David Rosenberg: Spurring economic growth through shared water resources

Keywords Opinion / Viewpoint
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Then-Gov. Mitch Daniels created the Indiana Economic Development Corp. in 2005 to better enable government to move at the speed of business. And thanks to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s leadership, over the past two years, Indiana has been moving at a historic pace: $33 billion in new committed capital expenditure, unprecedented investments into rural communities via the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, tens of millions in new trails and broadband, wages for job commitments exceeding the national average, recent federal wins around Microelectronics Commons, Hydrogen Hub and Tech Hub designations. The list goes on.

While these are significant wins, competition among states remains fierce in the race to attract the jobs and investment of the future economy. That competition is part of the genesis of the Limitless Exploration Advanced Pace Research and Innovation District being developed in Boone County. Since its creation, LEAP has attracted a $3.7 billion investment from Eli Lilly and Co. And while that’s important for Boone County, the ripple effect for surrounding counties and regions should not be discounted. It was not long ago that automotive suppliers invested heavily in southeastern Indiana shortly after the Honda plant was announced—a true success story.

Due diligence for any company seeking a location for investment and jobs requires certainty that they can access adequate resources. In recent months, hydrologists with expertise in examining prominent (but often misunderstood) water basins like the Wabash River and its aquifers have been using state-of-the-art monitoring wells to study water capacity and water quality, among other related topics.

Because Indiana is one of a few states without a centralized water management process, these hydrologists are critical to not only assess our current water supply but also provide perspective on ways it might be more efficiently managed and distributed to regions where demand is higher than the local supply. The LEAP District currently has all the water needed for the Lilly investment and most other projects in the current IEDC business development pipeline. Only if Indiana is selected by a company with a significant water need would a pipeline be considered—and that is the only reason the IEDC is currently involved in the conversation.

The current water study is examining the art of the possible—if appropriate need should exist in the future to move water from the Lafayette region to central Indiana. Indiana is blessed with more than adequate water resources; they’re just not always precisely where we need them.

Access to water is something most of us are inclined to take for granted, but not all parts of the state are created equal in that respect. We must ensure that we can distribute our valuable resources throughout the state as needed—not propping up one region at the expense of another.

The LEAP District has been uniquely designed not to compete with other Indiana communities but with cities like Nashville, Tennessee; Austin, Texas; and Scottsdale, Arizona, among others worldwide. Success at LEAP will breed success elsewhere in Indiana, especially in the Lafayette region and at Purdue University. We must be strategic and responsible, and we must be good stewards of the resources we have. By working together and with those principles as our guide, we will continue to see more wins as we build the economy of the future in all corners of the state.•

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Rosenberg is the Indiana secretary of commerce and leads the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

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