Albert Chen: Remembering Carmel full of cornfields

As a non-Caucasian living in Indiana, I am quite often asked, “Why did you move to Indianapolis?”

This brings back memories of 1979, when my journey to Indianapolis began. At that time, I had a choice to relocate to Indianapolis, Dallas or Thousand Oaks, California. If you’re familiar with all these cities, you’re probably thinking that Albert Chen must be so stupid to choose this place—winters are so cold, summers are so hot, and there are no mountains or oceans. The other two locations appeared much more attractive than “Indy-no-place.”

What most people don’t know is that my attraction to Indianapolis was not the weather, shopping, nightlife or geography. Rather, my decision was dually based on the people and the culture.

During my first visit to Indianapolis, I found the people to be so nice. The traditional American culture was evident everywhere. During my mother’s first visit, she asked, “Why do you live on a farm with cornfields all over your neighborhood?”

Indianapolis varied greatly from Taipei, Taiwan, where I lived the first 25 years of my life. Taipei is similar to New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco—high-rise buildings, an abundance of shopping options, mass transit, and multicultural restaurants everywhere open 24 hours a day.

In the late ’70s and early ’80s, approximately 30 Asian families lived in central Indiana. I remember my daughter and son were the only people of color in their elementary schools—Forest Dale Elementary and Heritage Christian. Today, Asians make up 12% of the population in central Indiana.

I have seen other significant changes in the last 40 years. Indianapolis has become a midsize city with big-city offerings. We have a professional basketball team, the Indiana Pacers; a pro football team, the Indianapolis Colts; a popular Minor League Baseball franchise, the Indianapolis Indians; and a Division 2 soccer team, the Indy Eleven, as well as symphonies, theaters, high-end shopping, great colleges throughout the area, and a reasonable cost of living.

Most of the changes I experienced firsthand were in Carmel, where I have lived since I moved to Indiana. The Meridian Street corridor slowly transitioned from cornfields to health care parks, sporting complexes, mixed-use buildings, and lots of roundabouts. In addition, Circle Centre mall established a nightlife, startup high-tech firms continue to plant roots here, and the biotech campus expansion in the next five years will attract more millennials to the city.

When people ask why I started a business in Indianapolis, I emphasize the highlights—affordable housing, a lower tax rate, a business-friendly environment with fewer regulations, a traditional American lifestyle with a focus on the family, quality education, and the fact that Carmel has been considered among the best places to live in America by ratings website niche.com several times in recent years.

Given the cultural influences, diversity of people and excellent educational opportunities, it’s been a great place to raise my family. My family is now rooted in Indiana. Upon completion of their education, my daughter and son returned to Indiana to live, work and raise their own families. They are heavily invested in the local community through their board service and the Telamon Foundation, which provides grant funding to support the arts and education.

How do I know I made the right decision to move to Indiana? Because my wife wants to live here forever. After 40 years, I do not regret the move. My family has built and grown our business, which proves that invincible Hoosier values and culture are more important than the physical attributes of the environment. I’ll continue to be a proud Hoosier in 2020 and beyond!•

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Chen is founder and executive chairman of Telamon, a Carmel-based telecommunications company.

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