EDITORIAL: ‘Brain gain’ should be new focus for Indiana’s business community

April 20, 2018

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels had a message for some 250 college students who gathered April 13 for a so-called “brain gain” event at The Center at Intech Park: Use your talents in Indiana.

The former Indiana governor told students they should not only choose Indiana as a place to build “great lives for yourselves” but also to help “build a vanguard state, the kind that will be the envy of the whole country.”

Daniels, a former Indiana governor, is part of a loosely coordinated effort focused on changing the mantra about “brain drain,” the notion that too many of the state’s college graduates leave the state, into a discussion about brain gain. It’s an effort IBJ is rooting for.

The idea is that Indiana has fixed the problems that forced graduates to go elsewhere to find good jobs in tech, finance and other industries. Instead, it now needs to find and recruit talent to fill all the jobs Indiana firms are creating.

Daniels said significant time and effort were spent during his administration and others’ “building the best sandbox in America” for companies to grow.

But Daniels knows there’s more to do. And he told the audience, which included students from public and private colleges across the state as well as leaders of several dozen local companies, that the state’s successes have created a new challenge: “We’ve got great jobs and who to fill them? That’s a great problem to have.”

It’s a problem he and others are casting about to try to solve. They believe using data is key. So is simply inviting people—especially those with roots or ties to Indiana—to come back to the state to work and live.

That’s the idea behind TMap LLC, founded by Bill Oesterle, who ran Daniels’ first campaign for governor. The company aims to identify and rank talent so Indiana employers and other stakeholders can better recruit, retain and improve the skill of their workers.

Talent recruitment, Oesterle told the group on April 13, must be tackled not only by individual firms but by the larger business community as well, something he said central Indiana is already trying to do.

“That is a powerful asset. That is a special thing,” he said. “We may not have mountains. We may not have oceans. But we have each other.”

Oesterle—with a cadre of friends and colleagues—organized the April 13 event and invited Daniels to be the speaker. He also called on key leaders at area companies—including Eli Lilly and Co., One Click Ventures, Octiv and others—to attend.

Oesterle wants to do many more such events. And Daniels said he’s been talking to Gov. Eric Holcomb and others about how the state can become involved.

IBJ believes this discussion is essential. We urge Daniels, Holcomb, Oesterle and others to keep pushing business and government to think about talent recruitment and retention in innovative ways. We endorse efforts that marry data and the personal touch—using analytics to identify people who have reasons to be in Indiana and then inviting them to be here.

It’s not the only solution to Indiana’s talent shortage. But it’s not a bad way to start.•


To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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