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Collaborating to Compete

Posted by jpellman on April 30, 2014

At the Indy Chamber Annual Event on April 23, we hosted renowned thought leader and vice president of The Brookings Institution, Bruce Katz. He is the founding director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. Katz's book, The Metropolitan Revolution, explains how cities are leading economic recovery across the country in ways that state governments and the federal government are unable.

So why did we choose him as the keynote speaker? Because in order to succeed as not only a city but a region, we cannot sit back and wait for solutions from the federal and state governments. Successful, healthy cities and metropolitan areas across the nation are collaborating together to create their own solutions and ultimately their own success -- and we must follow suit.

Collaborate to Compete
In his book, The Metropolitan Revolution, Katz emphasizes how major metropolitan communities are collaborating to tackle major issues in ways that state and federal governments can't and won't. Collaborating means that instead of competing with one another to lure businesses across county lines, we should be working together to bring new business and attract strong talented workers to our region. A strong collaborative region creates a metropolis to which companies and professionals flock. The Indy Chamber's economic development team is moving forward with this philosophy as they work with local economic development organizations in the region to create a united front so the Indy region can compete on a larger scale with our big competitors like Boston, Denver, and even internationally.

Leverage our Assets
What does it mean to leverage our assets? As we collaborate, we must evaluate what it is about our business community, our educational and research institutions, and our cultural attractions that set us apart. Katz shared a line from Dolly Parton, who once said: "Find out who you are and do it on purpose." And while it may seem strange, we at the Indy Chamber agree-we must identify and then leverage our strengths into growth for our region.

Katz noted that the best growth strategies for many metropolitan regions are based on investing in and growing existing businesses. We have strong and growing sectors in life sciences, advanced manufacturing, logistics, motorsports, and information technology. When we nurture our strengths, we become more attractive to outside investment. So we must ask ourselves: are our colleges, universities and technical programs producing quality workers? Are our existing businesses making an impact locally, nationally and even globally? Are our leaders making sound investments in our communities, schools and infrastructure? I believe we are doing great things in our metropolitan region. The Indy Chamber is bringing community and business leaders to the table to have collaborative conversations to answer these questions. As part of our overall strategic plan, the Indy Chamber is leading the way to create a common dialogue our entire regional community can use.

Quality over Cost
Being a region that is attractive to business and talent does not always mean we need to be cheapest option. Katz reminded us that Indianapolis should not simply compete in a race to the bottom. Quality, not cost, makes us more competitive for investment. Sure, maintaining a low cost of doing business and being competitive from a tax standpoint is extremely important. However, if our priority is on how little we can get away with spending, we will have a cheap region in which no one wants to live.

We hope you will join us as we collaborate to find creative solutions to leverage our assets and improve the quality of the Indianapolis region. We need to know who we are and pursue it with purpose.

What would you do to increase collaboration across municipal boundaries and across sectors? What assets would you build upon to increase our economic attractiveness and how would you do it? How should we improve the quality of life in our region? Let us know. Share your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter. Let's grow this dialogue to reach the region. This is important dialogue and I look forward to working with you on creating our own metropolitan revolution.