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A Q&A with Develop Indy’s Ian Nicolini on how Develop Indy is reorienting its approach to economic development to more effectively unlock the ability of businesses to leave a lasting impact on the community.

Q: WHY IS IT NECESSARY TO CHANGE OUR APPROACH TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN INDIANAPOLIS?
A: Today, you can see Indy’s economic momentum, but it doesn’t mean everyone has an opportunity to participate in it. We’re experiencing a two-sided economy: having one of the nation’s fastest-growing metro tech sectors and one of its fastest-growing poverty rates. These trends point to a gap that we need to close before it further fractures our economy. Indy needs broader and more equitable employment opportunities and potential upward mobility – in short, to strengthen and sustain a larger and more welcoming middle class.


Q: WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE?
A: Economic development is not just about traditional incentives and tallying jobs anymore. To truly develop an economy, you have to tear down barriers and build capacity for economic growth, with emphasis on reaching those isolated by their education or their zip code, or any other barrier to employment and economic mobility. This can only be done through serving and including all types of people — from the budding entrepreneur to the Fortune 500 company.


Q: HOW WILL DEVELOP INDY APPROACH THIS CHALLENGE?
A: While business attraction and marketing will continue to be core activities, Develop Indy is focused on making long-term investments in competitiveness while ensuring that more residents can connect to economic gains. Develop Indy is working with the City of Indianapolis to re-orient existing incentive programs – and introducing potential new initiatives – to help advance community objectives and prioritize inclusivity. Develop Indy will also ensure a clearer path to growth and opportunity for entrepreneurs by better connecting the small business education and lending activities of Business Ownership Initiative, also a business unit of the Indy Chamber, with the resources of Develop Indy. Our goal is to be the first stop to navigating the business community, whether you are a neighborhood resource provider, local startup, or international firm.


Q: HOW DOES THIS CONNECT TO THE BROADER WORK OF THE INDY CHAMBER?
A: The mission of the Indy Chamber is to empower business to assure all have the opportunity to succeed in the Indianapolis Region, and this is no better exemplified than through the work of Develop Indy partnering with the resources of Business Ownership Initiative. The intersection of business, government, and philanthropy at the Indy Chamber helps build a framework where Indy can realize opportunities and utilize existing assets in order to inclusively meet the needs of current residents and companies, while boosting our regional image through unified marketing and quality and connected places.

For more context on inclusive economic development, read the Brooking’s Institution report Opportunity for growth: How reducing barriers to economic inclusion can benefit workers, firms, and local economies.


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