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New Indiana commerce chief focuses on small companies

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The new head of the Indiana Economic Development Corp. says the agency is turning its focus to smaller companies and getting them to relocate to the state so they can build their roots and grow in Indiana when the economy finally turns around.

Executive Director Dan Hasler took over Sept. 16 in leading the day-to-day operations of the state's commerce efforts.

"I don't mind companies starting small and waiting for the economy to strengthen because when they start to grow, they're going to grow here," Hasler told The Times of Munster for a story Sunday. "When this national economy begins to show some life, we're probably in a pretty good place."

Through mid-October, the IEDC had commitments from 190 businesses to relocate to Indiana or expand their operations in the state. That's the most competitive projects the IEDC has won in a single year since Daniels established the agency in 2005.

Hasler spent 31 years working at Indianapolis-based drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co., ending his career there as vice president for global marketing. Hasler believes there are many similarities between selling prescription drugs and selling a state's business environment.

"Indiana is a brand. Indiana is a product," Hasler said. "Our job here is to make sure we are communicating what that product is well, finding potential customers that are in interested in a product like we have, and then helping them transact the business."

Two of the IEDC's larger deals this year are landing in northwestern Indiana. Solar inverter producer Fronius USA announced in June that it will move its U.S. headquarters from Michigan to Portage, creating up to 512 jobs by 2016. In August, vehicle parts maker Modern Drop Forge announced plans for a new manufacturing facility in Merrillville, creating up to 240 jobs by 2014.

Hasler told The Times he's eager to use the region's well-developed roads, rails, port and airport facilities to help attract more businesses.

"There are so many great assets in northwest Indiana that are worthy of leveraging," Hasler said. "I'm going to do everything I can to help northwest Indiana be what it deserves to be."

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