BLOOMINGTON – First announced Friday, September 3, the US Economic Development Administration (EDA) has awarded the City of Bloomington a $3.5 million CARES Act Recovery Assistance Grant to support the construction of the Trades District Technology Center. The City of Bloomington Redevelopment Commission (RDC) and the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) were co-applicants for the grant. Acting on behalf of the City, the RDC will match the federal investment with a $1.6 million pledge to the project. The EDA projects that the grant will create 530 jobs and generate $51 million in private investment in the region.
Vision and mission: The Trades District Technology Center will advance South Central Indiana tech employment growth and technology commercialization, contribute to a stronger brand for the region in technology, and connect growing tech companies to national and international networks. It will serve tech companies that are beyond the startup phase by providing services and space for growing and mature firms.
Need for the center: The Tech Center will foster future-focused jobs for Bloomington and the region, while helping the local economy to recover from pandemic job and income losses. Recent studies, including a feasibility study conducted by the IU Public Policy Institute (IU PPI), have determined the need to diversify the types of jobs available within the local economy and have identified technology as an emerging sector providing sustainable, higher paying jobs. The sector also comprises regional innovation assets like Indiana University and NSWC Crane. Growing tech firms and jobs will contribute to a more competitive and resilient regional economy.
Building on long-term work: The Tech Center builds on long-term work of the City, RDC, BEDC, and other partners to foster an innovative economy while redeveloping the Trades District, located at the historic site of the Showers Brothers Furniture Company.
- The Tech Center will be located at Maker Way and North Madison Street in the Trades District, within a designated Opportunity Zone and the Bloomington Certified Tech Park (CTP). (Opportunity Zones are economic development tools that enable investment in distressed areas. CTP is a designation from the State of Indiana that allows the City of Bloomington to capture incremental income and sales tax and reinvest it in the area.)
- The establishment of the Tech Center advances a suite of investments in the local technology and entrepreneurship sector focused in the Trades District:
- In 2018, the City invested $4 million to transform the former Showers dimension mill plant into The Mill, a coworking center and startup accelerator operated by the nonprofit Dimension Mill, Inc., which was established through collaboration between the City and BEDC. The Mill partners with investors including Elevate Ventures and IU Ventures to foster the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
- The City’s subsequent investments in street and sewer infrastructure, public art, and an environmentally certified 359-space parking facility (opened in spring 2021) have attracted additional private investment in the Trades District.
- In the next phase, The Kiln Collective will adapt the historic kiln structure on the historic Showers campus to establish a business center, and the Showers Administration Building will become the corporate headquarters for the management company Fine Tune.
Broad collaboration: The EDA award represents an extended period of collaboration and coordination with a wide range of local and regional partners that will continue during the building construction, Tech Center launch, and ongoing operations.
“The City is highly appreciative of this federal award and the support we received from elected officials and our many, many partners in obtaining it,” said Mayor John Hamilton. “Establishing the Tech Center at this watershed moment in Bloomington’s economic evolution will significantly accelerate our rapidly expanding technology sector, fostering job growth across the economy and enhancing quality of life for more Bloomingtonians.”
- Architecture and engineering: The City and BEDC worked in partnership with Indianapolis-based firms Axis Architecture and Rundell Ernstberger Associates (REA) for the preliminary design of the Center. The proposed three-story 22,000-square-foot building will house small-to-medium tenant office spaces as well as conference rooms and shared amenities. “The Trades District, with its rich history and forward-thinking initiatives to promote and attract hi-tech companies to Bloomington, provides an interesting opportunity to design a building that focuses on collaboration,” said Drew White, Founding Partner of Axis Architecture.
- Feasibility study: In addition to conducting the feasibility study, IU PPI also played an integral advisory role on the grant application. “We are pleased to have partnered with the city of Bloomington and BEDC to analyze the Trades District Technology Center’s potential impact,” said IU PPI Director Tom Guevara. “We hope our findings show the EDA how the Technology Center can use Bloomington and IU’s deep pool of tech talent to grow good paying jobs and make this project successful.” The Indiana University Office of Government Relations & Economic Engagement provided support for the feasibility study. First Appraisal Group also provided a real estate assessment for the study.
- Additional consultation and technical support: CarminParker PC provided legal support for the development of the Tech Center nonprofit entity. Little River Environmental Consultants provided environmental consulting and research for the application. Staff from the IU Innovation and Commercialization Office (ICO) and the Ivy Tech Gayle & Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship have offered in-kind consulting and advising services to companies through the Tech Center. Numerous local tech companies and other partners participated in focus groups that advised on the Center.
- Community support: The grant application included 27 letters and other support from elected officials, community partners, institutions of higher education, and tech companies. Supporters included US Senators Todd Young and Mike Braun, US Representative Trey Hollingsworth, former State Senator Mark Stoops, State Representative Matt Pierce, multiple offices at Indiana University, Ivy Tech – Bloomington, the Small Business Development Center, Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Purdue at Westgate, Monroe County Commissioners, Bloomington City Council Sustainable Development Committee, The Mill, Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Bloomington Inc., Visit Bloomington, and others.
“Ultimately, the Trades District Technology Center will help develop future-focused jobs for our neighbors while advancing the local and regional economy,” noted BEDC President Jennifer Pearl. “This initiative has taken a village. We are grateful to the many partners that are helping to move our community forward through this work.”
The City is currently working with Axis/REA to tailor the facility’s design and will seek construction management proposals in 2022 in the anticipation of breaking ground that year. The Center will be operated by a nonprofit entity, overseen by a board including Hamilton, Pearl, Executive Director of the Ivy Tech Gayle and Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship Steve Bryant, Indiana University Associate Vice President of Innovation and Commercialization Simran Trana, Executive Director of The Mill Pat East, and Figg Investment President Mark Figg.