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Bloomington_ Indiana

VIEWS: 4 PAGES: 2

									Community Success




 Bloomington, Indiana

   L
              ocated less than an hour          announcement,” he said,
              from Indianapolis, two hours      “but the community
              from Louisville and three         response was phenomenal.
              from Cincinnati, the city of      Everybody – the BEDC,
 Bloomington, Ind., could understand-           United Way, the mayor’s
 ably dwell in the shadows. But it doesn’t.     office, local educators
 This Indiana community of 183,000 con-         – jumped on board asking
 sistently appears in national rankings for     how they could help. And
 job growth, business appeal, and livabil-      now with this most recent
 ity. Bloomington has been recognized by        announcement, the group
 Inc. magazine as one of America’s Best         came together again, this
 Cities for Doing Business and listed among     time asking how they could
 Entrepreneur magazine’s Top 50 Hottest         help make us more viable,
 Small Cities for Entrepreneurs. It is ranked   to keep us strong.”
 No. 3 on Forbes magazine’s list of Best           “It is an amazing
 Places for Business and Careers. The           willingness (on their
 Milken Institute named Bloomington No. 1       part),” he said. “The
 among 124 small metro areas for high-tech      community is so engaged
 employment.                                    in creating a good
    Bloomington’s path into the national        business environment.”
 spotlight has not been without sharp              Suiter explained that
 curves. Founded on the strength of the         federal tax credits
 limestone industry, Bloomington flour-         made it fiscally
 ished as its quarries produced and mar-        possible for the
 keted the highest quality limestone in the     plant to continue
 U.S. The town grew up around a seminary        manufacturing,but
 that would become Indiana University.          from a goodwill
 The world’s largest furniture manufactur-      perspective the
 ing facility made its home in Bloomington,     community had
 followed many years later by the largest       a big influence in                                    Envisage is a high-tech employer that
 color television plant in the world. But       what GE was able to do. “Our workforce             came in the early days of Bloomington’s
 as manufacturing shifted and technology        is a reflection of Bloomington and the             transition. Established just prior to 9/11,
 changed, Bloomington found itself with         community,” he said. “This is a very, very         the firm focuses on automating the com-
 empty buildings and hundreds of jobless        good workforce. I’ve been here over 20             plex learning environments associated
 workers.                                       years and they never cease to amaze me             with first responders including fire, police,
    “Our community was in a similar             with their focus on customer service, their        rescue, and hazmat teams. Envisage also
 position to other Midwest communities          dedication, and willingness to change. It is       develops software for the homeland
 dominated by basic manufacturing,” said        exciting to be able to keep the plant open.”       defense training industry.
 Ron Walker, president of the Bloomington          Willingness to change was key to                   Ari Vidali, chief executive officer
 Economic Development Corp. “It was             Bloomington’s survival when tradition-             of Envisage, explained that he chose to
 an economy with a lot of traditional           al manufacturing dwindled. Fortunately,            locate in Bloomington because of its atmo-
 manufacturing, and we were just beginning      community leaders recognized the local             sphere. “Bloomington is an extraordinarily
 to see the potential for newer high-tech       workforce potential for advanced manu-             good environment for our business,” he
 industries.”                                   facturing and production. They had the             said. “There’s a lot of intellectual talent
    Bloomington’s General Electric refriger-    foresight to quickly put in place the eco-         and therefore a very good pool for finding
 ator plant managed to survive the closings     nomic development tools that would make            employees.”
 and job shifting. 1999 saw a huge reduc-       the region attractive to high-tech indus-             “The city has an amazing amount of
 tion in its 3200-member workforce, but the     tries and the workers associated with              cultural amenities for its size,” he contin-
 plant remained open. In January of 2008,       them. Bloomington has become a region-             ued. Indiana University’s presence means a
 GE announced the 800-employee plant            al economic center anchored by Indiana             diverse ethnic community creating a broad
 would close. On July 28, 2009, however,        University and home to a diverse business          array of festivals and food venues. With IU’s
 the manufacturer announced the plant           community that excels in pharmaceuticals,          ranking as the number one music school in
 would remain open with 500 jobs securely       medical devices, technology, healthcare            the nation, arts and entertainment options
 in place.                                      and the arts. Employment in the technol-           are often world-class. He said, “It’s all the
    Kent Suiter, plant manager, remembers       ogy sector has grown by over 80 percent in         big city amenities with a small town feel.
 the 2008 decision. “It was a very difficult    recent years.                                      People are looking for that.”

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                                                                                                            Community Success


   When Envisage recently began looking           Envisage often brings in people from               Vidali said this makes Bloomington very
for a larger space, Vidali admits they con-       outside for the highly specialized upper           attractive to Envisage as it seeks top-qual-
sidered moving out of Bloomington and             level positions. “Bloomington is a                 ity job applicants. Couple the allure of
closer to their clients who are on the east       wonderful environment, a safe place to             Bloomington’s small town feel – big city
coast or near large military bases.               raise a family,” he said. “The types of folks      appeal with its growing reputation as a cen-
   “Both the state and the city came              we attract are mature professionals with           ter for high-tech industry, and Vidali sums it
together,” he said. They offered a set of         families, so we wanted an environment              up, “The overall climate in Bloomington for
incentives and tax abatements that would          conducive to raising families.”                    tech companies is very good.” C
assist with recruiting, training and off-            When potential employees come to
set some of the costs of moving into a            Bloomington, they like what they find.
larger space. “With that, we focused our
energy on doing what we could to stay
in Bloomington,” said Vidali. “We wanted
to stay.”
   This fall the company will move into
a building on the city’s historic coun-
ty square which will provide room for
expansion (a 50 percent increase in work-
force by 2011) and put the firm in the
heart of downtown with its shops and
restaurants. Vidali said, “Walkability is
important to us because we promote the
work-life balance. We’ll be able to do
errands as we come in or go out. It will be
convenient for daily life.”
   Vi d a l i i s v e r y h a p p y t o b e i n
Bloomington. He recalled how helpful the
mayor and city council were in the early
days of establishing Envisage, and how
the BEDC worked with them to identify
suitable space and assist throughout the
process.
   “It’s an ideal location for entry-level
startups or established tech companies,”
he said. “A lot of technology and innova-
tion is happening in Bloomington. There
are many high-tech success stories here.”
   As Bloomington continues its journey
from traditional factory assembly lines to
bio-scientific research and I-T develop-
ment, the local base of technically skilled
workers grows along with the number of
technological firms. Small startups come
to Bloomington for the resources and
support they know they will find by being
a part of an advanced tech community.
Established tech companies appreciate
the energy and creativity that is fostered
when high-tech firms are in proximity to
one another.
   Walker explained that attracting high-
tech industry is not just about developing
the region as a hub for advanced tech-
nology. It is also about building a cultur-
ally rich, diverse community, with strong
greenways that make it attractive to the
25-40 year old, highly-skilled workforce.
“That particular demographic can be very
choosy,” he said. “We want to be one of
those communities they choose.”
   Vidali understands that very well.
Like many other high-tech businesses,                                         Circle	xx	on	Information	Sector	Card

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