Editorial: Focus on international business will be important to economy

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It took two years longer than expected, but state officials pulled off an impressive Indiana Global Economic Summit last week at the Indiana Convention Center, drawing some 800 people from about 30 countries to learn more about the state and participate in wide-ranging discussions about the world’s changing economy.

The four-day summit was originally scheduled to take place in 2020, but, like almost all things that year, the event was postponed by the onset of the pandemic. And though some events started creeping back toward normalcy last year, a summit that depends on international travel would hardly have been viable in 2021.

It’s the latest move in Gov. Eric Holcomb’s efforts to boost Indiana’s presence internationally, work that has taken him on a dozen global trips, most recently to Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, where he spoke last month at the World Economic Forum annual meeting on a panel about advanced manufacturing.

In April, Holcomb and Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers went to Sweden, the United Kingdom and Monaco. A few weeks earlier, the pair traveled to Slovakia and Israel.

We believe these trips are an essential part of the state’s economic strategy—and we encourage Holcomb and Chambers to keep putting miles on their frequent flier cards.

The opportunities are too good to pass up, especially as the world’s supply chains shift. More companies want to manufacture goods closer to their customers—and they want their suppliers to be closer to them.

So, foreign companies doing business in the U.S. are looking for places to establish new operations—which could attract associated plants.

And domestic companies are interested in bringing some of their foreign suppliers to the U.S., to keep their operations closer to home.

What better way to persuade company leaders that Indiana is the place to do business than to look them in the eye and shake their hands—or invite them to a summit in Indiana that ends with a trip to the Indianapolis 500.

(Side note: Kudos to the state’s brilliant decision to tie its global summit to the Indianapolis 500, the state’s best-known event and one that draws substantial international participation and interest.)

Do these kinds of efforts require substantial investments of time and money? You bet. But the payoffs can also be huge—not just because a company might make an investment in a single plant, but because the long-term relationships forged with such trips can continue to pay dividends year after year.

We urge Holcomb and the IEDC to go all-in on attracting foreign investment, whether that involves bringing global business leaders to Indiana or traveling internationally to find them. Of course, that’s not meant to say state officials shouldn’t be equally invested in domestic companies. But we’re confident they can do both.•


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