Leaders and 150 attendees at the inaugural southside business summit at the University of Indianapolis want another summit to promote a regional strategy for development. They were enthusiastic about more summits after two hours of discussions March 13 with a four-member municipal leadership panel that included Beech Grove mayor Dennis Buckley and Greenwood city capital projects manager Kevin Steinmetz. Indianapolis deputy mayor Angela Smith Jones and Franklin mayor Steve Barnett also were on the panel.
Wantz introduced the summit goal by stating, “This first summit on the Southside was built from different alliances and neighborhoods. This is our time to influence the future with the sum of our decisions.” Discussions during the two-hour summit centered upon quality of life, connectivity of trails and express transit, attracting talent for progressive businesses, and entertainment. However, Buckley expressed longtime frustrations of Southside leaders.
“The Southside of Indianapolis has been neglected by government for so long,” the second-term mayor said. “There is no connectivity … you don’t have that issue north of I-70. We need to reposition ourselves … we need to come together as a group. Nobody else is going to step up – the people south of I-70 need to take a stand.”
Buckley was very critical of transit officials who dropped the “orange line” that would have connected most of the Southside to express transit in favor of lines farther north and west. His statements reverberated among attendees, although Smith Jones remarked, “We (City of Indianapolis) are listening and working together.”
Earlier, keynote speaker Indianapolis mayor Joe Hogsett praised the diversity of the Southside, development of the Red Line express transit from Broad Ripple to the University of Indianapolis, a variety of Southside entertainment and historic Garfield Park. Emphasizing economic development, Hogsett said, “Pure and simple, it comes down to talent identification, attraction, recruitment and retention. We have to compete for talent because businesses are smart – they go where talented people are.”
Steinmetz echoed the value of connectivity with Greenwood’s improvements to Madison and Emerson avenues in Greenwood, the South Indianapolis-Greenwood Airport, and multi-purpose development of the former middle school property in the heart of Greenwood.
The Southside has groups that advocate economic development, but a more unified voice is needed with local and regional planners. They were optimistic that in the future more local grants could be obtained for small businesses, elected city officials would reach out to business owners, chambers of commerce would continue to promote economic development, and all agencies have constant interaction with each other.
No date was set for the next summit, but attendees seemed hopeful that the Southside can develop a louder voice with city county and regional development authorities.