Category: Economic Development
In winning the right to host the 2012 Super Bowl, Indianapolis beat out some tough competition: Houston and Phoenix had both hosted the game before, and both offered the promise of sunny weather and plenty of financial incentives for the NFL.
Despite these advantages, the Indianapolis region scored a victory with a shrewd and aggressive strategy, selling three decades of experience and investment that has made our region uniquely suited to host major championship events.
Now take this three-city contest and expand it to include every metropolitan area in America – and in some cases, around the world. That’s economic development today, a dog-eat-dog competition for new jobs. In this battle, Indianapolis has built a similarly focused approach – combining our geographic advantages and competitive business climate with strengths in industries like the life sciences, advanced manufacturing, logistics, technology and motorsports.
As a football fan, I was happy to hear that Indianapolis landed the big game. But I’m even more excited about this event in my day job as the head of our regional economic development effort. I’m confident that winning the Super Bowl will help us score more victories in the broader competition for business opportunities.
First, there’s the marketing value. The Super Bowl will bring many of the nation’s most influential corporate executives to Indianapolis – a first-time visit for several of them. Why does this matter? Well, we see this phenomenon time and time again: We’ll host someone who’s never been here, and typically they don’t have much of an impression of the region. And then they get to experience first-hand all that our city has to offer, and they are uniformly blown away. “I had no idea what a great city this is,” is a common refrain. Almost nobody moves their company on the spot, but this exposure certainly builds relationships and lays the groundwork for future business relocations or expansions.
Showing our region at its best to the audience of millions who tune in for the game also provides an invaluable brand-building opportunity. My organization, the Indy Partnership, is a consortium of local economic development organizations from ten counties tasked with marketing the region. Funded by private investment, we engage in a program of advertising, public relations, tradeshow participation and personal outreach to site selection consultants and business leaders.
Our efforts have borne success; 2007, for example, saw relocation, expansion and retention projects committed to create nearly 13,500 new jobs and bring new capital investment of $1.36 billion to the region. We’ve won these competitions despite the fact that our leading competitors spend millions on mass advertising to shape public awareness. The Super Bowl erases much of this advantage, bringing a wave of publicity so significant it would be impossible to buy…and if the city manages the event with its typical aplomb and hospitality, the boost to Indianapolis’ image will give us a solid new foundation to build upon.
There’s also the race for human capital. Dynamic economies are fueled by concentrations of talented people – the regions with the most educated workforces also tend to rank high in per capita income and job growth. Today, the Indianapolis metropolitan area ranks above the national average in college graduates as a percentage of the adult population. But this position is threatened by a ‘brain drain’ that sees too many of our young people leave the state after earning their degrees.
To thrive in the knowledge-based economy, we have to attract and retain more educated workers – Richard Florida’s ‘creative class.’ We can’t offer mountains, beaches, or year-round golf weather to entice tomorrow’s workforce. But a steady diet of world-class sports and cultural amenities, with the excitement that comes with hosting high-visibility events like the Super Bowl, helps put Indianapolis on the map as a great place to live, start a career and raise a family.
The Super Bowl will certainly provide a short-term bonanza for our region’s economy, with more than $120 million in direct spending of the course of game week. But the long-term ramifications are even more powerful: If we take full advantage of this opportunity, we’ll be more than just a destination for football fans in four years – we’ll be further down the road towards being a prime destination for capital, new job opportunities and top talent.
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