The Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) is the successor to the Corporate Community Council (CCC), which had been organized in 1977 following recommendations from the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee. The group. composed of corporate leaders and tasked to identify, understand, and support the significant needs of the Indianapolis area, had targeted sports as a strategy to revitalize and uplift the city. This strategy had proved highly successful, drawing major sports events and organizations to Indianapolis—the National Sports Festival (1982), the Colts National Football League team (1984), the Tenth Pan American Games (1987), and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (Ncaa) (1997). David Johnson, president and CEO of CICP and one of its founders, stated that each of these accomplishments had made “a great deal of sense” but that “the dollars and stakes were getting too high to be left to opportunistically organized volunteers.” By 1998, it, therefore, became clear to participants in the CCC, the Lilly Endowment, Inc. (LEI), and key Indianapolis business organizations that the CCC, as an informal body, was not optimal for moving forward.

Corporate Community Council members Clay Robbins, LEI president, Larry O’Connor, Bank One CEO, and Sallie Rowland, president of an Indianapolis-based architecture and design firm, established a task force and commissioned a report to study how best to bring about continued fundamental, positive economic change. They recognized that a shift away from the sports strategy to a larger vision was necessary to provide the region with long-term sustainability. The task force’s report recommended the dissolution of the Corporate Community Council and proposed its replacement with a “coordinating organization to guide the corporate community in maximizing the use of corporate funding in the Central economic arena.” Membership would be “CEO only,” and by “invitation only,” “provide funding, leadership, and oversight of economic development activity in Central Indiana by establishing policy, priorities, strategic focus, and synergy.” Following these guidelines, the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership was established as a 501(c)(3) organization in 1999.

Initially, 50 CEOs and presidents of the area’s leading companies, philanthropic foundations, and universities joined. CICP later was expanded to include 60 community leaders. It was designed to be the “strategic, economic arm for community leadership.” Through research and discussion, CICP was intended to define plans for the region and “to implement an effective long-term strategy” for the future. It was to work closely with other civic and business organizations, such as the Indianapolis chamber of commerce, but remain separate from them. Working as an independent nonprofit corporation, the CICP also was to produce plans that were not subject to the political whims of those who held elected office.

To maximize economic development in Central Indiana, the CICP set out to identify the region’s economic strengths and challenges. It first commissioned an intense analysis of leading economic clusters as well as economic and social issues. It followed these in-depth studies with business plans to leverage opportunities and to address critical weaknesses. The CICP subsequently set up and branded six talent and industry initiatives: Biocrossroads, for the life sciences (2002); Techpoint, for software development and information technology (2006); Conexus Indiana, for advanced manufacturing and logistics (2007); Energy Systems Network, for clean and alternative energy technologies (2009); Agrinovus Indiana, for agricultural innovation and agribusiness (2014); and Ascend Indiana, for workforce development and issues across economic sectors (2015).

Each branded initiative was responsible for catalyzing development in its sector or area through collaborations between the public and private sectors and many university stakeholders. Each has focused on communicating better information and brand identity for the sector it represents, attracting new talent and providing opportunities for training locally, creating opportunities for collaboration that link talent and business, and finding the economic capital necessary to build capacity for each sector in the local market.

An important outcome from each of the efforts has been the creation of new nonprofit and for-profit enterprises, typically involving strategic collaboration and investment by key initiative stakeholders. Some of the projects launched include the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute (IBRI), established in 2012 as the first industry-led research institute in the U.S.; the I-STEM/Indiana Science Initiative, to ensure exposure of Indiana K-12 students to science, technology, engineering, and math and to encourage them to move forward with more education in these fields; and the Indiana Health Information Exchange, which has created a network of 100 hospitals, 30,000 clinicians and physicians, and over 12 million patients to aggregate health records across health systems. 

Other initiatives include 16 TECH, an innovation district for technology-oriented enterprise; Indiana Innovation Institute (IN3), which is designed to work with academia, industry, and government to make Central Indiana a hub of national security innovation; and Indyhub, which develops programming and partnerships to attract young talent to the greater Indianapolis area and to engage those individuals in the community.

The first CICP initiative, BioCrossroads in particular, has been very successful. By 2016, the biosciences industry in Indiana had become a $63.3 billion industry and second only to California for life sciences exports in the U.S.

Central Indiana Corporate Partnership’s projects and initiatives are supported through grants made to the CICP Foundation. Major contributions to this foundation come from such entities as the Lilly Endowment, the Eli Lilly And Company Foundation, the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, the Central Indiana Community Foundation, and the Guidant Foundation. 

In 2018, a Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program study, entitled Rethinking Cluster Initiatives, named CICP “as one of the most impactful business and civic leadership groups in the nation.” In 2020, CICP recognized the need to study the challenges posed by the effects of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic and the racial protests that followed the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It commissioned another Brookings report that was released in early 2021 to chart Indiana’s course for “economic growth and inclusion.” It tracked the state’s economic issues, challenges for economic resilience, and strategies to increase its economic resilience.

Revised March 2021

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