Society’s on the move

By: Martha Stone

Society’s on the move
SPJ’s new Indianapolis HQ to provide room for growth

The Society of Professional Journalists (spj) will move its headquarters from Greencastle, Ind., to Indianapolis by July 2000, citing a need to be located in a larger city with access to a greater labor pool and in a larger facility where it can expand its staff of 15.
spj and its foundation, Sigma Delta Chi (sdx), will pay up to $1 million to purchase, build out, wire, and furnish their new digs in Indianapolis, according to spj and sdx executive director Jim Gray. One feature needed beyond its present 5,000-square-foot building near the DePauw University campus in Greencastle is extra space to expand its staff and to hold seminars and meetings of its constituency.
The building purchase will mark the first time in its 90-year history that spj has owned its headquarters.
“It will be a place we can truly call home and have more control over our destiny and not be subject to whims of landlords,” Gray says. “The move to Indianapolis presents an opportunity to spj as a business [to build] a more diverse labor pool to recruit from. The city has become an important hub for trade and not-for-profit centers, and a center for philanthropy.”
The vote of the spj board at a special meeting in August concluded a more
than yearlong facilities-search process, spurred along by the terms of the current spj/sdx lease, which expires July 2000.
By spring 1999, the board narrowed down future-site proposals to Indiana University/Purdue University of Indianapolis (iupui) and Depauw in Greencastle. In the end, both proposals were rejected because they didn’t meet the space requirements of the board.
But portions of the iupui proposal remained very attractive to the board, including iupui’s offer to extend an “agency agreement” so that office purchase discounts, university health insurance, and other benefits would be available to spj and sdx.
“I’m delighted that they are going to be in town. I think it’s a good decision,” says Jim Brown, associate dean of the Indiana University school of journalism. “It’s my understanding they still want to do the agency agreement. We will be eager to help them out.”
Although Gray was unwilling to name the building the group is interested in, other sources say the free-standing building is 15 minutes from the iupui campus in downtown Indianapolis, along one of the main streets. iupui is about six blocks from downtown Indianapolis.
For some, the move to Indianapolis is bittersweet. spj and sdx are steeped in 90 years of history, with the former born at DePauw and with 65 of its years spent in Chicago. Nine years ago, the spj board hurriedly decided to move to Greencastle to get the organization back on its fiscal feet. Now that the spj and sdx budgets are sound, they are prepared to pay cash for a building in Indianapolis.
“We have mixed emotions about leaving Greencastle. No matter what we’ve decided, Greencastle and DePauw will always have a special place for spj and sdx because we are an organization that respects and honors its tradition,” Gray says.
Indiana law makes it attractive for not-for-profit organizations to be headquartered there, by not requiring payment of sales or property tax. The ncaa moved its headquarters to Indianapolis to avoid the taxes on not-for-profits.
Howard Dubin, sdx treasurer and chairman of the facilities search committee, says the past three executive directors found it difficult to do business in the small town because it is hard to recruit staff or even have a computer fixed or get a fast Web connection.
“My heart is still in Greencastle; my head is in Indianapolis,” Dubin says. “Indianapolis is a very desirable place to go for associations.
“iupui is really in the forefront of technology as it affects journalism,” Dubin says. “We feel that is where the journalism of tomorrow is coming out of.”
While many on the board hope Indianapolis will be the final stop as they build equity in their new purchase, there is some discussion among board members to use the Indianapolis move as a stepping stone to move to a larger “media hub,” such as Washington.
spj president-elect Kyle Niederpreum says board members have discussed a possible move to Washington in the distant future. The roadblock to moving to a larger market is the high cost of doing business.
“It’s change, it’s evolution and growth from Chicago to Greencastle to Indianapolis,” Niederpreum says. “A future move [to Washington] isn’t out of the realm of possibilities ? We’ll take small steps, not big steps.”
(Editor & Publisher [Caption]
(copyright: Editor & Publisher September 4, 1999) [Caption]

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