Greenwood voters focus on jobs, economy


When most people think of Greenwood, they think of the Greenwood Park Mall. But residents say the city is more than just the mall.

"It is a family-oriented community. It's a great place to raise your kids," said Karen Beck.

Southsiders say there is one issue for the upcoming election that can improve families' lives here.

"Number one is jobs and the economy. Trying to spend the money that we do have wisely," Beck said.

New businesses are popping up, from medical offices on the north side of Greenwood to small businesses in Old Town Greenwood. That's an area the city has struggled with as far as future plans.

Paul Jacquin opened up the wine shop "Vino Villa" last year and hopes government doesn't stand in the way of other entrepreneurs.

"As much as anything, I think it's a matter of not hindering the process of opening a small business and, you know, allowing 20 people to come here and earn a little bit of a living," he said.

East of Interstate 65, Greenwood has aggressively sought industry. Manufacturers and warehouses that provide jobs and money through TIF districts for roads and quality of life improvements.

To spur more commercial business and deal with Greenwood's growth, the city will get a new interchange on I-65. Half of the project is paid for with TIF district money and residents say it is needed.

"It's hard in the afternoons, because the backup is so much, just to get off the exit," Beck said.

Low taxes are important to Greenwood residents. The city hopes to avoid a hike by using TIF money to build a new pool. It already boasts parks and an increased number of trails.

"It's improved a lot, because we've got great trails now and everybody's excited about that," said Teresa Treeter.

But some say Greenwood needs more - more jobs and more amenities.

"It's just a big spread between the south side and the north side," said Jerry Fields, who lives on the south side of Indianapolis.

"The number one thing is the economy and jobs. When that gets going, then other things can come. But until then, we need to concentrate on that," Beck said.

A healthy economy, they say, to ensure the "City of Pride and Progress" lives up to its name.

Eyewitness News is hosting a community conversation Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Greenwood Community Center.

Times have changed

Just few generations ago, people in Greenwood raised food, mostly for those in Indianapolis. Today, people who work in Indianapolis come to raise their families in Greenwood.

"Our kids go to Clark-Pleasant System and we've really enjoyed that. It's a good school system," said Jerard Lehner.

Greenwood was a much quieter town until the 1960s, when Interstate 65 made travel from Indianapolis quick and easy. Housing additions grew where they used to grow crops and hay for livestock. Greenwood's population has risen more than 700 percent in the last 50 years and more are looking for property there.

"I would say we sleep in Mooresville and we live in Greenwood, so we're looking to see if we can limit our travel costs," said Cathy Gundt.

Geographically, Greenwood meets Indianapolis at County Line Road. But politically, there is a much greater divide. Democrats hold most of the offices north of the line, but on the Greenwood side, Republicans dominate.

For some, it's just tradition.

"I grew up Republican," said Dottie Hadley.

For others, it's a belief that the business of America should be business.

"Obama's never been in business and Mitt Romney has and he's been successful, so I think he would be good at being president," said Tom Lewellyn.

Throughout the 90s, Greenwood's unemployment rate was low, hovering between one and two percent. It spiked in 2008 and has been trending lower since President Obama took office. Right now, it's just over seven percent, lower than the state and national average, but high for Greenwood.

But business is good for Greenwood's newest pizza shop, Jockamo, which opened downtown two years ago.

"We came to Greenwood because there is a huge population down here and nothing like us down here," said owner Mick McGrath.

But the news for other business hasn't been positive. Greenwood has one of the largest shopping malls in Indiana, but outdoor store Cabela's bailed on its plan to build a massive new store four years ago when the economy turned south.

At a local barber shop, customer Merrill Bartle says Romney is the one to lead the economy.

"He's a businessman and knows what it takes to be successful in business and the government needs to be run like a business," Bartle said.

But the wisdom of the barber is more bi-partisan and less optimistic.

"It's gotcha politics now, man and it turns you off. Kinda makes you believe that the system ain't gonna work, but it should work," said barber Vinnie Berberino.

Conversation with Paul Jacquin

Eyewitness News Reporter Jennie Runevitch had a conversation with Vino Villa owner Paul Jacquin, who thinks Greenwood can offer a lot to other small businesses.

Jennie: "You chose to put your business in Greenwood. Why did you choose the location? How long have you been here?"
Paul: "We opened our doors for business just under a year ago."

Jennie: "Why Greenwood?"
Paul: "'Cause we live here. My wife is a longtime southsider, been here all her life. We've been here together for over 25 years. Just love the south side."

Jennie: "There's been a lot of talk about what should be done with Old Town Greenwood. What do you hope to see?"
Paul: "Well, it's gotta start somewhere and there are a lot of cool little businesses along here that are starting to spring up and I think some of it's about gaining momentum. You've got a whole stretch along Madison here and around Main Street that, again, there's some cool old facilities, that somebody's willing to put the time, money and attention into, you know, there's a lot of opportunity."

Jennie: "What's the state of the economy right now in Greenwood, in your estimation?"
Paul: "There are certainly some positive signs. I think our little business is one of those positive signs. One of the challenges that we face, I think, as a business, is not so much what the government or the local government is going to do for us, but things they're not going to do to us.

"Whether it's, you know, the local mayor's office, the gubernatorial office or the presidential, it's, you know, using the tax dollars and the fees and things that we're paying as citizens, as businesses, using those wisely and efficiently. If you look 10 years down the road, I'd love to see every one of these little buildings down this stretch of Madison and around the Main Street corridor, you know, an opportunity for folks to, again, we talked about destinations."

Jennie: "So you see potential?"
Paul: "Oh, absolutely. I wouldn't be here if I didn't."