Editorial: Indiana’s future economy demands relentlessness

Keywords Editorials / Opinion

The pieces are starting to come together that could make Indiana a player in the economy of the future.

With several recent economic development announcements, Hoosiers can see the vision of Gov. Eric Holcomb, Indiana Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers and other government and business leaders to make the state a center for the production and development of computer chips, electric-vehicle batteries and other high-tech advances.

But the state needs to keep up its frenetic drive toward economic progress and boost its pool of educated tech workers if it hopes to surpass other states and become a technology hub for the heartland and the nation.

A flurry of recent developments has boosted the state’s hopes.

In May, carmaker Stellantis NV announced it had signed an agreement with renewable battery company Samsung SDI to build a $2.5 billion electric-vehicle battery plant in Kokomo, which is expected to open in 2025 and create up to 1,400 jobs.

A month later, Taiwan-based MediaTek USA unveiled its partnership with Purdue University to establish a computer-chip design center on the West Lafayette campus. That was followed by Minnesota-based SkyWater Technology’s announcement that it will build a $1.8 billion semiconductor plant at Purdue if it can receive federal funding through the new CHIPS and Science Act.

Last week, a joint venture between General Motors Co. and LG Energy Solution filed a tax abatement application for a facility in St. Joseph County that—based on similar projects elsewhere—could bring more than $2 billion in investment and more than 1,000 jobs to northern Indiana.

Holcomb isn’t letting up on his economic development efforts. This week, he led an Indiana delegation to Taiwan and South Korea to lure more Asian companies to invest even more in the state.

It’s that kind of ongoing push that will be required for Indiana to compete with other inland states to become an outright technology leader and not just one of the 20 tech hubs envisioned and funded by the CHIPS Act.

As IBJ’s Peter Blanchard notes in his story on page 1A, Ohio already has a bit of a leg up, landing a $20 billion semiconductor plant in Columbus. In Texas, Samsung Electronics plans to build up to 11 chip plants worth $191 billion.

Among Indiana’s biggest challenges will be providing the high-tech workforce that will be needed to support economic growth.

Indiana colleges are doing their part. Purdue, for example, is launching a semiconductor engineering program. But that still doesn’t solve Indiana’s declining college-going rate and its shortage of skilled workers.

In 2020, only 53% of graduating Indiana high-schoolers went straight to college, a steep drop from 58% the previous year.

That’s certainly not going to help produce the additional 41,000 skilled tech workers the state needs by 2030, according to TechPoint, an advocacy group for Indiana’s tech industry.

The group has launched an initiative called Mission 41K to help the state reach that goal. But it’s going to require an all-hands-on-deck approach from government, business and academia to make it happen.

Everyone should get on board.•

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