State gets it right on manufacturing

(Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel

Yes, manufacturing has taken a hit in recent years, and states that are the most dependent on manufacturing have been hurt the most. Indiana is the leading manufacturing state in the nation with almost 17 percent of its employment in that sector. So the effects of the manufacturing downturn have been especially grim here.

But people still need things, and those things have to be made somewhere. A state that ignores its manufacturing sector is really courting trouble. Instead, it just needs to make sure it is done right.

We must be doing it right here. Almost $2 billion has been invested to overhaul production facilities in Indiana just in the last year, a total that includes $600 million at Rolls-Royce, $140 million at Subaru and $1.2 billion at General Motors.

We’re doing so well that for the first time the state has cracked the Forbes top-10 list of best states for business, coming in at eighth. The magazine says it analyzed 40 data points across six main areas — business costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life — to tally up the rankings.

Chad Moutray, chief economist at the National Association of Manufacturers, says Indiana is doing a lot of things right: “When you look at the overall business environment in Indiana, it’s pretty clear the policies are geared toward attracting business. When you set the right climate for business, you’re going to see economic development.”

And keeping up that business environment means, first and foremost, making sure the manufacturers that are already here are taken care of.

When Rolls-Royce was considering where to invest for the future, for example, it looked at two primary factors, according to Phil Burkholder, president of defense aerospace for Rolls-Royce North America: “the experience of our workforce coupled with their desire to put the customer first, and the support from our elected leaders, especially Gov. (Mike) Pence and Mayor (Greg) Ballard.”

Economic development is so important to a state that officials are often tempted to try anything new just to see what happens. But they can’t forget the simple formula of keeping the tax and regulatory systems friendly and making sure the businesses here stay happy.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to