Collaboration and innovation excite Mark Becker
Mark Becker is a quiet sort of guy, one who has spent time in the shadows of politicians and business leaders and has worked behind the scenes to spur growth in downtown Fort Wayne. But these days, he’s stepping to the forefront as head of Greater Fort Wayne, Inc., the regional economic development group that was created when the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce and the Allen County Economic Development Alliance merged to better attract and retain business. Find out how he does this and where he plans to relax this summer as we play 20 Questions.
1. What appeals to you about economic development?
The opportunity to help improve the community. It’s not just an effort to attract new business – it’s an effort to improve the community.
2. What do the words “economic development” mean to you?
Creating wealth in the community. Personal, business and community wealth.
3. We’ve been hearing the word “transformational” a lot these days. Why?
There’s never been the alignment there is today to shared goals. Different interests within this community are coming together. There’s this strong commitment to improving the community.
4. Tell us about the “What do you stand for?” campaign.
It’s really an effort on our part toward being greater. Together we can do more than we can by ourselves. We can build a more prosperous environment through collaboration and innovation. It’s critically important to advance a bold agenda. And we’re working together instead of at cross-purposes in building a greater future.
5. You’ve worked in both the public sector and the private arena. What have you learned through those experiences?
When you’re in the public sector, you have to be open to any constituency who has a concern or an opportunity to share. I have a lot of respect for our elected officials who put themselves out there. They’re sharing a strong commitment to work collaboratively. We can accomplish so much more … if we’re working together.
6. You spent time in Greenville, S.C. What does that city have that Fort Wayne needs?
They’ve had a long-term, sustained effort to revitalize their downtown. They’ve kept their heads down and worked hard. A lot of their (efforts) are focused on key assets they’ve built.
7. What does Fort Wayne need that we currently don’t possess?
Increased pride in the wonderful community we enjoy here. We have tremendous assets we should be very proud of. We need to let younger people express their ideas for the community.
8. When you look downtown and see all the projects that have happened recently, how do you feel?
I think downtown Fort Wayne is beginning to define our community. The vibrancy of downtown is coming back strongly. Harrison Square is about creating a community gathering space. The Ash (brokerage headquarters) project is another of those catalytic projects.
9. What’s the most frustrating thing about economic development?
When the community isn’t well prepared for the opportunity that is presented. The big goal is … (to be) better and better prepared as time goes by.
10. What is your hidden talent?
I’m very comfortable saying this is our goal and not having a clear path to get there. That doesn’t scare me. You’d miss the journey.
11. What’s your favorite memory?
Time spent with my family.
12. Who has had the biggest influence on your life?
My father, Laird Becker. He passed in 2000. He was the best.
13. What makes you happy?
Spending time with my wife, Cheri.
14. I hear you hand out magic wands to your staff. If you could have a real wand, what societal ill would you fix?
If we could have an environment where every child could reach their potential. I volunteer with Real Men Read, and I see the children’s excitement when we come in. I’d love to see them reach their potential.
15. What are your goals for the coming year?
Well, Cheri and I are both looking forward to spending time at Lake James.
16. How do you relax?
Cheri and I enjoy cooking together, reading and spending time at the lake. I can drive in that driveway, and it all goes out of my head.
17. Would you do better on “American Idol” or “Dancing with the Stars?”
“Dancing with the Stars.” I can’t carry a tune!
18. What skills are useful in both the public and private arenas?
Collaborative leadership skills. Setting goals and staying focused and assembling the right team of people that is focused on both the challenges and the opportunities.
19. What does “innovation” mean to you?
It’s being willing and committed to thinking out of the box and how (open you are) to new ideas and new ways of thinking, and always thinking ‘are there better ways to do things?’
20. Why do you work on projects that benefit the public?
Service. It’s the opportunity to help this community that I love. It’s such an honor to help make it a better place in the future.
First appeared in the May 2014 issue of Fort Wayne Monthly.