Portia Bailey-Bernard IU O’Neill Alumni Spotlight

Name: Portia Bailey-Bernard

Organization: Indy Chamber

Position: Senior Vice President, Indianapolis Economic Development

Location: Indianapolis, Indiana

Alma Mater: BSPA ’13, JD ‘17

Interview Questions:

1. Can you tell our students a little bit about yourself and the work that you do?

The Indianapolis Economic Development team, Develop Indy, consists of seven people who work to attract and retain businesses in the Indianapolis area. Develop Indy serves as the front door to economic development for site searches, projects seeking incentives, as well as managing business attraction, retention, and expansion efforts throughout Marion County. We evaluate businesses’ ability to create new jobs and offer incentives to start or relocate to our city. The team works with the permitting process and runs market analyses to find potential development and redevelopment opportunities. As an attorney by trade, I have always been interested in economic development and the financial side of law.

2. What did your professional journey look like from college to your position today?

After graduating from Indiana University’s O’Neill School in 2013, I took a year off between undergrad and law school to work as a project manager for the City of Fishers, Indiana. I interned for Mayor Scott Fadness as a part of the Law and Government Academy in my high school and kept that connection, which allowed me to enter into the field of economic development. After that, I went to IU’s McKinney Law School, finishing in the top 5 percent of my class. I did two summer internships with Barnes & Thornburg LLP and was taken on as an associate after graduation. Since then, I have followed my passion for place-making in the city where I live and work for the City of Indianapolis in economic development.

3. What drives you to be successful in your job every day?

I grew up in Indy, where my family still lives, and I am starting a family now. I have skin in the game and want Indianapolis to be an amazing city for my daughter to grow up in. I am fortunate to work daily on projects that shape the future of our city, like the Elanco Headquarters, the cultural trail expansion, and a reimagined Circle Centre Mall. Having a seat at the table enables our team to create an inclusive Indianapolis for generations.

4. Our school’s motto is “Lead for the Greater Good,” what does this mean to you and how do you use it in your profession every day?

The work that I am doing is not about me or the money. Every day I work for Marion County residents and the economic viability and stability of the city. This has a significant impact on people’s lives. Over the last few years, the Indy Chamber’s economic development teams and the City of Indianapolis have made impactful investments that continue accelerating Indy’s growth. These efforts have led to a vibrant, walkable downtown, an expanding rapid transit system, urban innovation districts, and a strong tourism economy.

5. What should our students be reading or influencers they should be paying attention to?

If you are interested in economic development, you should be looking at market outlooks as well as trends in the labor market. Remote work is a large focus right now, and thinking of its implications is important. There has been a push to convert office spaces into residential housing, so remote work is not only impacting where people are working but how they are living as well.

6. What advice do you have for someone who wants to follow your career path?

My best advice is to network. Stay in contact with colleagues and peers, reach out, and always have a coffee with someone in your network once a week. Every job I’ve had has been from someone in my network helping me get to where I want to go. People are happy to help get good professionals in the right roles.

7. If someone is looking to work for the Indy Chamber, how should they go about finding an opportunity?

The Indy Chamber hires two interns a year, usually an Orr Fellow and a high school student through EmployIndy’s Modern Apprenticeship Program (MAP). These positions are posted through the Indy Chamber website or EmployIndy’s website. An ideal candidate is someone who is eager to learn, proactive, a go-getter, and passionate about Central Indiana.

By Brianna Wright
Brianna Wright Peer Educator