Frey honored as ‘community champion’

A local community leader and regional partnership have received recognition for their work to promote entrepreneurship.

Columbus Area Chamber President Cindy Frey was named South Central Indiana’s Community Champion as part of the 2021 Elevate Awards, which were announced on Sept. 20 at the fifth annual Kinetic Conference in Indianapolis. Additionally, Velocities — which is a partnership between Bloomington, Columbus and Elevate Ventures — received the Region of the Year Award.

“I was humbled to accept the award,” said Frey. “I am very proud of the work we’ve been doing with our partners to build a stronger ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship. We are beginning to see more tangible results with new companies forming, growing, and garnering investments. Between the TIME (Targeted Investment in Minority Entrepreneurs) program, Propeller and Velocities, we are supporting entrepreneurs in very tangible ways.”

The Kinetic Conference is an annual event organized by Elevate Ventures, which describes itself as Indiana’s “venture development organization” and works in partnership with the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to invest into start-ups.

According to organizers, the conference brings together entrepreneurs, investors, educators and “ecosystem builders” to share best practices, network and support high-growth companies in Indiana. The Elevate Awards were introduced at Kinetic in 2019 to recognize individuals, businesses and organizations that have “gone above and beyond to create impact and drive change in Indiana’s entrepreneurial community.”

The Community Champion awards recognize one individual from each region that has significantly supported the area’s entrepreneurship and innovation efforts. Frey was named as the South Central Indiana champion for 2021.

“With more than 30 years of experience, Frey plays a pivotal role in driving growth and visibility within government, nonprofits and educational organizations,” said Elevate officials in a blog post. “As president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce since 2013, Frey has led the organization through several initiatives, including establishing a 9000-square-foot innovation center, receiving a $600,000 READI grant, and adding staff and other resources.”

Additionally, Velocities generated the highest count and dollar value of Elevate Ventures deals in 2021.

“Velocities is a partnership between Bloomington, Columbus, and Elevate Ventures that supports innovation, entrepreneurship, and startup growth in South Central Indiana,” said Elevate officials. “Initially launched in 2019, the partnership was set up for a period of three years, and it has recently been renewed for another three years.”

According to chamber officials, the partnership has supported endeavors such as the entrepreneur in residence position, early-stage investments in startups through the regional Community Ideation Fund, events focused on fostering entrepreneurship, connecting startups to capital, and the Columbus Propeller makerspace and innovation center.