I will go out on a limb and say that Westfield Indiana is struggling to find its identity in a very fast moving, forward thinking world. I remember when I was about 17, trying to figure out what I was going to be and watching so many around me lie and say they had it figured out. You had the perfect students saying they were going to med school and spent weekends visiting universities and already looking successful. You had kids that were following in their parents footsteps as construction workers or machinists and just waiting for the day they could go full time, already looking successful. So the pressure was on to state what plans we had and how were going to implement those plans, you know to be successful. I have the same feeling for Westfield right now and watching this city fumble through how we are going to be relevant or “successful” is as painful as sitting with a guidance counseling my senior year with little to no answers. The world we live in now from a community standpoint is competitive and especially in an area like Hamilton County that is full of people that get things done in their private lives and at work. We have to keep up or you die and that pressure is constantly applied to our city leaders as they plan what is best for Westfield residents. Over the last decade we have filled a wall with spaghetti slime hoping it sticks and honestly we just have a pile of pasta laying on the floor. We have used big terms like high tech manufacturing and said we are creating a disney experience with hospitality but no real momentum. We have argued over Quaker roots and the underground railroad as themes to build upon but really that has not led to anything but hurt feelings and a mural. We of course call ourselves something like the youth ameteur sports capital of america but beyond hosting soccer, basketball and baseball tournaments it is no bigger than the events. So to say we are scrambling to find an identity like Carmel and its arts district, or Fishers in its ultimate place to live, work and play or Noblesville historic downtown and walkable experience, is an understatement. At what point do you pick something and really run with it? I am in real estate and each year nearly 90% of all new agents fail because they have no niche or market identifier. Today I feel the same way about cities. Modern competitive cities need to have an identifier beyond safe and friendly. We are all that but some are going above and beyond and owning an identity for what they want to be today, tomorrow and forever. Here are some suggestions.
Ameteur Sports – We spend lots of weekends traveling for Hockey and see lots of different places that are geared towards making the visit nice for parents and families. What we don’t see is a place that encourages ameteur sports development from all aspects. Whether it is building athletes on a large scale for all sports, having the best research and development for equipment or housing the tech innovators that support these sports, it seems like we can do that. What if we speculated and brought in the biggest and best in those fields to locate their business here in and around Grand Park to capitalize on a built in audience and energy? I know we once announced that we were starting an incubator targeting these ideas but I am not sure the press release alone was going to implement any major push. We could create a young task force that identifies who these emerging developers are and then spend time and resources courting them to the area. We might be surprised at what results may come with a strong effort.
Let’s be Nashville – Everyone loves driving to Nashville Indiana and looking at leather or buying carmel corn, so could that type of experience be re created in Westfield? With a million visitors to Grand Park you would think it would be a nice start. What if we figured out a way to capitalize on the early investors in downtown and drive park visitors to them for a great local visit? We could create a look that developers would build upon so it feels quant and intimate but has the density and amenities expected today. You go to the Village of West Clay and they have accomplished an old city center feel but have nice new buildings and tenants. For years, every guest that came to visit my parents from Michigan, I swear they drove them over to West Clay to see its downtown and architecture. This could be a show point for us locally whether its having guests in town and dining at a local restaurant or a grand park tournament looking for some local shopping and gifts. Could this be an identifier we are looking for and able to actually make happen?
Workers and Companies – This is my favorite if I had to pick just because I think it’s not only attainable but its also overlooked because it doesn’t sound as good as the words tech or advanced or high paying. What if we created the ultimate place to start and run a small to medium size business and build small industrial parks to support them? I am thinking the Insects Limited and Grand Junction Brewers of the world that create several great jobs, have strong relationships with the community and can create a live work experience for young people coming up. What if we recognized these small innovating companies that have to look elsewhere for space and support but have roots here? What if we became the modern day community of startups and sustainable companies like service companies, manufacturers reps and R & D shops for national brands? These are the people that will reinvest in our community and keep their kids here and bring other families to the area. When you look at Southpark Dr it is made up of the coolest and hardest working owners around. They are local and they spend their money here and they hire here as well. What if we could create a city that encourages the small business entrepreneurs to start their print shop here or the guy that makes custom wheels and ships all over here? We constantly talk about building on our heritage and culture but we are always looking outside to bring it in. What if we had that culture here but they could stopped being forced to look outside to grow? No its not flashy and you rarely would hear “million square footer” but with the right tools could we talk about keeping graduates local or not being just a bedroom community? This could also play into the Ameteur Sports business them as well. Maybe a double whammy.
I don’t know how we get to where we want to go but talking about it hasn’t worked so far. We have people and we have resources and now we just need that execution. As we come into a new Mayor and new Council I would love for the community to become engaged in encouraging our leaders to pick something and run with it. No more half ass approaches to developing what we will be. Long term plans and implementation are what separates Carmel and Fishers from Westfield, so why can’t we just do that. Plan and implement. The old days of city planning don’t work and we are blessed with people that now recognize that so let’s utilize them and create a wonderful identity for Westfield.
Curt has been in the Indianapolis Real Estate business for over 15 years and spent his first years learning all aspects of commercial management and brokerage. He has had great success in managing existing commercial projects and new retail and office developments. Curt specializes in building owner representation and purchases in the Westfield Indiana market as well throughout the Indianapolis Metro area. Curt is passionate about growing the local Westfield community and in his free time volunteers with Student Impact and raising 2 children with his wife Jennifer.