Naperville, Aurora increasing outreach to Indian residents, businesses

Efforts by local governments to reach out to Indian-American communities are ramping up in Naperville and Aurora.

Elected officials in both cities have taken steps to recognize the Indian populations within their borders, with Naperville Mayor George Pradel creating a volunteer Indian community outreach manager position last fall and the Aurora City Council under Mayor Tom Weisner taking steps to establish the Indian American Community Outreach Advisory Board beginning in March.

The Aurora board will hold its first meeting Monday, in which the 10 members appointed so far can begin to discuss ways to increase civic engagement among Indian residents and promote the sharing of cultural traditions.

In Naperville, Krishna Bansal, who was named the city's Indian community outreach manager, said he already has begun efforts to promote civic involvement, networking and business development among Indian residents.

At an event last month, Bansal gathered 100 established Indian business owners to a meet-and-greet with Pradel and city officials, the Naperville Development Partnership and the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce.

"This event was more geared toward creating an environment where established business people from the Indian community understand what the city has to provide to them and what advantages they can get from the city," Bansal said, "and for the city to reach out to them so they can bring in more businesses in this area."

For example, Indian business owners can find out if the city has a certain type of business or development on its wish list, such as the long-standing desire for a banquet hall to seat 1,000 people, which will be filled next year when the Embassy Suites hotel is built at Freedom Plaza. Bansal said business owners also can benefit from learning that the Naperville Development Partnership can help them find a new building if their business is expanding or by simply discussing ideas with members of the city's planning staff.

The idea of possibly creating a chamber of commerce for Indian-owned businesses is beginning to generate some discussion in Naperville, but Bansal said it's too soon to tell what might come of that. The first step, he said, is building connections between Indian residents who run businesses and other city leaders.

"Unless we have people together and we see that people can be there in a coordinated way, we will not have enough members to sustain it," Bansal said about a potential Indian chamber.

Naperville and Aurora are reaching out to Indian populations that have grown in recent years to make up 7.4 percent of Naperville's 145,000 residents in the 2010 census and 3.3 percent of the 198,000 people who live in Aurora.

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