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CHRIS KATTERJOHN Commentary: Be yourself-maximize your assets

April 18, 2005

Be who you are. Conversely, don't try to be somebody you're not.

Focus on what you do best, and you'll succeed.

When we think of people who excel at anything ... Joshua Bell playing the violin, Reggie Miller shooting three-pointers, Dr. Lawrence Einhorn treating cancer ... we understand they have achieved their success by focusing on their God-given talents, developing them, and practicing, practicing, practicing.

Communities are much the same, though the philosophy could be amended to read a more businesslike "maximize your assets."

Take life sciences, for example. In central Indiana, we are focusing economic development efforts in that area because of an existing infrastructure that includes major life sciences companies (Eli Lilly and Co., Roche Diagnostics Corp. and Dow Agrosciences, to name a few) and two major research universities, Indiana and Purdue.

We have another asset we take for granted that is already a major engine for economic growth: location, location, location.

That notion was reaffirmed by a panel of experts at IBJ's recent Power Breakfast on Commercial Real Estate and Construction. With 500 attendees listening, five real estate pros covered a gamut of real estate topics, from retail to office to industrial to construction ... and more.

By all accounts, each sector of the industry is doing better than it was 12 months ago. The one that is really excelling, however, is industrial. And the primary reason: Central Indiana is the center of the country and at the intersection of several major interstates.

That's one of our God-given "talents."

While out-of-state businesses looking to move their frontoffice operations might favor oceans or mountain ranges to Indiana's flatlands, the ones that count on moving product around the world put central Indiana at the top of their lists.

Although office-space developers have cut back or eliminated building "spec" space in hopes of luring tenants, particularly downtown, industrial developers continue down the spec road in a big way. They can barely keep up with demand.

And that's why logistics and distribution have become major areas of focus for central Indiana economic development efforts. We're maximizing our assets.

Another key industry fueled by location is the convention business, a sector that has received much attention in recent months because of pending legislation to approve financing for an expanded convention center and new stadium for the Indianapolis Colts and other events.

Community leaders made a conscious decision 25 years ago to develop that industry here and have gone about the business of building an impressive infrastructure to support it. The result is a vibrant downtown, loaded with retail and restaurants and a number of nice hotels.

Did you know no city in the country has more hotels connected to its convention center via skywalk than Indianapolis?

This little tidbit and other important data on economic impact are often missed by the local public when they read or see media coverage of the convention-center/stadium project. I'm sure many can't compute that Indianapolis is a major player in the convention business, in spite of efforts to inform them.

It's important to emphasize that the convention business is one of the key ingredients fueling this wonderful proliferation of retail and fine-dining establishments, as well as cultural attractions and entertainment venues downtown and elsewhere in central Indiana. We can't afford to neglect it.

Ask anyone who runs any of those businesses or organizations what they think of the convention center expansion. You'll get an enthusiastic endorsement.

Fortunately for all of us, convention center officials have done an excellent job of presenting their case for expansion, and their presentation has been well-received in the business community and at the Statehouse, where legislators are busily trying to iron out the details on how to make it all happen.

When the dust settles, the stage will have been set for Indianapolis to take its convention business to the next level, and we'll all feel the benefit. Like a successful musician, athlete or doctor, our city will have capitalized on its best features, and taken another step toward excellence.



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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