An Open Letter to Indiana's Next Governor

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As governor of Indiana, you will encounter many opportunities to ensure that our state is successful in the 21st Century. Given the challenges that our country and state face, many Hoosiers wonder what the future holds for them and future generations. Every Hoosier will be impacted by your efforts, so embrace the challenges and opportunities every day. Because I care deeply about our state, I have a few suggestions to share with you.

1. Build Upon the Successes of the Past Decade

In the last decade, our state has leapfrogged its competition in terms of economic development. Indiana is the leader in the Midwest and a legitimate competitor for economic development opportunities across North America. The outstanding leadership by economic development officials throughout the state has leveraged great results. Continue to build on the successes.

2. Create and Retain Quality Jobs

Quality job retention and creation is one of the best ways you can serve the state.  The middle class of our country and state feel uneasy about the future due to global economic competition and stagnated wages.  By supporting small businesses, nurturing entrepreneurs, focusing retaining businesses and attracting new companies to our state, you can create opportunities for all Hoosiers for generations to come.

3. Identify Ways to Leverage Different Sectors of the Economy

In agriculture, manufacturing, service or technology, change is occurring.  The key is to understand how to best position these sectors for long-term success.  Indiana needs the best business climate to grow these economic sectors for the future and by regularly-scheduled examination of our tax structure, labor force, regulatory environment and economic development incentive programs, you can position Hoosiers for success.

4. Build Upon Past Tax Restructuring

The changes Indiana has seen during the past decade have impacted corporate income tax rates, personal income taxes, property taxes, and sales taxes.  The state’s change to single sales factor, lowering of the corporate income tax rates, and property tax caps are a good start.  Sales tax increment financing and creative uses of local option income dollars are examples of ways that local communities can take more control of their own destiny.

5. Identify Best Practices from Other States

Continually, Indiana must understand its competitive position to effectively compete for economic development projects. Several governors have taken innovative steps to improve their state’s business climate and economic development incentive programs.  States such as Colorado, Florida, and Texas, all do a good job of balancing the state needs, leveraging assets, using targeted economic development incentives, improving business climate, and focusing on constituent needs.  While Indiana enjoys a good position now, several states are making rapid gains.

6. Continue to Improve Public Education

Pre K statewide in Indiana is vital to putting young children on the path of education at an early age.  The injection of more competition into education has been an important step for our state and we must remain committed to the process.  It will be several years before we see the full impact of education reform in Indiana.  You must make sure that all Hoosiers value the importance of education for themselves and their families.

7. Focus on Lifelong Learning for Adults in Indiana

Along with programs and initiatives to create high quality jobs, we must develop workers who can fill these positions.  Workers must acquire the skills necessary for the jobs being created in the global economy.  This may mean securing an industry certification, being retrained to use new technology, or helping “re-career” into new positions due to certain jobs leaving our state or country.  Georgia and Tennessee offer excellent models for job training, certification programs, and community college education.  Both models are instructive for Indiana to examine.

8. Leverage Indiana’s Higher Educational Entities

University accessibility for Hoosier students depends on admissibility and affordability. You must ensure that Hoosier high school graduates are well-equipped to gain admission. Indiana cannot afford to lower admission standards for students in order to overcome a lack of preparedness for higher education and you must ensure that these institutions will be affordable for Hoosier families. The increasing costs of higher education must be dealt with to avoid turning away students.  Purdue University’s Mitch Daniels is implementing innovative approaches to this very issue and serving as a national model for higher education reform.

9. Support Small Businesses, Existing Companies and Entrepreneurs

While new companies coming to the state grab the headlines, the 75-80% of small businesses, existing companies, and entrepreneurs are the building blocks of our economy.  Our state’s economic development incentive programs need to work for these sectors and although we’ve done a good job of opening incentive programs up to smaller companies, credits like Venture Capital Investment Tax Credit (VCI) do not benefit people who do not have tax liability in Indiana.  The legislature needs to allow VCI to be transferable in order to encourage investors from outside of Indiana to invest in start-ups in our state.

10.  Tools to Help Rural Indiana

Many rural areas of our state face challenges related to labor force, infrastructure and economic diversification.  These areas rely on home grown businesses, agricultural industries and smaller companies to create jobs and invest capital.  The state should work to enhance economic development capacity and allow local communities to adopt additional incentive tools such as grants and sales tax financing.

In summary, there is a big job ahead of you as the governor of Indiana. Every day on the job, you will have hundreds of competitors here and throughout the world trying to convince companies and individuals to invest capital and create jobs elsewhere. You will head into this competition with the support of Hoosiers from all walks of life who share the same hopes for their families.  If you focus on the “big” issues, collaborate in a bipartisan manner, demonstrate unwavering determination, and position the state to take advantage of good luck and hard work, Indiana will have a bright future.  As a father of four children, I am wishing you well and counting on you to deliver.

Larry Gigerich serves as Executive Managing Director of Ginovus.

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