Business community commits to IPFW

Task force formed to ‘help this institution move forward’

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FORT WAYNE — Local business leaders announced the formation of a task force Friday aimed at developing the Indiana and Purdue universities on Coliseum Boulevard into a “top 100” system by 2027.

“The business community has neglected IPFW,” Ron Turpin, Gibson CFO and Fort Wayne market president and Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Board of Trustees member, said at a press conference Friday. “We are here for this institution. We want to help this institution move forward.”

“Two satellite, regional campuses do not adequately serve the economic interests of the citizens of northeast Indiana, its businesses, nor the people of Indiana,” Turpin continued.

He added the university IPFW is a “major component of economic development planning for northeast Indiana.”

Turpin announced a task force had been formed through Greater Fort Wayne Inc. “to help propel discussion, planning and execution” of its vision for the two campuses locally, which also was outlined Friday.

The task force would focus on eight main areas, including:

• Building Indiana University’s presence on the Coliseum Boulevard campus by engaging with Lutheran and Parkview health systems and furthering medical science development.

Michael Mirro, a member of the IU Board of Trustees, said via conference call that IU is “making a commitment to having a presence” on the current campus. He also said IU is looking at enhancing nursing, dental and medical imaging programs at IU-Fort Wayne and expanding into degrees for physical and occupational therapy as well as research on campus.

• Continuing the tradition of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), advanced manufacturing, liberal arts, music and business at Purdue University-Fort Wayne while also ensuring its general education courses are robust for both IU and Purdue students.

• Ensuring that funding the institutions is a top priority for their respective leaders, local business leaders, the Legislature and local philanthropic organizations.

“It is a mindset,” Turpin said. “As one campus, we need to be rowing in the same direction, and we’re asking Purdue and IU to do the same thing, both in administration … as well as the fundraising capability of these institutions,” Turpin said.

• Making sure both universities have active local advisory councils.

• Having a northeast Indiana representative on both universities’ board of trustees. Turpin said IU was already on board with this goal, while “we’re not there yet” with Purdue.

• Keeping NCAA Division I athletics at Purdue University-Fort Wayne to “attract students from across the country and financial support locally,” Turpin said.

“This is a starting point,” he emphasized. “This is done to ensure a continual focus of the external campus community working with the campus community to make sure this stays in the forefront.”

He said presently there aren’t deadlines or measures to mark the success of the goals, but rather they’re meant to provoke ongoing conversations.

Turpin added that while he doesn’t know whether IU and Purdue will work together the way the task force envisions, if necessary, the task force will “build something unique for us.”

“If we have to design something unique, we will,” he said.