UPDATED: John Urbahns to succeed Eric Doden as CEO of Greater Fort Wayne Inc.
Fort Wayne’s leading economic development organization will fill its soon-to-be-vacant top job from within.
Greater Fort Wayne Inc. Thursday announced that John Urbahns, its executive vice president of economic development sine 2013, will succeed Eric Doden as CEO. Doden, who has had the job since 2015, announced in May he would step down at the end of the year. Before joining Greater Fort Wayne Inc., Urbahns had worked for the city of Fort Wayne since 1996, the last seven years as director of community development.
“This is not (just) a job for me. It’s a passion,” Urbahns said. “I want to grow the economy, and teamwork is the key to moving forward. We can get a lot more done together.”
Urbahns’ experience in both the public and private sectors made him the ideal choice, according to board member and City Councilman John Crawford, who will also be a Republican mayoral candidate next year.
“(Urbahns) is a very good choice,” said Crawford, R-at large. “The unique thing is that he has the respect of people in both business and politics, and that’s hard to do. He’s reliable, honest and a straight shooter, and he’ll be independent.”
GFW was created in 2013 through the merger of the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance. Under Doden, GFW announced its “Opportunity on the Edge of Greatness” plan in 2016 to promote five projects: Electric Works, riverfront development, redevelopment of the Columbia Street Landing, a new downtown arena and a science and technology park on the so-called “North River” property. The Landing and riverfront are both underway, and Electric Works developers recently secured the $65 million in public funds they say is needed to move the $250 million project forward. The arena idea has been shelved, however, and the “STEAM” park remains just a goal.
A lifelong Hoosier, Urbahns holds a Bachelor of Urban Planning and Development degree and a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental design, both from Ball State University. He also holds an accreditation from the American Institute of Certified Planners and serves on numerous community boards. As GFW Inc.’s CEO, he will lead a staff of 20 and serve more than 1,200 investor companies to retain, expand, and attract jobs to the area.
Since 2014, Urbahns has led an economic development department that has assisted with 132 business expansions and relocations in Allen County, including expansions by General Motors ($1.2 billion investment), Sweetwater Sound ($76 million investment) and Fort Wayne Metals ($51 million investment), and locations by Walmart ($181 million dairy processing facility) and Multimatic ($39 million investment). These 132 deals resulted in a total of more than 7,800 new jobs and about $335 million in new annual payroll.
“I can’t think of a better person to lead Greater Fort Wayne Inc. into the future,” Chuck Surack, founder and owner of Sweetwater, said in a statement. “John’s experience in this region is invaluable, and his focus on partnerships between local and state leaders and other community members will ensure continued success when it comes to economic development.”