Future of Tourism in Indianapolis?

IMG_1056The Indy Star published an interesting and balanced article today on the Indianapolis Convention Center, its expansion over time (there is a great interactive infographic on its expansions since 1972 at the end of the article), and its effects on tourism and visitation in Indianapolis.

The article makes the case that the Convention Center has largely been effective, and kept Indianapolis highly competitive as a second-tier destination, bringing in the desired revenue and visitation into the city.

However, at the same time, the article points out some of the long term challenges. First, convention center expansion in itself is a very expensive arms race — just as Indianapolis invests in expansion, its competitor cities are doing the same thing, and competing over essentially the same visitors. Second, the article points out some challenges more specific to Indianapolis. Indy is perceived as a bland Midwestern city — friendly, walkable, but not very exciting. It doesn’t have many natural assets, and those that it does have (the White River, for example) are very difficult to capitalize on. And of course, RFRA has harmed the state’s reputation and had some effect on convention business.

One thing that the article never addresses is the benefits and costs that the Convention Center and tourism in general has on residents. I have never seen good statistics (anywhere, not just with respect to Indianapolis) on how much tourism taxes (lodging, car rental, ticket taxes, and food and beverage) cost residents (vs. visitors). Clearly lodging and car rental taxes are paid primarily by visitors (although they are also indirectly paid for by businesses whose employees and consultants travel to Indianapolis). But what about food and beverage taxes? How much new revenue do they actually bring in, and how much goes to local residents?

Monroe County Citizens Academy Coming Up — Spaces Still Available

Monroe County Courthouse at Night
Monroe County Courthouse at Night

The 2016 Citizens’ Academy for Monroe County residents is coming up, and there are still a few spaces available! The Citizens’ Academy, which begins February 8th and ends April 4th, is designed to give Monroe County residents a better understanding of how county government functions, where tax dollars go, and how to become involved in county boards and committees. The program allows citizens to interact directly with elected officials and department heads and get a behind the scenes tour of several county government facilities.

The Monroe County Citizens’ Academy is supported and funded by Monroe County government and conducted by the Monroe County Extension Office. There is no cost to participate; however registration is requested by February 1st. Classes will be held in the evening from 6-9PM, at various locations.

A brochure with additional information, including a registration form, is available at the Purdue Extension – Monroe County Office, located at 3400 South Walnut Street and on the web here. You can also get additional information about the program through the Purdue Extension – Monroe County Office at 349-2575 or email monroeces@purdue.edu

Here is a list of the topics for the Citizens’ Academy:

  • Monroe County Council and Financing Local Government (I will be speaking about Financing Local Government)
  • Assessor and County Clerk
  • Highway, Planning and Emergency Management
  • Unified Courts
  • Probation, Community Corrections, Drug Court
  • Jail and Law Enforcement (including a tour of the jail, which is always one of the highlights of the program)
  • Youth Services, Health Dept, Township Trustees and Auditor’s Office
  • County Commissioners and County Recorder

This is a great program and a great learning opportunity. Sign up now while you still can!