The idea of Angie’s List someday pulling up stakes just east of downtown and moving its 650 employees to Fishers, for example, is discouraging for anyone who recognizes the importance of a healthy city core, but the possibility should come as no surprise.
As IBJ reported last week, the fast-growing technology company plans to hire hundreds of employees in the next several months and is considering various locations in Indianapolis, Fishers, Lafayette and out of state to house them.
If the firm, which provides customer-review services in 200 markets, were to expand anywhere other than in its own back yard, it would be considered a major loss for the Holy Cross neighborhood, just east of the inner loop on the north side of East Washington Street.
That’s where Angie’s List operates out of 13 renovated buildings, some of them former houses, and where its employees tend a community garden and otherwise give hope to a neighborhood that had little going for it before Angie’s List arrived in 2001.
The company’s expansion elsewhere wouldn’t necessarily mean an exodus from its unique headquarters campus, but CEO Bill Oesterle admits it could be a precursor to such a move if a different location proves advantageous.
It’s hard to imagine the company abandoning Holy Cross. Oesterle co-owns the Angie’s List campus, after all, and finding a replacement tenant or tenants wouldn’t be easy. And in spite of the company’s philosophy that employees not get too attached to a specific work space (they move within the campus often), it surely wouldn’t be easy for a company whose location has become part of its culture to simply pack up and move to a bland, suburban office campus.
Is the company trying to leverage incentives? Probably. But the prospect of a move isn’t that far-fetched. How many small buildings can Angie’s List occupy and maintain and continue to operate efficiently? An expansion in Holy Cross would seem to require a great deal more money, creativity and effort than an expansion elsewhere.
And it’s naïve to think that rival communities wouldn’t place a target on the expansion or headquarters of a growing company. There’s much cheerleading for the concept of regional cooperation—the idea that places like Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers and Greenwood should present a united front. But as long as there are political subdivisions in what we think of us a region, there will be competition within the region for jobs, tax revenue and prestige.
Angie’s List has been a gift to the near-east side. No government program could have been as effective at giving a down-and-out neighborhood a boost. We hope the city is prepared to do what it takes—within reason—to hang onto that gift and use it as a catalyst for future progress east of downtown.•
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