The chair of the Indiana Automotive Council says a new three-year strategic plan will help keep the state on the leading edge of auto manufacturing. Tom Easterday, who is also executive vice president of Lafayette-based Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc., says the industry-led initiative calls for more work force training programs and innovation centers that would build on existing college, university and high school relationships. October 1, 2013
STATEWIDE – Indiana, the second largest automotive manufacturing state in the nation, is capitalizing on its leadership position by launching an industry-led strategic plan that focuses on strengthening Indiana's competitiveness in the global automotive marketplace to stimulate long-term job creation and capital investment.
The strategic plan was published today by the Indiana Automotive Council (IAC) and Conexus Indiana, and is the result of a collaborative effort by industry executives, higher-education leaders, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) and Conexus Indiana. The plan outlines opportunities for Indiana to enhance its position as a nationally recognized automotive manufacturing hub, highlight its commitment to strengthening industry and academia partnerships, grow its workforce capabilities and innovation pipeline, attract more supply-chain manufacturers to the State of Indiana and promote green technologies.
“Indiana has long enjoyed an enviable position as a global automotive manufacturing leader, and we know that we are building on that strong foundation by collaborating with industry, higher education and State and local government to pursue strategic initiatives,” said Matt Conrad, director of the Indiana Automotive Council.
The statewide plan identifies several strategic initiatives that will drive Indiana's existing automotive leadership position into higher gear. Indiana's automotive sector currently consists of more than 600 companies employing more than 120,000 Hoosiers with a collective economic output of nearly $9 billion. Indiana's motor vehicle industry is the 2nd largest in the United States, and Indiana ranks 2nd in the nation in automotive contribution as a percentage of the labor force.
“Indiana has the ideal economic environment for business growth and we've seen a dramatic resurgence of the automotive industry nationwide, with specific projects in Indiana leading the way,” said Tom Easterday, Indiana Automotive Council chairman and executive vice president of Lafayette-based Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA). “Now is the time to ensure we have the best plan in place to leverage this momentum for the future.”
The statewide plan will benefit businesses and residents around the state. Once implemented, the plan will help ensure the automotive industry has access to a skilled and ready-to-work employee base and has a robust local supply chain to decrease transportation and logistics costs and improve access to products. This, coupled with new opportunities to enhance automotive innovation in the State of Indiana, will help grow the existing automotive industry sector and attract new businesses. Hoosiers will benefit from an increase in high-paying job opportunities and educational programs that encourage, instruct and train them with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in high-demand automotive jobs.
Specific strategies include:
Building a qualified workforce
Central to building a qualified workforce is developing a strong pipeline of students who are interested and excel in advanced manufacturing and logistics (AML) and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs prior to high school graduation. The IAC strongly endorses and promotes existing programs such as Dream It. Do It. Indiana, Hire Technology and Project Lead the Way, which encourage students to explore careers in AML and STEM, earn dual high school/college credits and earn industry-recognized credentials to succeed in the automotive industry. The IAC is encouraging its members to be proactive with their local schools to build relationships and promote Dream It. Do It. Indiana, Hire Technology and Project Lead the Way.
Students at Indiana colleges and universities can benefit from a stronger relationship between industry and academia, which is being aided by the IAC by expanding opportunities to participate in internships and co-op opportunities. In addition, the IAC is leading the development of a network of training centers to increase the number of technical skilled labor and maintenance workers in Indiana, and is working with Indiana universities to expand existing university offerings for electrification engineers.
For the existing workforce, the Indiana Automotive Council believes it can arm current workers with new skills through increased training opportunities. Those opportunities can be more attainable with industry-paid tuition reimbursement for programs related to skills development. Workers would also benefit from IAC-piloted deferred tuition programs, which allow workers to enroll in educational programs without having to pay the tuition prior to employer tuition reimbursement.
Growing Indiana's automotive innovation pipeline
While Indiana already is a leader in the development of diesel engines, transmissions, electronics and motors, increased industry-university collaboration could lead to more innovation. The Council is exploring the development of Centers of Innovation and Excellence as a means to drive more innovation. The Centers would be driven by industry and focus on innovations that would answer industry-identified challenges. The Centers also would provide the breeding ground for students to gain experience for future job opportunities with local automotive companies.
Strengthening Indiana's automotive supply chain
Indiana has a strong automotive supply chain that is being challenged by fluctuating exchange rates and commodity prices, increasing logistics costs and global disasters. The Council will determine gaps in the supply chain in Indiana and develop a plan to grow or attract more automotive capabilities in Indiana.
“Driven by a shared and unrelenting mission to facilitate economic growth, this strategic plan will help us continue to build on our strengths,” said Indiana Secretary of Commerce Victor Smith. “The automotive industry drives Indiana’s economy down the highway of opportunity. Numerous global automotive companies have chosen Indiana not just once, but multiple times for new investment and job opportunities because of the many assets that make Indiana a state that works for business. Together, with industry leaders and statewide stakeholders, I’m looking forward to revving our engines and guiding Indiana’s automotive industry into the next stage of growth.”
About the Indiana Automotive Council:
Founded in 2011 by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and Conexus Indiana, the Indiana Automotive Council (IAC) is a collaboration between industry, government and higher education. The IAC is led by senior executives from the automotive industry with the shared vision of growing the automotive industry within the State of Indiana. These executives represent some of the most influential, most innovative and fastest growing automotive companies. With broad representation from Indiana’s automotive industry, the IAC works proactively to develop assets throughout the State of Indiana.
About Conexus Indiana:
Conexus Indiana is the state's advanced manufacturing and logistics initiative, dedicated to making Indiana a global leader. Conexus is focused on strategic priorities like workforce development, creating new industry partnerships and promoting Indiana’s advantages in manufacturing and logistics. Learn more at www.ConexusIndiana.com.
About the Indiana Economic Development Corporation:
Created in 2005 to replace the