March 6 is the deadline to apply for the 2020 Best Places to Work Bloomington. The awards are open to any business with an office in Monroe County and the equivalent of 10 or more employees. Click here to apply.
Best Places to Work Bloomington is part of a national awards program. Locally, it is sponsored by Dimension Mill, the Bloomington Herald-Times, and the Bloomington Economic Development Corp. An awards ceremony will take place at The Mill on June 9, 2020. Click here for more information.
February is Black History Month, the perfect time to reflect on our community’s diversity. It’s also a time to challenge ourselves, take a hard look at where we fall short – we’re not as diverse or welcoming as we’d like to believe – and take steps to strengthen those areas.
In the past year, the Chamber has made a commitment to supporting the work of black business owners in Bloomington and Monroe County. We’ve started an affinity group that meets regularly to strategize about how to raise up their voices and tackle issues specific to growing their businesses.
We also surveyed black business owners to get a better handle on their economic impact. The 27 respondents reported a total of $2.557 million in gross annual revenues, employing nearly 60 workers. In total, they reported 237 years in business, reflecting a depth of experience and the important role those businesses have played in our community’s history.
The Chamber is honoring part of that history – and acknowledging the often-uncomfortable legacy we share – by placing an historical marker at People’s Park to highlight the significance of that location.
In 1968, an African American student named Clarence “Rollo” Turner led protests against racial discrimination that were met with open hostility in Bloomington. That fall, he opened the Black Market in the location where People’s Park is located today. It sold books, clothing, records, artwork and other crafts made in Africa or by African Americans and acted as a cultural center for black students at Indiana University.
On December 26, 1968, the Black Market was firebombed, and the entire store destroyed leaving Bloomington residents to grapple with the brutal and harsh realities of racism. Two Ku Klux Klan members were eventually convicted of the arson. In 1970, IU students began developing the vacant lot into People’s Park, a place for activism, recreation and free expression.
The marker, awarded by the Indiana Historical Society, will be placed in People’s Park with a celebration on May 1. We’ll be providing more details about the event soon and hope you can join us.
Before then, February is full of Black History Month events: discussion panels, lectures, performances, film screenings and other activities throughout the community. I urge you to check out the calendars for Indiana University and the City of Bloomington to find at least one way to get involved.
Our past is still very much present – the things that make us proud, as well as the things we struggle to overcome. I hope you’ll join me in working to build a community that embraces everyone.
Note: This column by Chamber CEO Erin Predmore was published in the February issue of BizNet, a Chamber publication in partnership with the Bloomington Herald-Times.
As part of its Better Together – Creative Places Initiative, the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County is seeking applications for $20,000 in grants to activate or create public spaces that advance a more vibrant, welcoming, and inclusive community.
Proposals will be accepted from organizations that are designated as 501(c)(3) entities or that fall within the category of an exempt organization, such as schools, governmental units, and religious organizations.
Projects proposed should:
Click here for more information on how to apply. The application deadline is Feb. 29, with grants awarded in April 2020.
The City of Bloomington is conducting a survey to assess the space needs of organizations and individuals in the Bloomington Entertainment & Arts District (BEAD) .
The survey takes about 3-5 minutes and will close on Nov. 27.
BEAD is a state-designated cultural district that's overseen by the City of Bloomington's Department of Economic & Sustainable Development. It is an area in downtown Bloomington that includes a variety of cultural venues, including the Bloomington Playwrights Project, the Buskirk-Chumley Theater (where the BEAD Info Shop is located), WonderLab Museum, Arts Row and more. Click here to view a walking map of the district.
For more information, go to VisitBEAD.com.
The City of Bloomington has hired RDG Consultants to conduct an in-depth housing study, examining the city's existing rental and owner-occupied housing stock, its location, price points and condition. Based on this analysis, the city plans to complete an assessment of future housing needs.
As part of this effort, the city is holding "listening sessions" to get input on Bloomington's current and future housing needs. Sessions will be held Oct. 21 through Oct. 24. For details on specific times and to sign up to attend a session, please click here.
Bloomington's housing study is building on the recent Indiana Uplands Regional Housing Study, which was also conducted by RDG Consultants and includes an assessment of Monroe County. Click here for more information on that effort.
An 11-county study of workforce housing needs has been released this week, assessing the regional housing market and proposing strategies for addressing challenges.
The 339-page Indiana Uplands Regional Housing Study includes the Bloomington/Monroe County community. Reports for individual counties also can be downloaded on the housing study's website.
Six main strategies are identified by the report (pp 318-337):
ROI is an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County, and is funded through a $25.87 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.
The Monroe County Public Library board has taken several steps toward building a new branch in the southwest area of Monroe County, though a specific location hasn't yet been announced.
At its Sept. 18 meeting, the MCPL board unanimously approved issuing a 20-year bond for up to $5 million for the project, which is estimated to cost about $10 million. The total financing would include cash from reserves as well as operating receipts. The library plans to fund this project without a tax increase.
On Sept. 18, trustees also approved hiring Bose McKinney & Evans LLP of Indianapolis to serve as bond counsel and Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP, headquartered in Chicago, to serve as municipal a advisor for the library.
Gary Lettelleir, MCPL finance manager, told trustees this was the "first step for issuing a bond to pay for the new southwest branch construction."
Click here to view the supporting documents, including a project timeline, provided in the board packet. Marilyn Wood, MCPL director, told trustees that the timeline is "more aggressive than we anticipate."
The board has previously approved hiring Matheu Architects for this project. That firm also designed the Ellettsville branch.
Click here to watch the bond presentation at the MCPL board's Sept. 18, 2019 meeting.
On Wednesday, Sept. 25, the MCPL board will hold a public hearing on its 2020 budget. The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. at the downtown library, 303 W. Kirkwood Ave., Room 1B.
On the third Thursday of each month, Downtown Bloomington Inc. hosts a breakfast meeting that's open to the public. This month, the event drew about two dozen people who gathered at the Bloomington Cooking School.
These meetings primarily consist of updates from everyone who attends. Here's a sampling from the Sept. 19 session (* = Chamber member):
Monroe County* is replacing its downtown canopy of lights on the square with roughly 4,000 LED bulbs. Cassady Electrical Contractors* will be hanging the new strands during the third week of October. The change is estimated to cut electricity costs from $70/day to $15/day.
Downtown employers will be receiving an online survey soon to distribute to their employees as part of the City of Bloomington* Transportation Demand Management (TDM) initiative. The survey will gather information on how employees get to work, parking needs, and incentives they might use for taking alternative transportation, such as public transit.
Malcolm Abrams, publisher of Bloom Magazine* reported that Nov. 1 is the deadline to submit nominations for the monthly magazine's Community Awards, recognizing local business, charity, the arts and diversity. The awards will be presented at a gala in December.
The city's new Switchyard Park will be opening on Nov. 1. The new clubhouse at the Cascades Golf Course will be opening soon as well. It will include rentable space that's available year-round, according to Mary Catherine Carmichael, the city's director of public engagement. She quipped that the previous structure had been "rode hard and put away wet."
Adam Wason, the city's director of public works, reported that "surgical" demolition of the 4th St. garage will begin soon. The next hearing of the eminent domain lawsuit against the city is scheduled for Oct. 7. The city hopes to reach a settlement with Juan Carlos Carrasquel, Wason said. Site plans for the new 4th St. garage won't be reviewed by the Plan Commission until the situation is resolved.
CFC Properties* has launched a new website for Fountain Square. Two additional event spaces are now available for the public. CFC also is looking for a new tenant in the Wicks Building on the square at 116 W. 6th St.
The Bloomington Cooking School* is offering corporate teambuilding sessions for 8-20 people. Groups can come in a prepare a meal together – then eat it! – while getting to know each other and strengthening their business relationships.
The city's tree inventory has been released and "the general impression is not good," according to Julie Roberts, gallery director for the Ivy Tech Waldron Arts Center*, who also serves as president of the city's Utilities Service Board. She urged everyone to be observant of the condition of Bloomington's trees. (Read a report about the tree inventory here.)
The DBI's next breakfast meeting is on Thursday, Oct. 17. Sign up for the group's e-newsletter here.
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.
With priorities on quality of place and workforce attraction, the 2020 grant cycle for the Community Impact Funding Initiative is now underway.
The initiative, administered by the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County, funds projects that are "forward thinking, community changing in their implementation, practical in their application and unique to the community." Typically, grants are awarded in the $10,000 to $50,000 range.
The current cycle will emphasize projects identified as priorities in the recent Monroe County Quality of Place and Workforce Attraction Plan. These priorities were shaped with input from an advisory team of 35 that included Erin Predmore, CEO of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, and Christopher Emge, the Chamber's Manager of Talent and Education.
Examples of the plan's priorities:
On Wednesday, Aug. 7, the Community Foundation will hold an Impact Grant workshop from 10 a.m. until noon at the Fountain Square Ballroom, 101 W. Kirkwood. The event is designed to provide details on the priority focus areas and discuss the application process. You can RSVP for this workshop by emailing Marcus Whited at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The complete timeline:
Aug. 7 – Impact Grant workshop at Fountain Square Ballroom
Sept. 6 – Letters of Intent due to Community Foundation
Sept. 23 – Selected applicants receive invitations for full proposals
Oct. 30 – Full proposals due to Community Foundation
Dec. 12 – Grant awards announced; funding available
Click here for details on the Community Impact Grant Initiative. To read the full Monroe County Quality of Place and Workforce Attraction Plan, click here.
Director of Advocacy & Public Policy