As the Pacers and Cavs bring their hard-fought playoff series back to Indy this weekend, the cities they represent are battling for a different kind of rebound: Indianapolis and Cleveland both ranked in the ‘Stabilizing’ category in new research from the Brookings Institution – “Renewing America’s economic promise through older industrial cities.”
The title isn’t catchy, but the analysis is compelling. The report evaluates the performance of urban core counties in historically manufacturing-heavy regions – and Indianapolis has some catching up to do.
Amy Liu of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program will be in town next week for the Indy Chamber’s ‘State of the Region’ event (April 25th at the IMA; check out the details here) to discuss these findings and add a national perspective to our regional plans and a new dashboard to measure our economic progress.
We won’t preview the whole program or the study details, but it’s interesting to read how the ‘older industrial cities’ analysis supports several of our advocacy priorities (there’s nothing like having a team of economists give an unsolicited ‘thumbs up’ to our agenda):
Remaking economic development, redefining “business issues:”
This latest Brookings’ report aligns with Liu’s admonition that regions need to “remake” economic development, investing in workforce, infrastructure and research institutions, quality of life improvements and other building blocks for a critical mass of skilled people and dynamic companies.
That’s why the Indy Chamber engages in issues far beyond ‘traditional’ business concerns like taxes and regulatory reductions – policies like bias crime laws, accessible pre-K and raising the smoking age to contribute to a healthier, more diverse and better-prepared workforce, for example.
Economic access equals economic success:
The Brookings team finds that older industrial cities limit their economic potential by failing to address the economic isolation of significant portions of their populations and communities – neglecting “inclusive growth” as part of economic development.
Indianapolis writes off hundreds of thousands of people – unprepared for high-demand occupations by skills and education, living in high-poverty areas with few accessible job options, or facing some other barrier to household-sustaining employment. Talent is a top priority for Indy; we need more people helping drive our economy.
That’s why the Chamber joined leaders from San Diego and Nashville as the first cohort of a six-month ‘Learning Lab’ organized by Brookings to explore these issues.
Recent progress on mass transit is also a win for inclusion – reconnecting people and jobs. Employer-driven training programs, enlisting anchor institutions to create opportunities in urban neighborhoods, early learning initiatives that lay the foundation for future upward mobility, and policies to help ex-offenders re-enter the job market join transit on a growing inclusion agenda.
Older industrial cities benefit from clusters of employment in their urban cores, around established neighborhoods, major employers and institutions. Indianapolis does well in this ‘dense employment’ measurement…but lags behind peers in new housing construction.
The Indy Chamber’s advocacy for transit, exploring ways to promote brownfield redevelopment, business coaching and microloan programs aim to grow urban employment even further. Transit will also drive walkable living options, and the homeownership and rehabilitation incentives in our anchor institution program also seek to recruit new homebuyers to the city. We need zoning and metropolitan development policies to allow dense residential development and address our housing deficit.
Brookings also notes that many older industrial cities benefit from the presence of major research campuses close to their downtowns. The public-private commitment to building the 16 Tech innovation community shows Indy’s enthusiasm for capitalizing on the cutting-edge research assets at IUPUI – we’ve supported state investment in the Indiana Bioscience Research Center (16 Tech’s anchor tenant) and local financing of infrastructure improvements in and around the district.
A new scorecard for success:
A final thought from the report (and I’ve only scratched the surface) – the authors call on city and civic “leaders [to] establish new, visible metrics for collective action” to revitalize urban industrial centers and the metropolitan regions they anchor.
That’s what the ‘State of the Region’ event is all about, a new scorecard and a call to action. And even if you can’t join us Wednesday to hear first-hand from Amy Liu and other local and national experts, the Regional Dashboard brings 24/7 transparency and accountability to our efforts on Accelerate Indy and their impact on our economy.