Indy Chamber asks Greenwood to help fund project

A nine-county effort to expand economic development in the Indianapolis metropolitan area is asking Greenwood to contribute money.

Accelerate Indy, run by the Indy Chamber, aims to spend $20 million over a five-year period with the goal of bringing in international investment, expanding start-up services for local entrepreneurs and recruiting employees to the region.

The program will run from 2017 through 2021 and is in its early fundraising stages, said Indy Chamber Chief Economic Development Officer Maureen Krauss.

Nearly 90 percent of the budget will be spent on recruiting businesses and employees to the region, she said, with the focus on efforts to attract national and global businesses and the high level employees needed to staff them. Funding will cover staffing the Accelerate Indy program as well as branding and marketing campaigns, she said.

Most of the funding, 80 percent, is planned to come from private businesses, with the remainder coming from local governments in Marion County and the eight counties surrounding it, Krauss said.

The funding request is based on a city’s population, with a request of $1 per resident. Greenwood, which had nearly 50,000 residents as of the 2010 census, would be asked to pay about $50,000 annually for five years to be part of the program. Greenwood was asked to take part in the program because of being the primary economic driver in Johnson County, she said.

Krauss made the funding request in a presentation to the Greenwood Redevelopment Commission last week, which asked for a month to mull the decision over.

Greenwood is the only Johnson County government that the Indy Chamber is currently planning to request funding from, Krauss said.

Some of the other local governments that have agreed to help fund Accelerate Indy include Fishers  and Westfield, with Carmel considering doing so as well, she said.

The funding request is a new one for the redevelopment commission, which doesn’t have any annual financial commitments to other economic development organizations, redevelopment commission president Brent Tilson said.

The redevelopment commission is responsible for spending funds from the city’s tax increment financing, or TIF, districts, which set aside money from property taxes paid by certain businesses in specific sections of the city. TIF funds are used for economic development projects ranging from road construction to financial incentives for businesses to building the Freedom Springs Water Park.

If the commission is going to give money to the effort, it may do so conditionally for one year, rather than making a five-year commitment, Tilson said. The funds would come from one of the city’s TIF districts.

That would allow the commission time to review the work the Indy Chamber has done and determine if it believes the money is well-spent, he said.

The success of the program is going to be determined by whether it helps bring businesses to Greenwood, Tilson said.

“We want to see business activity,” he said. “If we are going to market, we want to see leads that are coming in and have the opportunity to win those economic development opportunities.”

What Greenwood receives from this partnership is the ability to be part of a large-scale marketing effort that will help attract businesses to the city, Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said.

The goal of the Accelerate Indy program will be to connect businesses leads to cities, but each city will still have the responsibility of closing the deals, Krauss said.

Types of businesses that would be targeted include science, tech, advanced manufacturing and logistics, she said.

Overall, the Indy Chamber will review data such as the number of new jobs created, the amount of money invested and the amount of companies attracted to the region to determine if the marketing efforts are working, she said. That information will be updated regularly online beginning this fall.

While the redevelopment commission doesn’t have any programs that it funds on an annual basis similar to what the Indy Chamber is starting, Greenwood does fund the Johnson County Development Corp. through its regular annual budget, giving $50,000 per year.

The difference between the work done by the county-wide development corporation and the Indy Chamber is that being tied into the region is beneficial for Greenwood development efforts, as it connects the city to a well-known region, Tilson said.

The work done by the Indy Chamber and the Johnson County Redevelopment Corp. has little overlap, Myers said.

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Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jtellers@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2702.