2012 Fort Wayne Crystal Ball

Well, it’s almost 2012, a time for predictions.  I’ve never made predictions before, but for some strange reason, I’m compelled to gaze into the future this year.  I work with, care about, and write about entrepreneurship, technology, and the arts.  So, my predictions will (loosely) touch on those areas.

In general, I believe that our community is nearing critical mass in three areas.

1. Significant local economic growth will come from downtown mini-economies.

Yes, I believe that we will see noticeable growth in our local downtown economy – more than from our suburban sprawl.  Shocked?  Well, just think of the growth already happening in the Calhoun-Wayne, So-Cal, Broadway, and Wells Street mini-economies.  Companies like Conspiracy, Studio 13, CS3, Pint and Slice, Dash-In, JK’s, Toscanni, Hyde Brothers, La Michocana, Fort Wayne Outfitters, George’s, El Amish, Revolution, and the Brass Rail have led the charge so far.  Look for more – success attracts success.  Be ready for these districts to break out in 2012.  We may not connect them all together geographically in 2012, but they will expand.

2. The today-mostly-unseen youth and alternative arts communities will be discovered, discover themselves, and receive their  due credit.

The growth of downtown mini-economies is largely driven by young diverse populations.  This growth will bring more people to those downtown areas.  Shops, boutiques, galleries, ad-hoc performance spaces, opportunities for the public to come mingle (and shop) with artists.  Conspiracy already regularly hosts art and music events that draw a few hundred people.  Drop Your Avant-Garde proves that a huge young audience is capable of filling downtown in the name of art (well, and to have some fun together).  With even more people arriving, we start to hit the critical mass for some new arts infrastructure.  If you want to envision this growth, go walk around a college town like Ann Arbor.  Sure, the traditional arts district will continue to grow, but 2012 is the year where growth of the arts community happens more organically, little by little, on streets and in shops.

3. At least one of the Innovation Center’s tech companies  – and at least one tech company not connected to the Innovation Center – will hit big growth.

Possibly coming from the ranks of NIIC’s student ventures, at least one venture will experience the kind of growth that entrepreneurs only dream about.  Just like downtown districts, the startup community in Fort Wayne is growing in number.  Just like downtown districts, the startup community in Fort Wayne has nearly hit a critical mass.  From my viewpoint at the Innovation Center (for those who don’t know, I work there), the 50 or so companies at the Innovation Center campus are just the tip of the iceberg.  Over 100 have passed through the Innovation Center, and there are many more entrepreneurs that are out there in the city dreaming right now.  2012 will be the year that a couple of them go big.

4.  Nick Arnett will be named Mayor of Fort Wayne – no election needed.

OK, well this probably won’t happen – but it should.

Happy New Year to you all!

Steve