In December 1981, the Indianapolis Project was formed as a public relations campaign to enhance the city’s reputation and attract new businesses. Initial funding for this effort came from several sources, including, the City of Indianapolis, the , the Indianapolis , the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, and numerous local businesses and non-profit institutions.
The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce was the original fiscal agent for the campaign, but this relationship created a major financial burden for the Chamber. As a result, the Indianapolis Project was incorporated as a separate, not-for-profit organization, Indianapolis Project, Inc. (IPI), in 1983.
Later that same year, the Indianapolis Growth Project (IGP) spun off from IPI and became an independent organization. Confusion caused by nearly identical names—Indianapolis Project, Inc. and Indianapolis Growth Project, Inc.— led IGP to change its name to the Indianapolis Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) (later renamed) in 1984.
With the establishment of IEDC, Indianapolis Project, Inc. forfeited its economic development functions and concentrated solely on public relations and image-building activities that highlighted the city’s athletic, civic, cultural, economic, educational, and scientific achievements. IPI’s two remaining departments—the media relations division and the Indianapolis City Center—were responsible for this work.
Opened in April 1980, GIPC created the Indianapolis City Center as a means of encouraging citizen participation in the city’s planning process. The first such facility in the country, the center was popular with visitors during its initial year of operation.
In 1982, the Indianapolis City Center became part of the Indianapolis Project. As an information and resource service, the center provided residents and visitors with general information about Indianapolis as well as resources on specific civic, cultural, and sporting events around the city. These services were particularly useful when the city hostedin 1982 and the in 1987.
In 1988, the Indianapolis City Center relocated from Monument Circle to Pan American Plaza. Along with providing free informational brochures, the center also offered city tours, souvenirs and gifts, and multimedia presentations about Indianapolis.
IPI’s media relations division, meanwhile, was responsible for providing current and accurate information about Indianapolis to local, national, and international journalists. This work involved creating and distributing media kits, holding news conferences, writing press releases, providing photographs, slides, and video footage, distributing event listings, and organizing city tours.
By 1995, the department’s efforts had resulted in more than 2,100 favorable stories about Indianapolis in publications such as, , The Washington Post, , , U.S. News & World Report, and USA Today. Awareness about the city also increased thanks to features on national broadcasts, including the Today show, Good Morning America, ESPN, and CNN.
In 1999, Indianapolis Project, Inc. merged with the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association (ICVA) (later known as). IPI’s media relations staff was folded into ICVA’s marketing and communications department, while Indianapolis City Center employees became part of ICVA’s visitor services division.