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Schellinger rolls out economic development plan

March 26, 2008
Democratic candidate for governor Jim Schellinger wants to base economic development on a bottom-up style that includes work-force training, small-business advancement and pushing green jobs and buildings.

Schellinger, president of CSO Architects in Indianapolis, is scheduled to unveil his plans at an early afternoon news conference at the Statehouse. IBJ obtained an advance copy of Schellinger's 13-page "Pick Up Indiana Jobs" plan.

Earlier this month, his primary election challenger, Jill Long Thompson, called for focusing economic development policy on broad issues that include tax incentives, reforming health care and education policy.

The Democratic nominee who wins the May 6 primary will face incumbent Mitch Daniels in the November general election.

Schellinger's approach contrasts with Daniels, a Republican who has concentrated on aggressive efforts to contact corporate leaders and attract their expansions.

Schellinger's plan notes that Indiana has lost 27,700 manufacturing jobs since Daniels took office. Unemployment filings have become the third-highest in the nation, and the state still suffers from high rates of personal bankruptcies and home foreclosures, he said.

He proposes increasing educational opportunities for the disadvantaged by adding $1 million in state funding for advanced manufacturing training through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. He also would open unused space in state university, community college or technical classrooms for anyone receiving unemployment benefits and whose income is less than three times the federal poverty level.

Schellinger aims to address the shortage of nurses with a $1 million scholarship and student-loan-forgiveness fund. And he proposes spending up to $7 million more annually on state-administered adult education.

A new "Office of Small Business Advancement" would be staffed by professionals to help small-company owners find tax incentives, federal assistance and access to local business incubators. The office also would help create health care insurance pools that small businesses could join in order to lower their premiums.

Indiana's health care tax credit would be increased to $100 per employee to encourage employers to provide health coverage, the plan says. Companies would be eligible for up to $5,000 in credits.

Schellinger's third major emphasis is "green-collar" jobs.

A New and Emerging Environmental Technologies Fund would be modeled after Indiana's 21st Century Research & Technology Fund. With $7.5 million in annual funding its first two years and $5 million annually thereafter, the fund would make grants for early-stage development of new environmental technologies, such as alternative fuels.

New tax credits for green development or rehabilitation of commercial buildings would cover up to 8 percent of the costs.

Schellinger would mandate greening of state government too, replacing all vehicles except school buses with transportation that runs on clean technologies. State government buildings would meet green standards, and 20 percent of state energy usage would come from renewable or clean sources by 2015.

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