There’s a lot of talk these days about the importance of creating a sense of place in central Indiana. The idea is that—by bolstering the arts, culture, parks and social factors—more people and more companies will want to locate here.
Many business leaders—and business advocacy groups—say such efforts will be increasingly important to attracting talent.
It’s the idea behind the Indiana Economic Development Corp.’s Regional Cities Initiative, which is distributing $126 million in taxpayer money to officials in northeastern, north-central and southwestern Indiana for projects meant to “transform their regions into nationally recognized destinations to live, work and play.”
Combined with local and private matching funds, the projects are expected to total some $2 billion in investment. Those are big numbers and big projects, like improvements to the South Shore rail service from South Bend to Chicago, a riverfront development in downtown Fort Wayne and a medical campus in downtown Evansville.
But not every project that improves a community’s sense of place must be so big or cost so much. Just ask Steve Sanner, the subject of the Q&A feature in last week’s IBJ.
Sanner owns 48 Jiffy Lube franchises, and he’s hired artists to paint murals on the sides of nine of those buildings. He’s working in partnership with the Arts Council of Indianapolis on the project that has benefited central Indiana communities and the company.
“Just doing things to get out in the arts community has really put Jiffy Lube in front of a whole new audience,” Sanner told IBJ reporter Susan Orr.
Obviously, the Jiffy Lube murals won’t have the same impact on a community as a riverfront development. But IBJ commends Sanner for his efforts and urges other business leaders to think as creatively.
The push to create a stronger sense of place in central Indiana could benefit the community at large, of course. But the biggest advocates of such efforts are business leaders concerned about attracting the best talent, and we love the idea that each one of them could take on a little of the responsibility for making the city a more attractive place to live and work.
Cummins did so with an acre of public green space on the south side of its Indianapolis distribution-division headquarters. The Indianapolis Colts funded a playground along the Central Canal. And of course, many other companies have created small urban oases, sponsored public art and launched other projects that bit by bit are redefining what it means to live in central Indiana.
But as a community, we should do more. That means elected officials, not-for-profit leaders and business executives, each doing his or her part to create a sense of place.
Want some inspiration? Try driving by a Jiffy Lube.•
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