LATZ, VANAGS, DAVIS: Trade is crucial to Indianapolis’ future

Keywords Opinion / Viewpoint
  • Comments
  • Print

Latz, Vanags, Davis


Over the past two decades, Indianapolis has become a vibrant metropolitan area, powering growth throughout Indiana. The next phase for the Indy region requires not just statewide progress, but global integration.

Indy’s selection into the Brookings Institution’s and JPMorgan Chase’s Global Cities Initiative Exchange will help our city do just that by recognizing the unique role metro areas now play in global trade and investment.

Over the next four years, the exchange will guide our metro leaders in designing and implementing a global export plan based on a deep analysis of our strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.

The global dimensions of business have become important; more than 70 percent of the world’s purchasing power is outside the United States, yet less than 4 percent of companies export.

In 2013, the Indianapolis metro area was the 20th-largest export market in the United States, with merchandise shipments totaling $15.9 billion. As the nation’s 34th-largest metro, Indy’s ranking is respectable, but lags that of many regional peers. Indiana ranks fifth nationally in export growth from 2009 to 2012.

Digging deeper, we find that one-quarter of Indianapolis’ merchandise exports went to North American Free Trade Agreement countries. To stay competitive and solidify our position as a global city, we need to further expand into the emerging markets of Asia, Latin America and Africa.

In explaining Indy’s selection from among 30 applicants to join eight inaugural cities, collaboration between the Indy Chamber, IUPUI and Butler University was critical. Such partnerships are essential to global understanding and expansion of our economic reach and international competitiveness.

Global forces reshape our metropolitan area; higher education recognizes its responsibility for preparing Hoosiers to engage an increasingly interconnected world with skill, wisdom and accountability. As universities become critical hubs for such discussion, IUPUI benefits from Indiana University’s nationally recognized global engagement strategy.

IUPUI and Butler will provide the Indy Chamber’s exchange project with research and analysis on exports, trade and investment. More important, university participation puts us at the center of a community dialogue about how to better prepare our work force for a 21st century economy.

Involvement in the exchange occurs at a critical moment for Indianapolis. The exchange process complements the chamber’s economic strategy for work force development, capital investment, job growth and company retention by incorporating regional export and long-range trade and investment goals. And the exchange cohort approach will allow us to learn from other metro areas.

Still, the path forward is not simple and the rewards of trade activity require careful planning. Sustainable trade relationships for small, midsize and large firms necessitate regional employers’ deepened foreign culture awareness as well as creative approaches to global business opportunities that differ from the domestic marketplace.

Indy’s leadership team returned from last month’s inaugural D.C. meeting at Brookings ready to begin the export planning process. With continued collaboration among business, government and academic organizations, the exchange will contribute to Indianapolis’ realization of its future standing and comparative advantage as a global metropolis.•


Latz is associate vice chancellor for international affairs at IUPUI and associate vice president for international affairs at Indiana University. Vanags is vice president of Indy Chamber Regional Economic Development and executive director of Indy Partnership. Davis, a consultant, owns Davis Design Group LLC. The authors, respectively, are Core Team Member and Co-Project Directors of the Indianapolis Global Cities Initiative Exchange. Send comments on this column to

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.