With hopes of fostering the next generation of entrepreneurs, local leaders are launching a new program encouraging real estate development.

The Small Scale Developer Program launches in January of 2024. Stemming from the office of Imagine One 85, the goal is to match would-be property, land developers and potentially business owners with private investors. According to Imagine One 85 Director Alex Downard, there are a number of individuals with Wabash County with great ideas but lack the capital investments. His hope is to pair those with the business acumen to point them in the right direction toward actual investors for projects.

“We’ve got a three-pillar approach to this program. First, is 10 training sessions with subjects matters in related field with experts who can assist in projects,” said Downard. “Second, is project-based coaching specific to someone’s need. Such as if you buy a house, how then to get that to market to rent with piece-by-piece coaching. Third pillar, is we have investors lined up who are willing to invest in small-scale real estate such as housing.”

Downward said this program derives from a need in the community for both housing and continued growth in development of small businesses who need storefronts.

“We pulled from a few different models (as a template) such as in South Bend,” said Downard. “We also worked a lot with the Housing Resource Hub out of Fort Wayne, who has done a lot of work here in Wabash County. They’ve been involved with the Legacy Heights (housing) project.”

Imagine One 85 initiative is a partnership with the Community Foundation of Wabash County and local elected officials representing all of Wabash County. The Imagine One 85 plan is the first of its kind in the community, being a county-wide strategic plan focused on arresting and reversing decades of population decline in Wabash County. Decline by 15 percent since 1980. A population that has dropped from 35,903 to 30,976 as of 2020, according to the United States Census Bureau.

Courses offered January – October of 2024 for the Small Scale Developer Program include:

Introduction to Small-Scale Development
Real Estate Basics
Site Analysis and Selection
Project Design and Planning
Sustainability and Community Impact
Hand-On Project
Project Financing
Construction Basics
Sales and Marketing

Downard stresses the program is open to anyone with interest in property ownership, but does not have to be a current property owner or investor. The courses are free to the public. For more information, contact (260) 445-5356.
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