August 16, 2022

New research suggests economic impact of Indy Fresh Market over $11M

A sign on the fence surrounding the construction site in July 2021 promotes the Cook and Goodwill manufacturing facility and the Indy Fresh Market.  - Doug Jaggers/WFYI

A sign on the fence surrounding the construction site in July 2021 promotes the Cook and Goodwill manufacturing facility and the Indy Fresh Market.

Doug Jaggers/WFYI

Indiana University researchers project a new Indianapolis grocery store will bring over $11 million to Marion County’s economy. That’s according to a report from the university’s Public Policy Institute. Researchers estimate an additional $4.6 million in wages and benefits will accrue annually.

The grocery store, Indy Fresh Market, is set to open early next year. It will be the only full grocery store in the northeast Arlington Woods neighborhood.

Tom Guevara is the executive director for Indiana University’s Public Policy Institute. He was a lead author on the report. He says that because the market will be owned and operated by community members, most of the economic benefits will be local.

“When one thinks about the neighborhood and the fact that there's a conscious effort to provide economic opportunity, as well as other quality-of-life improvements through the benefits of the grocery store, I think it's a very significant impact for the community,” Guevara said.

Indy Fresh Market is part of a neighborhood revitalization effort called the 38th and Sheridan project. The project is the result of a unique collaboration between the community, Cook Medical, Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana, the United Northeast Community Corporation, IMPACT Central Indiana, and Martin University.

It will sit next to the Cook/Goodwill manufacturing facility. Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana built the facility to manufacture medical devices, including drainage catheters and needles, for Bloomington-based Cook Medical. And residents collaborated with Goodwill and Cook to ensure the business plan includes significant community investment. The almost-50,000-square-foot facility opened in May. Cook Medical hired more than 40 business and social service partners to provide community support.

READ MORE: Closely watched corporate-community development plan launched in Indianapolis

Researchers with the Public Policy Institute spent months interviewing community members to gauge what the needs are and whether they are satisfied with the project. Interviewees said they are concerned about the current lack of food access. They also hope Indy Fresh Market will become a pillar in the neighborhood that is reflective of the area’s demographics, according to the study.

“By being engaged with the neighborhood, Cook was able to discern that having access to good quality food is an important factor in workers and potential workers being able to focus on their jobs and focus on bettering their communities,” Guevara said.

Northeastside native Michael McFarland will own and operate the site along with his friend Marckus Williams. The two have been working to address the neighborhood's food insecurity for years.

Two years ago, McFarland and Williams started Wall Street Grocery, a small convenience store on 38th Street. And when Cook Medical and Goodwill chose the neighborhood, they connected with McFarland and Williams.

READ MORE: Indianapolis entrepreneurs prepare to operate new grocery store funded by Cook Medical

In the last several years, large grocery stores have shut their doors and left the neighborhood. McFarland says what was missing was a connection to the community.

“They don't ask the community for inputs, most of the time they come in against the community's will,” he said. “So I think with us having been from the community, having family from the community, it gives us a little bit more enthusiasm to give it our all and make sure that we provide.”
The market is set to open in the spring of 2023. Cook will transfer operations and ownership to McFarland and Williams through a rent-to-own model.

Research on the 38th and Sheridan project can be found at the Public Policy Institute’s website.

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