Development groups form alliance

Business Ownership Initiative of Indiana has big plans for its 15th year, including a new location, a new partner and a new strategy for delivering its services.

BOI has formed an alliance with local economic development group Develop Indy, which will share space—and other resources—with the not-for-profit.

DevelopIndy this week said the partnership is part of an effort to broaden its focus on  small-business assistance; it also unveiled a guide to help firms navigate the city permitting and zoning process.

Founded in 1997 as the Neighborhood Self-Employment Initiative, BOI provides business counseling, workshops and help finding financial support—including access to its $100,000 Glick Microloan Fund. It also operates the Central Indiana Women’s Business Center.

As part of the alliance, the four-person BOI staff will relocate to Develop Indy’s Chase Tower offices Dec. 1. Each organization will continue to operate independently, but BOI will benefit from cheaper rent and ready access to Develop Indy’s expertise, Executive Director Julie Grice said.

BOI also will decentralize its workshops and counseling, she said, partnering with neighborhood groups in four “focus corridors” to offer regular weekly services. “We will actually be out in the neighborhoods, developing relationships,” she said.

And she believes that “boots on the ground” work could help the organization attract corporate contributions, a priority for Grice given BOI’s reliance on grants to fund its $400,000 budget. She also is working on plans for a grassroots fundraising campaign and a website that could generate sponsorship revenue.

BOI is one of several local organizations that offer similar services to entrepreneurs, but Grice said there is plenty of demand to keep them all busy.

What do you make of the changes BOI is planning? Are there any unmet needs the agency should consider addressing?

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