Globally, successful economies are organized on a regional basis. This is not different in Indiana. Regional economic strategies and growth goes hand-in-hand with wealth creation in Indiana. So, why is this the case?
It starts with the aligning of assets to support economic development initiatives and projects. Site selectors and corporate decision makers evaluate several key factors on a regional basis before determining the best locations for expansion or new facility projects. These groups do not pay any attention to local governmental boundaries until late in the process. These factors include:
- Talent: quality, cost and sustainability
- Real Estate: availability, quality and cost
- Taxes: rates, structure and how money is invested
- Utilities: availability and cost
- Regulatory: timeline for approval process and cost
- Quality of Place: existing assets and ongoing investment strategy
- Infrastructure: quality, maintenance and future plans
- Incentives: usability, value and reporting requirements
Fortunately, Indiana’s regional economies fare well in many of these areas. However, there is still work to do to position Indiana and its regional economies for long-term success. Recently, we have seen examples of regions coming together in pursuit of significant opportunities (the Indianapolis region’s pursuit and selection as a finalist for the Amazon HQ2 project, and the Evansville, Fort Wayne and South Bend regions all being awarded Regional Cities Initiative funding for quality of place and infrastructure projects). In order for Indiana to grow its economy, regional collaboration and investment must not just happen when there is a transformational opportunity, but become the standard operating procedure.
As time has moved forward, regional economies have surpassed national and state level strategies in terms of importance and impact. Regional economies offer the best environment for idea experimentation in terms of economic development. Whether you are talking about talent development strategies, major infrastructure projects, quality of place investments, or other initiatives, communities in a region can come together to establish priorities and successfully implement initiatives.
Organizations such as; the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana, the Northwest Indiana Forum, the Indy Partnership, One Southern Indiana, South Bend/Elkhart Regional Partnership and others, are doing important work in their respective regions. These public-private partnerships are playing a vital role in improving the product of their regions through advocacy, strategic planning and economic development projects.
In addition, you are seeing groups of elected officials, such as; the Central Indiana Council of Elected Officials and Northeast Indiana’s Mayors’ and Commissioners’ Caucus, come together to discuss how they can collaborate to move their regions forward in innovative ways. These efforts have resulted in strategies to partner on infrastructure planning, talent development and advocacy to help improve their areas for citizens and businesses alike.
Regions best understand their assets and what is important to their areas as they pursue economic development opportunities. To be successful, regional organizations also must collaborate effectively with the communities that comprise their service territory. In addition, regional groups also need to work closely with state level agencies, particularly, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC). The IEDC is a vital player in support of economic development. The IEDC brings financial resources and technical resources to the table in support of projects and initiatives, serves as a key link to other state level organizations and also markets the state and its region on a global basis.
In summary, we all have a role to play when it comes to growing the economies of the places where we live and work. Economic development is a living and breathing thing as it changes continually. We do not know what the future holds for economic development initiatives and projects, but we do know that regions will lead the way in designing and implementing strategies to create wealth for its citizens and businesses.
Larry Gigerich serves as Executive Managing Director of Ginovus.