“Now more than ever, our state needs to ramp up efforts to prepare Hoosiers for the jobs available today—and for the one million more we expect to have open by 2025.” These words, spoken by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, underscore the importance of the availability of economic incentives in the form of workforce training grants. Although there are several grant options companies may consider when pursuing incentives, there are three programs that have proven, at both the state and local level, to be very effective tools for job attraction and retention efforts.
What’s at the Next Level?
The newest training grant incentive program in Indiana, introduced in 2017, is the Next Level Jobs initiative. Administered through the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the program is geared towards entry-level employees. The Next Level Jobs initiative is designed to do just what it implies: to prepare these workers for the next level of advancement within their companies and for their future career path. Next Level Jobs requires no job growth or capital investment, but simply requires that a company focus on several positions for which internal growth is key to future success. Currently funded through 2021, this program offers reimbursement of up to $5,000 per employee with a $50,000 maximum amount available to a company.
Real Reimbursement for Training
The Skills Enhancement Fund (SEF) grant is a powerful tool in Indiana’s economic incentive toolbox. The SEF program is approved and administered through the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), and grant funds are disbursed via a deposit to the company’s bank account. To be approved, a company must show planned growth in headcount and new capital investment, and must provide a 50% match for eligible training expenses. The IEDC program has proven to be flexible in the terms of the types of training expenses that are eligible for reimbursement. Although certification and wage increase are desired outcomes, they are not required for a company to receive grant funds. At the time of expense submission, the company must provide requested information within the IEDC’s portal on the types of positions trained and wage prior to and after training. While the expense gathering and submission process can be a bit time-consuming, the outcome of timely expense reimbursement allows companies the ability to reinvest in other important initiatives. The company may be subject to an audit at the end of the two-year grant period, and there is a five-year compliance reporting period. The SEF incentive program has historically received continuous funding in Indiana’s biennial budget.
Marion County Regional Focus
Designed to run concurrently with the SEF training grant program is the City of Indianapolis’ Tax Increment Financing (TIF) workforce grant program. If a company has a SEF grant in place and is also approved for a TIF training grant, they can reap the additional benefit of receiving nearly 100% reimbursement for their eligible training expenses. Similar to the SEF grant, recipients of a TIF grant must be creating new jobs, making a new investment, and providing competitive wages. The TIF grant program does require a somewhat extensive application and approval process, and the grant requirements include the caveat that a large percentage of the trainees be Marion County residents. Generally, though, once approved, the TIF grant reimburses the same types of training expenses as does the SEF grant, making record keeping fairly efficient. There is a yearly compliance report required from the grant recipient to show progress toward employment and residency goals for the TIF grant program.
Bringing the Vision into Focus
While there are several incentive options available to companies to assist with training, the three initiatives outlined here have proven to be very effective toward fulfilling Governor Holcomb’s vision of a better trained workforce; not only for today’s jobs, but also for those expected over the next several years.
Susan Jarvis serves as Senior Client Advisor with Ginovus, a globally recognized provider of location modeling, site selection, and economic development incentive procurement and compliance management services.