Regional Partnership plans to build on study’s findings

November 28th, 2014

News Coverage:

Regional Partnership plans to build on study’s findings

Posted: Thursday, November 27, 2014 11:00 pm

By Doug LeDuc

John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, looks forward to making use of the northeast Indiana version of Ball State’s “Key Economic Sectors” study.

“We rely pretty heavily on targeted industry studies, as we did early in the partnership’s history, so we’re big advocates of understanding what’s going on inside the sectors,” he said.

NIRP sponsored a Community Research Institute study of northeast Indiana’s advanced manufacturing, he said, to find ways to promote and further develop the particularly strong skills, expertise and business and logistics infrastructure that economic sector already has in place regionally.

The partnership also has worked with Michael Hicks, director of Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research, which conducted the “Key Economic Sectors” study, Sampson said.

NIRP appreciates the usefulness of data in its economic development work, he said, because “we try to be real specific about what we’re doing; we’re not trying to do a shotgun approach.”

Location quotient information in the study is helpful, because “the regional partnership is not fully mature yet in the leveraging of the (industry) clusters in our region; that’s the next frontier for us.”

Location quotient information in the study showed northeast Indiana had a greater concentration than the state or nation in manufacturing and wholesale trade.

The study showed northeast Indiana’s economy was less diversified than the rest of the state or nation.

The study’s comments on a diversification index were ambivalent about the importance of diversification to a region’s economic growth.

“This is because economic diversity acts the same way that diversification in a financial portfolio does,” the study said. “A more diverse portfolio reduces risk, but also decreases returns.”

NIRP is working from a belief that “diversification should be a natural outcome of entrepreneurial activity based on core strength, not on weaknesses,” Sampson said.

In northeast Indiana, economic developers and community leaders are “trying to build an economic system where entrepreneurship can happen as an outgrowth of our strength,” he said. “We have NIIC (Northeast Indiana Innovation Center) and Elevate Ventures helping entrepreneurs across the region.”

The data behind the growth trends of industries in the “Key Economic Sectors” study is of a global nature and could help with NIRP’s ongoing efforts to attract foreign investment to the region, Sampson said.

For example, Dale Buck, the partnership’s vice president of business development, traveled to Germany, Italy and Switzerland in October to promote northeast Indiana as a location for automotive, chemical and medical device business expansion.

The effort was designed to build on success the region saw in the past 12 months attracting German-owned plants. The research equipment supplier, Haldrup USA, announced plans to establish manufacturing in Ossian and DOT GmbH opened a medical coating facility in Columbia City.

Improving the logistical environment for employers already in northeast Indiana by attracting supplier operations that could benefit their industries is of special interest to NIRP.

“To the extent that this gives us additional insights into existing companies in the region, that’s where most of the economic growth comes from – from the expansion of existing companies,” Sampson said.

The partnership has initiatives underway to improve the quality of the workforce and help employers in the region address skill shortages, he said, because “right now we believe it’s about talent.”