Zionsville Success Achieved: Despite A Challenging Year
As the year comes to a close, and we take a moment to reflect on everything that has transpired since last January, pre-COVID-19 and throughout the pandemic, I thought it prudent to speak with Mayor Styron and some of the Town of Zionsville’s staff about a few of the administration’s highlights and projects that continue to help shape our evolving town, as well as some of the lessons learned and what we can look forward to in the new year.
“What we’ve already accomplished in a year is pretty phenomenal, given the year,” Styron said. “And when we think about all of the stacks that we are building, in terms of getting ready for next year, and as long as there is financial stability throughout the country and our state, we’ve got a lot of possibility [going into 2021], and I am hopeful.”
Providing Aid to the Business Community
While the mayor and her staff cannot control what happens at the national level, they can influence what happens at the local levels, and just because the toll of midnight will ring in a new year, it will not bring a sudden end to the pandemic. Its ripple effect will be in play well into 2021–22, as far as economic impact is concerned.
The Town of Zionsville Community Development Corporation (CDC) launched COVID-19 Assistance programs that address the burden of unplanned expenses and lost revenue incurred due to COVID-19.
The CDC’s COVID-19 Grant program was rolled out this year to provide upwards of $10,000 in funding to businesses located in the 106th Street Tax Increment Finance District (area bounded by Poplar Street, Elm Street, 96th Street, Michigan Road and Zionsville Road).
When asked if the town intends to extend the grant program into 2021, the mayor replied, “I definitely want us to take a strong look at what the financials are going forward and how we can sustain the COVID-19 Grant program for as long as it’s needed because we really need to recognize that it is a lifeline for businesses.”
Wayne DeLong, director of planning and economic development, also spoke about the impact that the COVID-19 Grant has made on the participating businesses.
“For starters, we are all focused on maintaining the program—at a minimum—into 2021,” DeLong shared. “The goal of the program is to have at least the same amount of funding [$250,000] available going into 2021, as we know that the pandemic will not be over come Jan. 1. This is a challenging time, so we are looking at ways to shore up the foundation. The [COVID-19 Grant] has been successful, but it does have its limitations because there is only so much money. Entrepreneurs are tough and have the tenacity to navigate waters, but everybody needs help every now and again.”
Zionsville’s Community Grant Program
Earlier this month, Mayor Styron announced the establishment of a community grant program that enhances the quality of life for residents, business owners and visitors to Zionsville. Projects funded are those that promote Zionsville, promote Zionsville businesses, create a public facility, improve infrastructure and/or celebrate diversity and inclusion. Applications open beginning Jan. 1, 2021.
“We launched the grant process in part in response to COVID-19 to provide relief to community organizations,” Styron said. “Throughout the year, we have learned that a community grant program can add a lot of value. In the past, the town has supported a select few community organizations to receive grants. With this new program, we are formalizing the process and creating a committee—actions that will better help the Town of Zionsville respond to the needs of our community.”
The newly formed Zionsville Community Enrichment Committee will evaluate and award financial assistance to local community-serving organizations. This committee consists of five community members: three appointed by the mayor and two appointed by the town council majority. This five-member advisory committee ensures that grant awards are consistent with the town’s Code of Ordinances and are dispersed in a manner that is transparent and fair.
Applications will be available on the Town of Zionsville website. Eligible organizations must be located in Boone County, serve Zionsville residents and business and are defined as 501(c)(3) public charity or 509(a)(1) and must be used for charitable purposes as defined by section 170 (b)(1)(A).
Amid Pandemic, Our Town Still Grows
As I reported back in October, Rahal Letterman Lanigan (RLL) announced its plans to expand and establish its global headquarters in Zionsville’s Creekside Corporate Park, to be completed in 2022, and is expected to create up to 73 new jobs by the end of 2024.
“The RLL project came at a ‘golden time’ in 2020, early in the first quarter,” Styron shared. “It gave us an opportunity to test what we have been working on since day one of [this administration]. We spent the first five weeks going through past inquiries and evaluating what the roadblocks had been. I know that it’s going to be slow over the next several years, but we’ve got a great product and we have a great process in place now. We have people at the ready to start curating a customer when an inquiry comes in the door, and through our process, we are competing at a level that our town deserves and should be able to compete at. We’ve gotten to the finals [with proposed projects] and have lost. And that’s going to happen, but we can’t win if we don’t play, and we’re playing hard.”
The town’s planning department hasn’t seen any signs of the town’s permitting slowing down and could possibly break its own record [259 permits] by the end of the year.
“Our highest year ever was in 2013, coming out of a recession,” DeLong stated. “It’s still business as usual here, and honestly, it’s been business as usual but escalated. So far this year, we’ve issued 256 single-family dwelling permits. Here we are in a pandemic, one of the toughest years many of us have ever experienced, and what these numbers show us is that Zionsville, no matter the odds, is still an awesome place where people want to be. And you have an entire team of civil servants that are here to facilitate the mission and that person’s desire and interest in being a part of this community. We’re still here to make that happen.”
The Zionsville Gateway Area (ZGA)
“I am excited about this ZGA project,” Styron enthused. “Julie [Johns-Cole] and I have been talking about this since we were on the campaign trail. Both of us shared the story about how that blighted entryway into our town was driver for us to run for office. We knew it was long past time to fix that. Our work histories gave us the insight and project planning tools to turn that area around. And that has been a big priority for us since day one. We’ve engaged strategic planning and consulting firm Thomas P. Miller & Associates and architectural/brand strategy firm DELV Design to help facilitate the process.”
The mission statement of the ZGA plan is “to identify the highest, best and most sustainable mix of uses within the Zionsville Gateway Area and to explore ideas for an economically vibrant, whole-community-serving and authentically Zionsville experience.”
“We have caught the attention of some potential granting organizations, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that we’ll end up with additional grant dollars to help with some of the [ZGA] improvements. I can tell you that a parking garage and public restrooms are part of this effort, as well as maintaining a space for the farmers market and other special events. We are going to do what we can to add more economic vitality to that area.”