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The following is an article in Omblogsman, a blog series by Jim Rawlinson, Regulatory and Permitting Ombudsman at Develop Indy, a business unit of the Indy Chamber.

Hello readers! Friendly neighborhood Ombudsman here! In this edition, we are getting away from thrilling looks at zoning classifications, exciting dives into HVAC hood specifications, and adventures into site plan requirements to focus on a whole different side of economic development: inclusive growth.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
The biggest topic on the minds of economic development professionals in Indianapolis in the last year has, unsurprisingly, been tech. But the other topic, possibly the more important for all of us in the long-term, is inclusive growth.

In 2017, the Indy Chamber took part in a study by the Brookings Institute looking at how we, along with a handful of other cities, are growing. It brought up a number of startling statistics, and the reality is that Indianapolis, like most of the country, has a growing inequity problem. Simply put: people in poverty in Indianapolis have a harder time getting out of poverty. Although there are many highly successful pockets of wealth around the city, there are also many with shocking levels of poverty.

The Indy Chamber is focused on inclusive growth and improving opportunities for our citizens that are impoverished to move up the economic ladder. Community and neighborhood development are as important as they’ve ever been, and 2018 is a year when they will be the focus of not only the City of Indianapolis, but our broader economic development efforts as well. Addressing inequity and poverty are central to providing a great quality of life here in Indianapolis. Community development is economic development.

Make Your Personal Impact on Community Development
How can you get involved? When my wife and I bought our first house in Little Flower on the east side, one of the first things we did was join the local neighborhood association and become board members. My best advice if you want to get to know your neighbors and make your community a better place, start there. Find out who your neighborhood group is go to a meeting. If you don’t have a neighborhood group, start one!

A great event to start with is Keep Indianapolis Beautiful’s “Great Indy Clean Up”, which is in April. You can sign up here. If you have more questions about who your neighborhood group is or how you start one, go talk to the Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center.

Maybe neighborhood groups aren’t your thing. If you don’t have the time to commit to one, another way to become active is to get to know your local Community Development Corporation and get involved with them. There are many CDCs all around Indianapolis doing fantastic work in the trenches and they all need your support, whether it’s operational or financial. Hold on to your hats, I’m going to drop some names here but it’s only because they all do tremendous work and deserve recognition:

Near-East Side
NEAR (Near East Area Renewal)
Englewood CDC
John H Boner Center
Promise Zone
Irvington Development Organization
Community Alliance of the Far Eastside (CAFÉ
South East Neighborhood Development (SEND)

West Side
West Indy CDC
Westside CDC
International Marketplace Coalition

North Side
Near North CDC
Mapleton Fall Creek CDC
King Park CDC

Midtown
Broad Ripple Village Association
Martindale Brightwood CDC
Riley Area Development Corp

If you have more questions about what CDCs do or how to get involved with what they are doing, check Local Initiatives Support Coalition (LISC). They provide financial and technical support to all of these groups and more.

I almost hesitated to make that list because there are endless amounts of people doing fantastic work in their communities all around this City who deserve credit and your support. These are just a handful that I’ve worked with. The important thing to keep in mind is that the Indy Chamber, Develop Indy, these CDCs, even the City of Indianapolis can make this a priority but we can’t do this alone. If we want to make our communities better, it starts with all of us.

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