INDIANAPOLIS - The city of Indianapolis and the Indy Chamber have launched an initiative aimed at prioritizing "inclusive growth" for residents. At a news conference Thursday with community stakeholders, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said the new roadmap will reposition existing economic development incentive programs to advance job opportunities for Indy residents and remove barriers to employment, such as access to childcare, transit and workforce training.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business Reporter Mary-Rachel Redman, Indy Chamber Vice President of Indianapolis Economic Development Ian Nicolini said investments in those areas are key.

"As employers make them in their workforce, they're able to better attract and retain talent," said Nicolini. "If we're leveraging resources to encourage that kind of job growth and job retention, we think that we can really accommodate both of those goals, providing shared value both to employers and employees."

The city says the strategy focuses on four key areas:

  • Business growth: Increase the quantity and quality of available jobs by encouraging entrepreneurship and supporting business attraction, retention, and expansion activities.
  • Skills development: Prepare Indy residents for jobs that pay living wages, which include improved access to and quality of K-12 education, adult education, job readiness programs, and postsecondary training programs.
  • Physical investment: Increase the likelihood of private market investment, including new housing, commercial development, and brownfield redevelopment. Additionally, improve the quality of life in distressed areas.
  • Social capital and support systems: Reduce barriers impeding quality of life, and identify and support community needs including health, transportation, civic engagement, housing, criminal justice reform, and access to childcare.

"These challenges were not created overnight, and there's no silver bullet solution to address the current barriers," Angela Smith Jones, deputy mayor of economic development, said in a news release. "But this strategy allowed us to step back and evaluate several major facets of economic segregation, identify the organizations and initiatives that are already tackling individual hurdles, and make recommendations for future policies and programming."

The city says the new inclusive incentives roadmap makes several policy recommendations to modify the existing processes for tax abatement and training grant programs. They include:

  • Implementing average wage minimums for jobs of employers seeking tax abatements
  • Assuring the presence of health benefits for available jobs
  • Assessing the community impact of the employer
  • Creating dedicated workforce support funds
  • Expanding the pool of applicants for training grants by lowering the average wage requirement

Nicolini says there are a plethora of economic development incentives and resources that cities and the state can offer to businesses of all sizes. However, the goal of the new strategy is to focus on espousing the city's values. 

"The mayor has said we have to eliminate poverty; we've got to create access to jobs; we've got to bring in all these great civic partners into the process much earlier. That level of focus, I think, that's what's really important here and making that available to businesses of all sizes. There are elements of some incentives that work better for businesses depending on the size that they are. Really, the important thing is you've got to prioritize what you're trying to incent. You want to incent the behavior and if that's quality job creation that's accessible and available, those are the kinds of projects that we want to work really hard to bring to fruition."