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Economic Club of Indiana getting new manager

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A long-standing Indiana lecture forum will be run by a new administrator starting this summer.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce, which has overseen the Economic Club of Indiana for the last three and a half years, will end its relationship with the group after May's luncheon, the last in the 2010-2011 series.

Local National Public Radio affiliate WFYI will take over the role of selling sponsorships, recruiting members and securing speakers for the group’s monthly lunch events at the Indiana Convention Center.

Tom Schuman, the chamber’s vice president of communications, said the decision to step down as the club’s administrator came after the chamber went through a strategic planning process last year.

During that process, the group determined it should allow staff members who were working on projects related to the club to instead focus on top chamber priorities, including growing membership and promoting its legislative agenda.

“It was a matter of focusing our resources a little bit more,” Schuman said.

He added that the group would remain strong supporters of the club.

The club, which was formed in 1974 by a trio including retired Indiana Supreme Court Justice Ted Boehm, puts on luncheons featuring high-profile speakers that in recent years have ranged from news personality John Stossel to WellPoint CEO Angela Braly. Past guests have included George H.W. Bush, Charlton Heston, H. Ross Perot, Steve Forbes, Dick Cheney, Mitch Daniels and F.W. de Klerk.

Crowds of up to 2,400 have attended the monthly luncheons but fluctuate depending on the guests.

To cover its costs and pay its administrator, the group charges members and non-members a fee to attend the lunch and collects membership dues. The group has 276 members.

Deborah Daniels, the board’s chairwoman and secretary, said the chamber notified the club last summer that they would be ending their relationship with the group but agreed to facilitate this year’s speaker series, which began in September. Daniels said the group chose WFYI after a lengthy search of candidates to serve as partners. She wouldn’t disclose details of how much the group would be paid to run the club.

WFYI began broadcasting the club’s speeches a few years ago, and its president and CEO, Lloyd Wright, sits on the board.

Wright said taking over the administrative functions of the group is a “natural extension to a longtime partnership.”

“The whole idea centers around intelligent conversation and community dialogue,” Wright said. “We think it's a natural fit.”

Wright said he doesn’t anticipate changes to the events or kinds of speakers under WFYI’s management. The group officially takes over July 1.

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