Why we like Indianapolis?

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The city’s lone claim to fame – its solitary attraction – was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; the host of the Indy 500. Fred Glass, former Indiana University Athletic Director, said that during the 60s, Indianapolis was a “racetrack in the middle of a cornfield.”

Now, Indianapolis is still the host of the Indy 500, but it is also home to an NBA team, an NFL franchise, a minor baseball team, 200 restaurants, 300 retail shops, 28 museums and galleries, and 12 performing arts theaters. All of these entertainment venues and service businesses attract a growing market of Indiana visitors and out-of-state tourists. Annual attendance at downtown leisure attractions has increased 84 percent since 1994, while major businesses and educational institutions have taken notice and responded with money and labor.

Dozens of major corporations have made downtown Indianapolis their headquarters, Indiana-University-Purdue-Univsity-Indianapolis and Butler University have both consistently grown, in physical space and student population, in the past two decades, and the small, Midwest city has earned the surprising reputation as a “tech hotbed,” in the words of industry publication, Digital Relevance. Indianapolis now has, in its city limits, 70 tech firms.

The New York Times praised Indianapolis’ “thriving culture scene,” while the Los Angeles Times called the success of its revitalization project, “breathtaking.”

The unemployment rates in Indiana and Indianapolis are lower than the national average, and both the state and city have sizable budget surpluses.

The obvious question, then, especially in the face of unmitigated fiscal devastation in Detroit, Cleveland, and many other smaller Midwest cities, is how did they do it?

The Indianapolis plan for resurrection required much more than prayer. Beginning in the 1970s, under a visionary, Republican Mayor – William Hudnut – and Otis Bowen, a cooperative and moderate Republican Governor, Indianapolis sought to become the sports capital of the Midwest, a flytrap for business investment, and a tourist destination all of which came true and then some.

Tech hub of the Midwest

Kenzie Academy: Could the tech jobs of the future be filled by the skilled trades workers of the present?

According to Indiana’s foremost leaders in the tech sector the answer is a resounding yes.

In an interview with ClearObject Chief Executive Officer John McDonald, he was quick to point out that the Indianapolis area alone currently has over 1,000 jobs open in the tech industry, specifically for “coders and people who can do data analytics.”

McDonald says that number is only going to grow.

“We already have a deficit of talent and it is only going to get worse.”

Which could make the newly minted Kenzie Academy a key cog in Indiana’s workforce development efforts. The Indianapolis-based coding school, which was founded by tech entrepreneurs with experience in Silicon Valley, opened its doors last month. Kenzie offers six month to two year programs with a paid tech apprenticeship after six months.


Growth of Tech Jobs

In all, the Indianapolis region added nearly 9,200 digital services jobs between 2010 and 2015, according to Brookings calculations. That’s more than the nearby metro areas of Cincinnati, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; and Louisville, Ky.; combined. It’s also the most of any Midwestern metro area with the exceptions of Chicago and Detroit, both of which grew but did so at a slower pace.

For one, the area benefits from a strong array of higher education institutions serving as a talent pipeline, says Jason Kloth, president of workforce development for the firm Ascend Indiana. Several Indiana colleges and universities offer nationally-regarded tech and engineering programs, while local coding academies provide opportunities for people new to the field.

“Indianapolis is uniquely positioned relative to the rest of the country,” says Kloth. “We have an increasing supply of talent and relatively low costs for labor and office space.”

Another crucial advantage Indianapolis enjoys over other regions that haven’t seen their tech sectors take off can be traced back to a few companies that started there more than 20 years ago. These firms provided a solid foundation, and their employees have since started new companies and invested in local capital without leaving the area, says Mike Langellier, president of TechPoint, a nonprofit that promotes Indiana’s tech community.

“It’s very difficult to jumpstart a tech hub from scratch because you have to have these ingredients and the ecosystem in order to do it,” says Langellier.

Salesforce’s expanding presence has also supported other companies in a broader marketing technology cluster.

Langellier further added that the region’s employers benefit from a workforce loyalty factor. Midwestern tech workers don’t seek new employment perhaps as often as their peers on the coasts.

Those advantages have even helped lure a few firms from top-tier tech hubs.


Recent Development Projects:

Project 2020: An aggressive 19 element plan to grow the downtown Indianapolis, spur economic growth and build a modern mass transit system.

During the 2000s, the city continued investing heavily in infrastructure projects, including two of the largest building projects in the city’s history: the $1.1 billion Col. H. Weir Cook Terminal and $720 million Lucas Oil Stadium, both opened in 2008. A $275 million expansion of the Indiana Convention Center was completed in 2011. Construction began that year on DigIndy, a $1.9 billion project to correct the city’s combined sewer overflows (CSOs) by 2025

By 2020, Downtown is projected to have 30,000 residential units, compared to 18,300 in 2010.

Renewed interest in urban living has been met with some dispute regarding gentrification and affordable housing. According to a Center for Community Progress report, neighborhoods like Cottage Home and Fall Creek Place have experienced measurable gentrification since 2000. The North Meridian Street Historic District is among the most affluent urban neighborhoods in the U.S., with a mean household income of $102,599 in 2017.


Diverse Economy: Indianapolis has several major industries ranging from bio-technology, academia, pharmaceutical, healthcare and manufacturing

Institution Employees
IU Health University Hospital 13,479
St Vincent Emergency Dept 10,000
St Vincent Senior Svc-The Ctr 10,000
Peyton Manning Children’s Hosp 7,000
IUPUI 6,800
Eli Lilly & Co 6,000
Eli Lilly Intl Corp 6,000
IU School of Medicine 6,000
Roche Diagnostics Corp 6,000
IU Health Methodist Hospital 5,000
IUPUI 4,700


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