Opinion and Forefront

WALLACE: Fine-tune government and diversify into growth sectors

December 10, 2011

Jim WallaceQuestion: As governor, what would you do to improve the Indiana economy?

Answer:
Several decades of runaway spending by Congress have left America weak, and while Indiana is faring better than most states, we’re not insulated from risk. Fortunately, we can do several things to ignite the Indiana economy.

First, we need to fine-tune state government to attract business. I recommend a series of legislative initiatives, our “Ground Up” plan, to promote development of Indiana business:

• Project 500. We need to ensure adequate road and utility infrastructure. Since last spring, we’ve been developing Project 500, a list of needs around the state that hinder economic growth. We intend to work with the Legislature to allocate $500 million of the state surplus to these projects to unlock development opportunities.

• EDGE credit. We also need to improve employer incentives to hire Hoosiers across all skill levels. One way is expansion of the Economic Development for a Growing Economy, or EDGE credit, administered by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. The EDGE credit provides $10 million annually to employers that create jobs, a tax-revenue-positive incentive. It’s our intention to work with the Legislature to expand the credit and target the greatest engine of job growth, small and medium-size businesses.

• PRIME credit. Also key to economic growth is development of research from colleges and universities. We intend to introduce the Public Research Investment, Management and Employment, or PRIME credit, which would create tax advantages for organizations investing in research and hiring graduates from Indiana colleges and universities.

Second, we must diversify the Indiana economy into growth sectors of the next decade. There are several areas in which Indiana is uniquely suited for our 21st Century Initiatives, which we would focus IEDC efforts on. These are:

• Coal extraction. With clean-coal technology and 57 billion tons of coal reserves in southwestern Indiana—over 50 years of annual U.S. coal demand—Indiana can lead the way to energy independence by getting this coal to market.

• Multi-modal distribution. With world-class air, road, water and rail access, and composing 42 percent of the navigable space between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico, Indiana is ideally situated for multi-modal distribution. In an era of rising oil costs, this advantage can be the source of significant job creation over time.

• Broadband telecommunications. With the Indiana Fiber Network and Smithville Telephone Co., Indiana has among the highest-density fiber-optic infrastructure in the nation. With our leading position in broadband speed and reliability, Indiana can lead the way in Internet technology and job growth.

• “Green” automotive manufacturing. A leader in battery manufacturing, Indiana can combine its automotive manufacturing strength and lead development and manufacturing of electric and hybrid vehicles.

Last, there are several areas of economic strength, our “Core Businesses,” that we must protect and encourage:

• Agriculture. A worldwide leader in corn, soybean, dairy and other products, we must take steps to maintain Indiana’s leadership in these markets.

• Life sciences. A recognized leader in life sciences, we must encourage continued innovation and growth.

• Insurance. As a major player, we must take all measures necessary to ensure the preservation of the private market for life and health insurance.

• Gambling industry. We must improve Indiana’s competitiveness and encourage development of multi-day destination operations, and protect the industry’s employment and revenue.

By investing in infrastructure, enhancing our tax code to attract capital and business, and focusing our efforts in key industries, we can create jobs and make success attainable for all Hoosiers.

As governor, this is how I plan to improve Indiana’s economy.•

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Wallace, of Fishers, is running for the Republican nomination for governor. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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