16 Tech launching community investment fund

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — The 16 Tech Community Corp. in Indianapolis is celebrating the official launch of the 16 Tech Community Investment Fund Friday.

The organization says the fund will invest annually in neighborhoods surrounding the 16 Tech Innovation District on the city’s near northwest side. Starla Hart, director of community initiatives for 16 Tech, said the fund will focus on key areas such as workforce training, supporting small businesses and education initiatives.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Hart talked about the importance of investing in the surrounding community.

“A lot of times when developments of this magnitude happen across the country, it’s done with no consideration to the surrounding neighborhoods in terms of building relationships and in terms of the effect a large development can have on historic neighborhoods that preexisted before the development came to be,” said Hart. “So it’s really important for us to make an effort at the onset of our development to develop relationships with those that are in the neighborhood, but also to invest in their well-being.”

The first round of grants from the fund will total up to $1 million in 2020. The organization said in the following years, at least $350,000 in funding will be available for community investment. Nonprofits of all sizes will be eligible to apply for grants.

Hart said the fund will feature two grant pools. The “Innovation Pool” aims to support small-scale projects that Hart says will help catalyze neighborhood change and development, as well as support smaller nonprofit, grassroots organizations. The pool will offer grants up to $25,000.

The “Impact Pool” will offer grants up to $100,000 and is open to any organization. Hart says the pool will focus on larger projects with an emphasis on workforce training and education.

“The 16 Tech Community Investment Fund is our primary initiative to deliver on our commitment to ensure access, opportunity and revitalization of neighborhoods in and around the innovation district,” Bob Coy, chief executive officer of the 16 Tech Community Corp., said in a news release. “We are grateful for the residents, city officials and organizations that spent more than a year developing the grantmaking process and guidelines with us to ensure the 16 Tech Community Investment Fund aligns with neighborhood priorities.”

The fund was seeded with $3 million in public funding through the city of Indianapolis and the 16 Tech Community Corp. says it will be sustained in the long-term through a $0.20-per-square-foot fee paid by tenants of the district. The organization says it will also seek philanthropic donations to add to the fund.

Hart said the organization’s initial goal is to get the word out about the fund.

“Our first big goal is to make sure that people apply, that they’re applying for the funding they need, that they can ask questions and get them answered and be able to have more equitable opportunities to philanthropy in our city. I think the long-term goal is to really think up new, creative and innovative ways that we can really support neighborhoods and really support the residents and their vision. So I’m looking at potential partnerships for folks to grant other things besides just dollars.”

Earlier this year, officials held a topping out ceremony for the $30 million Innovation 1 building, which is the first new structure at 16 Tech. In an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick a few days after the ceremony, Coy said interest in the district has been growing. Officials expect 16 Tech to create nearly 3,000 jobs over 10 years.

Hart talked about the importance of investing in the surrounding community.