Panel encourages Lawrence community leaders to tout assets 


The consensus of a Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce panel is the area has a great story to share.  They just need to tell it more often.

A panel of Ian Nicolini, Develop Indy vice president of economic development, Angela Smith Jones, Indianapolis deputy mayor of economic development, and Indianapolis City County Council Minority Leader Michael McQuillen addressed economic development issues at the Aug. 22 luncheon at Hillcrest Country Club.

Nicolini said Develop Indy, which is the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, has worked with a number of leaders from Lawrence Township.

“One of the best assets that (Lawrence) has is really successful human capital,” Nicolini said.

“You have to have somebody who wakes up every day thinking what they can do to strengthen your local economy. That network plugs into this larger regional economic development framework really well.”

Nicolini said Hoosiers tend to be too humble about their accomplishments.

“Humility doesn’t allow us to tell our story effectively,” said Nicolini, former Speedway town manager.

Smith Jones said Fort Benjamin Harrison is a remarkable asset for the entire city.

“It’s a great opportunity for Lawrence to promote all the success that is going on around Fort Ben. All that economic growth, it’s a real treasure for our city,” she said.

Michael McQuillen said the schools and housing are great assets.

“It’s a great place for people to live, play and work,” he said.

Smith Jones said collaboration between chambers of commerce and councils is key in marketing what Lawrence has to offer.

“We have corporations from around the country and around the world saying what opportunities are there,” she said. “If the chambers know each other’s stories, it’s opportunity for exposure.”

Smith Jones said community members and leaders have to talk about what makes the area great.

“If you run into someone from Broad Ripple, there is not a gap in air for them to tell you what is special about Broad Ripple,” Smith Jones said. “You have to have the same type of pride and constantly tell your story. I always tell people, act like you’re a New Yorker. You have not met a New Yorker who is shy or timid about the great benefits of New York City, so own your greatness. Partner with people who can help you beat the drum that, not only are you great as a region, but here is what is great and unique about Lawrence.”

Nicolini said there are several tools Lawrence can use such as tax increment financing, tax abatements and training ground tools.

“The most important tool that you have is your network and infrastructure within economic development,” Nicolini said. “Most companies make their decision on where they are going to locate on a whole list of factors, and incentives ranks at or near the bottom. But in most cases, it’s a tiebreaker. I would say the emerging trend in incentive deployment is focused on human capital. The added benefit of that is when you focus on people, you are putting your community where it belongs in front of the process.”

McQuillen, who has been on the council 11 1/2 years, said Lawrence has as much to offer as any area.

“It’s just how we sell ourselves,” he said. “I think our fantastic schools are one of the true calling cards for us.”