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IU, Ivy Tech, Bypass top chamber priorities

By Bob Zaltsberg 331-4364 |
November 10, 2008

Funding for Indiana University’s life sciences efforts, Ivy Tech Community College’s Bloomington campus and the Ind. 45/46 Bypass to spur a Certified Technology Park are legislative priorities for 2009 set by the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber officials released the priorities and a broader legislative agenda today.

Tom Hirons, chairman of the Chamber’s legislative council, said this is the first comprehensive legislative agenda and set of priorities drawn up by the Chamber in his 25 years of active membership. He said the Chamber wanted to be more focused and deliberative in deciding how to approach the General Assembly on issues.

“Let’s not be responsive, let’s be proactive,” he said of the strategy. “The committee has been working on this for a year. It’s been a very deliberative process.”

The five-page legislative agenda addresses local government reform, education, infrastructure, economic development, health care and taxation.

The priorities were picked based on local relevance and the ability for the local Chamber to have a voice in the debate.

“We wanted to focus our efforts where no one else may be going, and where we might be able to have more of an impact,” Hirons said.

Regarding IU funding, the Chamber document states: “We strongly support substantial funding directed to the Indiana Innovation Alliance, a strategic partnership between IU and Purdue University that join the efforts of academia, business and government to strengthen Indiana’s assets in biosciences and life sciences.” It adds that boosting Indiana’s research sector should be an economic and educational priority.

Expansion of Ivy Tech-Bloomington is critical, the Chamber states, “in the interest of both workforce development and providing area Hoosiers the opportunity to gain needed skills and education.”

Support for infrastructure improvements on the Ind. 45/46 Bypass would smooth the way for an effective certified technology park near where the bypass intersects with 10th Street, according to the Chamber.

“Creation of a certified technology park would be the single most important economic development activity in our community over the next five years,” Hirons said. He said he envisions a campus of buildings near 10th and the Bypass where the public and private sector are working together on technology transfer, the process of bringing new ideas to the marketplace.

“I could see hundreds of jobs being created,” he said.

Besides the three Bloomington-related issues, the Chamber has set two statewide priorities: support of the Kernan-Shepard Report calling for streamlining local government, and opposition to a constitutional amendment that would cap property taxes because it “would severely limit the ability of Indiana to react to changes in the structure of its economy and to tap potential sources of revenue when needed.”

Christy Gillenwater, president and CEO of the Chamber, said development of the agenda and priorities is an important step in increasing advocacy about issues important to Chamber members. The agenda was adopted by the Chamber’s Legislative Council and Board of Directors.

She said the organization will be seeking support for parts of the legislative agenda from other community groups, including, for example, the Bloomington Board of Realtors and the Monroe County Apartment Owners Association.