What were the biggest Indiana economic development successes of 2017; what regions of the state were standout economic performers; and what does Indiana need to do differently in 2018 to land even more investment? As 2017 comes to a close, Tim Cook and Katie Culp answer these questions and more on December’s (i) on Economic Development with Gerry Dick.
Biggest Economic Development Successes
Not surprisingly, Culp credits the tech sector for much of Indiana’s 2017 economic development success. But she’s not chalking it up to a single deal. “From Infosys to Levementum to Salesforce, Indiana’s biggest success has a lot to do with the tech sector, and it’s not just a single deal. It’s the accumulation of all of these tech deals that show Indianapolis is a contender nationally,” Culp says.
Cook thinks the biggest success was encompassed in Gov. Holcomb’s efforts. “If you look back to his State of the State, two things he talked about were infrastructure and workforce. He put a lot of money into both of those.” Pair that with the fact that the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, part of Gov. Holcomb’s team, had a record year, and Cook believes the governor deserves a lot of credit for Indiana’s economic performance this year.
Top Regional Performers
As Indiana continues to place an emphasis on regionalism as the strategy to attract investment, Cook and Culp discuss some of the state’s top regional performers.
Fort Wayne has prioritized economic development in a big way this year. Cook noted that he’s seen this on a macro level with the overall downtown revitalization efforts, and on a micro level as KSM Location Advisors’ parent company, Katz, Sapper & Miller, recently moved its Fort Wayne office into the Metro Building in downtown Fort Wayne. “There’s a vibrancy there. The leadership is engaged. It’s really exciting what they’ve been able to accomplish.”
Southeast Indiana has also seen a lot of activity as of late thanks, in large part, to the Ohio River bridges project – one of the largest infrastructure projects in the country. Culp applauds them for their efforts. “By improving the bridges you’re improving access to Jeffersonville and New Albany, and you’re seeing a lot of economic development as a result. There’s a lot moving from Kentucky into Southern Indiana.”
Both Cook and Culp agree that Indiana is becoming a standout state for investment attraction, but there’s still work to be done, primarily in the workforce development and talent attraction arenas. Beyond that, other areas of concern involve access to capital and the country’s perception of Indiana.
“Legislatively, we have to do something to make access to capital easier, especially for software companies and start-ups,” says Cook. Culp agrees, but believes Indiana’s overall reputation is what really needs work. “We’ve received national attention for being pretty socially conservative, and that’s a deterrent. … We need to focus on being a vibrant, welcoming place for businesses and their employees.”
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