If Fort Wayne’s business community doesn’t believe the record string of homicides last year is its concern – it might want to think again. To at least one observer, the city’s violent reputation is an outgrowth of its “economic decline.”
New York Times columnist Joe Nocera made that observation in an article published last week.
“Gang shootings are everywhere,” he wrote, “You see it in the big cities, like Chicago, Detroit and Miami, and you see it in smaller cities in economic decline like Flint, Mich., and Fort Wayne, Ind.”
Nocera misses the mark in lumping Flint and Fort Wayne in the same economic category. Flint had a December unemployment rate of 8.8 percent and ranked 330th among metropolitan areas, according to U.S. Department of Labor figures. Fort Wayne was ranked 160th in December, with an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent.
Northeast Indiana residents surely know the comparison was flawed, but prospective employers – including those New Yorkers Gov. Mike Pence is trying to lure with a Times Square advertising campaign – would have picked up a discouraging message from Nocera’s column. If Fort Wayne hadn’t recorded 45 homicides in 2013, it likely wouldn’t have registered with the Times columnist.
The result, however, is that a huge audience now equates Fort Wayne with Flint and an unwelcome aura of economic decline.
Certainly not the image we want to project.