By Collegiate Student Guest Blogger:  JJ Huber

This being my first blog for the Indy AMA, I read a few of the other blogs already posted on the website. One of the ideas that kept appearing was “brand.” What is your brand? What is the brand of your product? An interesting question that many of us may never really think about, especially younger college students such as myself, is what is Indianapolis’ brand? There must be something catchy about our city. After all, we just finished hosting the Super Bowl! Granted, a new Stadium and large sums of money go into becoming the host city but there must be something else about a city that makes it stand out.

Last month I had the pleasure of hearing Brian Payne speak at an Indy AMA event held at the Ritz Charles. Payne, a native Californian, came to Indianapolis near 20 years ago. He immediately saw that Indy had something going for it, but the city needed something else to distinguish itself from other metropolitan areas such as Cincinnati, Chicago, and Louisville. Payne proposed the idea of setting the city up into different cultural districts. These are Broad Ripple Village, Indiana Avenue, Mass Ave, Fountain Square, the Wholesale District, and The Canal. No other city really had something like this. Everyone he spoke to said it was a nice idea but just couldn’t be done. Thankfully, Payne didn’t listen.

The next question was how can these cultural districts be connected? Payne drew inspiration from the Monon Trail. Bike trails were developed and mapped out connecting all of the cultural districts. These routes gave the biker a great experience and view of the city of Indianapolis. In 1993, Payne proposed his idea to both the Indianapolis Endowment Board and Eli Lilly. They agreed to donate $5 million over five years. The project continued for 11 years.  Streets were cleaned up, flowers were planted, bike trails were made. Now thousands of Indianapolis residents and guests see Indianapolis for what it really is. Not a city of a few tall buildings around a circle, but a city made up of many different peoples and ideas.  

What can we take from this as business professionals and students? The obvious point is just because the world tells you your idea can’t work, that doesn’t mean it won’t. Payne brought out a deeper and more profound idea though. Something can be “too innovative.” The world may not yet be ready for a great idea that is a little too advanced. Instead, Payne advises that “just a tweak on something that is already proven” can be as good as a completely new idea.   

I try to apply Payne’s intention for the Indy’s cultural districts and cultural trail to my own life as a college student and hopefully a future business professional. “The journey along the trail is supposed to be as a beautiful as any of the destinations.”

I am JJ Huber and I am Indy AMA!


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