NOTE: This "It's Your Business" column by Chamber CEO Eric Spoonmore was published in the March 10, 2023 edition of the Bloomington Herald-Times.
The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce believes the most fundamental role of government is to protect the safety and well-being of all residents. In January, I addressed the Bloomington City Council to express concern about what seemed to be an increasing number of high-profile crimes in the community over the past several months including rape, stabbings, shootings, attempted murders, murders and other violent behaviors.
In February, the city of Bloomington delivered its annual State of Public Safety report to the community, which confirmed violent crime in the city has increased by nearly 6% over last year. Any increase in crime rates — and particularly violent crime rates — is of significant concern to the business community.
It is also important to recognize that the increase in violent crime in our community is not solely a policing issue; much of the problem can be attributed to a lack of public health investments in addiction and mental health services. The Chamber fully supports the law enforcement agencies who make many sacrifices each day to protect and serve our city, working tirelessly around the clock to keep residents and businesses safe. We recognize that police work is difficult and that many communities around the nation are experiencing significant police officer shortages. The Bloomington Police Department (BPD) is currently understaffed by nearly 20 sworn officers.
NOTE: This "It's Your Business" column by Chamber CEO Eric Spoonmore was published in the January 13, 2023 Bloomington Herald-Times.
The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce deeply appreciates the support we receive from our members and the Bloomington-Monroe County community. 2023 marks the 108th year of the Chamber’s presence in Greater Bloomington. For more than a century, the Chamber has been working to improve the quality of life in our community through a thriving business sector.
Our membership includes over 850 organizations in the Greater Bloomington area. More than 80% of our members are small, locally owned enterprises — the businesses we know and love that make Bloomington such a wonderful, vibrant, and compassionate community. We also partner with our public-school corporations, numerous nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher education, local government and many corporate employers in the Bloomington metropolitan area. Membership in the Chamber sends a powerful message that you care about our community, and you want Bloomington to thrive for generations to come. In other words, we recognize that our businesses and employers are instrumental to achieving the high quality of life that our residents deserve.
NOTE: This "It's Your Business" column by Chamber CEO Eric Spoonmore was published in the December 30, 2022 Bloomington Herald-Times.
The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce continues to support the expansion of the Monroe Convention Center. The expansion will be paid for by revenue from the 1% food and beverage tax that was passed in 2017 by the Monroe County Council. Disappointingly, there has been no tangible progress on the expansion despite nearly $15 million in food and beverage tax revenue collected over the past five years.
However, a glimmer of hope came in November when meaningful steps were taken by county government to move forward with expansion plans. All three county commissioners unanimously agreed to create a Capital Improvement Board (CIB) that would give the city of Bloomington equal representation on the CIB. In the following weeks, all seven county council representatives unanimously supported the county commissioners’ CIB plan. Two weeks later, a supermajority of city council members voted 8-1 to support the plan for a CIB. For the first time in six years, strong momentum was building for the long-awaited convention center expansion project. Elected officials across the city and county were working together to achieve progress on this shared community goal.
NOTE: This "It's Your Business" column by Chamber CEO Eric Spoonmore was published in the September 30, 2022 Bloomington Herald-Times.
As public officials attempt to strengthen our local transit system with a $35 million budget projected in 2023, the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce is eager to see transit services extended beyond the Bloomington city limits. This long-awaited upgrade can begin with the immediate expansion of Route 3 by 1.3 miles to reach Ivy Tech Community College and the numerous Park 48 employers.
Recently, the city council passed Resolution 22-16, which endorses the extension of transit service beyond the city boundaries but stops short of formally approving the changes. The current municipal code states that the boundaries of Bloomington Transit (BT) must be 'coterminous' with the city’s boundaries. While the resolution does not amend the current municipal code, it does open the possibility of service to unincorporated areas in the future.
The Chamber has consistently been a strong advocate for expanded transit service. This is a necessary measure to make the community’s public transit system even better for residents, including employers and people who work in the more urbanized areas of Monroe County. We need a transit system that reflects the needs of the entire community. In fact, the Chamber recently endorsed a portion of Mayor John Hamilton’s Local Income Tax proposal that would fund enhanced transit services.
NOTE: This "It's Your Business" column by Chamber CEO Eric Spoonmore was published in the September 16, 2022 Bloomington Herald-Times.
We are so fortunate to live in a vibrant community that values public education. The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce and our membership understand that a high-quality public education system delivers substantial economic benefits to a community. The Chamber remains committed to working with our partners in the Monroe County Community School Corp. (MCCSC) and the Richland Bean-Blossom Community School Corp. to provide the highest quality learning experiences for our local students.
This November, MCCSC is asking voters to approve a referendum that would provide increased funding for student programs, teacher salaries and staff wages. The additional funding will protect against inadequate state funding, expand programs to meet changing educational expectations, attract and retain quality teachers, and continue important student services and enrichment programs.
In 2010, voters approved the current referendum that provided an operating levy of 14 cents per $100 of assessed value. The new rate proposed by MCCSC in 2022 is 18.5 cents — an increase of less than a nickel per $100 of assessed valuation. The Chamber views the referendum as a prudent investment in our community and overall student success. The additional referendum dollars will prevent painful cuts to staff positions and student programming. If passed, 100% of the total new referendum dollars will fund teacher and staff compensation, as well as much needed S.T.E.M; arts, and special education programs. Further, none of the additional revenue is earmarked for administration pay or capital projects.
NOTE: This "It's Your Business" column by Chamber CEO Eric Spoonmore was published in the May 16, 2022 Bloomington Herald-Times.
Last week the Bloomington City Council unanimously approved a 51% increase to the local income tax rate that applies to all Monroe County residents. The tax increase will generate about $14.5 million in new annual revenue to fund additional economic development initiatives proposed by Mayor John Hamilton that address climate change preparedness, equity and quality of life, public safety and essential city services. Under the new local income tax rate, Monroe County government will also receive a new annual influx of $9.5million and the town of Ellettsville will receive roughly $1 million in new annual revenue.
While the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce did not support a 51% increase to the local income tax rate, we did support new revenue that would provide the needed resources to fully fund our public safety and law enforcement services as well as certain enhancements to public transit services. The Chamber calculated that these investments would cost Monroe County taxpayers $7 million or about half of the amount that the city of Bloomington ultimately approved.
NOTE: This "It's Your Business" column by Chamber CEO Eric Spoonmore was published in the March 11, 2022 Bloomington Herald-Times.
The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce is excited to cover the candidates and issues leading up to Primary Election Day on May 3. Be sure to mark your calendars — early voting in Monroe County begins April 5, and voters will have several local, state and congressional candidates to nominate.
Primary winners from each party will then run for the general election on Nov. 8, along with nonpartisan school board candidates.
The chamber encourages all eligible voters to exercise their right to vote in the 2022 primary election. Voting during the primaries is a crucial element of our democracy and is an expression of what is most important to our voters. From policies to programs, and everything in between, primary elections are an opportunity to nominate leaders who will fight for what you feel is paramount to the success of the greater Bloomington community.
NOTE: This "It's Your Business" column by Chamber CEO Eric Spoonmore was published in the January 14, 2022 Bloomington Herald-Times.
As the voice of business in our region, the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce is engaged and involved in many areas that impact what we love most about our community. Our belief in “Better Business, Better Community” recognizes that we collectively prosper when opportunities for professional and personal growth are available to all.
Our members believe that a thriving business sector is necessary for achieving the quality-of-life that residents deserve. We also believe that our best outcomes occur when businesses and government are working together to achieve shared community goals. For example, Monroe County Government and the City of Bloomington swiftly responded to the COVID 19 crisis by creating emergency financial assistance programs targeted for small enterprises. As a result, the responsive action taken by our local officials made a huge difference to small businesses who needed help the most.
NOTE: This "It's Your Business" column by Chamber CEO Erin Predmore was published in the November 12, 2021 Bloomington Herald-Times.
This will be my farewell column, which means that the chamber leadership search has been a success.
The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce recently announced that the next president and CEO will be Eric Spoonmore, a longtime community resident, soon-to-be former Monroe County Council member, and a strong advocate for the business community. Eric will be starting in his new role on Dec. 1, and I am confident that he will do an outstanding job for the chamber and the broader community.
When we moved to Bloomington 7 1/2years ago, we repeatedly experienced a strange phenomenon — when meeting new people, the conversation would go like this:
Me: Hi! Nice to meet you!
Them: Isn’t Bloomington the best community?
Me: Uh, I don’t know … we’ve just gotten here. It seems very nice.
Them: It is! It is the best place to live/raise a family/work/relax/visit/ride bikes/eat.
At the time, I would chuckle about this community pride. Little did I know that everyone was right. Bloomington really is the best place. I have loved my time in Bloomington, and I’d like to take a minute to thank a few people and institutions that have made our time in Bloomington spectacular.
NOTE: This "It's Your Business" column by Chamber CEO Erin Predmore was published in the September 10, 2021 Bloomington Herald-Times.
In 2019, the Regional Opportunity Initiatives issued a Monroe County Quality of Place & Workforce Attraction Plan. The initiative hosted a series of focus groups to develop the plan, and one of the findings included this:
Minority residents do not feel the sense of welcoming community that Monroe County prides itself on. The legacy of the Ku Klux Klan in the region is remembered and felt today. Recruiters have trouble attracting diverse candidates to the region, to Monroe County and to Bloomington.
One focus group member noted that Monroe County “thinks it’s more progressive than it actually is.” Others pointed to the existence of a Black community that’s small with a strong identity and said they stay here for that reason.
This blog contains press releases, other news updates from the Chamber, news articles and radio interviews featuring interviews with the Chamber and team members, and much more!