Indiana has good corporate citizens, but improvements still can be made, panelists say

Indiana has become a more attractive place for college graduates to live and work, but Purdue University President Mitch Daniels thinks more still needs to be done.

Daniels, who also served as governor of Indiana from 2005 to 2013, was pleased to see a number of hands go up when he asked the crowd Friday morning at the Engage Indiana 2018 event at the downtown Marriott Indianapolis how many of them were new to Indiana within the past 10 years.

“We weren’t on anybody’s list,” Daniels said. “Now we’re on everybody’s list.”

At the event, which was co-hosted by IBJ and the Indiana Economic Development Corp., Daniels stressed that attracting and retaining talent requires partnerships between government officials and corporations—plus the perseverance for a long effort.

“Growth of this state and its economy and the opportunities it provides everyday for people is not just the IEDC’s business,” Daniels said. “It has to be everybody’s business.”

The IEDC was established in 2005 under the leadership of Daniels.

He suggested that business leaders do their part in recruiting and encouraging others to invest in the state.

“It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s in your interest to do so,” Daniels said.

He said that when business leaders would meet with him while he was governor, they often asked when they were leaving if there was anything they could do to help the state. His response was the same every time: make money.

Daniels said that’s because if a business continued to make money, it would probably have to hire more employees, and it would probably have funds to donate to community causes, and that helps the state.

“All of you must be doing that or you wouldn’t be here,” Daniel said.

Attendees also heard from five panelists on how businesses can be more civic-minded and act as good corporate citizens in their communities.

Karen Freeman-Wilson, mayor of Gary, said most thriving communities are doing well because they have successful two-way partnerships with local corporations that emphasize how they can contribute to the area's vitality beyond financial investment.

Columbus-based Cummins Inc. tries to promote a community-service mindset, requiring employees to do volunteer work.

“This is globally,” Cummins Chief Administration Officer Marya Rose said. “This is not just in Indiana.”

In addition to Rose and Freeman-Wilson, the panel included author Derrick Feldmann, SupplyKick CEO Josh Owens, and Anurag Varma, vice president of government affairs for global tech consultant Infosys.

Owens said one of the city’s biggest assets is how involved and engaged so many working adults are.

“You’re like one degree separated from everyone,” Owens said. “You just have so many great connections and you don’t know where it’s going to lead.”

Varma echoed that sentiment.

“I don’t even live here, and I know half the room,” Varma said.

But the panelists also emphasized that more can always to be done to improve. Varma said that in the past year, as Infosys has hired hundreds of employees for its new operations in Indianapolis, most of them have stayed. But some already have left the company and relocated out of state.

“I think we have to stay diligent on this,” Varma said.

Also at the Engage Indiana event, IBJ honored philanthropist Frank Basile with the annual Michael A. Carroll Award. Basile is active on seven not-for-profit boards and has been a strong supporter of arts groups including Indiana Repertory Theatre, the Phoenix Theatre and the Indiana Historical Society. He retired from the Gene B. Glick Co. in 2008 after 33 years with the company.

Basile announced to the crowd that a week before he learned that he had won the award, he had been diagnosed with cancer. However, after two months of chemotherapy, doctors said he was cancer-free. Still, out of a surfeit of caution, doctors recommended continued chemotherapy treatments and that he stay away from any events where he might pick up a disease or infection.

"This is the first public event I have attended after five months of home detention," Basile said.

The Michael A. Carroll Award is given annually to a man or woman who has demonstrated the former deputy mayor’s qualities of determination, humility and service. Carroll was among six people killed when two small planes collided over southern Marion County on Sept. 11, 1992.

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