The 2007 Indiana General Assembly session will begin in January. As a result of last month's election, the House of Representatives is now controlled by Democrats, and the Senate is in the hands of Republicans. Regardless of which political party controls which branch of the Legislature, Hoosiers expect collaboration and progress. Indiana has built tremendous momentum in economic development, but more work lies ahead.
The momentum must continue into 2007 and beyond. Despite our progress, Indiana must continue to be active in economic development to ensure job creation. Looking ahead to the upcoming legislative session, the General Assembly has a great opportunity to work with Gov. Mitch Daniels on issues critical to advancing the state. With momentum and job creation as driving forces, the following issues should be kept in mind to leverage the state's economic-development strategy during the upcoming session:
The General Assembly enacted important legislation in 2005 to move Indiana to daylight-saving time. This was a critical step, making it easier for companies to conduct business with customers. The same goes for Major Moves, approved by the General Assembly in 2006. The $4 billion gained by the lease of the toll road will build infrastructure throughout the state and create many needed jobs. The state cannot backtrack on either issue.
Local tax-revenue sharing
A trend has developed across the country to allow local government jurisdictions to jointly share in local tax revenue generated by economic-development projects to support work-force development, qualityof-life amenities and infrastructure. The General Assembly should consider ways to encourage local communities to collaborate with one another to more efficiently deliver government services.
Economic development deal-closing fund
Indiana needs to create a deal-closing fund for the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to secure strategic economicdevelopment projects. Deal-closing funds can be used to help attract new businesses to the state or assist with large expansion projects. A number of states-including Iowa, Texas and Virginia-have created deal-closing funds to support economic development. In the early 1990s, the General Assembly provided then-Gov. Evan Bayh with a deal-closing fund for economic-development projects. Resurrecting this form of incentive would give Indiana a competitive advantage over most states.
Education and work-force development
The Legislature should enact full-day kindergarten to demonstrate Indiana's commitment to education. Additional financial support is necessary for the state's highereducation institutions that contribute to Indiana's economic development efforts by creating a skilled work force. Implementation and funding issues can be worked out. The state must ensure that these institutions have the resources to advance.
21st Century Fund
The evolution of this program has resulted in the advancement of high-tech businesses throughout the state. Continued investment in the 21st Century Fund to support and grow both new and existing technology companies will help ensure the growth of the state's economy. Now that the state is starting to realize some of the benefits of this program, it must continue to support it financially.
Best of luck to Daniels and the General Assembly as the state embarks on this vital legislative session. Thoughtful leaders can reasonably disagree on the details associated with any worthy program, but the true test for elected officials is to unite to enact critical legislation to move Indiana forward. Let's hope our leaders will fulfill their obligations to Hoosiers this legislative session.
Gigerich is managing director of Ginovus, a locally based consulting firm specializing in economic development.