Indiana’s largest regional business group elects new officers, approves legislative agenda—leaders say Indy is “ready to rise” in 2022
(December 15, 2022–INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.) The Indy Chamber held its annual all-member meeting today, electing volunteer leadership for 2022 and endorsing legislative priorities on behalf of thousands of employers across the nine-county, Indianapolis region. Melissa Proffitt of Ice Miller will chair the Chamber’s Board of Directors, joined by John Hirschman as vice-chair and Jeffrey Harrison of Citizens Energy Group as treasurer.
The incoming leadership adopted an agenda that urges the Indiana General Assembly to respect local businesses as the best-positioned authorities on workplace health and safety, allowing enforceable COVID vaccine requirements to protect employees and customers.
The Indy Chamber’s legislative agenda is titled “Ready to Rise,” reflecting a business community eager to rise above the turmoil of the last two years and pursue strategies for long-term, inclusive growth. In education, for example, the Chamber supports non-partisan school board elections to avoid politicizing the challenge of raising K-12 achievement and post-secondary attainment.
“These are ultimately pragmatic positions on health and education policy,” said Proffitt. “Well-vaccinated workplaces are the best way to protect today’s economic recovery, and we must allow educators to keep their focus on building a better-prepared future workforce.”
Besides preserving the rights of employers to require COVID vaccinations and maintaining non-partisan school boards, other key issues for the Indy Chamber include:
- Supporting Regional Growth & Economic Development: Building on the state’s $500 million READI program, the Chamber continues to advocate strengthening Regional Development Authorities (RDAs) and creating local financing options for regional projects, while making the case for additional state funding of high-impact plans for attracting new talent and investment.
- Closing K-12 Achievement Gaps: Access to quality education is a prerequisite for economic mobility—the Chamber will focus on concerns like disparities in digital learning resources, uneven engagement in the 21st Century Scholars program, and seeking a need-based analysis of the complexity index (aid to students in poverty) ahead of the next state budget cycle.
- Reforming Juvenile Justice: Young Hoosiers involved in the justice system face the most daunting hurdles to education and employment success—the Indy Chamber supports adequate resources and programming (including special education, social and emotional learning, and mental health) aimed at breaking cycles of recidivism and poverty early in life.
- Protecting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Options: As Hoosier employers demand skilled workers who can thrive alongside colleagues from all walks of life, Indiana’s classrooms should also reflect the diversity of its workforce and the global economy. The Indy Chamber supports local school districts adopting DEI programs to promote scholastic achievement for all students.
- Making Downtown Safer: Downtown Indianapolis is Indiana’s largest business district and the core of our regional economy. While keeping a focus on issues like affordable housing and food security, mental health services, and other ‘root cause’ challenges, the Chamber acknowledges the need for more resources targeted to public safety and preserving the vitality of downtown.
“It was critical that the agenda focus on growing our economy through inclusion and accessibility, particularly as it relates to equipping the next generation with opportunities,” noted Melissa Proffitt.
“It starts with students feeling respected and equipped with the tools to learn,” Proffitt continued. “Indiana is investing nearly $18 billion in local school systems over the next two years, but we won’t reap the full rewards if too many young people feel isolated or unseen in the classroom.”
Indy Chamber President & CEO Michael Huber added that next year’s legislative agenda strikes a tough balance between the critical needs of employers navigating a resurgent pandemic and a long-term, aspirational vision for the region.
“The Indy Chamber has championed investments in connectivity and quality of life including mass transit and game-changing developments like 16 Tech and Bottleworks,” said Huber. “Our members are enthusiastic about programs like READI, but we also recognize that in this current climate, businesses are in dire need of resources to protect their employees from COVID.”
“We look forward to a constructive dialogue with lawmakers on these issues and other ways to strengthen Indiana’s fastest-growing region and most productive economy,” Huber finished.
The Indy Chamber’s legislative priorities also include employer-driven workforce development, incentives for redeveloping urban brownfield sites, revamping the state road funding formula to reflect actual traffic volumes and more. The full “Ready to Rise” agenda is available at www.IndyChamber.com.