Indianapolis’ future as an economic powerhouse relies heavily on its ability to attract new businesses and bring workers to the city. In order to maintain and grow its middle class, the city needs to expand its burgeoning industries as well as demonstrate the economic and cultural value it has to offer.
Getting on the Right Track
Mya Williams previously worked as a personal trainer. She also taught math in New Orleans. She says, “Louisiana housing is not the least expensive. With my teacher's salary, I had a roommate. We had money to live, but not so much to live super comfortably and do fun things.”
In 2018, Williams moved from New Orleans to Indianapolis because, at the time, much of her family was living there. As she considered her next chapter, she found her way into tech. “I decided to pursue a tech-related field just because it's kind of in my blood. Growing up, my mom was a software engineer. My brother is a software developer and so is one of my very close cousins.”
Williams received certificates in user experience design and front-end software development from Kenzie Academy—which was recently acquired by Southern New Hampshire University. Upon graduation, Williams began working immediately as a UX engineer for a consulting agency.
Currently, Williams is working for Kenzie Academy teaching UX design to high school students. “I'm teaching the actual Kenzie Academy curriculum, but at a slower pace. Instead of a six-month program, this is a two-year elective for them.
They get to go through the whole design process. We get to make prototypes of things. They get to use their own ideas. It's really impactful.”
Williams notes that, upon completion, the students will receive a Kenzie certificate in UX design.
“For me, going into tech is exactly where I'm supposed to be, just because I'm able to do so many different things with it,” says Williams.
“In addition to teaching, being in the classroom, and helping other people, I'm still able to use these skills. I do freelance projects. My contribution to the Black Lives Matter movement is helping to create digital products for smaller nonprofits and grassroots orgs. Helping them figure out how tech can help them. I'm able to kind of do a lot of different things with a set of skills.”
“Indianapolis has definitely had all of the things that I've needed to grow in this time—as a person and professionally,” says Williams. “I was able to explore many different interests here.”
Noting the outdoor spaces, the tech meetups, and the food, Williams says, “It's been a really great place to reset.”
“The incentives and abatements that are being offered really are going to force employers in our community to think intentionally about not only the quality of the job, the wage, but also the benefits and what that company will be doing for the community where it locates.”
— Angela Carr Klitzsch, President & CEO of EmployIndy
“The supply of talent in our community is essential for economic growth,” notes Jason Kloth, president and CEO of Ascend Indiana. He says companies want a skilled workforce and are prepared to pay well for the talent. “We really want to be focused on attracting those jobs that lead to the middle class.”
COVID has shifted the local labor market towards the distribution of goods being sold online. “You lose some portion of retail, but you pick it back up in logistics.”
“When I think of the American dream, I think of earning a living wage. That, at its core, is what we should be striving to create as a society,” Kloth says.
Sports and Tech: A Doubleheader
Indianapolis has changed from a manufacturing town to a tech town, a shift creating new local jobs, including with the city’s sports teams.
For the Colts, the pandemic has meant a shift to remote work for its corporate workers. And while the talent can live anywhere, it is mostly homegrown.
“We’ve got people that work in digital and IT, and most of them were hired locally. It’s great to have that talent pool in town and to see it grow, because tech is becoming more and more important to sports franchises,” says Pete Ward, COO of the Indianapolis Colts.
Data analytics is another in-demand job and sometimes the demand is greater than the supply.
“We have full-time staff that dedicate their time to analyzing not only player personnel talent, but also game situations, the way we reach our fans, and the way we sell to our customers,” says Rick Fuson, president & COO of Pacers Sports & Entertainment.
“We've had to become a technological firm ourselves," adds Fuson. "We're having to bring some other folks in from other states to fill those jobs.”
“Our state, and especially Indianapolis, has done a great job of bringing in numerous firms in tech and related industries. Those firms need an educated workforce. Our response has been to try and retain more of our residents who get degrees while seeking to find affordable pathways for those who typically forego postsecondary education due to cost barriers.”
— Joe Hogsett, Mayor of Indianapolis
“We are not just taking Indiana to the world, but we’re leaning into the fact that we have to bring the world to us.”
— Eric Holcomb, Governor of Indiana