Mayor Andy Cook Is Focusing On New Developments & Bringing More Jobs to Westfield
Photographer / Amy Payne
For Westfield Mayor Andy Cook, it’s all about creating a place where families can thrive. Once considered as a minor residential area outside of nearby Indianapolis, Westfield has developed into a desirable place to live and work with an identity all its own. The city’s recent remarkable growth has been the result of careful planning under the stewardship of Cook.
Cook and his wife, Barbara, have lived and worked in Hamilton County for more than 20 years. Except for a brief stint working for the State of Indiana, the majority of his career has been focused in the private sector. While living in Carmel, Cook became a co-owner with his son Ben, who had started a trucking and logistics company, Tradewinds, which is still run by Ben and Andy’s other son, Brian. After moving to Westfield, he became interested in local government. He served as Town Council President in 2007 and became mayor when Westfield transitioned to a city in 2008.
“When we lived in Carmel, I watched how Mayor James Brainard encouraged placemaking and entrepreneurism,” Cook says. “After moving to Westfield, I started to attend the Town Council meetings. I asked a lot of financial questions. Someone said, ‘If you are that interested, get involved.’ Well, 13 years later, here I am. It is gratifying and it’s fun. I enjoy it.
“When I became Mayor, we knew growth was coming since Westfield is right on the edge of Indianapolis,” he adds. “Not many Indiana cities are growing, so the charge was to manage the gift of growth well. We developed two good plans that have laid the groundwork. The physical plan addresses what goes where in terms of residential, businesses, industrial, parks, trails and roads. It’s been amended a dozen times since 2008 and it continues to drive our growth today. The financial plan outlines five years of sustainability at a time and is updated every year.”
In 2008, Westfield was primarily a small residential community where people lived but would leave the area for work or entertainment. A major goal of the financial plan was to expand the tax base by developing an industry that would bring people and related businesses to the city. The decision was made to concentrate and build on something somewhat surprising — sports tourism.
After much research and careful planning, Grand Park Sports Campus opened in June of 2014. The 400-acre complex has more than 30 multi-purpose fields plus 26 baseball and softball diamonds. During three weeks each July and August, it is home to the annual Indianapolis Colts Football Training Camp. Statistics show that 2.5 million people visit the park each year which has fueled a $1.2 billion dollar private sector investment in new hotels, restaurants and other entertainment options.
“Grand Park is fun, family-oriented and the largest sports park in the United States,” Cook says. “It has become a mecca for youth club sports travel, which is a $15 billion business nationwide. Studies show that the industry is recession-proof since parents will continue to spend money on their kids. I often get criticized for Grand Park, but it has fulfilled its purpose to create a tax base.”
Once Grand Park was up and running, another piece of the financial plan was put into place. Wanting to diversify from sports commerce, the city set its sights on advanced manufacturing. Northpoint, a 300-acre business and technology park has been open for a year and is still being developed. Its first tenant is Bastian Solutions, a subsidiary of Toyota Industries Corporation, and more companies are slated to locate there.
“Gordon Food Service is making a $150M investment by building its first distribution facility in Indiana at Northpoint,” Cook adds. “This means 350 jobs will need to be filled when it opens. We are talking to other companies that are very interested in locating there as well. Employable people are attracted to Westfield and, in turn, that attracts businesses.”
Another exciting facet in the works for Westfield is a new downtown area. Grand Junction Plaza is a planned six-acre park and plaza that, when finished, will be located west of Union Street and south of Highway 32. It will feature an amphitheater, fountains, play area, nature areas and even an outdoor skating rink.
“It will take two to three years to complete it but won’t look like any other downtown in Hamilton County,” Cook says. “The emphasis will be a more local feel and already many restaurants are popping up in the older homes located there. We want to create a place where family members of all ages want to be.
“When Westfield became a city, we inherited some deficit spending, but we have had a balanced budget every year without a deficit,” Cook adds. “We have seen a lowered city tax rate in the last five years, have been able to add several million dollars to operational cash flow and our ‘rainy day fund.’ Even with Grand Park and debt of Grand Junction, Westfield has the lowest debt per capita in Hamilton County. We have been able to build a place where families want to be. We have great schools, low congestion, fun entertainment and employment opportunities. My goal has been to create a place where people will be proud to establish a career and raise a family.”