ANDERSON – A city wanting to land the next big business shouldn’t be looking at lower taxes or more business incentives; that's what any community is doing.
Instead, governments should look at building a place innovative and entrepreneurial people want to live, and let them go from there. That was the message representatives of Launch Indiana had for community and business leaders at an introduction event Thursday.
“For every development coming down the pike, there are 300 places that are exactly the same,” said Ball State professor and Launch Indiana representative Geoff Shomacker.
Which means the old way of luring business, through lower taxes, cheap land and good infrastructure simply isn’t enough to sell a large employer to an area.
Instead, Shomacker argues, economic development officials should work to make a community both more enticing to live in and also more open to helping cultivate internal talent, through promoting co-working spaces or tech incubators.
“Place is prime,” he said. “People aggregate in a place that is cool.”
Launch Indiana is a group of experts who look to increase the number of successful Indiana-based innovation-driven enterprises through mentorship and education. The group is a joint initiative of the Indiana Small Business Development Center, often referred to as ISBDC, and Launch Fishers.
Launch Indiana offers several programs including community leader education, K-12 entrepreneurial education, community entrepreneurial mapping and mentorship.
Jason Whitney, Launch Indiana program director, said the group chose Anderson as one of five cities to focus on as a way to help build up local business and spur local innovation.
“We are hoping today we will get the opportunity to see what that entails and encourage others to look at co-working in the community,” he said.
Co-working spaces are a growing trend in nontraditional work environments where entrepreneurs or like-minded workers congregate in an open place and often use each other to bounce ideas off each other or ask for expertise.
Mayor Thomas Broderick spoke at the event, saying he hopes to learn ways to use knowledge gained by the group with projects like Launch Fishers, a co-working space in Fishers, and use it in Anderson.
“We wanted to reach out to help get together and share this, to give us ideas and the framework that can work in our communities,” he said.
Corey Sharp, director of Purdue Polytechnic Anderson, said he sees students who are ready to develop businesses in Anderson, but without office space or a development area they struggle to stay in Anderson.
“Students right now want to develop businesses and would want to work here,” he said. “We need to work on this.”