Timothy Moriarty and Brad Boswell: To capitalize on new era, we must address deficiencies

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Indiana is on a federal funding winning streak.

In September, it was announced that the state, as part of the Silicon Crossroads Microelectronics Hub, was awarded $33 million by the U.S. Department of Defense under the CHIPS Act to be part of a network supporting domestic production of microelectronics, semiconductor manufacturing, and other advanced technologies.

Then in October, the federal Department of Commerce chose Indiana as one of 30 federally designated technology hubs, which allows the state to compete for up to an additional $70 million in federal funding that again traces back to the CHIPS Act.

These announcements signal the opportunity for a new era in the economy of central Indiana. The federal government estimates the programs stemming from the CHIPS Act could lead to 90,000 new manufacturing jobs alone. Central Indiana is now positioned to compete for increased investment and increased market share, and an increase in quality, well-paying jobs along with that.

Yet in order to take full advantage of these opportunities, addressing education and workforce development deficiencies will be paramount. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 13.1% of Marion County residents lack a high school diploma or equivalency, and only 32.8% of Marion County residents have obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher.

There is no doubt Indiana’s applications for CHIPS Act funding have included extensive plans and investments for workforce development.

For example, the technology hub designation, operating under the moniker Heartland BioWorks, will include a training institute to help prepare a biomanufacturing workforce. But to go along with that, now is the time for increased educational investment generally to help take advantage of these economic opportunities, and several programs are already in the works worth highlighting.

Higher education in particular has an amazing opportunity to capitalize on this new era.

Earlier this year, Purdue University launched the nation’s first semiconductor degrees program, with the goal of educating and graduating semiconductor engineers to meet this new workforce demand.

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education has been working for years to boost Indiana’s college-going rate, and its efforts are paying off. Increased funding in adult education programs is also gaining traction. The city of Indianapolis has continued to bolster Excel Centers within Marion County, which are free public high schools for adults seeking a high school diploma.

While central Indiana is certainly in position to capitalize on the opportunities created by the CHIPS Act, a quick internet search will show that every region across the United States is preparing a strategy for how it can compete for the same new investments and new jobs.

In this new era, Indiana’s lower-than-average educational attainment relative to other states will be a competitive disadvantage.

As the research shows, educational attainment is a major factor in achieving positive societal economic outcomes. Yet this also presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for a greatly expanded return on investment for educational programming, which, when coupled with federally funded workforce developed programming, can help position our residents for the new job opportunities that await.

Entities across central Indiana making these critical education investments now deserve applause, and hopefully more will follow their lead as this new economic horizon quickly approaches.•

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Moriarty is a partner at the law firm of Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. Boswell is an associate.

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