Beck’s Hybrids is the largest family-owned retail seed company in the U.S., and CEO Sonny Beck is “thankful” his grandfather settled and built the company near Atlanta, Indiana. State government in Indiana has “reduced the paperwork, the bureaucracy” over the last eight years “down to where you can get an answer and get it in a reasonable amount of time,” Beck says. “Indiana has the regulations that matter to protect the environment. We work with a lot of other states and have facilities in six others, and we like Indiana because it’s a state that works for you all the time—and doesn’t annoy you every other month.”
Beck’s is a key part of an Indiana agribusiness sector that contributes more than $31 billion to the Hoosier gross state product annually, with about 108,000 jobs supported by agricultural production, processing and related activities. The sector accounted for about $5.7 billion in exports in 2016. Every 10 years for about eight decades, Beck’s has tripled in size. It now employs about 600 people in Indiana, testing and developing seeds from suppliers worldwide and helping farmers select the right seed lines and make the most of them, reports Beck, who also enthuses about affordable living for his employees. “Labor is less expensive, yet people still have a good standard of living because housing costs aren’t what they are on the coasts,” he says. “Indiana leads in so many of these categories that are crucial to business survival.”
Increasingly, being able to attract and retain an adequate supply of digital talent is important to Beck’s business. “Farmers believe in us, and—whether it’s seed corn, soybeans cover crops, wheat and clovers, grasses—we help them do precision farming for the modern era,” he says.
“Labor is less expensive, yet people still have a good standard of living because housing costs aren’t what they are on the coasts. Indiana leads in so many of these categories that are crucial to business survival.”
To support its initiatives in software-supported farming, Beck’s is tapping into a stream of digital talent that’s emerging from Indiana colleges and universities.
So is United Animal Health. Formerly named JBS United, this privately held, major force in Indiana agribusiness provides swine nutrition and related livestock services in 26 countries. Based in Sheridan, Indiana, United employs about 350 people and generates hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue. The company has grown in size, scope and sophistication as the demand for pork bellies—manifested in bacon consumption—has skyrocketed. United is part of a cluster of major agricultural training and expertise in central Indiana.
The company “always focused on hiring college graduates and well-trained people for our sales force,” says Doug Webel, CEO. “And it’s a real easy place to get people to move to, especially if they’re leaving Illinois. Today, we not only attract people to Indiana, but they end up staying.”
In today’s Indiana, choice business locations don’t go idle for long. Consider that Cook Medical—after growing over 54 years into a $2.5 billion company that employs about 2,500 people in its hometown of Bloomington—recently bought a facility down the street from its headquarters that used to house a GE refrigerator plant.
“It’s about 900,000 square feet and 70 acres,” says Pete Yonkman, president of Cook Medical and parent Cook Group. “We’re going to convert it into a high-tech life sciences manufacturing facility. That’s our way of doubling down on Bloomington and Indiana. We’re excited about turning it into a source of pride for the community.”
Like Cook, the entire life sciences sector across the state is booming. In the areas of drugs, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and equipment and agricultural feedstocks and chemicals, Indiana is a national employment leader, ranking No. 8 in the U.S. for bioscience-related patents granted in 2016.
The state is also home to the global headquarters for Anthem and Dow AgroSciences, and to the North American headquarters for Roche Diagnostics, Beckman Coulter, Boston Scientific, Covance, Express Scripts, Mead Johnson and Medtronic. Eli Lilly, based in Indianapolis, is one of the world’s largest drug makers. Zimmer Biomet and DePuy Orthopaedics headquarters make Warsaw, Indiana, the orthopedic device capital of the world.
To sustain these businesses, it’s imperative that Indiana “be a location that can attract and retain employees at a global level,” says Tim Hassinger, CEO of Lindsay, based in Omaha, Nebraska, who until late 2017 was the chief of Dow AgroSciences. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Dow AgroSciences develops improved seeds and crops and offers other products and services to enhance agriculture.
After Dow and DuPont announced a merger of equals in 2015, Hassinger found crucial second port for Dow AgroSciences in Indiana state government. “They were highly engaged and highly responsive to what we said our critical needs would be to grow our business in Indiana,” Hassinger recalls. Assists included tax incentives to keep Dow AgroSciences jobs in Indianapolis and helping get foreign registration for a U.S. product.
Cook Medical’s most pressing need is being able to hire several thousand more highly qualified employees over the next decade. Cook started its own education assistance program but is relying on help from the state as well. “We’re working hard to partner with the state’s institutions to make sure we can get the rest of the highly trained folks that we need over time,” Yonkman says. “That’s one advantage of the workforce and of the education system in Indiana.”
Indiana’s life sciences ecosphere also supports startups such as Micropulse, a contract manufacturer of sterile packaging and service provider for large medical-equipment manufacturers.
“The state of Indiana and local government have been extremely supportive in a lot of ways,” says Brian Emerick, founder of the Fort Wayne-based company, including granting tax credits and awarding $2 million to fund a technology that one of Micropulse’s incubator companies licensed from Purdue University.
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