7 min read

Dec. 19, 2023 | Tax break for a Fortune 100 company, open-carrying alcohol Downtown and more!

Dec. 19, 2023 | Tax break for a Fortune 100 company, open-carrying alcohol Downtown and more!

Hey Locals,

This week, we're exploring a historic “super abatement” being proposed for property taxes on an unnamed Fortune 100 company's data center campus. We also share reflections on a new ordinance that would allow you to open-carry alcohol Downtown, and we answer a reader's question about the state of the city's recycling system.

Heads up: we have special editions of The Local planned for the next two weeks, as we go on holiday break. Stay tuned for some important 2024 updates coming your way!

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Now, let's get started!

Talk of the Week

The top story we're following.

Is Project Zodiac's tax phase-in a good deal for Fort Wayne?

Early plans for Project Zodiac in Fort Wayne call for a 12-building data center campus at 7301 Paulding Rd.

What's happening?

On Friday morning at 9 a.m., City Council is hosting a special meeting at Citizens Square to vote on a massive 50% tax phase-in (aka tax abatement) over 10 years for the unnamed Fortune 100 data center campus slated for Fort Wayne's east side. The meeting will involve a public hearing, if you can attend.

  • You might remember: the mysterious and controversial "Project Zodiac" has been in the news for weeks now, and we still don't have many answers about who owns it or what exactly it will be. (If you aren't familiar with data centers, in general, you might check out this scene in "Silicon Valley" for reference.)
  • So far, we know: the project seeks to build a 12-building data center campus on approximately 892 acres of land just east of Adams Center Road, on the north and south sides of Paulding Road. Mayor Tom Henry says this area has previously been identified as a "strategic location for this type of economic development."
  • Last week: developers with the project pitched a 50% deduction on their property taxes for 10 years in exchange for their projected $400 million investment, which is estimated to create 30 new full-time jobs with a $64,993 average salary, The JG reports.
  • If approved by City Council: this tax phase-in would save the developer a total of $55.5 million over 10 years.
  • It's still unclear: how much the company would pay Fort Wayne in annual minimum property tax payments (required by Indiana law) during the phase-in period.

Why it matters

As Fort Wayne considers this “super abatement” tax deal, it's worth looking into how tax breaks for businesses impact cities, locally and nationally.

Learn more in our Deeper Dive with City Councilman Geoff Paddock!

Small Talk

Two quick updates.

  • You might soon be able to carry alcohol outdoors within designated areas of Downtown Fort Wayne. Last week, City Council introduced an ordinance to create a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) Downtown under new a state law, allowing certain businesses within an area to serve beverages for open-carry. (See the list of Fort Wayne businesses here.) President of Downtown Fort Wayne Michael Galbraith says: "We’ve been a big proponent of the DORA legislation for a few years after seeing it work successfully in both Michigan and Ohio. Our peer cities in those states, like Toledo, Grand Rapids, and Dayton have seen an uptick in business and more active streetscape without an appreciable increase in trash or crime. A further benefit will be to Downtown festivals and events.... We’re working on 'advancing Downtown Fort Wayne as the vibrant, urban core of Northeast Indiana,' and we think that this legislation will help to do that in both a pro-business and pro-family way." The DORA is on the agenda for tonight's City Council meeting and may serve as a trial for more in Fort Wayne.
  • Country Heritage Winery is closing the doors on its Downtown location with DeBrand Fine Chocolates on Dec. 31. Just over a year since opening the combined spot in the Ash Skyline building, the winery posted on social media Monday that it plans to close this location to focus on opening a distillery in 2024. It will still maintain its Indiana locations in LaOtto and Nashville.

What else? The city's 2024 neighborhood infrastructure budget. A North side subdivision controversy, and local restaurants open Christmas Day. We cover it all in our premium newsletter.

You asked. We answered:

What is the state of Fort Wayne's recycling system?

A few weeks ago, a reader asked:

With all the changes in the industry in recent years, what's really happening for us? I've seen reports about recycling in other areas just being sent to landfill. Is that happening here? What's the difference in the outcome of taking one's glass recycling to the Smith Road collection point vs. using the city's pickup? How is our single-stream recycling really handling glass? Is our recycled paper being sold, or would it do more good if we used private recycling, like the collection bin at Waynedale Methodist?

To answer: we spoke with local sustainability expert, Jodi Leamon, a Program Manager for City Utilities, Energy and Sustainability Services.

Jodi Leamon (photo by Stephen J. Bailey)

She says: Your recycling isn't going to the landfill because the city's contract with Republic Services prevents that. However, much of it is being downcycled as filler in construction sites or in roadbed material when it could be upcycled into more sustainable, pristine products if we handled it differently throughout the process. 

  • Overall: One of the biggest factors affecting Fort Wayne’s recycling system is the fact that it’s single-stream, where everything goes into the same bin.
  • This can be good because: it makes the process easy and increases citizen participation.
  • But it's also challenging because: it causes potentially valuable recycled goods, like glass and paper, to get degraded and downcycled when they could be upcycled.
  • When you take paper and glass to separate drop-off points: you're preserving the value of these commodities and essentially turning our single-stream system into a cleaner, multi-stream system, which is better.
  • If Fort Wayne could do this at scale: it might advance sustainability and provide our recycling stream with more revenue to improve its operations – while better serving some Indiana manufacturers in the process.

Learn more about how the system works (and could improve) in our full story!

Got a question you'd like us to explore?

Email thelocalfortwayne@gmail.com, and we'll see what we can do! 🙌

To do list

Three of our favorite things to do this week.

What else? We recommend two more things to do in our premium newsletter.

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Have a great week, Locals!

-Your Editor, Kara Hackett