IBJOpinion

THIES: Get ready for state's finest hour

Adam Thies
May 1, 2010
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ThiesLet me start by saying I am a sucker for a good story. During the NCAA men’s basketball championship last month, when that ball, or as the CBS color commentator Clark Kellogg called it, the “pumpkin,” arched into the air from the hands of central Indiana’s now second-most-famous “babyface,” I thought, “This is it!”

I could already see the kids gathering round for years to come to hear about the day Butler took down the mighty Duke Blue Devils. I mean, come on, with four minutes still to play in the game, CBS was already playing the theme music from the movie “Hoosiers,” prepping us for the anticipated end-game sequence.

So, other than in my dreams, everyone knows that the ball did not go in the hoop. I believe that, because 70,000-plus mesmerized fans inhaled all at the same time, the air was far too light in our fine stadium and that little ball just picked up too much steam. Glass, rim, out. My poor physics aside, the story just did not happen.

Or did it?

In the days and weeks that followed, I searched the Internet incessantly for what was being said about the game, but I was more interested in what was being said about my state and our place in this grand country. I am a sucker for Indiana. You see, in the lead-up to this unlikely sporting event, I felt something happen in Indianapolis and in Indiana as a whole. I felt that there was a spotlight on our corner of the world. While it showcased our treasured past, the stage highlighted what I think is a new attitude, a shared new “way,” if you will, to borrow from the “Butler Way” moniker.

Yes, there was plenty of the “aw, shucks” nature of our friendly Hoosier hospitality that is trumpeted by our political leaders and visitors’ centers. And, yes, the movie “Hoosiers” got some major airtime. But underneath it all, there was a story about commitment, hard work, making something special and doing things “the right way.”

There was also an undercurrent about the bright outlook for the future. For college basketball fans, it was about a future with tournaments as exciting as this one. For Indianapolis and Indiana, it was about showing the world an attitude or even a brand that will give us a tangible competitive advantage if we can grab it. Put simply, Indiana is a place where the future is brighter and better than the past. It is where innovation lives and we are willing to have fun and work hard to make it happen.

I spend a lot of my time trying to figure out how to make cities and towns better places to live. A mega-topic in my field of urban planning is how to “brand” your community. Most folks associate branding with a logo, a graphic or a tag line. But really a brand is a promise. It is a promise that must be made to longtime locals and new visitors. It must have follow-through and delivery.

It’s nice outside this time of year. Step out and see that Indianapolis and Indiana are delivering on this suggested brand. The Cultural Trail, the Carmel Performing Arts Center, the 100 Acres Art & Nature Park at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (which I predict will be an international success), the Indianapolis Colts—and, of course, the Butler Bulldogs—are all delivering.

I am young. I’ve got 30, maybe 40 years to make a difference. What’s the story going to be? Will it be mission failed, the American dream broken, the past was better than the future?

Not in Indiana. I believe that our finest hour is yet to come.•

__________

Thies is president of EDEN Collaborative, a land-use planning and development consulting firm in Indianapolis.

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  1. By Mr. Lee's own admission, he basically ran pro-bono ads on the billboard. Paying advertisers didn't want ads on a controversial, ugly billboard that turned off customers. At least one of Mr. Lee's free advertisers dropped out early because they found that Mr. Lee's advertising was having negative impact. So Mr. Lee is disingenous to say the city now owes him for lost revenue. Mr. Lee quickly realized his monstrosity had a dim future and is trying to get the city to bail him out. And that's why the billboard came down so quickly.

  2. Merchants Square is back. The small strip center to the south of 116th is 100% leased, McAlister’s is doing well in the outlot building. The former O’Charleys is leased but is going through permitting with the State and the town of Carmel. Mac Grill is closing all of their Indy locations (not just Merchants) and this will allow for a new restaurant concept to backfill both of their locations. As for the north side of 116th a new dinner movie theater and brewery is under construction to fill most of the vacancy left by Hobby Lobby and Old Navy.

  3. Yes it does have an ethics commission which enforce the law which prohibits 12 specific items. google it

  4. Thanks for reading and replying. If you want to see the differentiation for research, speaking and consulting, check out the spreadsheet I linked to at the bottom of the post; it is broken out exactly that way. I can only include so much detail in a blog post before it becomes something other than a blog post.

  5. 1. There is no allegation of corruption, Marty, to imply otherwise if false. 2. Is the "State Rule" a law? I suspect not. 3. Is Mr. Woodruff obligated via an employment agreement (contractual obligation) to not work with the engineering firm? 4. In many states a right to earn a living will trump non-competes and other contractual obligations, does Mr. Woodruff's personal right to earn a living trump any contractual obligations that might or might not be out there. 5. Lawyers in state government routinely go work for law firms they were formally working with in their regulatory actions. You can see a steady stream to firms like B&D from state government. It would be interesting for IBJ to do a review of current lawyers and find out how their past decisions affected the law firms clients. Since there is a buffer between regulated company and the regulator working for a law firm technically is not in violation of ethics but you have to wonder if decisions were made in favor of certain firms and quid pro quo jobs resulted. Start with the DOI in this review. Very interesting.

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