When Gov. Eric Holcomb asked me to leave the business I had been running for the last three decades to guide Indiana’s economic growth as secretary of commerce, I was unsure at first. But I couldn’t refuse the opportunity to bring fresh views and a new vision to our economic future—a chance to deliver meaningful, measurable, focused results for Hoosiers.
As we pass the halfway mark and head into the home stretch for 2022, I’m pleased to report the state of our economy is robust.
The team and I at the Indiana Economic Development Corp. are implementing a plan to guide decisions around the state’s economic growth: We have instilled an investment mentality—evaluating transactions as investments with expectations of a return, not simply incentives; we set a goal to make Indiana a global destination for entrepreneurship and hosted 30 nations and over 900 guests for the first-ever Indiana Global Economic Summit; and we’re creating a strategy around sustainability and the impending energy transition. In short, our focus on shooting higher, running faster, and playing to win is working for Hoosiers.
As a result, in the first eight months of this year, our “5E” strategic initiatives have already delivered a record $21 billion in committed capital investments in Indiana—a 291% year-over-year increase—putting more money in Hoosier pockets with wages 24.2% higher than previous years’ and 11.4% higher than the national average.
To put that in perspective, we have landed more capital commitments so far this year than in the prior two years combined. We set our sights squarely on building an economy of the future. Included in the staggering leap in capital investment are several future-focused industries new to our state—including electric vehicle manufacturing and semiconductor design and fabrication—anchoring Indiana at the center of what some are calling the “Silicon Heartland.” Our goal is not only to continue to grow Indiana’s GDP but, more important, to raise Hoosiers’ per capita income by attracting good jobs that help our residents achieve their own American dream.
As I reflect on my first year in public service and what has been accomplished, I am equal parts grateful, optimistic and mindful. I’ve never been more optimistic about our ability to compete for high-wage industries and careers of the future, to produce innovations from our entrepreneurs, risk takers and universities. I’m bullish about Indiana’s business climate, our incredible universities, our Hoosier work ethic, and investments in healthier and more vibrant communities.
But like any good businessperson, our eyes must be on the horizon, scanning for risks that could endanger Indiana’s future growth. And like every good business, we must address risks and tackle opportunities with candor, collaboration, determination, urgency and aspiration for an even better future for Indiana.
Starting with Mitch Daniels in 2005 and accelerating through Gov. Holcomb’s leadership, Indiana’s governors and Legislature have balanced our books, paid down debt, brought tens of thousands of new jobs to our state, invested in infrastructure, and built an economy our neighbors envy—and for which we should all be grateful.
Tomorrow’s challenges, however, will demand different solutions and require that we keep our focus on both the future and the present.
To sustain our economic momentum and ensure that all Hoosiers can live the life they want, need and deserve, we must continue to focus on education, in all its forms; make it easier to start and grow a business, and continue to invest in communities and the built environment; do a better job retaining our young people; and continue to grow, train and retrain our workforce. This will require not just government but all hands on deck—our large and small businesses, our academic institutions, and all of us—providing common-sense solutions, together.
These are the kinds of investments and collaborations that will power our economy not just today but for generations to come and ensure that, in Indiana, the American dream is alive and well.•
Chambers is Indiana’s secretary of commerce. He also founded and serves as CEO of Indianapolis-based real estate firm Buckingham Cos.