Thursday, March 31, 2011

Life in the Fort

Time for a little rant and a little praise.

The subject: Fort Wayne, Indiana

I was forced to live here for 12 years.

I had no choice. I was 6 when my parents moved here and they said I had to come too.

I left at 19 to seek fame if not fortune in the radio business, which a couple years later brought me back to town when I worked on the air at WMEE in the early 1980's.

I left again and returned a dozen years ago without the intention of staying until I met my wife.

Marrying Kathy 10 years ago was also a decision to stay in Fort Wayne.

Kathy is a transplant herself. She decided to move here years ago.

And when we were dating she really showed me the town that I grew up in was a pretty cool place.

From the parks and river greenway, to some of the unique restaurants and coffee shops, this is a place to call home.

So what's the rant?

It seems like a lot of the press we get is negative. 10 years ago there was talk about "brain drain" referring to young people who could not find the jobs or environment that would keep the bright rising stars in town, and they would leave for greener pastures.

Looking back on this, I see this is common unless you are in a city like New York, or San Francisco. When you are young and can't find what you want, it is common to want to go find it.

Fort Wayne is also a conservative town. By that I mean cautious. There are plenty of people who are all over the spectrum politically, but I'm referring to certain midwest values that we seem to hang on to in our city.

The look before you leap mentality is alive and well in many circles.

However we are also a city filled with an entrepreneurial spirit and now instead of seeing the "brain drain" from a few years ago, I see a growing entrepreneurial class emerging.

Fort Wayne is much more diverse than it was 30 years ago when the loss of a major manufacturing company meant tough times for our economy.

Because I work in the media world and have friends and acquaintances at most of the media outlets, plus my involvement in the Fort Wayne Social Media Community I get annoyed by certain stories and lack of understanding by some members of our government, by our school systems and by some of our journalists.

One example was the city hiring a Chicago firm to update the city website and create a social media presence. Click here to read more.

Then we had all the stir up with Harry Baals. Click here.

Despite the city's reluctance to name a building after the former Mayor, one of my radio stations, ROCK 104 has jumped on board, renaming their studio's after Harry.

The Fort Wayne Community Schools has hired an Virgina firm to handle "Communications" according to this story, click here.

And in a long standing battle with Men's Health Magazine, their latest mention puts us in the bottom of the Social Networking list. Click here.

For additional perspective, click here and read the comments on Anthony Juliano's Blog.

On one hand, it is frustrating to see those in charge of tax payer funded organizations spending our money with firms that are not only outside of Fort Wayne, but not even in Indiana. This is either due to laziness, ignorance, or something worse.

On the other hand, it is equally frustrating to see the media rely on a few sources and either through incomplete investigating or editing, not tell the story of what is really going on behind the scenes in the social media world locally and Fort Wayne overall with all of the positive aspects to living in this city, I and thousands of others call home.

Your comments and questions, be polite please, are welcome.


  1. Nice summation of the recent developments. I grew up in Auburn and commuted to Ft Wayne for several years. Now being a resident of Ft Wayne, I too have found a passion for this city, but so much of what has happened is frustrating. Hopefully those of us who are passionate will have a strong enough voice to be heard and some changes can be made to really keep the talent local.

  2. Please continue to stay passionate. Just because those in charge are still "old school" and cautious, people like you, me and a few hundred others are making a difference even if it is not visible to all. Yet.

  3. Marc-Alain4:56 PM

    Fort Wayne is clearly a city to be proud of. I say that as a FW newbie, having moved here about 9 months ago. There is a rich history here, and much like the city I grew up in (Lafayette, LA), folks here are friendly, forward thinking, and proud.

    At the same time, mid-major cities have unique challenges. Sometimes, there is a tendency to look inward for answers to all things. There are folks I love back home who seldom venture out of the state or even their parish (Louisiana speak for county). Equally troublesome, they sometimes find themselves focusing too much on what others think.

    For example, Louisiana is consistently ranked at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to education, obesity, poverty - you name it. While these issues need to be addressed, you won't find me talking up Louisiana that way. I'll tell you about a place where culture, music, and natural beauty flourish. A place where you want to eat your last meal before you die. When someone tells me how backwards or racist Louisiana is, I'll tell them that we elected the first Indian-American governor in US history.

    What am I saying? Look forward, be hopeful, stay proud. Courageously embrace diversification in all things. From what I've seen so far, Fort Wayne is moving in the right direction.

  4. Welcome to Indiana. I (almost) always enjoy hearing other peoples thoughts on Fort Wayne and this part of the country.

    Please continue to speak up and get involved, we need people like you.

  5. I came here to Fort Wayne last March from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I was born and raised. I loved and still love my hometown.

    When I first got here, I remember packing my bags every Friday and I was not coming back. At the time, my family would not be moving down until May so I went home to them on the weekends, and as I saw Fort Wayne fading in my rear view mirror on north bound 69, I had no intention of returning that coming Monday.

    But, because I had made a commitment to a small company here in Fort Wayne, I returned every Monday, against my will... At first.

    Something happened those first few months after I arrived that changed my mind totally.

    Complete strangers went out of their way to make me feel welcome here. I had a person in a coffee shop start a conversation with me that lasted over an hour (that person has since become a good friend of mine). I joined Twitter with the intention of building some connections in the community, I was welcomed immediately by some very cool people, I remember thinking "how the heck is this possible, I'm an outsider". I had neighbors stop in to introduce themselves (they have since become great family friends) and I could go on and on.

    This is something I had never experienced before, but somehow, it felt like home.

    For the record, I still miss my home town and yes, I root for Michigan to crush Notre Dame (I don't care what sport it is) but I love what I have experienced here in the Fort.

    My goal is to give back to the Fort Wayne community, the same blessings that I feel they have given to me and my family. I have no idea if I will permanently settle in the Fort or not, if so, no complaints from me. But if not, I WILL take the hospitality that I've experienced here with me...for life.

  6. Joe, thanks for sharing with us your experience. We're glad you're here too.