The economic future may be uncertain, but Indiana is on the right track.
That was the gist of comments made by Grow Indiana Media Ventures LLC President and Managing Editor Gerry Dick at Thursday’s Wake-Up, Goshen! event put on by the Goshen, Ind., Chamber of Commerce, The Goshen News reported. Dick is also the creator and host of the Inside INdiana Business TV show, featuring business news from across the state. The show has earned him four Emmy nominations.
During his presentation, Dick said recovery in Indiana has been uneven. He gave the example of Navistar International Inc., which announced this week it will be relocating its headquarters from Fort Wayne to Lisle, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. The move will affect more than 1,000 jobs. He also said there has been some concerns about a so-called “jobless” recovery, in which employers who were forced to lay off employees became more efficient, so when they began calling back workers, they only needed half the amount they laid off.
“If you look beyond the headlines, though, there has been some positive news,” he said.
Dick pointed out a large amount of investment has been made in the state by a surprising source — the auto industry. Chrysler is investing $300 million for a new transmission line at a Kokomo plant, and GM is also investing hundreds of millions of dollars into efforts in the state, he said. And despite its uncertainty and plethora of skeptics, the hybrid/all-electric auto industry is also building steam.
“(Indiana Secretary of Commerce Mitch Roob) is of the opinion that it will happen and it’s going to happen in Indiana,” he said.
Among the businesses driving the industry in Indiana, he said, are Navistar International Corp. — building electric delivery vans in Wakarusa for Fed Ex, EnerDel — manufacturing lithium-ion batteries for hybrid/all-electric vehicles and Remy Electric Motors, LLC — building a new electric drive system to be available by the second quarter of 2011. He also mentioned several other similar companies.
Another major investment referenced by Dick was made by Dow AgroSciences, which spent $340 million on a project in Indianapolis that led to the creation of 550 jobs. He also made note of an increasing number of green energy businesses in the fields of wind energy (Indiana is the second-fastest growing wind production state in the country), wind farm components and the solar energy industry.
Dick gave one specific example of something Indiana is doing right, referencing a pharmaceutical company that was incubated at Indiana University. Its creators are from San Diego, he said, and they planned to move the company there, but eventually decided to put it in the Indianapolis area. He said they made the decision after determining they had a better chance for success in Indiana than in California.
“Ten years ago, or even five years ago, I don’t think that would have happened,” Dick said.
That new collaboration between public, private and academic entities, he said, has been a major boost to the state. Technology parks and business incubators have been popping up all over Indiana. Dick said the most successful is probably Purdue University’s research park. Purdue also has technology centers in several other locations across the state. He also pointed out the University of Notre Dame’s Innovation Park and sister Ignition Park.
“Colleges and universities big and small around the state are getting in the game,” he said.
Dick identified four areas he said should be the focus of business in general in the state moving forward — life sciences, information technology, distribution of logistics and advanced manufacturing.
“Manufacturing is and will continue to be an absolutely critical part of the economy in Indiana,” he said.
He added that the biggest challenges facing progress in the state are the work force and K-12 education, noting that approximately 1 million Hoosiers lack basic work force literacy skills.
“Leadership is what’s going to save the day as we come out of the recession,” Dick said.
At each of the Wake-Up, Goshen! events, an “insta-poll” question is asked, the results of which are shared after the speaker concludes. Thursday’s poll question asked whether or not northern Indiana’s congressional delegation should support the $50 billion economic stimulus legislation aimed at putting Americans back to work through more infrastructure projects. The result came back as an even 50-50 split.