Known as the Crossroads of America, the Central Indiana region—Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Johnson, Madison, Marion, and Morgan Counties—has a wealth of assets. Home to Indianapolis, the 15th largest city in the US, the region has a long history as the sports capital of America. Events like the Indy 500 and the headquarters of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) bring international recognition. The region is also widely known for its diverse industries and major employers, strong innovation ecosystem, and superior quality of place. Despite these advantages, Central Indiana was facing challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including a widening economic disparity, an increasingly competitive labor market, and a persistent digital divide. The region would need a roadmap to guide inclusive economic development and improve its competitive advantage.
In March 2021, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization (IMPO) contracted TIP Strategies, Inc., (TIP) to develop a five-year comprehensive economic development strategy (CEDS) for the Central Indiana region. In collaboration with community leaders and stakeholders across the eight-county region, the following vision statement emerged: The Central Indiana CEDS region is committed to partnerships that prioritize equitable growth and regional connectivity to ensure vibrant and resilient growth. This vision informed four guiding principles for capitalizing on opportunities and addressing vulnerabilities in order to promote economic diversification: 1) align regional efforts and build cross-sector partnerships; 2) dismantle the root causes of outcome disparity; 3) prepare the region to avoid, withstand, and recover from economic shocks and natural disasters; and 4) embrace connectivity. Guided by these four principles, the resulting plan structured strategies and action items under three goal areas: talent, innovation, and place. Together with the implementation matrix, the plan provided regional leaders a way to track progress, coordinate efforts, and act swiftly as economic conditions change.