ANDERSON, Ind. — A new manager of a restaurant near Scatterfield Road was driving along Interstate 69 from the Indianapolis area to get to his new position.
He turned off the interstate too soon — at Exit 222 near the Flagship Enterprise Center. Realizing his mistake, he maneuvered back to I-69 but ended up in a designated lane that took him back south — away from Scatterfield.
"When I did get off Exit 226, I thought it was very depressing," he told a gathering of about 65 local business and economic development leaders.
They were attending the regular "Wake Up Madison County" breakfast sponsored by the Madison County Chamber. On Thursday, the group focused on ways to address the manager's and some others' perceptions of entering the city.
Amid anecdotal stories, they focused on five gateways: I-69 Exit 226 (Scatterfield Road); I-69 Exit 222 (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard); Indiana 234 from Chesterfield on the east side of Anderson; Indiana 9 on the north, and Indiana 32 from Edgewood on the west.
In an informal poll of the group, about 63 percent thought the Scatterfield exit was the front door to the community; about 33 percent thought it was Exit 222. Most thought that Exit 222, however, provided the most potential for economic development.
For example, Exit 210, which is Noblesville's entry from I-69, offers a "pretty strong statement," said Greg Winkler economic development director for the city.
Gateway priorities for Mayor Kevin Smith's administration include both adjoining interstate exits, Winkler said. Exit 222 plays an important role when bringing in potential businesses, he said. Additionally, the city is faced with the challenge of getting consumers and business owners downtown.
One goal for the administration is improving the route along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Other top gateway priorities are at Scatterfield and at Ind. 32 near Edgewood, he said. All, however, are state highways and improvements need the OK of the Indiana Department of Transportation.
A representative from INDOT's Greenfield facility noted that the state agency allows for development of interstates to include public art such as three exits between downtown Indianapolis and Indianapolis International Airport.
A design could be as simple as lighting that changes as drivers work their way from the interstate to other sites, Jesse Wilkerson, local architect, said. "What if we changed our whole gateway system so we have multiple gateways," he asked.
In the informal survey, about 73 percent thought gateways were "front doors" to a community. A handful thought the state should address the issue since the five entryways are all on state-maintained routes.
"Everyone here seems to recognize there's got to be a partnership between the city, the business, the chamber and the community at large," said state Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson. "The fact is INDOT's busy, so to a degree we have to, as to that partnership, we have to show that leadership. We have to be the squeaky wheels to be sure we're getting the attention when it comes time to do something about our gateways."
Chuck Staley, CEO of the Flagship Enterprise Center, urged all the breakfast participants to take pride in Anderson. "Our most important market is ourselves. ... When we have a positive image of ourselves, I think it will be reflected throughout the community."
In the anonymous polling, participants were asked if they would financially support an initiative to improve gateways. Of those responding, 39 percent said "absolutely yes." Eighteen percent said they probably would support improvements; 12 percent said they probably would not; 2 percent said they absolutely would not, and 29 percent weren't sure.