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Women are Directing the Creation of Innovation Districts

Stephanie Gottesman & Crystal Vann Wallstrom

Crystal Vann Wallstrom, Managing Director of Innovation of Electric Works, joins host Stephanie Gottesman for a conversation about innovation districts, the history of the General Electrics campus, and her ambitious vision for Electric Works.



Most of us living here in Fort Wayne have heard of the ambitious Electric Works project, which seeks to revitalize the abandoned campus. The project’s website describes their vision as, “a well-conceptualized, mixed-use district of innovation, culture and community that is seamlessly integrated with other downtown development projects currently underway.” Some people see Electric Works as a real estate deal, some see it as a beacon of innovation and forward thinking, some see it as a looming spectre of gentrification. One thing’s for sure, though – it has the potential to dramatically transform our city in numerous ways. Crystal Vann Wallstrom is a fellow Fort Wayne transplant and the Managing Director of Innovation for Electric Works. In this episode, Vann Wallstrom shares with us some of the wisdom and inspiration she took away from her previous life in San Francisco, why she passionately believes that bringing an innovation center to Fort Wayne will drive economic development and build culture in new ways, and some of the ways that being part of this project have affected her personally.

The abandoned General Electrics campus is 1.2 million square foot and is believed to date back to 1893. The Fort Wayne division of GE has its origins in the establishment of the Fort Wayne “Jenney” Electric Light Company in 1881.


She shares quite a bit about the history of the General Electrics campus, what role it played in Fort Wayne’s history, and how revitalizing it will provide jobs, affordable housing, and a hub for innovation. In the course of the conversation, Vann Wallstrom and Gottesman discussa talk by world-leading economic geographer Michael Storper, recorded by the London School of Economics and Political Science. It goes deep into the reasons that an open innovation district like Electric Works creates more innovative culture than closed models of innovation centers, and how that led to the rise of San Francisco over Los Angeles in the last half century.


She then describes the vision for the Electric Works, and describes both what will be part of the West Campus Phase 1, and also how she sees it building culture. For a look at the Electric Works vision and the inside of the existing buildings, check out this page on their website.


For more information on Electric Works, visit They are also on Facebook , Twitter, and Instagram.


After the interview, we were happy to share an announcement for Jodi Leamon, the Sustainability Coordinator for the Allen County Department of Environmental Management. She was the guest from our tenth episode last season. She and Lesley Sears have started a podcast called  “A Material Girl Goes Green.” Lesley is the founder of the first truly sustainable candle company, Farm Finds Candles, based here in Fort Wayne. The podcast follows Lesley’s journey as she steps into an eco friendly and low waste lifestyle. Jodi is co-hosting the show as Lesley’s sustainability expert, answering all the eco-related questions that come up along the way. The show discusses daily eco challenges, reviews environmentally friendly products, and looks at all the ways you can begin your own eco friendly journey. It launched earlier this month, and we’ve been loving it! You can find A Material Girl Goes Green on most podcasting apps. Check it out!


This week, we’re featuring a song by APQ, Alicia Pyle’s quartet, which has a weekly jazz series at the Clyde Club Room on Wednesdays from 8-10. The quartet, and Alicia’s small business PyleStyle Events, has a dedication to keeping it local and fostering local talent. Each week, they feature a different “local” musician, and encourage people to book from our growing pool of local talent. The song is called “Serendipity.” You can aslo find them on all social media platforms. 

Women Are: Fort Wayne is a production of Monstrous Regiment Media and distributed by WBOI in Fort Wayne. Our show is sponsored by the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne and Silverbirch Entertainment. This episode was written and produced by Stephanie Gottesman and Traci Henning-Kolberg. Our episodes are recorded at Silverbirch Studio, with an extra thank you to sound engineer Steve Tyler and assistant engineer, Harrison Tyler. 

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