The fate of the Monroe County Convention Center expansion will likely be decided within the next 48 hours. We need your help in ensuring our elected officials work together to agree on a governance structure so that this important project can move forward.
The Monroe County Council is poised to consider possibly repealing the Food & Beverage Tax, which funds the expansion, if no concrete progress is made by Friday afternoon.
The Chamber supports the creation of a Capital Improvement Board (CIB) as the governance structure for an expanded convention center. We support equal representation between the City of Bloomington and Monroe County, which has been agreed upon by both sides. The county commissioners have begun the process of creating a CIB and could make that final decision at their Dec. 11 meeting.
We are concerned that the palpable bitterness and distrust between the county commissioners and city administration could ultimately derail this project.
Please contact our Bloomington/Monroe County elected representatives to urge all parties to move forward with this project. Click here for contact information. See below for additional background, as well as information about upcoming public meetings where you can speak in person. Questions? Contact Mary Morgan, the Chamber's Director of Advocacy & Public Policy, at email@example.com or 812-336-6381.
Timeline of Upcoming Meetings
Here's a timeline of upcoming meetings and possible actions. For additional background on recent actions, read this article from the B Square Beacon.
Seven candidates for Bloomington City Council answered questions about support for the arts at a candidate forum on Tuesday, Sept. 17 organized by Arts Forward Bloomington. The municipal election is on Nov. 5.
The group included candidates in the only two competitive races for council: District 2 candidates Andrew Guenther (R) and Sue Sgambelluri (D), and District 3 candidates Nicholas Kappas (I) and Ron Smith (D). Another District 3 candidate, Marty Spechler (I), did not attend.
Others participating were Democrats Matt Flaherty (at-large), Isabel Piedmont-Smith (District 5), and Steve Volan (District 6). Democrat Susan Sandberg (at-large) sent a statement that was read by Sally Gaskill. None of these candidates are opposed on Nov. 5 so they will automatically be seated in January 2020.
All candidates expressed strong support for the arts. Many mentioned their own involvement – as patrons or practitioners – and described specific actions they'd support on council to ensure a healthy arts community.
For example, both Isabel Piedmont-Smith and Steve Volan, who currently serve on council, expressed interest in including a new performing arts venue as part of the Monroe County Convention Center expansion.
The event, held at the Waldron Arts Center, was moderated by Danielle McClelland, executive director of the Buskirk Chumley Theater.
During her opening remarks, Danielle reported that the city's expenditures on the arts totaled $773,928. That figure included funding to maintain the Buskirk-Chumley building and support its programming, as well as grants through the Bloomington Arts Commission and a range of other sources.
Click here to see the report on city funding sources for the arts. Click here to watch the forum on CATS.
Brian Payne, assistant director of economic and sustainable development for the City of Bloomington, will be the founding executive director of CDFI Friendly Bloomington, a new nonprofit focused on local community development. He'll begin the job on Sept. 3.
CDFI Friendly Bloomington, a 501(c)(3), is a community development financial institution formed in 2018. Its purpose is to provide investments for projects that don't qualify for conventional financing, as a way to catalyze small business growth, expand affordable housing and support community facilities in Bloomington and Monroe County.
Four local and regional banks – First Financial Bank, Old National Bank, German American Bank, and Woodforest National Bank – committed a total of $2 million in senior debt financing to CDFI Friendly Bloomington. In addition, the Bloomington Urban Enterprise Association (BUEA) and the Bloomington Redevelopment Commission each made $1 million capital grant commitments.
In his role at the city, Brian has also served as BUEA's director.
Alex Crowley, the city's director of economic and sustainable development, announced Brian's departure at BUEA's Aug. 14 meeting. He noted that in addition to this job transition, Brian recently moved to a new home and celebrated the birth of his daughter, Morrow – named after the county in Ohio where Brian and his wife met while campaigning for Barack Obama. Alex joked that these three major life events are "the trifecta of stress inducement."
The city will be searching for a replacement, but that job has not yet been posted on the city's employment portal.
CDFI Friendly Bloomington's board of directors includes:
Click here for more information about CDFI Friendly Bloomington. Read a white paper on this project here.
The Bloomington/Monroe County performing arts sector adds over $4 million annually to the local economy and supports more than 160 jobs here, according to a recent analysis commissioned by Cardinal Stage.
Gabe Gloden, the professional theater's managing director, presented results of the study at the Chamber Speaker Series on July 18.
The analysis focused on three organizations: Cardinal Stage, Buskirk-Chumley Theater, and the Ivy Tech Waldron Arts Center. The economic impact of the entire arts sector would be even greater, Gloden noted.
Other key takeaways:
That last data point should be food for thought, Gloden said, as the community thinks about investing in the arts through ticket sales, sponsorships or grants. If there aren't local opportunities for participating in the arts, this community would be losing revenue – including money spent at local restaurants and hotels – to other areas.
Exposure to the performing arts also has been linked positively to increased civic engagement, improved academic achievement, social and emotional learning, and development of tolerance and empathy.
The study was conducted in the spring of 2019 by graduate students of the Indiana University O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Click here to read the full report.
Director of Advocacy & Public Policy