People of many backgrounds shape cities, but there’s a unique type of resident who tends to be at the forefront of change and development.
They call them “boomerangs.” They’re people who grew up in an area, moved away, and then moved back, and as northeast Indiana evolves, it’s becoming home to more and more of them.
So why do people leave cities, and what brings them back? Better yet, how have their experiences outside of Fort Wayne inspired them to reinvest here?
Input Fort Wayne conducted an in-depth survey with a handful of boomerangs in northeast Indiana to give you a snapshot of their perspectives. Three respondents are featured below, and more will be featured in future installments of this study.
Throughout our research, local boomerangs expressed a common interest in helping the Fort Wayne area develop alternative modes of transportation, generate a greater spirit of inclusion, and invest in the unique identity that makes it special.
While these responses are based on personal experiences and don’t speak for everyone, they do offer a glimpse into the lives of our neighbors who have lived other places, and the ways they can help northeast Indiana move forward.
Here are our first three boomerangs’ responses.
Where did you grow up? I was born and raised in Fort Wayne.
Where did you move to? Milford, MA (40 miles outside Boston) & Seattle, WA
What brought you back to northeast Indiana? I was living in Seattle after my husband and I got married, and we needed a reset and a change in environment. We knew we wanted to relocate to the Midwest and after visiting Fort Wayne for Christmas, we decided it would be a good place for us .
Where do you live now? I live in the North Anthony Neighborhood.
How long have you been back? Just over 4 years.
Before you left your hometown, what was your impression of the Fort Wayne area? I left in 2006, and I didn’t think I would ever move back. There wasn’t much happening or going on here at that time for me.
Since you moved back, what has been your impression of the Fort Wayne area? It was almost like re-learning a whole new city when I moved back. Downtown felt so different and full of life since I had moved. I was hesitant to move back to Fort Wayne at first, but it was probably the best thing I could have done for where I was at in life. My husband, Nate grew up in Portland, OR, and feels the same way.
With your experience of other cities in mind, what are three things that stand out to you as the benefits of living here? Cost of living, being in driving distance of a lot of different things like Lake Michigan, Brown County, etc., and how welcoming people are. That was the biggest pull for us: To move to a place where we could be around genuine people.
What are three things you miss about other cities, or wish you could change here? Trader Joes/Whole Foods, more variety in fashion/shopping options, and easier access to renting creative spaces.
Tell us about your involvement in the Fort Wayne area since you moved back. Are there ways that you’re investing your time and talents or getting involved here? A couple years ago I collaborated with my friend Eden on a project (called Photanical) to bring women together in a more inclusive environment, to create and have a space to meet new people in a non-intimidating way. We have since stepped back from Photanical due to our schedules, but it has been so great to see more women carrying type of thing on in different ways. I have also been involved with volunteering with Wunderkammer here, as well.
Have you found it easy or difficult to get involved in the Fort Wayne community? Do you feel that boomerangs like yourself have a place here? I think it’s been a mix of both. There have been so many wonderful people and communities that have made getting involved so great, but I have also found that it’s been difficult at times. Mainly I’ve noticed some organizations or groups don’t have an online presence or don’t keep it updated for people to know what’s happening or how they can be part of things.
If you could give city leaders one piece of advice or encouragement, what would it be? The change and improvement that is happening in the city is so good, and it makes me proud to live here.
What would you tell someone else considering moving back to the Fort Wayne area? It’s a great place to grow, try new things, and be part of a city that is moving forward.
Nick Ferran Nick Ferran
Occupation: Graphic Designer at the Allen County Public Library; Freelance illustrator
Where did you grow up? I grew up on the northeast side of Fort Wayne, just about halfway between Leo and Carroll.
Where did you move to? After graduating from the University of St. Francis, I moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I lived for 3 years.
What brought you back to northeast Indiana? The friends and family I left behind here were a huge part of it, but there was a lot I missed about the city itself. It was hard to truly realize what was so special about this city until I left it, so I’m thankful that it has welcomed me back with open arms.
Where do you live now? I live in West Central on the first floor of a large duplex. I’ve lived there the entire 2.5 years I’ve been back.
How long have you been back? It’s hard for me to believe it, but I’ve been back for two and a half years. It doesn’t seem like it’s been nearly that long.
Before you left your hometown, what was your impression of the Fort Wayne area? I wanted to leave Fort Wayne before I even graduated high school. I applied to close to 10 different colleges, most of them outside the city or state. I couldn’t wait to leave. I was initially disappointed that I had to attend St. Francis in town, but my four years there exposed me to a Fort Wayne that I was unfamiliar with, and I grew to love it. Growing up so far from downtown, we usually didn’t venture much further than Coliseum, so I didn’t know how much I was missing. Attending art school adjacent to downtown led me to the art community, its people, and its places—and I realized what a gem it really was.
Since you moved back, what has been your impression of the Fort Wayne area? When I first moved back, I was shocked to find how much had changed. Even though I had been back to visit many times, it was hard to see some of the more subtle changes within the community. When I returned, I felt welcomed and wanted. Not that I felt shunned before at all, but I think it says more about the community than it does about me. I had never felt the community’s willingness and desire to grow before, and I’m thrilled to see how much more inclusive our city continues to become, however slowly.
With your experience of other cities in mind, what are three things that stand out to you as the benefits of living here? The sheer amount of genuinely good people I have encountered here, even just in the past couple years, is one of my favorite things about this city. People care about other people, care about fostering communities, care about creating safe spaces. I consider myself lucky to know and work with some of these people.
What are three things you miss about other cities, or wish you could change here? I wish the leadership in Fort Wayne was more progressive. Some leaders have caught on, and there have been a few younger people interested in making ethical progression in this city, but Fort Wayne doesn’t seem like it’s completely ready to accept it. But slow progress is still progress.
Tell us about your involvement in the Fort Wayne area since you moved back. Are there ways that you’re investing your time and talents or getting involved here? I’ve volunteered for festivals and nonprofits, met local business owners, listened to local bands, hung my art alongside local artists. I’ve done my best to experience life in this city through as many eyes as I can, so that I can do my small part in helping to create a better place.
Have you found it easy or difficult to get involved in the Fort Wayne community? Do you feel that boomerangs like yourself have a place here? I have found it much easier to re-assimilate than I had expected, in large part because I feel like I have a place here. My time in Grand Rapids helped me understand the kind of city that Fort Wayne could grow to become. Existing there taught me a lot about what a thriving community looks like, and what I can do to help cultivate something similar.
If you could give city leaders one piece of advice or encouragement, what would it be? I’m far from knowing how city leaders make their decisions, but my suggestion would be to consider how we are moving forward—look at the way other cities have done things, and take notes on what has worked and what has not. If we continue to push ourselves to grow without thinking about how that growth will affect everyone, we will fail. The best path forward is the one without any shortcuts.
What would you tell someone else considering moving back to the Fort Wayne area? Fort Wayne has always been my home, and I couldn’t be happier that I made the choice to move back. Our desire to make it a better place is one of the most important ingredients in making it happen.
Occupation: Full-time Student and Freelance animator/graphics artist
Where did you grow up? Fort Wayne
Where did you move to? Cambridge, MA, and Northampton, MA
What brought you back to northeast Indiana? The project I went to work on ended, and I decided to come home to be close to family and go back to school.
Where do you live now? The Southeast side of Fort Wayne.
How long have you been back? Since March 2014.
Before you left your hometown, what was your impression of the Fort Wayne area? I’ve always loved Fort Wayne, but I thought that I needed to move away to explore, meet new people, and make new connections for a more promising career.
Since you moved back, what has been your impression of the Fort Wayne area? There are more opportunities for professional and artistic growth here than I ever realized. This is actually a great city and an optimal time to launch or develop businesses and ideas here.
With your experience of other cities in mind, what are three things that stand out to you as the benefits of living here? We are lucky to have such a variety of delicious, culturally authentic restaurants. Many larger cities don’t compare to the wide range and high quality of food options that we have here. Of course, cost of living is also a great benefit of living in Fort Wayne. A third is that it is a great place to raise my family.
What are three things you miss about other cities, or wish you could change here? 1.) I wish more people (including myself) used public transportation. I’m not sure if it is a matter of inaccessibility, or if there is a stigma against the idea, but I don’t know anyone who rides the bus. 2.) I miss having better options for plus size clothing/quality clothing in general. 3.) I miss seeing a healthier mixing of races and cultures in downtown spaces.
Tell us about your involvement in the Fort Wayne area since you moved back. Are there ways that you’re investing your time and talents or getting involved here? Since moving back to Fort Wayne, I have been a full-time student, as well as a new wife and mother, so my free time is limited. However, I have been fortunate to work with some wonderful local companies on different motion graphics and video projects that I feel have been important to our community.
Have you found it easy or difficult to get involved in the Fort Wayne community? Do you feel that boomerangs like yourself have a place here? I am lucky to have a great network of friends who are active community members, artists, musicians, and business owners, so I am able to connect with the community and become involved through those relationships. I look forward to life after graduation and hope that soon I am able to find ways to initiate more projects that benefit more people and inspire new growth, as well.
If you could give city leaders one piece of advice or encouragement, what would it be? Fort Wayne is so culturally diverse, and we do really well when it comes to celebrating our differences through festivals and annual events. However, it would be great to see a wider variety of faces downtown on a regular/daily basis. I have seen improvement in recent years, but I feel that city leaders could make more of an effort to implement specific efforts that would encourage and welcome those who might still feel left out to join us in our development.
What would you tell someone else considering moving back to the Fort Wayne area? Come back! It’s great.
Know a boomerang who should take our survey? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.