we will create a network of support for not only the multi-market retail center business owners, but for established existing businesses, too. We want to cultivate entrepreneurship and retain current southeast Fort Wayne businesses. Our goal is to create opportunity where everyone can participate, thrive, and reach their full potential.


Meet the HOPE Unleashed Committee

Chuck Surack

Campaign Co-chair

Vicki James

Campaign Co-chair

Kathy Callen

Campaign Committee Member

Mike Packnett

Campaign Committee Member

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