Fishers voters to pass judgment on growth strategy

February 24, 2014
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In many ways, Fishers’ first city election will be a referendum on the Hamilton County community’s current economic development strategy.

As I reported in the print edition of IBJ this week, the six Republicans vying to be mayor don’t agree on the best way to handle growth. The central point of debate: whether the burgeoning suburb should be using public resources to encourage private development. (Subscribers can read the story here.)

After decades of discussing ways to build a vibrant civic square, town leaders last year began investing in efforts to spur business activity downtown.

Fishers is contributing land and some funding for public infrastructure for four high-profile construction projects, and the town has offered financial incentives to keep existing businesses (and their employees) in place.

Town Council President John Weingardt praised the recent economic development efforts during his State of the Town speech last week.

“We’ve got a lot of great stuff to talk about,” he told a crowd of about 300 at a Fishers Chamber of Commerce luncheon. “We’ve made significant strides.”

The seven-member council set out last year to create a thriving, financially sustainable community. To do that, Weingardt said, officials worked on building a comprehensive economic development strategy and a strong sense of community while providing “world-class” infrastructure and efficient municipal services.

Opponents of the current strategy say fast-growing Fishers was doing just fine before it started subsidizing development.

What happens next depends in large part on the outcome of this year’s election. Residents voted in 2012 to make Fishers a second-class city with an elected mayor and nine-person City Council. Now, the council calls the shots.

What’s your take on the economic development debate? Should Fishers try to influence business investment or wait for developers to make the first move?

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