INDIANAPOLIS, IN (July 6, 2016) — In 2015, the Indy Chamber celebrated 125 years of business success and civic progress. Staying relevant since 1890 has meant evolving to meet the needs of a growing community and changing economy.
So it’s symbolic that the Indy Chamber’s remarkable anniversary came as we finalized a new regional economic development strategy for the Indy region—a blueprint for growth that rewrites the traditional definition of economic development.
A New Strategy for a New Economy
The planning process began in 2014, with a steering committee of 100+ corporate, civic and elected leaders. The group solicited input from thousands of employers, policymakers, and residents over the next year, combining local perspective with the expertise of national economic development consultants and a competitive analysis with other major metropolitan areas.
The findings confirmed that economic success wasn’t dictated by the most generous tax breaks often associated with successful economic development projects, but that prosperous regions focused on the bigger picture: Appealing to talent, encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship, and progressive investments in education, infrastructure and other business priorities.
“Economic development has typically been very transactional—making the best business attraction
and retention deals,” noted David Lewis, Vice-President of Global Taxes at Eli Lilly & Company, who chaired the planning committee. “We’ll continue to find these opportunities, but this strategy focuses on creating a long-term, pro-growth climate.”
The strategy’s analysis also revealed that, reflecting national trends, 80 percent of the region’s job creation comes from existing employers rather than corporate relocation. This homegrown focus fits the Indy Chamber’s mission of helping our member companies succeed—but the process confirmed that local businesses need support in different ways, from non-traditional capital to help connecting with international customers.
The ABCs of Metro Growth
Educated & Talented Workers
Develop and attract talent, build a productive workforce
Innovative & Enterprising Businesses
Generate jobs and investment through new business recruitment, helping existing companies succeed, entrepreneurial growth
Attractive & Connected Places
Create a quality of life that appeals to educated workers, with pro-growth strategies for transportation and transit, land use, and infrastructure
Vibrant & Inviting Image
Build a positive brand with global visibility for the Indy region, welcoming new residents, companies and visitors
Talent: Job #1 for Job Creation
A veritable library of recent studies and surveys show that human capital is the top priority for business today, so the plan puts talent front and center.
Developing educated and talented workers begins close to home and early on, preparing future generations of workers with public pre-kindergarten, continued K-12 education reform, and partnerships with the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) and others to prepare young people for high-demand STEM careers.
Talent-building goals also include retaining a higher percentage of the collegiate population in and around the region, and appealing to potential residents as part of the overall regional marketing campaign.
“In the 21st Century economy, growth is all about people.” said Indy Chamber President and CEO Michael Huber. “Population growth means economic growth, and business opportunities follow a skilled workforce.”
Placemaking is Businessmaking
These efforts rely on a bigger premise—Indy has to create places where workers want to live, and their employers want to do business. This means embracing quality of life initiatives, encouraging neighborhood revitalization and the walkable urban preferences of Millennial workers.
The Indy Chamber supports a host of policies—historic preservation incentives, local zoning reform, bikeway and trail investment and more—but the highest priority continues to be the expansion of regional transit through the Indy Connect strategy, IndyGo’s Marion County Transit Plan, and campaigning for a 2016 referendum to fund these improvements.
For businesses, recommendations include incentivizing brownfield redevelopment so companies can locate closer to the urban core and a program of long-term infrastructure spending to ensure the Crossroads of America remains a Crossroads for Commerce.
Helping small businesses make a bigger impact
Supporting small and start-up companies as the region’s most productive job creators is another key pillar of the strategy. The Indy Chamber has come a long way in building a small business ecosystem; we plan to expand successful programs like employer coaching and microlending while exploring new ways to connect young firms with capital and expertise.
The strategy also emphasizes “innovation infrastructure,” highlighting the public-private push for the 16 Tech innovation district near IUPUI and the IU School of Medicine—the Indy Chamber works alongside partners like CICP to continue to push this important live/work/play development for cutting-edge companies and knowledge workers.
Making Connections: Close to home, across the globe…
The Indy Chamber has traditionally helped members grow through networking and relationship-building, activities that continue to be popular—and valuable.
But in tandem with this strategy, the Indy Chamber is building an array of technical assistance, marketing and business development services aimed at helping local companies find new customers and supply chain partners close at home and around the world.
At one end of the spectrum, the recommended Billion Dollar Challenge creates connectivity among large metro employers and potential local suppliers, to recapture capital that leaves the region today in procurement and contracting opportunities.
On the international scale, the Indy Chamber has joined a cohort of metros participating in the Global Cities Initiative, a join project of The Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase, to execute a Global Trade and Investment plan, helping small-to-mid-market companies become exporters. The plan aims to help the region tap into the 80 percent of the world’s purchasing power outside the U.S. boosting regional exports from a bigger group of Indy companies also raises the region’s profile abroad and helps recharge the flow of foreign direct investment into Central Indiana—another global priority.
The Indy Chamber begins our second 125 years with an ambitious agenda and a new challenge—making sure this regional economic development strategy never becomes another report sitting on the virtual shelf. A new level of engagement and investment from Indy Chamber members will be necessary to turn this plan into real economic progress.
“We’ve always been the voice of Indianapolis business, but this strategy is more than just talk,” Huber finished. “It’s an action plan for how we’ll lead Central Indiana towards a new level of growth, as a region where people and employers thrive together.”
Read more about the Regional Economic Development Strategy here.
About the Indy Chamber
The Indy Chamber is the voice of progress and improvement for the Indianapolis region's business community. With membership of nearly 2,000 businesses in the Indianapolis region, the Indy Chamber is leading the effort to strengthen the business climate, improve the state of education, revitalize neighborhoods and enhance the region's workforce. For more information, visit IndyChamber.com.
Joe Pellman – (317) 464-2251 or