Indiana is on a roll in economic development. It ranked as the No. 5 Best State for Business by Chief Executive for 2017 and fares increasingly well in other state-to-state comparisons. Indiana already has become what former Gov. Mitch Daniels, now president of Purdue University, called the “best sandbox for businesses to play in.”
Now, Indiana’s goal under Gov. Eric Holcomb is to create America’s best climate for doing business, bar none, and to harness the robust economic and job growth that will result. Global competitors, including Eli Lilly, Cummins and Cook Medical, are spreading their wings from longtime bases in Indiana, while others, including Salesforce, Subaru and Infosys, have been digging in and spreading roots. Meanwhile, home-grown startups, such as Angie’s List, Beck’s Hybrids and Aerotronic, are validating their decisions to grow in Indiana.
“Indiana is the best-kept secret in the country,” says Bob Stutz, CEO of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, which became a primary employer in Indianapolis after acquiring ExactTarget in 2013. “There’s a lot of talent to pick from. There’s a great work environment for our people and a great quality of life.”
The state’s “reputation as a low-tax, company-friendly environment makes it a good place to do business, to place new investment and to secure future jobs and work,” agrees Phil Burkholder, president of Rolls-Royce Defense North America, which has been making aircraft propulsion systems in Indiana for decades.
“there’s a lot of talent to pick from, a great work environment for our people and a great quality of life.”
Business leaders like Indiana for a number of reasons:
Low taxes, reasonable regulations. Indiana’s corporate income tax rate is just 5.75 percent for 2018, and is on its way down to a scheduled 4.9 percent by 2021. Indiana’s property-tax rate is fixed, and the state is ranked No. 4 in the 2018 Tax Foundation property tax index. And at 3.23 percent, Indiana’s flat individual income tax rate is by far the lowest among all states contiguous to it.
Indiana’s regulatory environment was ranked No. 4 by Forbes for 2017. What’s more, state and local officials are acutely responsive to the concerns of individual businesses.
Global-caliber talent. Indiana uniquely blends the most highly concentrated and experienced manufacturing workforce in America with a growing stream of new,
technologically savvy graduates of top-flight colleges and universities in the state. CEOs are impressed with the numbers and level of talent coming out of Indiana University, Purdue University, Notre Dame, Butler, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and other schools, including two-year vocational colleges.
Growing workforce. If anything, Indiana needs even more qualified workers to fill the thousands of new jobs being created. “People are moving into the state, which is helping us address that concern,” Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger says.
Workforce development is also under way. The state has launched a Next Level Jobs program that includes two major new initiatives—Workforce Ready and Employer Training grants—to help Indiana companies find and keep qualified employees. Gov. Holcomb also recently created a new cabinet post, Secretary of Career Connections and Talent, to underscore its importance.
Affordable costs. CNBC ranked Indiana No. 2 among states for the cost of doing business. Land across the state is readily available and relatively inexpensive. Businesses wanting to locate or expand physically in the state have plenty of reasonably priced sites to choose from. And employees enjoy access to affordable housing and reasonable commutes.
Endemic entrepreneurship. Innovation and entrepreneurship are native to Indiana, and continue to flourish there. Steve Case, co-founder of America Online and now an investment banker, made Indianapolis one of only a half-dozen stops on his 2017 “Rise of the Rest” tour that invests in and highlights the digital potential in Flyover Country.
Gov. Holcomb wants to make the entire state a digital “hub.” In 2016, Indiana launched $100 million in initiatives for each of the next 10 years, aimed innovation and entrepreneurship programs from the grade-school level to the arena of growing businesses.
Unbeatable logistics. Logistics are a huge lure for business. Indiana literally is the nation’s crossroads, within a 12-hour drive of two-thirds of the U.S. population. And Gov. Holcomb has committed to spending an additional $500 million a year on roads for each of the next 12 years.
The Indianapolis International Airport, ranked the No. 1 U.S. domestic airport again this year by Condé Nast, is adding transatlantic flights in 2018. Indiana even has four state-of-the-art ports that support transoceanic trade on Lake Michigan and the Ohio River.
International orientation. The state first made a strong commitment to recruiting companies from abroad under Gov. Robert Orr in the 1980s, when Indiana opened
economic development offices in Japan and other countries. Today, more than 200 Japanese-affiliated plants dot Indiana.
The Holcomb administration has continued this emphasis. Infosys, an Indian IT company, plans to open its first U.S. technical center in Indianapolis. And in November, Holcomb, Schellinger and others trekked to India to discuss investing in the Internet of Things and other technologies with companies there.
Consistent, responsible governance. Indiana is ranked No. 1 in the US News & World Report “Best States for Government for 2017”. The state has a budget surplus of more than $1.8 billion and is one of only eight currently in the black. Among other things, this means there’s virtually no threat to Indiana businesses that their state taxes will rise.
Furthermore, administrations, beginning with Daniels, continuing with former Gov. Mike Pence (now U.S. vice president) and extending on through to Gov. Holcomb have followed a continuous vision and consistent strategy. “It’s so important because we’ve never stopped; we’ve never let up,” says Schellinger, a Democrat appointed by the last two governors.
Crucial intangibles. Other, less quantifiable factors play a role as well. There’s the famed Indiana work ethic, along with a Midwestern “niceness” that CEOs who do business in the state praise. “People are very genuine and authentic,” says Larry Gigerich, managing director of Fishers, Indiana-based Ginovus, an economic development consulting firm. “You know where you stand. And people work hard, because they want to do a good job. You don’t find that in all areas of the country.”
There’s a matching determination by state government to help businesses leverage all these positives. “Every unit of state government has an eye on making sure we’re a business-friendly state,” Schellinger says. “It’s all about economic development and turning over every stone.”
Consider Indiana exposed. “For a long time, Indiana was one of those well-kept secrets in terms of our business environment and climate,” says Gerry Dick, host of television’s “Inside Indiana Business.” “I think the secret is out now.”
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