Elanco is ready to bring conferences to Greenfield, but are we ready to host them?
Elanco annually spends a half million dollars in Indianapolis on its international leadership conferences alone. But in a recent presentation to the Greenfield Coalition, Elanco representatives sought input from the coalition on how Greenfield could meet Elanco’s conference needs.
Elanco is doing a test-run of Greenfield this summer with a small-scale conference in the hope they can eventually move all of their training conferences here. Let’s make them feel welcome.
Elanco’s requirements are numerous. Besides hotel rooms, which they estimate to be approximately 2,000 rooms annually, their guests need easy access to amenities.
These amenities include fitness options at local gyms; biking and walking trails; golf courses; a variety of local eateries that stay open for dinner; meeting space for large and small groups. They also require options for social mixers including bowling, cultural outings, and more.
The great news is that Greenfield can currently accommodate most of these needs.
In addition to the hotel conference spaces off I-70 on State Road 9, there are nontraditional gathering areas downtown such as the H.J. Ricks Center for the Arts, the Creative Arts and Event Center, City Hall Council Chambers, the Courthouse Annex Commission Chambers and the Memorial Building.
Also available for meetings are the Hancock County Public Library, the Purdue Extension, the Parks and Recreation properties, NineStar Connect and private banquet halls.
In addition to arrangements with local gyms, Beckenholdt Park, near the hotel district, and the Pennsy Trail, with downtown access, provide two unique walking opportunities that include watersheds and cultural amenities amid safe walking environments.
For entertainment, Greenfield has a bowling alley, cinema, local theater productions, art galleries, summertime music in the park and a variety of restaurants. North Street is becoming a destination place as restaurants continue to develop in this area.
The Shoppes at Center Street are a unique arrangement of colorful buildings that encourage meandering in its central courtyard and which offer a family-friendly restaurant and also a bar that features music in the summer.
Could it be there is an opportunity for a successful downtown hotel/conference center in light of all the activity swirling in its reach? The Greenfield Downtown Revitalization Plan is planning for one.
If any developer considers this an option, they will no doubt want to see restaurants that cater to a dinner crowd and more bars, cafes and music venues.
Are we ready for this?
Will the Hancock County Commissioners and Planning Commission take this into consideration as they plan for fairgrounds expansion? Have they considered the option of building a conference center downtown or at least within walking distance of both the proposed fairgrounds and downtown?
So what do Elanco conferences need that Greenfield doesn’t currently provide?
Hotels are conveniently located off the interstate, but conferees need easy access from one side of State Road 9 to the other to reach Elanco. A pedestrian bridge was discussed at the coalition meeting.
Additionally, the hotel district is too far from Greenfield’s downtown district where most of the cultural attractions are offered. Transportation becomes an issue, as taxi service is slow and scarce for large crowds.
Could UBER or similar services fill this gap? Could school buses serve double duty by providing shuttle service during conferences? Are the hoteliers willing to invest in a shuttle service? Will the city and county support these efforts?
Will the private sector help fund the State Street Corridor Overlay District at I-70 to beautify the entrance to our fair city? Could these plans be expanded to connect hotels to downtown with a bike trail? Public buy-in has a proven track record for turning community development plans like this into reality.
Are we ready to do this?
HelloHancock.com, a community events calendar run by the Hancock County Visitor’s Bureau, ideally would allow organizations to post events for the year, making it an invaluable tool for conference planners.
According to one tourism board member, it isn’t currently working properly. It would also be helpful if one could link to it and to the visitor’s bureau from the Hancock County homepage. I could only find access to the visitor’s bureau by doing a Google search and by visiting the City of Greenfield website.
If you have suggestions of your own, please contact Joanie Fitzwater, Greenfield’s planning director and face of the Greenfield Coalition, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s do this. I think we’re ready!
Donna Steele, an Alabama native, moved to Hancock County in 2011. She is a member of the Greenfield Coalition.