For the fourth year, Inside INdiana Business is proud to partner with the Butler University College of Business and Ice Miller LLP on "The State of Our Business-A Perspective from Indiana Executives." The results of the survey of more than 400 chief executive officers, senior executives and business owners from around the state are in and the news is, well, actually not that bad.
Once again Indiana executives are providing interesting insights into the challenges facing Indiana businesses, the state’s role in economic development, Indiana’s education system and much more. Executives point to customer reputation as the highest ranked business issue in this year’s edition of the survey, replacing customer loyalty and retention, which topped last year’s list. Survey results continue to show K-12 education and innovation as the strongest disadvantages for Indiana compared to its neighboring states.
But amid concerns about education, workforce and the economic recovery, there is reason for optimism. In particular, survey respondents say there is a stronger likelihood they will pursue adding jobs, compared to 2009. They are still concerned, but executives seem to be in better position in Indiana than they were a year ago. “They’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” said Bill O’Donnell, finance professor at the Butler College of Business. “They’re not exuberant with their confidence, but I think they feel better about where we’re going.”
Indeed, business leaders seem to be a bit reluctant to go all in when it comes to hiring workers in 2010. While they talk of hiring new employees, many say they will hire part time workers, seemingly not willing to make a major workforce investment until there is more confidence in where the national and state economies are headed.
The sentiment is understandable. After all, we’re coming out of a severe recession. Unemployment remains in double digit territory. And concerns about education, workforce literacy and the state budget touch every corner of the state.
But as we reach the half way mark of 2010, there continue to be examples each and every week that suggest that Indiana can lead the Midwest out of the economic mess we’ve been in for nearly two years.
Slowly but surely, Indiana is again hitting some home runs with cutting edge industries. In the life sciences, Indianapolis-based Dow AgroSciences, LLC announced plans for a $340 million expansion that could add 550 jobs over the next several years, a move expected to be one of the top five life sciences deals in the country this year.
Indiana is becoming a player in the world of advanced technology vehicles. Scandanavian electric vehicle maker Think is locating its North American headquarters in Elkhart County, with the intent to add 400 workers. Bright Automotive is turning heads with its electric delivery vehicle, The Idea, being developed in Anderson. And Fayette County and east central Indiana remain excited at the prospects of hundreds of jobs that have been promised by Carbon Motors to produce next generation police vehicles at the former Visteon plant in Connersville.
Indianapolis-based lithium-ion battery maker EnerDel recently announced a partnership with China’s largest auto parts producer, Wanxiang Group, that could boost EnerDel’s Indiana employment to 3,000, more than double earlier company projections. The announcement was made during the first U.S.-China Summit on Advanced Vehicle Technology, which was held in Indianapolis. The event attracted a delegation of nearly 100 business and government leaders from China to discuss business and future deals with the CEOs of some of Indiana’s top automotive suppliers.
We’re even seeing positive signs in Indiana’s traditional manufacturing sectors. While the U.S. auto industry is shrinking, the automakers are time and time again choosing Indiana to as a place to invest in new equipment and people. In recent weeks we’ve seen General Motors Company add production or greatly expand operations in Bedford, Fort Wayne and Marion. In Kokomo, Delphi Corp. is moving forward with plans for a long anticipated expansion. Just up the street, Chrysler Corp. is talking of investing more than $300 million in its Howard County transmission plants.
The recreational vehicle industry, which was decimated by the economic downturn and inflated gas prices is hiring again. Just this week Open Range RV in Shipshewana announced plans to add another 50 workers to its employment base of 225. “It shows me that people are starting to spend money again,” said LaGrange County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Keith Gillenwater
Those examples represent a small slice of the economic activity we’ve seen in 2010. Is it time to celebrate Indiana’s economic recovery? Hardly. With unemployment at 10%, a continuing stream of layoffs and plant closings and a state budget hundreds of millions of dollars below projections, Hoosiers have plenty of reasons to be cautious. But let’s not lose sight of what appears to be some economic momentum that has made Indiana the envy of other states. Companies investing in Indiana are making a statement about the state’s workforce, fiscal stability and quality of life. And that should serve as a boost for business confidence, even in these challenging economic times.
I hope you find the results of our 2010 survey useful. You can access the full report at
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