The Crossroads of America at a Crossroads

The Crossroads of America at a Crossroads

By Indiana Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers

The national economic landscape is shifting. Technology continues to disrupt once dependable industries. The country is in the early stages of a great energy transition, and many of our country’s strongest and most innovative companies are evaluating facility locations in the context of weather events and government overreach. In times of change, there is a choice: lead or follow. To me, there is no choice at all.

At the turn of the 19th Century, when the American economy was in a similar state of flux, a writer for the Indianapolis Star claimed that “The people of Indiana are slow to take hold of any movement.” The perception of the slow-moving, skeptical-of-change Hoosier is as pervasive as it is patently false. I’ve spent my life a Hoosier, and in all my years I’ve seen endless evidence of just the opposite. The people of Indiana are honest, hard-working and dynamic. We love to move fast — just ask the 350,000 people at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. We’re proud of our history and eager to make our mark on history textbooks to come. Our children attend some of the finest universities our country has to offer and become doctors, engineers, lawyers, agricultural innovators, entrepreneurs and world leaders.

As your new Secretary of Commerce, and in partnership with Governor Holcomb and our state’s legislative leaders, I hope to lean into this time of change and lead the economic growth of our state with a focus on five themes we are calling the “5Es.”

Environment. The first E is focused on the built environment. Investing in our communities, places and quality of life to encourage growth in our state’s population. An example of investing in the built environment is the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) conceptualized by Governor Holcomb and supported by the Indiana General Assembly. READI is an innovative program which will invest $500 million in Indiana’s business environment touching every corner of the state. The READI program is expected to attract at least $2 billion of public, private and philanthropic investment to build upon Indiana’s strong foundation to make it an even more attractive market to large companies, start-ups and talent to live, work, play and stay in our state and communities.

Entrepreneurship. The lifeblood of any thriving economy are entrepreneurs, risk takers, business builders and job creators. While the entrepreneurial landscape in Indiana has momentum, it’s incumbent on leaders to support and fertilize new business formation, capital raising and leveling the playing field for all would-be business owners and entrepreneurs. With our second E, we plan to place renewed focus on enabling Indiana’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, providing young visionaries access to the tools, resources and support to have the confidence necessary to make their dreams a reality and in turn create high-paying jobs that power our economy for decades to come.

Economy of the Future. While working every day for all of Indiana’s stakeholders, I feel particularly focused on delivering results not just for today’s workforce, but for the second grader in Elkhart schools or the third grader at Evansville schools. To do so we need to envision Indiana’s economy in the year 2031, the Economy of the Future. What industries do we need to increase our state’s GDP growth and offer the highest of wages and opportunities for our future generations? With eyes toward tomorrow, we will establish a plan and set a course to increase our investment in industries that provide that growth. We will double our focus on our education and students — leveraging our world-class research institutions to educate our future workforce in advanced sciences and emerging technologies to prepare them for careers in industries of the future like robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, life sciences, microelectronic and genomics, to name just a few.

Energy. The energy transition is here whether we’re ready or not. In Indiana today, approximately 9% of our energy comes from renewable sources. By 2025, renewable energy will have a market value of $2.15 trillion. We need to create a plan for how Indiana can best leverage its assets to participate in the energy transition and capitalize on the resulting growth and investment that can put more Hoosiers to work in high-wage jobs and to make our state a leader in the field.

External Engagement. Our fifth and final E is about telling the Indiana story. Hoosier humility should not stop us from celebrating our victories and inviting others to join in our successes. While challenges will always be present, there is enormous momentum and incredible progress inside the boundaries of our state. Indiana has long been a pro-business, family-friendly location, and it is time to better share the story of the nation’s best-kept secret.

I love Indiana. It has given me much: family and friends, a great education and three decades of business growth. I am humbled to return the favor and serve its citizens. There has never been so much opportunity for the future of this state, and I am proud to stand alongside Governor Holcomb and the dedicated team at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation as we lead the way into tomorrow.

Category Features, Last Word