Why Indianapolis needs Indiana

Friday, September 2, 2011

On the surface, it seems obvious that Indianapolis and Indiana need each other. After all, a state must have a capital city, and a capital city must have a state.

But at a recent Indiana Humanities event, we asked people -- specifically Indiana State Fairgoers -- to look beyond the obvious and dig deeper. Why is it that Indianapolis needs Indiana? Why does Indiana need Indianapolis? And what can each learn from the other?

As a statewide organization that encourages Hoosiers to think, read and talk, we saw these questions as an opportunity to engage people in conversations about our capital and state, and the unique relationship that we share.

Fairgoers, community leaders and online visitors found the questions both stimulating and challenging, and they supplied thoughtful and intriguing answers.

Some of my favorite responses included those that echoed this one from Gail Strong, community and outreach director at WFYI: "Because when we all work together, we do better."

It was clear from the discussion that the majority of Hoosiers believe the city and the state have a symbiotic relationship. Many people valued Indianapolis for its cultural offerings, but realized that without patrons from all over the state, Indianapolis could not support such thriving museums, parks and stadiums.

While Indianapolis was lauded for its cultural diversity, Indiana's range of resources was also celebrated.

Carl Chapman, chairman, president and CEO of Vectren Corp. said it best when asked why Indianapolis needed Indiana: "Simply put: Diversity.

"Whether it's coal mining in southwestern Indiana or the steel mills of Gary, our state's economy is diverse, and that contributes to a healthy mix of Hoosiers benefiting us all. Our natural and people resources link us. We need the commerce of the Ohio River and Lake Michigan; we need infrastructure and manufacturing jobs; most of all, we must continue to function as one and support the geographical economic engines."

Another theme that arose was that, while Indianapolis might be the central tie that holds Indiana together, the state "provides a good grounding" and keeps us all rooted in "Hoosier values."

Bruce Hetrick, chairman and CEO of Hetrick, said, "Without this state, its diverse communities, its friendly people, its crossroads location, its common-sense culture and its hard-working heritage, we'd be 'India-no-place' instead of 'Indy-the-envy-of-cities-far-and-wide.'"

As a lifelong Hoosier with deep roots in Northeast Indiana, I couldn't agree more. I need Indianapolis because I enjoy its cultural vitality, can-do spirit, big city amenities and small-town feel. But, I need Indiana to stay connected to my family's history, to discover the roots of our shared core values, and to help my kids connect to the land.

"It's good to share words with people who do not live in the big city," said one attendee. "Everyone should experience small towns, growing crops, and seeing fields, woods and streams in wide open spaces."

This one-day experiment taught us a lot about both Indianapolis and Indiana. But the main takeaway was that we truly need each other in order to create a greater quality of life for our citizens and our visitors, and to remain competitive in a global economy. If either the state or its capital city is to reach its full potential and thrive in the 21st century, both -- and we, as citizens -- must work together.

So what will we do with what we learned? We plan to share all of the thoughts we gathered with key stakeholders around the state. This collection of Hoosier wisdom will help identify strengths and opportunities that could impact a range of hot topics, including transportation, tourism and education.

The conversation isn't over, though. Please join us at www.IndianaHumanities.org to view responses from Hoosiers all across the state and add your thoughts to the discussion.

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