Indiana’s technology industry renaissance

By Derreck Stahly
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS — Graduates looking for a career in Indiana’s technology sector won’t have to move to the Silicon Valley to find their dream job.

Recently Indiana has been experiencing a technology revolution. The technology sector in Indiana is one of the fastest growing sectors in Indiana right now according to Tech Point, an organization that creates programs to help growth in Indiana’s tech community through research and workforce training.

Josh Excell, Butler University senior and computer engineering major, has experienced the growth in Indiana’s tech sector.

“I ended up applying to Interactive Intelligence that same week for the job, and they picked me right away in about a week or so,” Excell said. “Overall it’s been an easy process to find a job, or quickly as an engineer but not without a little bit of luck.”

A study conducted by Tech Point from 2009-2014 showed a 54.5 percent increase in computer and IT job openings in Indiana.

“I think in some ways it’s a renaissance on the tech side,” said David Roberts, president of Batteries Innovation Center. “If you look at Indiana’s history since the industrial revolution, we’ve played a significant role in technology, innovation, growth and manufacturing.”

Batteries Innovation Center is a nonprofit lab located in Newberry that helps companies test their new technologies and allows smaller companies to have access to a workspace for experiments without fronting the money themselves. Such companies include Austin, Texas based Black Diamond Structures, which is a forerunner in enhancing the life and power of batteries.

“Batteries Innovation Center is an experiment by state and local partners to see if you can do rural economic development with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) focus,” Roberts said.

By providing space and support for tech firms to perform experiments, Roberts said his lab can draw out-of-state companies into the Indiana market. Batteries Innovation Center also works with Purdue, IUPUI and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology to provide hands on learning experiences.

Hoosier Skill Sets

With growth in technology, Indiana’s Chamber of Commerce has created the Tech and Innovation Council to increase the growth of technology-based companies in Indiana.

One strategy the council is focusing on is human capital.

“We realize it’s so important with innovation-based businesses. They really rely on human capital more than traditional capitals,” said Mark Lawrance, vice president of engagement and innovation policy for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

Lawrance said these tech companies need workers that meet their expectations as the industry grows and advances.

“Talent is the number one site selection factor for corporate decision makers when they decide where to locate facilities or expand existing operations,” Lawrance said.

Luckily for Indiana, the state has many schools that are producing gifted individuals in tech fields. Indiana University, the University of Notre Dame and Purdue all have excellent programs for engineering and computer science, Lawrance said. However, he worries about keeping these gifted students in the state, rather than watching them leave for Silicon Valley.

Indiana is combating the appeal of bigger cities by providing workers with a lower cost of living. While some may consider the Midwest to be made up of flyover states, the low cost of land and housing means that companies can save money by moving in to the state.

“Those costs start to be really significant, because you’re starting to talk about your cost to run a company of that size being in the mid-$50 million range in the Bay, versus $35, $36 million here in Indiana,” Roberts said.

Growing Indiana Companies

One company that can help demonstrate Indiana tech sector growth is Determine Inc. The company, which is a global provider of cloud-based business management tools, has committed to moving its headquarters from San Mateo, California to Carmel. In June the state offered the company $400,000 in conditional tax credits based on the firm’s plan to create 24 jobs in addition to 35 already here. The company also announced plans to spend more than $700,000 to lease and equip a new office in Carmel.

Another company moving Indiana’s tech industry forward is Safe Hiring Solutions in Danville. Safe Hiring Solutions provides background checks, automated reference checks and visitor management systems. Its sister company, Safer Recruiter Solutions, works with high school and community college students to train, screen and provide them with work experiences and industry certifications.

Earlier this year, the companies had a combined 37 full-time employees, but they plan to create as many as 284 new high-wage positions by 2020 in Indiana.

In the statement announcing the company’s recent expansion, the CEO Mike McCarty, said, “Growing up in central Indiana, we are comfortable here, and the Midwestern values that are instilled in each of us has allowed our business to flourish over the past 13 years.”

Also while discussing that expansion, Gov.-elect Eric Holcomb said Indiana has worked hard to create a positive business climate, which ranks in the top five in the nation, creating low taxes and limiting government regulations.

For Excell, the decision between staying here or moving west doesn’t hinge only on economics but also fulfillment.

“For me, the money isn’t as big of a deal,” Excell said. “For me, it’s gratification of my work. I want to be able to have success. When I come home from my job, I want to be like — you know what, I actually enjoyed going to work.”

Derreck Stahly is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College students.

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