Welcome to the latest installment of “Leading Questions: Wisdom from the Corner Office,” in which IBJ sits down with central Indiana’s top bosses to talk shop about the latest developments in their industries and the habits that lead to success.
Mark Miles, 57, occupies a small, spartan office on the 18th floor of the Chase Tower that belies the enormous influence he has on the Indianapolis landscape he can see outside his windows, and beyond. He is widely recognized as one of the top “power brokers” in the city, with connections that reach deep into the political and business communities, and a resume of civic accomplishments and corporate positions that can open nearly any door.
“I don’t think about the term [‘power broker’], and certainly it’s not an end in and of itself,” Miles said. “The thing that motivates me most is trying to see that things that need to get done in the city get done. … I do spend a lot of time with a lot of other people trying to do my part to get people on the same page and pursue initiatives in the most effective possible way.”
Recently, that has included leading the successful effort to bring Super Bowl XLVI to Indianapolis and serving as chairman of the 2012 Super Bowl Host Committee. He handles those responsibilities—amounting to about 20 hours per week at the moment—while holding down his day job as CEO of the influential Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, a not-for-profit group devoted to economic development in the area’s life sciences, information technology, advanced manufacturing and logistics industries. Its board of directors is a virtual “Who’s Who” of Indiana’s top-drawer CEOs, university presidents and other high-placed executives.
Through CICP, he’s been a key player in developing a regional mass transit plan for central Indiana, which after public feedback called for options such as light-rail lines and a regional bus system at an estimated cost of $2.4 billion. The Central Indiana Transit Task Force, which includes CICP, will ask the 2012 Legislature to authorize referenda in which local governments could ask their voters to sign off on dedicated funding sources, such as a percentage of sales or income tax revenue.
“I’d like to believe that … it should not be so difficult for state legislators to say, ‘Let’s let them put the question to themselves. Let’s see through referenda if locals think there is value for the money,’” Miles said.
Miles has collected political expertise over nearly 40 years. Beginning in 1974 as a campaign aide to Richard Lugar in his unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate, Miles caught the attention of political heavyweights like Bill Hudnut and Dan Quayle and soon was running their election campaigns.
Through the 1980s, he was a go-to guy for handling complex projects on a civic level, taking over and revitalizing the city’s men’s pro tennis event (then the GTE Championships), and heading the organizing committee for the Pan American Games in 1987. He then became executive director of public affairs for Eli Lilly and Co., and hand-picked his replacement—longtime friend Mitch Daniels—when he left in 1990 to become CEO of the Association of Tennis Professionals, the governing body for men’s pro tennis.
After 15 years at the helm, Miles returned to Indianapolis and became CEO of CICP in 2006. Again a fixture in the city, he provides informal counsel and feedback for groups working on civic initiatives. And he’s among a cadre of local power brokers who are quietly assembling a plan that would transfer control of Indianapolis Public Schools to the city’s mayor. (Such a plan would require the Legislature to approve a local referendum, and an OK from voters in the IPS district.)
“There’s not enough accountability,” said Miles, cautioning that he was not speaking as a representative of the group, which has not formally unveiled its plan. “I would like to see the day when candidates who are running for mayor have to say what they think about how kids are being educated, have to have a program that describes what they will do to ensure the best possible outcomes, and are then held accountable. I would like to see them voted out of office, if the community isn’t satisfied.”
Despite all his experience in the political arena, Miles has no interest in running for office himself.
“I enjoy having a private life, and I want to be able to go home and put on flip-flops and go to Ambrosia’s or someplace else in Broad Ripple and have dinner,” he said.
In the video at top, "Leading Questions" provides an overview of Miles’ career and peppers him with questions involving his many priorities, including the Super Bowl, mass transit plan and shifting control of IPS. In the following video, Miles responds with more depth to concerns surrounding the current labor dispute between the NFL and its players, currently resulting in a lockout and threatening to derail the season.
In the video below, Miles discusses his early career working on political campaigns for such luminaries as Lugar, Hudnut and Quayle. He also reveals why he turned his back on an opportunity to be a power player in Washington, D.C., as then-Sen. Quayle’s chief of staff.