Good Employment Numbers, But We've Got Issues

Hoosiers should be celebrating recently-released employment numbers that show private sector employment in the state is at an all-time high, more than 2,200 jobs higher than the previous peak in March 2000.  The Indiana Department of Workforce Development says unemployment in July dipped to 4.7%, its lowest level since November 2007. And, unlike neighboring states like Illinois, Indiana’s labor force is expanding, the state adding 10,000 individuals last month. 

Good stuff. But we’ve got lots of work to do.

Indiana Secretary of Commerce Victor Smith says average wages for Indiana Economic Development Corporation-related projects are up about 15% over 2014. But, importantly, Indiana continues to lag the nation in terms of per capita income. And everyone, politicians included, should realize the road back will be a long one.

“It took us 50 years to go from say 20th in wages down to say 40th,” Ball State University economist Mike Hicks recently told me. “It’s going to take another 30 or 40 years to get back up to average. Part of that will be offset by cost of living issues, but that’s a central concern for Indiana policy makers.”

The key to growing wages, and Indiana’s economic future, is talent. An educated workforce that creates a pipeline to fill jobs in a diverse set of industries, from advanced manufacturing to Information Technology to agriculture innovation.

The IEDC’s Regional Cities Initiative is an attempt by the state to help regions and communities help themselves. The initiative, approved by the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly, seeks to build a robust talent pipeline by encouraging regions in our state to collaborate and execute important quality of place strategies.

It’s an $84 million program that needs to work.

“It’s a people play,” said Smith. “This is not shell buildings to go get manufacturers, the economic game here is to attract people.”

While some regions remain beset by partisan bickering and turf wars, others are moving forward with plans to chart an intentional course for the future.

In central Indiana, the plan focuses on the nation’s first all-electric bus rapid transit line, an innovation district and trail and bikeway improvements. According to Indy Chamber Vice President Mark Fisher, “We do well as a region for talent, but we are being challenged by our peer metro areas and quickly surpassed.”

In northeast Indiana, John Sampson and other committed community leaders have been on the regional bandwagon for years.  The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and Greater Fort Wayne Inc. are leading an effort to bring together ten counties behind a talent retention strategy.

The Regional Cities of Northern Indiana plan focuses on academic assets as a way to attract and retain talent. The group’s chair, University of Notre Dame Executive Vice President John Affleck Graves, says the initiative can serve as a "catalyst for great things."

“All of our cities and towns in this region have grown up independently over the decades. This is an opportunity for all of us, each of our cities and towns, to grow together," said Graves.

For the first time in memory, perhaps ever, regions around the state are embracing collaboration, seeing it as a strategy for economic survival.

It’s progress that’s been a long time coming.

Proposals seeking Regional Cities Initiative funding are due at the end of the month, with winners selected late in the year.

Events



  • Most Popular Stories

    • Agreement Hones in on Potential Fourth Port Site

      The Ports of Indiana has signed a purchase agreement for 725 acres along the Ohio River as the potential location for another state-run port. The property in Lawrenceburg and Aurora is owned by Tanners Creek Development LLC and previously served as an American Electric Power Co. Inc. (NYSE: AEP) coal-fired power plant. If the site clears the state's environmental and economic viability study process, the acquisition could be finalized by December of 2018.

    • Partnership Delivers First-in-Nation Opportunity for Hoosier High School Students

      Indiana is the first state in the country to have a new partnership with a national certification program focused on manufacturing. The goal is to get more Hoosier students graduating high school with nationally-recognized credentials in-hand, ready to start their manufacturing careers immediately. Nearly 100 high schools throughout Indiana will be offering the revamped curriculum designed to swing open the doors of opportunity. “Even on a national scale, this is a major deal...
    • Celadon Dropping Driving Academies

      A subsidiary of Indianapolis-based Celadon Group Inc. (NYSE: CGI) has announced plans to exit its three Celadon Driving Academy locations. Celadon Trucking says one of the company's third-party driving school partners will establish accredited driving schools at the current CDA locations.

    • Bose Public Affairs Group Promotes Cornell to VP

      Bose Public Affairs Group LLC has promoted Amy Cornell to vice president. Since joining the firm in 2016, she has represented critical players in Indiana’s farming industry, such as Indiana Pork. As a member of the government relations team, she has also worked with the Indiana Economic Development Association assisting Indiana’s rural communities with land use planning, policy and infrastructure.

    • Colts Name Chief Sales & Marketing Officer

      The Indianapolis Colts have hired Roger VanDerSnick as chief sales and marketing officer. He is an Indiana native and graduate of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, VanDerSnick comes to the Colts with more than 30 years of experience in the sales and marketing field. He most recently served as chief sales and marketing officer of International Management Group College for six years.