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While the failure of the Governor's tax package seemed to get all of the headlines after this year's Session had ended, there were a few pieces of legislation that passed which will have a positive impact upon our community. Since you're unlikely to read about them anywhere else, I thought I'd bring them to your attention.

First, the modification of the EDGE credit bill, which I authored, was successful, though it had to be placed into a House bill in the final hours of the Session for it to survive. For the record, EDGE stands for Economic Development for a Growing Economy. This legislation was considered by many to be the most important economic development improvement in Indiana for many years. EDGE credits have traditionally only been available to companies that were moving into the State for the first time. The State would grant them tax credits that were based upon the amount of new revenue for the State that would be created by the new jobs the company brought with it.

The change we made to the law will allow this tax credit to be provided to companies that are going to move out of our State in an effort to retain them. The company will have to prove that it has a legitimate offer from another State before it can be eligible for the credit. This economic development legislation will be a very useful tool for our communities and the State in trying to keep some of the good jobs that have left Indiana for other locales (often Michigan or Ohio). Indiana has fallen behind its neighbors in providing investment incentives that are essential to attracting or keeping the businesses that create these jobs. Now, we have some new weapons that will allow us to compete.

Need anyone remind us, Indiana has lost more jobs per capita in the past 2 years than any other State: over 100,000! It is time for us to wake up and start fighting back.

Another achievement was the creation of a downtown sports and convention development zone. This legislation expanded to Fort Wayne certain economic development dollars that other communities have enjoyed for years, including Indianapolis. It works like this: State income taxes taken from the paychecks of workers who are employed in certain government buildings (the City County Building; the Courthouse; the Convention Center) will be allowed to be retained by the community and placed into a special fund rather than being paid to the State. Also, sales taxes created by activities within the Convention Center will be allowed to be paid into this fund. The money may be used to help pay for improvements to the Downtown area. This will provide a big assist for the expansion of the Fort Wayne Convention Center, as well as other improvements such as a downtown hockey arena; a nautitorium; etc. These are the type of activities that can provide a very powerful assist in the effort to bring new life to downtown Fort Wayne.

Another important achievement was creating the transfer to Ivy Tech of two buildings located in the Fort Wayne Developmental Center across from IPFW. Ivy Tech plans to establish a high tech training center that will compliment the creation of the Innovation Center that will be built there in the next few years. The Innovation Center will be an incubator for start up high tech businesses that will hopefully, one day, become some of the foundations for the future economy of Fort Wayne. These incubators have had great success already in West Lafayette, where the fledgling businesses network with Purdue University to take advantage of its research capabilities. It is our hope that IPFW and Ivy Tech will provide that type of assistance and benefit to the Innovation Center as well. This transfer of land to Ivy Tech will allow them to move forward with their plans.

Once again, it was getting this language into a bill during the last days of the Legislature, and then fighting off all attempts to remove it, that made this success possible. The Senators from northeast Indiana worked together to see that these proposals became a reality. Hats off to our Republican and Democratic comrades in the House for their help as well.

We've found that a united front is the only way that northeast Indiana can get anything though the Legislature. Indianapolis has worked in a bipartisan way for years to get things accomplished for their community. While it was once said that Fort Wayne's delegation couldn't even agree on what day it was, those days are long gone. We have a new group of Legislators who are putting partisanship to one side to work on ideas and laws that are critical to the future of our area. The passage of the laws described above, as well as many others I don't have time to discuss, merely proves my point. ay


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