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UPDATE: Feltman to pursue law, business

December 18, 2008

Outgoing state commerce secretary Nate Feltman said today that he likely will return to practicing law and become involved in business after leaving the post at the end of the month.

Feltman said he plans to stay in Indianapolis, though he wouldn't divulge details of his plans.

"This is a place my family and friends live," the 38-year-old Mishawaka native said.

In an announcement this afternoon, Gov. Mitch Daniels said Feltman would be replaced by Family and Social Services Administration chief Mitch Roob.

Roob will be replaced by Deputy FSSA secretary and chief of staff Anne Waltermann Murphy.

Also leaving the administration is Bureau of Motor Vehicle Commissioner Ron Stiver. Stiver will be replaced by Andy Miller, who currently heads the Office of Disaster Recovery.

Roob helped former Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith as he shifted government services to a competition basis, and later held leadership posts at Wishard Hospital parent Health and Hospital Corp. and White River Environmental Partnership, a company that managed the city's wastewater.

Feltman was vice president of IEDC before being named to take over the private not-for-profit two years ago.

Feltman said he took satisfaction in a number of projects he helped attract, but that the Medco Health Solutions Inc. warehouse now being built at AllPoints at Anson in Boone County encompassed many of the traits IEDC attempted to accomplish with its deals.

The New Jersey company tapped into local strengths, including pharmacy schools at Butler and Purdue universities. The state also attracted Medco to a region of the state and then allowed it to choose a specific site.

Moreover, Medco was big-second only to the Honda Manufacturing of Indiana plant in Greensburg in total wages generated. The average Medco wage is expected to be driven up by pharmacists that the company plans to hire.

And Indiana landed Medco with only half the incentives - about $19 million - that were offered by the other finalist, Kentucky. Medco chose Indiana partly because Indiana regulators beat Kentucky to the punch in rewriting obsolete rules prohibiting robots from dispensing pharmaceuticals.

Responding to criticism of the state's dishing out incentives to attract economic development projects, Feltman said many of the deals wouldn't have even been considered had the state not put forward incentives. "We're giving up a little bit of a chunk we wouldn't have had."

He also contended the state is getting a good return for its investment. On average, the state has recouped its investment in incentives within two years as the companies begin paying taxes on their properties, he said.

Criticism of IEDC for the recent plethora of warehouses and call centers also is misplaced, Feltman said. Many of the projects, which often pay poorly, have not received incentives, he said.

Seldom has IEDC offered incentives for projects that promise wages below the state average. Unless, that is, the project is an economically depressed area of the state such as Marion, where several manufacturers have abandoned plants.

The average wage this year in jobs attracted to the state is $22.50 an hour, above the $18 state average, Feltman said.

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