Bringing Honda to Greensburg highlights a wild year for Daniels:

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It was a banner economic development year for Gov. Mitch Daniels, topped by the blockbuster Honda auto plant deal.

Thanks in part to a second trip to Japan, Daniels landed a $550 million plant for Greensburg in June. Slated to begin production in 2008, the plant is expected to employ more than 2,000 people.

Two months earlier, Daniels unveiled “Accelerating Growth,” his economic development plan for the state. Its ambitious goal is to boost Hoosiers’ per-capita income to the national average by 2020 by pushing entrepreneurship, education and innovation.

The plan also calls for some pricey new economic development tools. Together, their price tag tops $100 million. The General Assembly will decide this session whether Indiana can afford them.

The Indiana Economic Development
Corp. played a big role in Daniels’ business gains, brokering incentives to attract companies to the state or encourage homegrown firms to expand.

Its leader, Mickey Maurer-who also is part owner of IBJ
Media Corp.-stepped down as Indiana’s secretary of commerce in December after two years on the job. Maurer hand-selected his chief lieutenant, Nathan Feltman, as his replacement.

In August, IEDC revealed performance statistics for the first half of the year. They showed it had attracted commitments for 15,722 new jobs and $3.9 billion in capital
investment in competitive-bidding situations against other states.

That’s more than it brokered in all of 2005-and also more than the state’s totals for 2003 and 2004 combined.

But the big numbers didn’t silence Daniels’ critics. They point out that total employment in the state remains below its 1999 peak, when only 2.9 percent of Hoosiers were jobless. Indiana’s current unemployment rate is 4.6 percent-above the 4.1 percent U.S. average.

Daniels closed 2006 by announcing several privatization initiatives, including one to lease the Hoosier Lottery to a private company.

The deal could generate an immediate $1 billion to stimulate higher education and slow Indiana’s brain drain.


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