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City chamber of commerce, Develop Indy might merge

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Officials from the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and Develop Indy want to work more closely together, and even might merge the organizations, chamber Chairman John Neighbours confirmed.

"I wouldn't rule out the possibilty they could be merged," said Neighbours, a partner at Baker & Daniels. He told the full chamber board, which has more than 100 members, on Thursday that he has been discussing "collaboration" with Develop Indy, which leads economic development for the city of Indianapolis.

The goal is to save money for corporations that support both organizations, Neighbours said.

Executives from companies like Indianapolis Power & Light, WellPoint Inc. and Eli Lilly and Co. have asked, 'How many checks to do we need to be writing?' Neighbours said. Even before he became chairman of the chamber this year, he said, "People would say that to me."

Neighbours denied the chamber's current search for a successor to CEO Roland Dorson drove the talks. Dorson resigned this spring. His departure stemmed from a rift with Neighbours and Mark Miles, CEO of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, over the region's mass transit strategy, IBJ reported at the time.

One person familiar with the chamber's search process said that Develop Indy CEO Scott Miller is a leading candidate for the job. MIller, 43, is a past president of the business landscaping firm Mainscape. He took the top job at Develop Indy in 2008.

Neighbours said Miller is a "very viable candidate, among many." The chamber's search committee is starting to interview its final pool of candidates, and search chairman John Thompson hopes to make a recommendation by Sept. 15, Neighbours said. He hopes to have a new chamber CEO in place by Oct. 1.

Develop Indy absorbed another economic development organization, Indy Partnership, in February of this year. Indy Partnership, which covers the nine-county metro area, retained its name but now operates with a reduced staff out of Develop Indy's offices on the 24th floor of Chase Tower.

Neighbours said it's not unheard of for a chamber of commerce to play the leading role in hosting and recruiting new companies. Under any scenario, he said, the Mayor's Office would retain control of economic-development incentives.

The chamber and Develop Indy have shared resources in the past. Develop Indy used to be housed in the chamber's office on the 19th floor of the Chase Tower. 

Neighbours and Develop Indy Chairman Carey Lykins, CEO of Citizens Energy Group, have been talking about ways to deepen ties between the two organizations for several months. Neighbours said he raised the topic two months ago with Deputy Mayor Michael Huber and Ballard's chief of staff, Chris Cotterill.

Develop Indy is a not-for-profit that functions as the city's economic development arm. Its 20 board members are appointed by the mayor, and it receives a large part of its funding, $1.5 million this year, from the Indianapolis bond bank.

Citing competition with other cities, Develop Indy officials won't reveal how much they currently receive in corporate gifts, but the 2009 tax return shows $517,000 for that year.

The chamber, also an independent not-for-profit , spent $5.6 million in 2009 and had revenue of $4.9 million.

One obvious source of savings would be executive salaries. In 2009, Dorson received salary and bonus of $208,164 and total compensation of $238,370, according to the chamber's tax return for that year, the latest available. 

Develop Indy CEO Scott Miller earned $159,133 in 2009, the organization's tax return shows.

The chamber employs 35 people and Develop Indy has 17.

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  • More should follow
    Good idea. Other NFP's and more specifically GOV's should merge and combine considering they are doing the same thing. Work together not independently especially if its the same thing.

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  1. Hiking blocks to an office after fighting traffic is not logical. Having office buildings around the loop, 465 and in cities in surrounding counties is logical. In other words, counties around Indianapolis need office buildings like Keystone, Meridian, Michigan Road/College Park and then no need to go downtown. Financial, legal, professional businesses don't need the downtown when Carmel, Fishers, North Indy are building their own central office buildings close to the professionals. The more Hamilton, Boone county attract professionals, the less downtown is relevant. Highrises have no meaning if they don't have adequate parking for professionals and clients. Great for show, but not exactly downtown Chicago, no lakefront, no river to speak of, and no view from highrises of lake Michigan and the magnificent mile. Indianapolis has no view.

  2. "The car count, THE SERIES, THE RACING, THE RATINGS, THE ATTENDANCE< AND THE MANAGEMENT, EVERY season is sub-par." ______________ You're welcome!

  3. that it actually looked a lot like Sato v Franchitti @Houston. And judging from Dario's marble mouthed presentation providing "color", I'd say that he still suffers from his Dallara inflicted head injury._______Considering that the Formula E cars weren't going that quickly at that exact moment, that was impressive air time. But I guess we shouldn't be surprised, as Dallara is the only car builder that needs an FAA certification for their cars. But flying Dallaras aren't new. Just ask Dan Wheldon.

  4. Does anyone know how and where I can get involved and included?

  5. While the data supporting the success of educating our preschoolers is significant, the method of reaching this age group should be multi-faceted. Getting business involved in support of early childhood education is needed. But the ways for businesses to be involved are not just giving money to programs and services. Corporations and businesses educating their own workforce in the importance of sending a child to kindergarten prepared to learn is an alternative way that needs to be addressed. Helping parents prepare their children for school and be involved is a proven method for success. However, many parents are not sure how to help their children. The public is often led to think that preschool education happens only in schools, daycare, or learning centers but parents and other family members along with pediatricians, librarians, museums, etc. are valuable resources in educating our youngsters. When parents are informed through work lunch hour workshops in educating a young child, website exposure to exceptional teaching ideas that illustrate how to encourage learning for fun, media input, and directed community focus on early childhood that is when a difference will be seen. As a society we all need to look outside the normal paths of educating and reaching preschoolers. It is when methods of involving the most important adult in a child's life - a parent, that real success in educating our future workers will occur. The website www.ifnotyouwho.org is free and illustrates activities that are research-based, easy to follow and fun! Businesses should be encouraging their workers to tackle this issue and this website makes it easy for parents to be involved. The focus of preschool education should be to inspire all the adults in a preschooler's life to be aware of what they can do to prepare a child for their future life. Fortunately we now know best practices to prepare a child for a successful start to school. Is the business community ready to be involved in educating preschoolers when it becomes more than a donation but a challenge to their own workers?

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