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As Indiana embraces the post-pandemic economic rebound, resilience is strengthened, and the pendulum is swinging in the right direction. The economy is back to pre-pandemic levels with pent-up consumer demand, new strategies for supply chains, and modernization that are now permanent extensions to new business models and cultures.
Economic developers stand at the hub of local efforts to grow their communities through business and workforce attraction, retaining and adding jobs, expanding the tax base, and working to reduce barriers to growth. At this time, economic development is more important than ever as we adjust to disruptive change and embrace emerging new opportunities.
The Indiana Economic Development Association members pledge to work alongside Indiana’s elected officials as partners to restore vibrancy and momentum to the Hoosier economy.
In March and April 2020 the Community Recovery Coalition formed. This is an ad hoc group of statewide associations representing various community stakeholders.
The group formed to develop strategies and tools to assist communities facing hardships brought on by the COVID 19 pandemic. The concern then was that loss of financial resources would hamper local institutions, families, and local governments.
Now, over a year later, the concern is almost diametrically opposite: The flow of funds from various sources have put communities in a position where they have an abundance of financial resources.
The Community Recovery Coalition just released a joint statement urging local leaders to adopt a strategic and thoughtful approach to the use of recovery funds available to them, targeting the dollars toward long-term, transformational opportunities.
Indiana launched into 2020 with the unemployment rate in many communities hovering at near record‐level lows of 2 – 3%. A major concern in many communities was the lack of workers to fill current jobs. In response, economic developers shifted from attracting businesses to attracting workers.
It is impossible to calculate how drastic the change has been in four short months. Economists project that unemployment rates will hit double‐digit levels, perhaps approaching rates not seen since the Great Depression. Over 26M American jobs have been lost effectively cancelling all job gains since the Great Recession. Local stakeholders fear that much of the progress they have made in the last few years to grow local business, enhance downtown development, and increase the tax base will be threatened as revenues from various taxing sources will see shortfalls.
In flush times and lean, the practice of economic development is focused on attracting, expanding, and retaining investment in communities. Prior to the coronavirus crisis, economic developers were diversifying their services by working with local businesses to help fill open jobs with qualified workers, collaborating with chambers of commerce and tourism bureaus to promote community assets to attract new residents and workers to their communities, and working to support local entrepreneurs in starting and growing their businesses. The evolution of economic development extended to downtown development because vibrant downtowns are key to attracting and retaining talent.
Fostering single‐family and multi‐family housing stock became a priority for talent attraction. This effort to develop workforce housing led to community‐wide collaborations between economic developers, elected officials, and housing developers, who came together to solve unique housing challenges in communities across the state. Many economic developers have focused on expanding childcare solutions, as well: high quality and affordable childcare contribute to our quality of life and workforce engagement.
The work of economic developers is constantly evolving because they are reacting to the unique needs of their communities. What works in one region or county may not work in another, so our connections across the state allow for sharing best practices and the ability to bring new ideas back to our communities that are tailored to local and regional needs.
As we emerge from the current crisis, communities will be faced with many displaced workers and closed or struggling businesses. Local economic development organizations will be the natural leaders helping our state recover because they know the local businesses, understand their workforce needs, and are experts in attracting and retaining tax base: all critical activities in helping communities claw back from the coronavirus crisis.
At last count at least 21 Indiana‐based economic development organizations have played a role in the creation of local disaster relief loan or grant programs to help local small businesses survive during the stay‐at‐home order. This is another example of their understanding of local business needs and their ability to adjust their priorities to respond to the needs of their communities.
In the last few years, economic developers have become more focused on supporting entrepreneurship, encouraging the creation and growth of home‐grown businesses, exactly the kind of support and expertise that will be needed to revitalize our downtowns post‐coronavirus crisis.
Economic development professionals have developed national networks of business contacts that they work with when companies want to expand or relocate. These networks can help bring suppliers to a community to support existing companies. While supporting our existing businesses will be the first priority, the attraction of new companies to the state will be an area of focus as we move to fully recover lost jobs and tax base.
As we look toward the future of Indiana, we should all find comfort in knowing that economic developers are on the front lines and are ready to evolve again to move their communities out of crisis and into recovery.
Indiana Economic Development Association
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New ag-based strategy offers different approach to growing rural Indiana
First-of-their-kind “Ag Asset” maps will help communities leverage agriculture
INDIANAPOLIS (Oct. 28, 2019) — A new strategy is working to change how rural communities think about economic development by helping them leverage the strongest asset in their backyard – agriculture.
Known as the Rural Economic Development Model, the process involves utilizing an online interactive tool and guidebook to develop an ag-based economic development plan which will expand current agribusinesses and attract complimentary processing companies to the region.
“Oftentimes, we see rural communities targeting an automotive plant or medical device manufacturer—overlooking agriculture completely,” said Bruce Kettler, Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director. “We want to encourage local decision makers to think differently of their economic development strategy. Agriculture is at the core of so many Hoosier communities and, if leveraged properly, has the potential to keep growing or, in some cases, reinvigorate rural Indiana.”
Critical to the strategy’s launch was the development of the Indiana Ag Asset Maps, which can be found on the Rural Indiana Stats website, created and managed by the Purdue Center for Regional Development. These first-of-their-kind heat maps provide information about the agricultural products grown and raised in each county to include fruits, vegetables, grains, and livestock, and a section showcasing the various companies supporting the hardwoods industry in Indiana.
Communities can use this information to build an ag-based economic development strategy or grow value-added processing by creating “agriculture regions.”
“Bringing value-added processing to an area benefits more than just producers, it shores up the local economy and entire agricultural ecosystem,” said Dr. Bo Beaulieu, PCRD Director. “It can be a game-changer and opens the door to new possibilities for rural communities, which continue to struggle with attracting young, talented workers.”
The Rural Economic Development Model was developed in collaboration with the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, Indiana Economic Development Association, Indiana Farm Bureau, Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, Indiana Soybean Alliance, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, and Purdue Center for Regional Development.
Communities interested in agriculture as an important component of their economic development strategy should contact the project partners. Together they will facilitate a conversation with an overview of the Rural Economic Development Model and a review of the regional analysis provided by PCRD. The goal is to help rural communities create fully implementable ag strategies.
“For too long, we have looked at Indiana’s agricultural production as a passive asset: grown here, but sent elsewhere for value-added processing,” said Lee Lewellen, Indiana Economic Development Association President and CEO. “We want economic developers and farmers to come together to see Indiana’s robust ag assets as the raw material for a different kind of manufacturing base in rural communities.”
Click here to view the Indiana ag asset maps.
The Indiana Economic Development Association (IEDA) is the voice and advocate for the economic development profession in Indiana. IEDA defines economic development as the facilitation of investment that leads to long term community prosperity.
The Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) was established as a separate state agency by the Legislature in 2005. Administratively, ISDA reports to Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch, who also serves as Indiana’s Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development. Major responsibilities include advocacy for Indiana agriculture at the local, state and federal level, managing soil conservation programs, promoting economic development and agricultural innovation, serving as a regulatory ombudsman for agricultural businesses, and licensing grain firms throughout the state.
The Purdue Center for Regional Development (PCRD) seeks to pioneer new ideas and strategies that contribute to regional collaboration, innovation and prosperity.
Note: Below is a photo of the Indiana ag asset map for tomatoes.
To Members of the Indiana General Assembly:
Leadership over the years from Indiana’s elected leaders has moved the state to the top of many coveted lists:
These rankings position Indiana to compete favorably for new investment by attracting new companies to the state and encouraging those already here to expand.
It is Indiana’s placement on another list that is jeopardizing much of the progress we have made in the last few years: our continued placement on the list as one of the last five states to fail to implement a meaningful hate crimes bill.
When organizations reach milestones such as a golden anniversary, leadership should not only seize the opportunity to revel in past successes, but also proceed with a renewed focus on the future. In 2017, as the Board of Directors of the Indiana Economic Development Association (IEDA) looked toward the organization’s 50th anniversary, the Directors and contracted professionals chose to use the occasion to focus attention on the next phase of the organization’s story. They pondered how IEDA should continue to serve all its customers – both inside and outside the association – and to reaffirm IEDA’s commitment to the prosperity and vitality of Indiana.
During the first half of 2018, they embarked upon a strategic planning process which focused on how to best serve the IEDA’s mission through direct services to members and a focus on the economic development profession in which it operates. By surveying the environment and listening to customers, five themes for elevating the economic development professional emerged:
STATEHOUSE (Jan. 26, 2018) – Today, Governor Eric J. Holcomb joined Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch to unveil Indiana’s Next Level Veterans initiative. This new statewide program brings together public and private organizations to recruit, employ and connect discharging military personnel to Indiana and retain veterans who are already in the state. A new website, www.in.gov/veterans, launched today and will be the one-stop-shop for veterans across the nation who are looking for jobs, training, housing or information about the Hoosier state.
"Bringing veterans from around the country here to fill high-wage, high-demand jobs is a win-win-win for military service men and women, employers and our state’s economy," Gov. Holcomb said. "Next Level Veterans will encourage partnerships around the state to bring our nation’s skilled and talented veterans back home to our welcoming and vibrant Indiana communities."
More than 200,000 service men and women leave the military each year, and more than half of them face a period of unemployment. Currently, there are about 85,000 unfilled jobs in Indiana. To fill these positions, employers need skilled workers with strong commitment and work ethic. Next Level Veterans focuses on connecting military personnel, who have honed their skills during their service, with these career opportunities.
"Indiana wants veterans from out of state to know they are welcome here and that Indiana is a prosperous place, where employers are eager for their skills and talent," Lt. Gov. Crouch said. "I am inspired by the work our state agencies and partners have done to create a positive future for veterans."
Under Crouch's leadership, Next Level Veterans will provide veteran incentives, support personnel and provide marketing assistance. The Indiana Department of Veterans' Affairs, Indiana National Guard, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority are partnering with Conexus Indiana, the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership initiative focused on advanced manufacturing and logistics, and the Indiana Economic Development Association to support the program and the veterans who relocate to Indiana.
The Next Level Veterans website at in.gov/veterans, includes information about available jobs in Indiana through Conexus Indiana, education and training opportunities, quality of life and community aspects. It also provides information on a new veterans-based mortgage program, which helps veterans find affordable housing and gets them into their own home. This new incentive is provided by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.
The Conexus Indiana INvets program is featured prominently on the Next Level Veterans website. INvets connects discharging veterans around the country with jobs at Indiana manufacturing and logistics companies. This program was initially created in partnership with Allison Transmission, Faurecia, Honda Manufacturing of Indiana, Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana and the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.
INvets staff will regularly visit major military installations in coordination with a multi-channel marketing campaign. These efforts are supported by a web platform that serves to both educate service members and connect them with employers. This platform will grow to include detailed career path information as well as education and training opportunities. Employers throughout Indiana can leverage this platform to connect with service members prior to their separation from service.
“Conexus Indiana launched INvets as an evolution of our work to bolster the advanced manufacturing and logistics sectors by specifically attracting veterans to high-wage, high demand careers,” said Wes Wood, INvets’ Program Director at Conexus Indiana and U.S. Army veteran. “We are thrilled to partner with the state to attract more veterans and expand the pool of employers to other industry sectors, all offering great opportunities for current and future Hoosiers.”
The Indiana Economic Development Association will also assist communities in partnering with the initiative both in advertising their communities and in helping to welcome incoming service members.
“It is vital we are making sure there is a focus on attracting those outside of the state to come here. Through IEDA we are going to attract people not only to Hoosier jobs but to Hoosier communities,” Lee Lewellen, Indiana Economic Development Association President/CEO. “We will help veterans and their families integrate and thrive in all Hoosier communities have to offer.”
Crouch said that by bringing the different agencies and organizations that can help veterans, we are opening ourselves to the chance to have more veterans relocate or stay in Indiana, which will keep Indiana's economy growing.
Visit in.gov/veterans for more information.
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