Frank Hancock: It’s time for most employees to come back to work

Keywords Opinion / Viewpoint
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To our elected officials, civic leaders, business leaders both public and private, along with our philanthropic organizations and our citizens, Indianapolis needs your leadership and support today more than ever.

It was nearly 40 years ago that your predecessors came together as one to take a town many considered “India-no-place” and turn it into a successful city. Their vision and efforts created a vibrant, clean and growing community that people who once flew over started flying to.

A world-class zoo relocated in a new downtown park while our symphony orchestra renovated and moved into a vacant theater on Monument Circle. Museums, an expanded convention center, and new hotels and restaurants quickly made Indianapolis a destination and provided the foundation for significant business growth in our city. It took time and investment to facilitate the transformation of our city, the focal point of our state. To get our city back to where it was in March when the pandemic hit will take just as much effort but with far less time to act.

While the pandemic initially forced schools and many businesses to close, processes and procedures have been set up over the last six months to allow both students and employees to safely return to work and school. Yet many have not returned.

Realistically, we have no idea when a safe vaccine will be available nor any guarantees. Masks and social distancing might be the new normal. But while the pandemic has altered our lives, it should not continue to control them.

Our children are back in schools, restaurants are open, professional and high school sporting events are operating within acceptable guidelines. People are shopping while enjoying parks and recreational opportunities. To those businesses who continue to keep thousands at home and away from downtown, why? Indianapolis desperately needs your employees to return.

Certainly, if someone has underlying medical challenges, stay home and be safe. But the vast majority of downtown office staff who continue working from home are shopping and dining out and have gotten their children back into the classrooms. Now we need them and their vitality back downtown. Without people, the heart of Indiana has no blood in its veins. When conventions and athletic events do return, without people we can’t be sure what they will find other than shuttered restaurants and boarded-up windows. Forty years of hard work is slipping away.

Businesses have the knowledge and the means to protect their staff from the virus. Gradually bringing people back by Jan. 1 is an important goal that everyone should take to heart. To those who say the homeless in our city and the recent criminal acts are reasons not to return, remember that those same problems existed in March—before the pandemic. We do need to address our city’s problems, but how do we do that with everyone sitting at home?

It’s time for all of us—elected officials, business and civic leaders, and residents—to work together and demonstrate some leadership. It’s time to come back downtown.•


Hancock is president and CEO of Sport Graphics.

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