Turning Rust to Gold: Fort Wayne’s Fight for Revival is the gripping, true story of a community struggling to rebound from a long, hard fall dating from the 1970s.  Real people, tics and warts and all, appear in these pages, sometimes operating at cross purposes with others, sometimes banding together in hopes of making major changes for the better.  There are angry meetings and exhilarating celebrations.  A leading organization almost declares virtual war on City Hall and then suddenly retreats.  Sweeping the conflict under the rug, however, just makes things worse.  There’s plenty of trouble to come, full of wily chess moves by competing civic grandmasters, and the occasional big surprise.

Yet all the sound and fury signifies something.  These people, to a person, on all sides, care about Fort Wayne.  Turning Rust to Gold is an economic development thriller that is also, paradoxically, the love story of a community.  People are passionate about Indiana’s second city.  They are willing to fight for it and some of them do.  Their enormous communal effort, with a handful of outstanding leaders, appears headed slowly, circuitously, toward success.  Fort Wayne, with its flawed and wonderful people, is rich in lessons for those in any place or time who believe they can do something amazing for their home town.


Chris Mead is a consultant to chambers of commerce and companies that serve them.  For 16 years he was the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, retiring as senior vice president at the end of 2018. He is the author of Magicians of Main Street: America and its Chambers of Commerce (1768-1945). This book, receiving favorable comments from such groups as The Wall Street Journal and Washington Examiner, urban expert Joel Kotkin, and leading professors at Harvard, Cambridge, Princeton, and the University of Southern California, is the only full-length history of the activity of chambers of commerce in the United States. He holds a B.A. degree in English from Oberlin College and an MBA from Stanford University. 

Christian Garver

Cover & Book Design

Hello! My name is Christian Garver and I am a graduate of Huntington University’s Art & Design program. I am a freelance graphic designer located in Fort Wayne, IN. Throughout my college career I have had the opportunity to work as a part of the creative services team at Zimmer Biomet, a leading orthopedic company located in Warsaw, IN, as well as for the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce located in Chicago, IL. Outside of my design work, I enjoy spending time with my wife and dog, practicing my photography, and thrifting and antique shopping!

Colin Madden

Book Design

I’m Colin! I graduated from Huntington University in 2017 studying Graphic design and Museum Studies. I am currently a graphic designer for Creative Mornings Fort Wayne. Professionally, I have been the creative director for Greater Fort Wayne Inc. for two and a half years. GFW Inc. is the chamber of commerce and economic development corporation for Allen County. Besides working for GFW inc. When I am not neck deep in work you can usually find me at a bowling alley, watching movies, or at a local concert taking photos.


"Change doesn't come easy..."


“Change doesn’t come easy – but if cities don’t change and grow, they decline and die. Change takes time, and it takes individuals willing to be criticized for asking too much, pushing too hard, and risking too much. While there are certain to be some who will quibble with the story told by Chris Mead in Turning Rust to Gold, his book, with behind-the-scenes insights into how Fort Wayne, IN grew over the last 30 years to where it is today, and where it could be in the future, is hard to put down.”

Paul Helmke - Director of Civic Leaders Center and Professor of Practice, Indiana University, Former Mayor of Fort Wayne, 1988-1999

"...changed the trajectory of Fort Wayne, Indiana"


“Once again, Chris Mead, who more than anyone else in the country has documented how chambers of commerce have helped shape their communities, now offers this fresh new chronicle of how strong, committed community leaders with vision and hard work changed the trajectory of Fort Wayne, Indiana. This story contains lessons for every community in America that has experienced setbacks and that aspires to create a better day for its future generations. Congratulations to those leaders and to Chris Mead for capturing this important and inspiring story!”

Dave Adkisson - President and CEO, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce; past chair, Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives

"Audacity to dream big"


“Turning Rust to Gold tells a compelling story of courage, ingenuity, shared risk and reward and – perhaps most importantly – the people with the audacity to dream big. This easy page-turner uses economic development and urban renewal as the frame to support the stars and supporting cast, and Chris Mead’s entertaining writing style blends economic data and politics with the fascinating story of Fort Wayne’s evolution. While every city is unique, Turning Rust to Gold provides important insights for other communities in transition.”

Elizabeth Cromwell - President and CEO, Charlottesville (VA) Regional Chamber of Commerce

"...a catalyst that begins to change the outlook, the culture...on what can be done"


“The story of how to build a great place can take many forms. In almost every place, there is a catalyst that begins to change the outlook, the culture, and creates new insight on what can be done. That is certainly true in Fort Wayne as it seeks to create a new beginning for its downtown. This a fascinating story of ideas and actions working to create renewed opportunity and new pride in this city.”

J. Mac Holladay - CCE, PCED, LM, HLM, Founder and CEO, Market Street Services

"...knock the rust off..."


“If your city needs to ‘knock the rust off,’ you can’t afford to miss this book. If you want to be inspired and challenged, Turning Rust to Gold will not disappoint. While the success of communities comes in many different forms, the underlying currents of vision and cooperation are intrinsic to the process. Turning Rust to Gold illustrates how hope coupled with dedication and hard work can make for a brighter tomorrow. This is a great book that should be on the bookshelves of chamber CEOs, mayors, members of Congress, and anyone else who wants to bring positive change to his or her community.”

Dale Steenbergen - President and CEO, Greater Cheyenne (WY) Chamber of Commerce

"...the Fort Wayne story is one for the ages..."


“In Chris Mead’s timeless work, Turning Rust to Gold, we learn much about what makes up the DNA of a region. As we learned in his first book, Magicians of Main Street, communities vary widely in how well they understand and tackle the challenges that confront them. Undoubtedly, Chris’s dissection of the Fort Wayne story is one for the ages – as a history piece, as a learning tool, and as a motivator for those who serve through chambers of commerce.”

Douglas Peters - IOM, AP, President and CEO, Abilene (TX) Chamber of Commerce

"...turn[ing] near-fantasy aspirations into realities"


“Anthropologist Margaret Mead’s famous line comes to mind when reading this book: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’ It is the human side of this riches-to-rags-to-riches story that makes it a compelling read. Turning Rust to Gold is filled with anecdotes about the right person(s) being in the right place at a critical time and then doing something. At the pivotal moments, the right person was, often, Eric Doden, but key partners and seemingly random influential people took chances to help Doden turn near-fantasy aspirations into realities for the city and region.”

Mick Fleming - Founder, Chamber Counselor LLC, Former President and CEO, Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives



“Courage. Just because a mountain stands in your way doesn’t mean you can’t move it. The old GE plant was the monster problem of Fort Wayne for decades. It took guts to tackle this problem, one huge step at a time. The process is not over yet, as this book makes painfully clear. The odds are that . . . well, you decide!”

Chapter 7

Who said, “There had been plenty of things happening since the ballpark went up: various business expansions, startups, Vera Bradley, GM, hospitals, Sweetwater Sound . . . but not downtown. That was now going to change.”

GE Exterior 1

Chapter 10

Find out who said, “If it [Electric Works] doesn’t happen, it will be a serious blow to our community and to other developers thinking about Fort Wayne. And it’s [GE] a big eyesore.” He continued on to say, “We have a chance. It’s a big project.”


Home was last modified: December 31st, 2019 by ericdoden