City to bolster economic development funding

Two groups critical to Indianapolis’ economic development efforts are poised to receive additional
funding to help bring more conventions and businesses to the city.

Mayor Greg Ballard is
expected to make the announcement regarding the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and Indianapolis
Economic Development Inc. at his State of the City address Wednesday evening.

Deputy Mayor Nick Weber declined
to disclose how much the two organizations might receive in extra funds, pending approval from the City-County Council. But
each amount is anticipated to be about $1 million.

The money for the two groups will come
from a settlement the city reached with Illinois-based Navistar International Corp., which will pay back
part of an abatement after failing to retain more than 1,800 jobs it had promised. The company, which
had received $18 million in tax breaks during the past decade, announced early last year that it would
close its east-side diesel engine plant.

IEDI operates on an annual budget of roughly $1.1 million,
and President and CEO Scott Miller said the windfall from the city potentially could top that.

“We believe
that as the economy continues to grow, Indianapolis has positioned itself very well,” he said. “We think these
resources will allow us to help [create more jobs].”

The additional funding would enable the organization
to better market the city to prospects, Miller said, as well as become more involved in redevelopment initiatives by making
direct investments in properties—something IEDI has not done in the past.

ICVA’s promotional efforts
also would receive a boost because the new funds would allow it to market city cultural destinations in more cities
and hire four additional salespeople, said Don Welsh, the group’s president and CEO.

One
of the new hires would be located in Washington, D.C., bringing the sales staff there to four. Walsh
said it is important to have a presence in the nation’s capital, given that 13,000 national associations
are headquartered in the area.

The ICVA also is revamping its Web site and will unveil the
new version April 1.

The money comes at a crucial time for the ICVA, which for months had
implored the Capital Improvement Board for more funding. The association is operating on a $13 million
budget this year, of which the CIB funds about $9 million.

ICVA needs to attract more conventions
to support the expansion of the Indiana Convention Center, the construction of the 1,600-room J.W.
Marriott hotel and even additional space available in Lucas Oil Stadium, Welsh said. 

“We’re extremely grateful,” Welsh said. “There’s so many other pressing
requests for these funds. This is a big, big commitment to support all of this new infrastructure.”

The State
of the City address is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Tobias Theater at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
 

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