Inclusive Incentive Strategy for Indianapolis

HR&A created actionable strategies and policy recommendations for incorporating inclusivity into Indianapolis’ economic incentive programs.

Challenge

Indianapolis is a flourishing city and an emerging tech hub. Despite its successes in attracting new residents and new investment, certain segments of the population have been unable to participate in the city’s growing momentum. Recognizing this challenge of uneven access to opportunity, the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce (“Indy Chamber”) made a commitment to rethink its economic development programs to support more equitable growth across the city. The Indy Chamber engaged HR&A to evaluate its existing economic incentive programs and develop recommendations to re-orient programs in service of supporting inclusive growth and broadening access to opportunity.

Solution

HR&A has advised a range of clients on strategies to leverage economic development tools to advance core policy objectives around inclusivity. In Indy, we worked with the Chamber to evaluate their tax abatement and training grant programs and recommend how they could be re-oriented to better align with inclusive development priorities. After reviewing past incentive usage and performance, HR&A traveled to Indianapolis to host a series of stakeholder roundtables and assembled a steering committee of key organizations dedicated to advancing inclusive growth across Indy. Conversations were structured to share perceptions of existing incentive programs, identify community priorities in terms of desired inclusive outcomes, and understand perceived barriers impeding access to opportunity.
 
Following this initial round of engagement, HR&A benchmarked national best practices from cities that have explicitly incorporated equitable outcomes into their incentive programs, to draw out implementation considerations and lessons to help inform the development of recommendations for Indy. We refined these recommendations with key stakeholders, including major employers, city officials, and community-based organizations. HR&A assembled its recommendations in a final briefing book, providing an implementation roadmap to help the Chamber operationalize policy changes and meet inclusive growth goals.

Impact

Our recommendations included changes to the tax abatement and training grant programs to align evaluation criteria with inclusive values, as well as the establishment of a community impact network. The Community Impact Network is a pioneering new shared-values approach whereby businesses receiving economic incentives are required to commit to supporting an initiative from a menu of actions, developed in partnership with community organizations, designed to achieve tangible progress on inclusive growth priorities like workforce training, quality public education, and investment in distressed neighborhoods. HR&A crafted a narrative around the policy rationale and benefits associated with each recommendation and developed an implementation roadmap to guide the process. The Mayor’s office announced HR&A’s recommendations to advance inclusive economic opportunity – which prioritized a higher minimum wage, health and childcare benefits, workforce training, and positive community impacts – in summer 2019.