The Media School

Bloomington economy slowly recovering from COVID-19

April 21st, 2021 by
Photograph courtesy of Tony Armstrong

Tony Armstrong, president and CEO of IU Ventures, knows the day will come when Bloomington returns to making positive economic progress, especially when athletic events return to their normal rigor. The Bloomington economy will reap the benefits as the number of vaccinated residents increases.

Wes Allen, a bartender at Social Cantina and senior at IU, is feeling optimistic about the Bloomington economy picking up as the end of the pandemic draws nearer. Establishments like Social Cantina have yet to see the amount of business they were getting prior to the pandemic but as the weather gets nicer and students start to get vaccines, all of that is slowly changing.

“The last three weeks have been really great for business at Social,” he said. “Since they made the announcement that everyone 16 plus could get the vaccine, we’ve been pretty much packed to the capacity we can legally hold every night.”

As it’s been over a year removed since the start of the pandemic, those like Allen, see it creeping back to its former glory.

The Bloomington economy was affected by COVID in a variety of fashions and will bounce back at its own pace and in different manners.

Tony Armstrong is president and CEO of IU Ventures. An affiliate of Indiana University that aids students, faculty, staff and alums with pursuing new venture endeavors. He said the economy is slowly picking up in Bloomington, especially as the number of residents and students that are fully vaccinated continues to increase.

Armstrong has been president of IU ventures since 2009 and has noted that as a primarily college town, it’s the students and those involved with IU that dictate how the Bloomington economy fares. Armstrong said how the events that draw big crowds, like football and basketball games will be monumental in turning the economy around. Those events will aid hospitality industries in terms of people staying in hotels and spending money in restaurants and shops.

Photograph courtesy of Joe Carley

Joe Carley, director for economic development within the IU Office of the Vice President, is proud of the programs the Bloomington government has in place to help business continue to run. These financial programs have aided Bloomington’s industries and businesses in surviving during COVID-19.

Joe Carley, director for economic development within the IU Office of the Vice President, works with faculty to develop technology and software that will produce companies that will impact Bloomington’s economy positively.

Carley said Bloomington is a great community, but a lot of industries have struggled since the start of the pandemic. What differs Bloomington from other areas is that they have programs in place to help certain areas survive.

“The programs in place in Bloomington aren’t in place in other cities,” he said. “We’ve had a 1% for the arts government tax program and the Bloomington Entertainment Arts District has really benefited from that. We have some more financial mechanisms in our local government than some other communities would have.”

These financial mechanisms that the Bloomington government and community have in place mean there will be a quicker rebound for the town, something that affects all industries.

“We’ve probably ridden it out a little better than communities that don’t have the advocacy and cultural infrastructure to support those kinds of entities,” he said.

“Hospitality and restaurants, and that part of the economy really got hit hard,” he said. “Hopefully as we start coming out of this and people start getting vaccinated, we’ll start to get back to normal. All that activity that comes to Bloomington, all the basketball games and tailgates. Getting those going again will have a huge impact.” – Tony Armstrong, president and CEO of IU Ventures

Allen said that he’s a little concerned about students sticking around over the summer break. He has been a bartender for over two years at Social Cantina and that majority of its clientele are students but is positive about where things will stand down the road.

“Generally, our summer months are where we see the least amount of action obviously,” he said. “There’s a chance that this summer there will be more students around and out spending money to make up for lost time during the pandemic when everyone was home but it’s a waiting game. I just hope that we’re somehow able to maintain any momentum that we do have right now.”