While the world continues to ride the coronavirus roller coaster, Indiana must find its foothold to alleviate the economic thrashing about powered by this unforeseen pandemic. I recently participated in the Indy Chamber’s Leadership Exchange (LEX) event and shared the following perspective on how we get the Hoosier state back in business. 

Impact of COVID-19 on Economic Development

No industry has been left untouched by COVID-19, and economic development has certainly seen its share of upheaval. The cadence of projects we are working on has shifted, with timelines frequently extended by 90 to 120 days. In tandem with the trend of working remotely, the vast majority of project engagement is happening online, even extending to site visits themselves. For those in the manufacturing and distribution industries, an intensive review and often, multiple changes to their supply chain are at the forefront of challenges to solve. Other sectors are contending with rationalizing their office space footprint. Risk mitigation considerations include; consolidating facilities, moving away from densely populated areas, and keeping a portion of team members working remotely on a permanent basis.

Seismic Shifts in Industry Supply Chains

Even pre-pandemic, industry supply chains were transforming due to increased customer expectations and the need to serve the last mile of deliveries. The life sciences sector has dealt with some painful lessons related to PPE products, pharmaceutical ingredients, and key medical equipment not being readily accessible in our home country. Subsequently, in the past 90 days, we have seen more interest in reshoring and near-shoring the needs mentioned above, along with circuit boards and computer components, product assembly components, and household products. Looking at these needs, the Indianapolis MSA should be well-positioned for life sciences, assembly components and manufacturing products, and ready to take advantage of these opportunities. 

Positioning Indy as Part of a Higher Value Chain

The Indianapolis region has a great opportunity and the required resources to support research and development, plus innovation initiatives. Nonetheless, we need to solidify the story that we have the critical assets to support high-value manufacturing products, including higher education, talent, infrastructure, and more. In addition, we need to ensure that we build a complete ecosystem to support the opportunities we want to pursue.

This foundation will also create a cascade effect of opportunities for small businesses and existing companies already in the region. Where will we see pushback will depend on how we define lower-wage jobs. In some cases, companies will consider Mexico attractive financially for manufacturing to relocate from China.

Critical Considerations for Talent Attraction and Retention

Quality of place will remain critically important for the Indianapolis region as we progress forward because it closely links to talent attraction and retention. As top talent looks to relocate or stay in place, they intently consider amenities for themselves or their families, such as sports and recreation, arts and cultural attractions, diversity in our population base, accessibility and transportation, cost of living, and other factors. Our corporate clients continue to ask about communities and regions investing in quality of place assets as they evaluate where to locate or relocate their operations. 

Creating Alignment between Education and Workforce Development Initiatives

The Indianapolis region needs to undertake a multi-pronged approach to bring our education and workforce development initiatives together and tackle our underlying challenges. We need to develop a plan to attract talent to fill vital gaps, including key middle management positions. We must focus on enhancing the talent pool we have today to meet our different industry sectors’ needs with training and certification programs. Such programs also serve our population as a whole and lift people out of poverty and improve educational attainment overall. 

The Indianapolis region has many bright spots to cultivate for Hoosiers to overcome and thrive in the current economic climate. We have the right mix of assets and people to invest in and promote to remain competitive for future economic development opportunities. Now let’s get to work.

Larry Gigerich serves as Executive Managing Director with Ginovus, a globally recognized provider of location modeling, site selection, and economic development incentive procurement and compliance management services.