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CHRIS KATTERJOHN Commentary: 'Rip' is just right for CICP

May 28, 2007

It's been 15 months since Central Indiana Corporate Partnership CEO Mark Miles wrote in these pages that he felt like Rip Van Winkle when he returned to the city after being away for 15 years.

Miles has done anything but sleep since he got back.

Neither has the CICP board of directors. That group should be congratulated for making an outstanding choice of a new leader and for taking bold steps forward.

This seems to have been a perfect match at the perfect time.

In the last year and a half, CICP has been busy. It has taken both Techpoint and Indy Partnership under its umbrella-as branding initiatives for technology and local economic development-to complement the already-in-place BioCrossroads, which targets the life sciences.

The organization is now on the verge of launching a fourth initiative focusing on advanced manufacturing and logistics.

All this has required considerable time and effort, particularly in the case of the Indy Partnership consolidation. That marriage emerged from a 10-month process studying the roles of those two organizations, as well as those of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and Indianapolis Downtown Inc.

The CEOs and volunteers who did all that work spent many a Saturday and Sunday trying to hammer out the details, and we all should be grateful for their effort. Al Smith, president of Chase Bank's Central Indiana Division, led that charge.

In the end, the new CICP looks like just what the doctor ordered to move Indiana forward.

A clear focus is one of the prerequisites for success. It's certainly been a major factor over the last few decades in the success we've experienced as a community here. Think of the sports initiative, for example.

By combining these diverse organizations and initiatives under the leadership and guidance of CICP, we bring clearer focus and alignment to their efforts, and avoid duplication, confusion and wasted energy.

Beyond that, we now are focusing on our existing strengths-life sciences, technology, advanced manufacturing and logistics-rather than trying to tackle something we're only moderately equipped to capitalize on.

Under the leadership of Dave Goodrich since its inception around the turn of this century, CICP had done an admirable job of R&D, strategizing and providing resources toward furthering growth in Indiana's economy.

Midway through the century's first decade, it appears CICP's board was ready to press on to the next level, and Miles happened to be looking for a new challenge at about the same time. How serendipitous.

It takes not only a willing board but also a person with a unique set of talents to engineer the changes seen in the last year and a half, especially when you consider such a diverse group of organizations, each with its own board, its own history and own agenda.

Miles' background in politics, business and international tennis gave him those talents. An easygoing people person, Miles learned the art of negotiation, persuasion and building consensus in some pretty tough arenas.

The world of local politics is tricky enough, but can you imagine working with professional tennis players, big-name sponsors and tournament organizers all over the world, in multiple languages?

On top of that, the egos must have been monstrous. The experience served Miles well while he was away. He seems to have honed his innate abilities to build bridges and create win-win situations, at least most of the time. More than anything, success in this arena requires a lot of finesse, working behind the scenes to move the ball forward, at the same time trying to keep all the parties happy. Miles has it. I look forward to watching as the new organization's efforts unfold, and I, for one, am glad Rip woke up back in Indianapolis.



Katterjohn is publisher of IBJ. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to ckatterjohn@ibj.com.
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