Business investment in Indiana hits record $22B | News


KOKOMO — A solar company investing $1.5 billion in northwest Indiana. A $200 million auto-racing headquarters in Fishers. Samsung SDI building a $2.5 billion electric-vehicle battery plant in Kokomo.

Those are just some of the projects announced this year that helped Indiana set an all-time high for new business investments in the state, including major green-energy developments.

Indiana saw a record-setting $22 billion in capital expenditure by companies this year, eclipsing last year’s record total of $8.7 billion and marking an increase of more than 250% from 2021.

Brad Chambers, Indiana secretary of commerce, said that kind of rapid economic growth is something few expected this year.

“It’s a rocket ship right now,” he said.

The sheer amount of growth may have been unexpected, but attracting new investment from companies was very much on the minds of state officials, Chambers explained during a speech hosted Wednesday by the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance.

Since taking over as commerce secretary in the summer of 2021, the CEO of the Indianapolis-based Buckingham Companies has followed an aggressive agenda to expedite the state’s economic expansion.

That plan focuses in part on attracting technology companies of the future, embracing the transition to cleaner energy, boosting quality-of-life projects and getting the word out about what the state has to offer, Chambers explained.

This year’s explosion in business investment can be traced in part to the state’s READI program, which last year awarded $500 million in total through a competitive grant process to 17 geographical regions.

The nearly 800 projects funded by the grants have started to leverage what officials anticipate will be nearly $10 billion in public and private investments. Two-thirds of that is coming from the private sector, according to the Indiana Economic Development Commission.

Communities started receiving the money this year to implement their projects, which include housing, childcare, broadband, trails, marketing and other initiatives.

The READI grants have generated impressive financial returns, Chambers said, and he called on lawmakers to approve an additional half-billion dollars to fund another round of grants in 2023.

“The READI program is really an investment in the built environment and quality of life and population growth, so it’s a really innovative program,” he explained.

Officials also hope to capture more of that innovation by building the largest state-led economic development project in Indiana history. The project dubbed “LEAP Lebanon” is located west and north of the city near I-65, and could encompass up to 10,000 acres dedicated to attracting high-tech companies.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has moved at lightning speed to acquire the land, which has drawn fierce pushback from some residents who just learned about the project earlier this year. The Lebanon City Council this month is considering annexing 5,200 acres into the city to be used for the LEAP district.

Chambers argued these kinds of projects are necessary to make Indiana a competitive site for tech and advanced manufacturing companies and to accommodate rapidly evolving developments in those industries.

“These big companies, they’re moving really quick,” he said. “They want to come in and they want to see that zoning is in place. They want to see the community support is in place, that the water and sewer is in place. If you’re ahead of that, we can pick up that economic activity.”

Brad Chambers, commerce secretary

Indiana Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers, left, shakes hands with a researcher at the Applied Research on the Environment & Sustainability facility in Egypt during an economic development trip this year with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Chambers and Gov. Eric Holcomb pursued international economic activity over the past six months by traveling to Egypt, Germany, Switzerland, South Korea and Taiwan to meet with business leaders and make the pitch to invest in Indiana.

Earlier in the year, Holcomb and Chambers hosted a first-ever Global Economic Summit, where 800 guests and 30 international delegations visited Indiana. The four-day event was meant to strengthen ties between Indiana and the world in cutting-edge industries such as clean energy, microelectronics and electric-vehicle technology.

Beyond the influx of business investment, Chambers also touted the spike in the average hourly wage for Indiana workers, which increased this year to $34.71 from last year’s $28.49. The payroll earned by Hoosiers will total more than $1.7 billion, according to the IEDC.

The record-setting investment from companies this year marks a milestone for the state’s economy, Chambers said, but it’s just a step forward in growing Indiana even more in 2023.

He said that advanced manufacturing companies are looking to invest about a trillion dollars to expand their businesses, and Indiana has a real shot of getting its share of those developments.

“I’m really bullish about this as we look into ’23,” Chambers said. “Our goal is $23 billion in ’23, so hang on.”

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