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Advanced Manufacturing, Aerospace and Automotive Are Thriving In Indiana

Companies of all types are finding the talent, infrastructure and support they need in Indiana.

Fort Wayne Metals produces precision wire-based materials for medical and industrial applications, and business is so good that the company is set to invest $12 million in new equipment for making products out of stainless steel, titanium alloys and other materials. Not only that, but the company exports about one-third of its sales.

No wonder other states in the Midwest and all over the country have been courting CEO Scott Glaze. “What I tell them is we’ve been able to get the talent we need here in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and an infrastructure that works for us in terms of power and transportation,” he says. “And we can find people with mechanical aptitude here, so we’re able to keep a very good cadre of employees.” Indeed, about 75 of the company’s 1,000 or more employees are engineers.

Indiana educational institutions and companies have been doing a better and better job of expanding the advanced manufacturing sector in the state. A report in 2016 from state-affiliated groups found that 53 percent of Indiana manufacturing jobs are in advanced manufacturing. Of those 240,000 or so jobs, 17 percent are STEM-related, 25 percent are white-collar, and 58 percent are blue-collar, according to Michael Hicks, director of the Ball State University Center for Business and Economic Research.

Glaze has been expanding Fort Wayne metals and adding employees as the company finds new markets. The state has granted tax abatements, and Glaze has applied for a package of training grants and other forms of assistance as the company continues to expand.

Neerav Shah could hardly believe it when his company won a chance to showcase its drone-borne sensory platforms at the fabled Farnborough International Airshow
in London in 2016. But Indiana got him there.

“Having a booth there would have been entirely prohibitive for us cost-wise,” says the founder of Indianapolis-based Aerotronic. “But the state put its resources with ours and those of other companies, and we were able to do it.”

According to PwC, Indiana is now the most attractive state in the nation for aerospace manufacturing, home to companies responsible for developing cutting-edge drone technologies, jet-lift systems and missile launchers. In fact, Indiana’s aircraft and space exports have increased by about 30 percent a year for the last 15 years.

Raytheon depends on its 1,600 employees in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne for hardware, software, systems engineering, production, environmental testing and qualification for “critical missions technology and innovation for the U.S. military,” says Rimas Guzulaitis, senior product line director for platform systems. The giant defense contractor relies on more than 300 Indiana suppliers, research incentives by the state, cooperative relationships with governments and a “business atmosphere that is positioned for growth,” Guzulaitis says.

As Raytheon discusses expanding its cyberwarfare operations in Indiana, the company also is counting on a bountiful flow of digital talent. “Indiana is positioned with premier universities all within 250 miles of Indianapolis,” he says.

Rolls-Royce in 2016 celebrated a century in Indiana after announcing it is investing nearly $600 million into its Indiana research and operations, marking the company’s largest U.S. investment in a decade. “When we were considering where to make [our]” largest U.S. investment, “Indianapolis and the state of Indiana worked with us as partners to ensure we had what we needed to be successful,” says Phil Burkholder, president of Rolls-Royce Defense North America.

State and city leaders “truly appreciate what we do as a company, the high business value we bring to our community and our high-tech, highly skilled employees.”

Shah reports that the state is continuing to support Aerotronic, whose platforms can help with everything from offshore oil rig inspections to searching for a missing toddler in an Indiana cornfield. Launch Indiana is a state program that introduced Shah to an experienced business mentor and helped him obtain advice from consultants in finances, marketing and other disciplines.

Subaru once helped other Japanese automakers by producing some of their cars in Indiana. But Subaru’s own growing success in the U.S. market—nine consecutive years of increased sales—means the company has had to stop filling capacity with Isuzus and Hondas and Toyotas in favor of assembling only new Subaru models at its 28-year-old complex in Lafayette, Indiana.

The next new Subaru to be built there: Ascent, a three-row SUV and the largest vehicle Subaru has ever built. To add Ascent output in the spring, Subaru is spending about $100 million and hiring an additional 200 workers, bringing the plant to about 5,800 employees for the first time. About 8 percent of the plant’s annual output of more than 350,000 vehicles is exported to Canada and elsewhere.

“We still have room to grow further” in Lafayette, says Tom Easterday, senior EVP of Subaru, who oversees Subaru of Indiana. “That’s how most of the auto plants in this state look at things, because they’ve all been expanding too—and have the potential to expand more.”

Indeed, as the U.S. auto industry has enjoyed an eight-year boom coming out of the Great Recession, Indiana may have gained most. Its output comprises the second-largest automotive GDP of any state, contributing more than $15 billion to the economy and employing more than 100,000 Hoosiers at five major automaker facilities, at recreational vehicle operations, and at hundreds of supplier plants.

Cummins, headquartered in Columbus, Indiana, is one of the biggest and most important auto suppliers, producing a wide range of diesel and alternative-fueled engines and electrical generator sets and components, with more than 6,000 employees. The company will celebrate its centennial in 2019.

“Our company is as Indiana as Indiana is our company,” says Tom Linebarger, Cummins’ CEO. “We’re a global company, too, but our values and roots are tied to this place, and the way we think about what’s important to stakeholders comes out of our growth here.”

But it’s more than legacy that keeps Cummins anchored and growing in Indiana. There’s the deep and talented manufacturing-skill base and a growing digital talent pool, a vibrant cadre of business professionals, a sturdy and modern infrastructure—and a helpful government.

“It’s really important that the place where we are wants to support business growth and development,” Linebarger says. “Indiana has a very strong notion that supporting business growth, to see jobs grow and wages grow and education continue to increase, is an important part of the government’s role.”

Leclanche is one new company attracted by Indiana’s robust automotive sector. The Swiss energy storage solution company decided to open its first U.S. research center in Anderson, Indiana, with eventual plans to begin manufacturing there.

“Indiana’s got the talent pool, especially in manufacturing and the battery world, that could help us quickly,” says Thom Reddington, Leclanché’s U.S. general manager.

Read more about Indiana here:
Indiana Rising
Agribusiness and Life Sciences Are Key Business Sectors In Indiana
Technology Is A Driving Force In Indiana


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