Category Archives: Advocacy

Support Our Students by Acting Now

The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce encourages the MCCSC school board to act now on determining the budget for the referendum dollars.

Christy GillenwaterThe Chamber supported the MCCSC Referendum because we recognized that the referendum was necessary to ensure our community’s future. We work daily to build better business and a better community and current and future students comprise our future workforce. Moreover, today’s students are the children of area employees and employers.

Through the Chamber’s Franklin Initiative, we partner with local schools to staff a full‐time Graduation Coach at each high school, funded through outside grants. Due to this and other dropout prevention strategies, the number of students who dropped out last year decreased by 17% from the previous year.

However, the Graduation Coach Initiative has also taught us that schools need more resources, especially when it comes to engaging at‐risk students. The number of dropouts continues to be too high in MCCSC, and that will continue until we address the sobering fact that thirty percent of MCCSC students are not reading at grade level. Therefore, literacy and dropout prevention need to be a primary focus.

On November 2, voters stepped up and supported the referendum. Due to time constraints, class scheduling for the fall, etc. the board had to act swiftly after the election. They formed a committee of respected school and community leaders to make thoughtful, rational recommendations, supported by data, on how to spend referendum dollars.

The committee, which included experienced MCCSC staff with an inside understanding of the needs faced by our students, proposed a comprehensive system of literacy interventions and implementation of an effective alternative school model proven to reduce the dropout rate. Their recommendations will improve educational outcomes among the students who need it the most, and they need to be implemented now. Our students don’t have the luxury of waiting for the next superintendent, and every day matters.

As a volunteer member of the referendum steering committee, never did I hear promises to restore the school system to its identical state before the cuts occurred. When The Chamber publicly voiced support for the referendum, we advocated that referendum dollars be used to decrease classroom sizes, increase the graduation rate, and to fund reforms where needed. We must continue to look for improvements in order to best use the additional resources generously bestowed by the taxpayers.

Voters approved the referendum to support our children and MCCSC. They entrusted the board and staff to then make the tough decisions about what is best for our kids. We now have additional resources to keep our community competitive, and there is no need to accept the status quo. That is why The Chamber urges the MCCSC school board to act now to seize the opportunities presented and not be content to continue with business as usual.

Finally, we recognize that these are extraordinary times for MCCSC. Our school system continues to face major challenges, but also amazing opportunities. We look to the school board to set the vision for the desired outcomes for our schools, and thank them for their countless hours of service addressing these important issues.

Christy Gillenwater
President & C.E.O.
The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce

Chamber Calls to Amend Proposed Monroe County Comprehensive Plan

The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce issued a statement yesterday calling for significant amendments to the proposed draft of the Monroe County Comprehensive Plan, the 20-year visioning document that provides guidelines for the County’s land use policies.

This is a central planning document with specific implications for the business community and our community’s ability to grow and retain jobs. We have raised concerns with the Plan Commission that this plan is prohibitive to expanding economic vitality in our community over the 20-year planning period. Additionally, little has been done to address the concerns brought forth by community representatives and landowners in the most current proposed draft.

The Plan Commission is expected to take a final vote on the current draft Continue reading

The Chamber’s Position on the 2010 MCCSC Referendum

The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce supports the MCCSC referendum.  After surveying our members and vetting this important issue through our volunteer committee and board structure, The Chamber felt compelled to support the referendum. We must invest in the education of this and future generations of Monroe County students. Our schools need stable, reliable funds that will be used to decrease classroom size by restoring classroom programs and teaching positions.

Recent budget cuts have caused the elimination of more than 60 teaching positions; increased class sizes at all grade levels; reduced programs for the most at‐risk students; and cut district stipends for all extracurricular activities.

The Chamber has been, and will continue to be, active in discussions regarding the referendum. Following the November 2nd vote, we intend to communicate support for monies being spent to decrease classroom size, increase the graduation rate, and funding for reform measures where appropriate. We believe that the referendum money is critical to the future of our students, our workforce and our economic vitality. Bloomington must remain competitive by investing in our schools.

For more information on the referendum, including a tax calculator, visit:

Public Hearing for Section 4 of I-69 This Week

I-69 is likely to be a hot topic this week as several highway related meetings are scheduled to take place.

A public hearing is set for 5:00-9:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 26th at the Eastern Green Middle School gymnasium. At this hearing, INDOT will present the preferred alternative route for Section 4, the stretch of highway that connects CRANE to SR 37 in Southern Monroe County. Public comment will be accepted on the Section 4 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) during the meeting and may be submitted to INDOT through September 28th.

The Technical Advisory Committee of the Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) met this morning with I-69 related business on the agenda. INDOT is asking the local MPO to amend its Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to include preliminary engineering, right of way, and construction phases for I-69 due to the 1 ¾ miles of Section 4 highway that falls within the MPO’s planning jurisdiction. The Technical Advisory Committee, tasked with reviewing the requested amendment and making recommendation to the Policy Committee of the MPO, voted unanimously in favor of the amendment. The Citizen’s Advisory Committee meets this evening at 6:30 to discuss and vote on the amendment. The Policy Committee will make its decision on September 10th.

Why Worksite Wellness Programs are Important

The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce’s Healthy Business Bloomington recognition program was created to support the development and expansion of organizational policies conducive to healthier employee lifestyles.  Each week more businesses are showing interest and the program is growing in popularity at an incredible rate but this raises an important question – why?  Why are worksite wellness programs important and what’s in it for the employer?!

For the last half of a decade, healthcare costs and spending has been increasing at an incredible rate.  Healthcare spending doubles every 10 years!  If this trend continues one could expect many small businesses to fold due to their decreasing margin of profit associated with increased healthcare costs.  Fortunately, worksite wellness programs can step in here and prevent that from happening.  Nearly 75% of medical costs (about 1.8 trillion dollars/year) are caused by chronic diseases – like heart attacks, stroke, cancer, diabetes and arthritis.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic diseases are… “among the most common, costly and preventable of all health problems in the U.S.” Continue reading

Print: The Original Wireless Communication

The following is a guest blog from a Chamber member. In no way does it represent the views or opinions of The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce. To submit a guest blog e-mail for more information.

For many years, the paper industry has been criticized with environmental claims of deforestation, excessive energy consumption, and crowding landfills. The exact opposite couldn’t be truer. Paper from today’s world comes from renewable resources. It not only is recyclable and biodegradable, but paper is even responsible.

Misleading claims of deforestation has generated a negative image for paper and aided the digital age into an up-roaring. Paper is composed of cellulose fibers, generally coming from trees, but that should not automatically mean they are destroying the forests of our world. It is in the paper manufacturers’ best interest to ensure sustainability for the longevity of their business. In fact, did you know according to the USDA Forest Service four million trees are planted daily in the United States? Of that, 1.7 million trees are planted by the paper and wood products industry. Once trees are harvested, the sustainable forestry practices ensure several more trees are planted, or regenerated naturally in their place. Continue reading

Bloomington Chamber Calls on City to Rescind Arizona Boycott

The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce issued a statement today, urging the Mayor, City Clerk, and members of the City Council to rescind the City of Bloomington’s boycott of Arizona businesses.

“To date, The Chamber has been contacted by more than 40 individuals, most of whom have expressed their intent to discontinue support for business and tourism in the Bloomington area,” said Christy Gillenwater, Chamber president and CEO. “Moreover, several of our members are receiving similar calls that customers will boycott their business until the city removes its boycott on Arizona. The action taken by city officials has become damaging to local businesses.”

The City’s boycott stems from controversial legislation passed by the Arizona state legislature regarding immigration. “To be clear, The Chamber has no position on Arizona’s legislation nor do we intend to engage in discussion regarding the Arizona immigration bill,” explained Gillenwater. “Our concern is about our local elected officials calling for an economic boycott of another state and the price being paid here at home in Bloomington.”

Gillenwater stated, “The Chamber is committed to serve and protect businesses in our community. We believe that action was necessary to advocate for our members and to hold our local officials accountable for acting in the best interest of the local community.”


The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce urges City officials to recognize that the actions they engage in have the ability to impact residents, businesses, nonprofits, community Continue reading

Bypass Expansion Bids Opened, While I-69 Ahead of Schedule

Over the last couple of weeks, the state has made significant announcements regarding road work that will be taking place in the area over the next few years. On May 19th , INDOT opened the bids for the long awaited State Road 45/46 Bypass expansion, and on the same day, Governor Daniels announced an accelerated schedule for I-69 that will bring the highway into Monroe County by 2012, several years ahead of schedule.

For more than 20 years, the state and the community have discussed widening the often congested and avoided bypass. The Chamber has also made the project a priority, particularly to enhance 21 st century job creation as Indiana University works to build its technology park at 10 th and the Bypass. Through this important initiative, our community can strengthen its position as a leader in technology and bio and life sciences, harnessing IU-led research to bring innovative products to the market through public and private sector partnerships. In addition, the expansion will clear the way to more efficiently bring consumers to the growing College Mall area as well as businesses along and near the Bypass from SR 37 on east. This project is a great ‘win’ for the community, particularly during a time when many states are forgoing road improvements and the construction industry is ailing from the economic downturn. Chamber member Milestone Contractors was awarded the nearly $22 million dollar contract. Continue reading

Monroe County Comprehensive Plan Returns

This Thursday, May 13th, the Monroe County Plan Commission will listen to public comment regarding the recently updated Comprehensive Plan draft from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Monroe County Courthouse.

For the better part of this year, the Plan Commission has been reviewing and discussing public comments made on the initial draft as well as offering their own edits and ideas for how to address subjects such as the subdivision of rural property – one of the more contentious issues of the plan.

A new 182-page version of the document (not a red-lined version of the first draft) was made available to the public in late April, and a public open house was held May 5th to view and informally discuss the final draft. Continue reading

What’s Going On With Water?

Last night, the City Council heard the first reading of the proposed water ordinances that would expand the City of Bloomington Utilities water treatment capacity, and install much needed water infrastructure, such as the redundant water line from the treatment plant to the City. As many of you know, this has been an ongoing discussion for several years, and recently two ordinances were brought forward to seek water rate increase approval from the Indiana Utilities Regulatory Commission (IURC), and to obtain bonding authority to fund the $42 million dollar project. Continue reading