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We began the “On The Road With Jim” tour last spring and have traveled 71,000 miles since then, visiting all 92 counties and speaking with 79,000 people at 190 events. Our purpose was to listen to Hoosiers, and hear what they thought the priorities of the next governor should be.
In those travels, we heard from mayors and businessmen, students and teachers, the young, the retired, and ordinary citizens, and all said the same thing: years of runaway spending by Congress have weakened America, but Indiana is faring better than most. Maintaining policies of the past, however, isn’t good enough, we have to do more than just preserve the status quo.
First, we need to fine-tune state government to attract business. I recommend a series of legislative initiatives, designed to promote development of Indiana business, both laterally into new industries and vertically into higher-paying jobs:
Project 500. We need to ensure adequate road and utility infrastructure. Since last spring, we’ve been developing Project 500, a list of needs around the state that hinder economic growth. We intend to work with the state legislature to allocate up to $500 million of available state surplus to these projects to unlock development opportunities.
EDGE Credit. We also need to improve employer incentives to hire Hoosiers across all skill levels. One way is expansion of the Economic Development for a Growing Economy credit, or EDGE credit, administered by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC). The EDGE credit provides $10 million dollars annually to employers that create new jobs in Indiana, a tax revenue-positive incentive. It’s our intention to work with the state legislature to expand the EDGE credit and target the greatest engine of job growth, small and medium-size businesses.
PRIME Credit. Also key to economic growth is the development of research from our colleges and universities. To this end, we intend to introduce another tax revenue-positive credit, the Public Research Investment, Management, and Employment credit, or PRIME credit, which would create tax advantages for organizations investing in research and hiring graduates from Indiana colleges and universities.
Second, we must diversify the Indiana economy into new areas, growth sectors of the next decade. There are several areas Indiana is uniquely suited for, our “21st Century Initiatives”, which we would intend to focus IEDC efforts on. These are:
Coal extraction. With clean-coal technology and 57 billion tons of coal reserves in southwest Indiana—over fifty years of annual U.S. coal demand—Indiana can lead the way to energy independence and job growth by getting this coal to market.
Multi-modal distribution. With world-class air, road, water, and rail access, and comprising 42% of the navigable space between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico, Indiana is ideally situated for multi-modal distribution. In an era of rising oil costs, this advantage can be the source of significant job creation over time.
Broadband telecommunications. With the Indiana Fiber Network and Smithville Telephone Company, Indiana has among the highest density fiber optic infrastructure in the nation. Together with our leading position in broadband speed and reliability, Indiana can lead the way in internet technology and job growth nationwide.
Lastly, there are several areas of economic strength, our “Core Businesses”, which we must protect and encourage. These are:
Agriculture. A worldwide leader in corn, soybean, dairy, and other products, we must take steps to maintain Indiana’s leadership in these markets and meet increasing demand.
Life sciences. A recognized leader in the life sciences industry, we must encourage continued innovation and growth in this important sector.
Insurance. As a major player in the insurance industry, we must take all measures necessary to ensure the preservation of the private market for life and health insurance.
By investing in infrastructure, enhancing our tax code to attract capital and business, and focusing our efforts in key industries, we can create jobs and make success attainable for all Hoosiers. As governor, this is how I plan to improve Indiana’s economy.