Community leaders seek faster solutions to state’s economic issues

By Cameron Mattern
TheStatehouseFile.com 

INDIANAPOLIS — Leaders are searching for ways to improve the retention of skilled Hoosier workers.

At a forum hosted by the Indiana Chamber Wednesday, business, nonprofit and policy leaders discussed the “Indiana Vision 2025” report card which compares Indiana to the rest of the country based on 62 economic metrics.

The Indiana Vision 2025 report card breaks down the Indiana Chamber’s findings on lack of skilled workers to meet economic needs, high rates of smoking and obesity that prove costly and impact quality of life, rising electricity prices, and a lack of statewide entrepreneurial activity. Photo by Christina Ramey, TheStatehouseFile.com.

Tom Schuman, senior vice president of communications and operations for the Indiana Chamber, said the state needs to focus on three areas.

“It’s attracting people in. We always want to do that. But you heard some of the people that work in this area that said it’s also retaining who we have is probably most important and then growing our own jobs,” he said.

Some leaders felt that older generations of Hoosiers are hesitant to accept new ideas. That could push Hoosiers to pursue jobs in other states where they might have a stronger voice.

Mark Lawrance, vice president of engagement and innovation policy for the Indiana Chamber, said Indiana has been doing a better job at retaining workers.

“The Midwest overall has had an overall out-flow. It is not just an Indiana only issue,” Lawrance said.

Those in attendance at the forum also discussed the concern about the lack of skilled workers in Indiana.

Indiana ranks 39th for residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the report card. With many jobs in the market requiring at least a bachelor’s degree, employers are suffering setbacks in growth.

The percentage of jobs left unfilled due to under-qualified applicants increased to 47 percent from 43 percent over the last two years.

Though Indiana declined in 16 rankings, the state also improved in 36 rankings. Some of the state’s top performances were in regulatory freedom, where Indiana ranked 2nd, and early education. The state had a variety of top 10 ranks in test scores, particularly among fourth graders.

Schuman said Indiana needs to stay ahead of competition from, not only around the country, but around the world.

“We are moving in the right direction,” he said, “but we always want to see it move a little bit quicker.”

Wednesday was the fourth of six forums discussing the results of the report card. The next forum hosted by the Indiana Chamber will be June 29 in Evansville and the final will be held on July 20 in Fort Wayne.

Cameron Mattern is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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