These are perilous times on many fronts; for those suffering from the coronavirus, their families and the rest of us who are dealing with social distancing and financial uncertainty. But even during this period, I can’t help but look to the future and see positive change ahead.

We live in a country that has endured great challenges in the past—a civil war, the Great Depression, world wars and other global conflicts and the terror attacks of 9/11. The common denominator in each of these tragic instances was that we, as a nation, prevailed. I would argue that, as challenging as these situations were, we became stronger as Americans. But this didn’t happen by chance. It was the result of very deliberate actions taken by government and business leaders even in the midst of these national emergencies.

We need to be planting the business development seeds now to ensure our economic success in the weeks, months and years ahead. This is happening across the country, and Indiana is leading the way. Scientists, inventors, and investors have developed an ecosystem for defense innovation and entrepreneurship. They’re coming up with state-of-the-art technologies and by doing so, have created a tremendous economic resource for our state.

At the same time, our government leaders, led by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, and those in education, like Indiana University President Michael McRobbie, are setting the bar high and creating an atmosphere for success.

Governor Holcomb has made defense development a top priority, adding it to his Next Level agenda for 2020. His goal is audacious: triple Department of Defense spending in Indiana to more than $10 billion by 2025. In order to accomplish this aggressive target, he appointed retired Major General Omer (Clif) Tooley as the state’s first-ever President of Defense Development at the Indiana Department of Economic Development (IEDC). Gen. Tooley brings 41 years of leadership experience during peacetime, combat and domestic emergency situations. He knows how to bring people together and get things done.

And in just the past month, IU President McRobbie unveiled the university’s Big Red Supercomputer, one of the world’s fastest research supercomputers. In an unprecedented step, IU is allowing scientists and engineers from the public and private sectors real-time access to accelerate defense and other types of research.

In the middle of all of this is the non-profit group, Defense Entrepreneurs Forum (DEF), which brings together the best and brightest academics, those in government, business and investors looking for the next, greatest invention. Gatherings of these individuals create meaningful “collisions” where bureaucratic red tape is instantly dissolved and government officials dealing with very specific problems can find solutions directly from those creating new technology.

So, yes, the current headlines are indeed sobering. I know many are—and should be—focused on the emergency that exists today. But the future is bright, and Indiana is leading the way. The economic seeds for tomorrow, and far beyond, should and are being planted today. Despite the current crisis, we can’t lose sight that we need to be looking to the future for our financial success.

As the great American entrepreneur and innovator Henry Ford said, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” So remember, while things may seem difficult, even bleak right now, positive change is in our collective future.

Michael Dodd is a member of the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum (DEF) Leadership Team. 

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