New Haven has weathered the present economic crisis about as well as any community in Allen County and its outlook for the future is bright.
“Sure,” says Mayor Terry McDonald, “we suffered some setbacks. Some local firms laid off workers, there were home foreclosures, a few small businesses closed, but steps we took prior to the downturn have made this city stronger and a place that businesses are finding to be a good location to set up shop. Things that have made the city attractive to new business include recent upgrading of the sewer system, revitalization of downtown with new pavement, curbs and lighting along with residential street improvements, all done in the last couple years.”
Hard economic times brought some multitasking.
“It's been a real challenge to move forward and still maintain public services through this period,” McDonald said. “We didn't have to lay off employees because we've asked them to wear several hats and because we have an outstanding group of volunteers who help out the police and fire departments and the paramedics. Without them we would have had to hire more people and then lay them off because we couldn't afford to keep them. We have just 91 employees, which for a city of nearly 15,000 is relatively small.”
Preparation paid off for the city.
“Our system of financial forecasting used to look five years into the future to determine our needs prepared us for the downturn and has helped us manage our budgets and resources,” McDonald said. “We were even prepared for the property tax caps, which reduced the amount of money we had available to work with. We've been very frugal,” he added.
A number of things have combined to catch the eyes of companies that were looking to find the ideal spot for their plant. According to Brian Yoh, planning & economic development director, the Maplecrest Road project, just completed last month, has made a huge impact. “Even before it officially got started two firms, Mullinix and Kelley Box & Packaging Corp, took over and refurbished an abandoned and badly deteriorated warehouse on Nelson Road near the intersection of U.S. 930 and Maplecrest Road. They chose that property because of its access to the new road. Signature Seating, Brenntag, Interstate Cold Storage and Global Energy Resources have also found a home on Nelson Road. It's a case of a government project paying off for the city with tax revenues and jobs.
“Wal-Mart owns property on the southeast corner where Maplecrest and Adams Center roads connect at U.S. 930. When they begin construction, other firms will want to be in the neighborhood. Our Wayne Haven Industrial Park on 930 weathered the downturn nicely and continues to grow, and Continental Diamond Tool (CDT), behind the library recently doubled the size of its facility and added employees.
“We've got everything from diamond coated cutting tools from (Continental Diamond Tool, fabric hand)bags from Vera Bradley Design and paintball equipment from Tippman Sports to Central States grain storage and distribution and the world headquarters of Do it Best Corp. And,” says Yoh, “therein lies the reason for our growth, stability and the economic health of the community – diversity. It's a far cry from the heavy reliance on the automotive industry after World War II and through the 1970s.”
The opening of the Fort to Port highway – a widened four-lane expressway that replaces a narrow, winding rural section of U.S. 24 between Fort Wayne and the port of Toledo, Ohio – has added yet another selling point to New Haven's claim of being a transportation hub.
The new road not only cuts travel time to Toledo by 30 to 40 minutes, but it's safer, said New Haven Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Vince Buchanan. “Transportation is a big reason for the influx of businesses on the city's east side and why the chamber now has its largest membership ever (more than 350). In addition,” he said, “participation in chamber activities is also at an all-time high. We've worked hard to provide value to members by connecting them to training and support dollars and providing advice and guidance on insurance and financing matters. I feel that our participation in the Regional Chamber (of Northeast Iindiana), engagement with legislators and our work in establishing internships in local schools will help our city in the long run.”
“As the economy begins to turn around,” Buchanan said, “the business diversity in New Haven will open up a lot of positive growth and bring additional job opportunities to the community. All I can say is that New Haven is open for business and the chamber is ready and willing to assist.”
As Mayor McDonald points out, “government doesn't create jobs, but it does create an environment for expansion and ultimately jobs. When we extended our water and sewerage services north of the Maumee River the result was the establishment of two large housing developments. The same happened when it was installed east of (Interstate) 69. When the services are available, the businesses will come.
“Our theory is that you never really reach your final destination, and you can't be afraid to continue to move ahead. If you stop making