IndyStar: Extraordinary spring brings leaders forward in remarkable ways

June 4, 2020

CICP President and CEO David L. Johnson’s Op-Ed originally appearing in the IndyStar.

“Moving at the speed of business” is the memorable catchphrase coined by one of our region’s leading employers at the dawn of the 21st Century. Never has that phrase better described how quickly—and how well—Indiana’s corporate and philanthropic community can respond to dramatically changing circumstance.

COVID-19 seemed to come out of nowhere; it appears to be planning to stay with us for some time, perhaps until the end of 2021, maybe even beyond. At the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP), a collaborative organization bringing together the CEOs of some of the state’s most prominent corporations, universities, and philanthropic foundations, several of our business leaders were among the first to recognize the moment. They moved quickly to close the traditional workplace, and then organized work from home following the announcement of the state’s first diagnosed case in early March. Governor Holcomb and his team as well as Mayor Hogsett and the City responded with similar urgency.

Ever since, over the course of three months feeling like three years, the corporate executives of CICP, working closely with leaders of State and local government, have continued to respond, serve and innovate as they navigate the best path forward. They have worked hard and together, figuring out the best ways to help confront the pandemic, address immediate social needs, begin to reopen the workplace and, importantly, get many anxious Hoosiers safely back to work.

Those organizations that have stepped up in unprecedented ways are too numerous to mention here. We have highlighted more than 180 different responsive programs and initiatives on our CICP website that include everything from e-learning assistance for home-based students to social services to small business funding and loans to COVID testing. But here are a few examples of early actions having outsized impact.

In a time of a global health emergency, having one of the strongest life sciences sectors in the world could not be more important, and companies like Roche Diagnostics and Anthem have risen to the challenge. In particular, Eli Lilly and Company acted without hesitation in March and announced a remarkable partnership with the Indiana State Department of Health to perform and process COVID-19 testing for first responders, healthcare workers and others at high-risk in battling the pandemic. To do this, Lilly repositioned its labs and redirected expert pharmaceutical resources, bringing a superbly qualified team to serve along the frontlines and help our healthcare system avoid overload as cases mounted.  IU Health joined Lilly in this effort. These two leaders have now provided COVID-19 testing for thousands of Hoosiers.  Along the way, Lilly has also announced new clinical programs and partnerships to develop early therapeutic treatments for COVID-19. These could make a game-changing difference as we await a vaccine.

Also acting without hesitation, through a series of major awards, Lilly Endowment has granted more than $70 million in funding to Indiana organizations – including the United Way of Central Indiana, United Ways of Indiana and the Salvation Army of Indiana – to provide immediate and broad support for human services providers and social services agencies across Indiana, addressing the immediate needs of displaced Hoosiers. Lilly Endowment also awarded a $5 million grant to the State of Indiana to address a variety of needs, including support for homeless individuals and families displaced by the COVID-19 virus.

In early April, it wasn’t clear when it might be possible to return to the workplace safely—but it was clear this return, whenever it came, would not be easy.  Global employer Cummins, led by CEO Tom Linebarger, has been addressing these questions since the world’s first COVID-19 cases shut down Cummins’ major operations in Wuhan China, back in January.  Based on that experience, and drawing on a wide array of best practices from other industry players around the world, Cummins worked quickly with CICP to develop three comprehensive return-to-work playbooks that literally address each step along the way of reactivating the workplace, in various settings. These are remarkable documents, and a genuine contribution to a state determined to return to work in the best and safest ways possible.

Also by April, many businesses throughout the state were facing life-threatening cashflow shortages as activity stagnated. In response, IU Health led a joint effort, including Cook Group, Emmis Communications, Langham Logistics and OneAmerica, to accelerate or advance payments to local suppliers and vendors.  In IU Health’s case, this has resulted in expedited processing of over $5 million each week for Indiana-based businesses, including many small, diverse and minority-owned enterprises.

Through the work of CICP, our mission over the past 21 years has always been to advance Indiana’s prosperity for current and future generations. In the wake of COVID-19, we find ourselves at a moment when that prosperity is at real risk. Yet in the same way an extraordinary spring has brought public, corporate and philanthropic leaders quickly forward to deal firmly with unprecedented challenges in remarkable ways, we are confident that Indiana’s future can indeed be bright. We need to continue to run at the “speed of business” and can’t let up on that accelerator any time soon.

David L. Johnson

President and CEO

Central Indiana Corporate Partnership