Economy and Government and Economic Development and Life Science & Biotech and Manufacturing & Technology and Technology

VIEWPOINT: Domestic 'insourcing' our way to job growth

July 16, 2007

Anchor Lou Dobbs of CNN is a pest to some folks and a hero for others.

His recurring economic message laments a view of U.S. workers losing out as companies send jobs overseas. Dobbs' critics, of course, cite his convenient omission of the many interna tional companies that invest in U.S. communities through new manufacturing plants, research facilities and other initiatives.

Love the debate or detest it, but consider this: Hasn't Dobbs helped stir a discussion about how the new global economy is really taking shape here at home?

We're actually finding new platforms for economic development in our back yards. Indiana's institutions of higher learning are among our greatest engines for growth. I call this concept "domestic insourcing," a phrase that reminds me how we can find new fixes right here. Consider it a reversal of the trend some decry as the "outsourcing of America."

It's no secret that Indiana and other states are grappling with their roles in this global economy. Our nation's trade deficit is just one signal that we're searching for our sea legs. I'd like to think efforts in this state have revitalized job growth and created momentum for Indiana's economy-in part by welcoming new international guests. Major global manufacturers such as Honda and Toyota are just two familiar names that have announced plans in recent years to build or expand their operations here. These successes are boosting the state's economic health through new or growing supplier bases.

While that's exciting news, many smaller international companies-none of which are household names in any neighborhood-are growing here as well. In recent months alone, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. has announced the addition of a global executive-recruiting firm downtow, the expansion of a Danish biotech company in Albion, and plans for a Spanish transmission-component manufacturer placing its U.S. headquarters near Muncie.

These are just a few examples of new jobs here. And, yes, they will only do so much to offset the losses of manufacturing jobs and corporate headquarters. But Indiana has good news to celebrate. We've diversified our efforts to add jobs in technology, life sciences and engineering. And we're building new infrastructures for the increasingly global economy.

University-affiliated business incubators and research parks are helping entrepreneurs commercialize ideas and take them to the marketplace. The member ship of the Association of University Research Parks-a national consortium of research-focused universities, national laboratories and various economic developments groups-reflects this effort and collaboration with private industry and government bodies.

About 4,500 companies and organizations, especially in biotechnology and information-technology concerns, employ some 350,000 full-time U.S. workers in various research parks. With an economic impact of more than $30 billion, they've helped states and local communities sharpen their vision of technology-based economic development.

Local, regional and even global partnerships also serve critical roles in this success. But they're just a start. The recent 2007 Indiana Manufacturers Directory reports a loss of more than 17,000 manufacturing jobs over the past year. These figures are sobering, to say the least, although they do serve to warn us that those who survive must adapt and change.

And while I may disagree with some points made by Dobbs and other so-called "protectionists," I believe in Indiana. We're headed for success.



Hornett is senior vice president of Purdue Research Foundation.
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