EDITORIAL: Aggressive economic development attitude pays dividends

May 6, 2017

The Indianapolis area received exciting news on May 2 when India-based Infosys Ltd. announced it would locate one of four planned U.S. hubs in central Indiana and hire up to 2,000 workers here.

But it was equally heartening to learn that one reason the company chose Indiana is that state and local leaders dove into the effort to bring them here. That bodes well not just for the future of Infosys and the region’s tech community but for economic development overall.

Infosys President Ravi Kumar said at a Statehouse press conference that he has worked with governments across the United States and the world and has never found one as committed to its economic development effort as the one in Indiana.

Indiana officials called Infosys nearly every day once they learned about its plan to open tech hubs in the United States, Kumar said. And Gov. Eric Holcomb said the state was determined to act so quickly that it would always be waiting for answers from Infosys, not the other way around.

Holcomb—and Govs. Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence before him—call that “working at the speed of business.” It sounds cliche but it works.

The deal to land Infosys came together in less than three months—an aggressive timeline during which company officials visited the state, and state officials visited India before striking one of the biggest jobs deals in years (and one of the largest incentive packages, too).

That kind of aggressive, coordinated response is just what Indiana needs to win in an increasingly competitive economic development race. A good environment for business helps, Holcomb said, and that’s something governors and lawmakers have focused on for years.

But Holcomb—borrowing a phrase from Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg—said it’s also about “leaning in” to the way the economy is changing.

“We need to take Indiana to the world and bring the world back to Indiana,” Holcomb said.

He said Infosys officials “noted throughout our discussions about how aggressively we were leaning into developing the innovative front, the entrepreneurial front, of liberating $250 million that we can invest in starting up and scaling up young companies.”

The latter is a reference to the governor’s Next Level Indiana Fund, which just received legislative approval and will use money squirreled away from the 2006 lease of the Indiana Toll Road to provide venture capital to early-stage companies.

Now comes the hard work of ensuring that Indiana can fill these 2,000 jobs (and so many others in the region’s growing tech sector) with qualified workers. It’s the next test—one for the state, the city, the schools and more—in the state’s efforts to remake its economy. We’re confident the state and the community are up to the challenge.•


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