The Indy Chamber’s 2023 agenda has been dubbed Accelerating Competitiveness with five priority issues to drive the Indy Region’s economic edge forward. Just in time to take our minds off a tear-jerking Colts season, the Indiana General Assembly’s 2023 legislative session kicks off today, meaning we’ll still have some exciting action on downtown’s western edge while we turn our attention to a thrilling Pacers team and await the April NFL draft. Of course, the Indy Chamber Business Advocacy team was at at the Statehouse today to begin pressing issues with returning and newly elected legislators as they talk about:
Let’s face it, it’s going to be hard to retain Indy’s “Crossroads of America” moniker if the region’s roads aren’t word class. Harder still to make a business case for the Indy Region to a site selector who just blew a tire in one of our potholes. That’s why we’re taking a fleet of policy recommendations with us to the Statehouse that would allow state and local governments to invest in transformational transportation and infrastructure projects, in this order: first, take care of what we have, then finish what we started, finally build for the future. And we reject the zero-sum dynamic of rural vs. metro areas when it comes to resource distribution. Throughout the session, we’ll be working with legislators to increase road funding support for fast-growing metros while maintaining investment in rural communities.
A healthy workforce—as in, one that’s going to show up for work and not place extra pressure on skyrocketing healthcare costs—is a critical factor in Indiana’s competitiveness. Unfortunately, it seems Hoosiers have never met a health ranking we couldn’t find our way to the bottom of, including state rankings for per capita public health funding. Indiana’s is among the lowest in the country, which no doubt plays a significant role in our chronically poor health outcomes. To address this challenge, the Indy Chamber the Governor’s call for a significant boost in public health funding to compete with the national average, optimizing public health delivery, and targeting additional investment and policy attention to chronic health challenges such as smoking, infant and maternal health, and mental health (Senator Crider’s SB1 aims to build a new mental health response system for the state).
The health of our workforce could prove irrelevant, though, if Indiana workers aren’t prepared to do the kinds of jobs employers need to fill. Right now, Indiana’s labor market is historically tight, with around 18k unique jobs open in the Indy Region alone. Pair that with a breathtaking drop in the number of Hoosiers seeking postsecondary education and a widespread lack of access to high-quality, reliable, and affordable early education—factors we know companies consider when deciding where to locate—and you have the makings of a very troubling trend for Indiana’s competitiveness.
Conveniently, Indiana lawmakers have already approved one policy intervention with the power to redirect that trendline: the 21st Century Scholars program. 21st Century Scholars are almost three times more likely to attend college than their low-income peers and are as likely or more likely to complete college than their higher-income peers.
The challenge? Making students and families aware of the opportunity and getting them to enroll. The Indy Chamber team will encourage lawmakers to streamline enrollment for eligible students in the 21st Century Scholars Program. The state already budgets for the full eligible population every year, so the cost of this change is negligible. Of course, it will take some time to reap the benefits of that change, so the Indy Chamber is also advocating for expanded access to and increased affordability of high-quality, early education and childcare to support parental labor force participation.
It takes money to make money, as the saying goes, so this year, we’re urging members of the General Assembly to make strategic investments that will allow Indiana to outperform on economic development. Investing in regional competitiveness and Indiana’s sports and tourism industry are two strategies we believe will pay dividends—that’s why we will be supporting the budget appropriation for regional economic development funding to strengthen Indiana’s position as the premier market for sports and tourism events. Creating some local flexibility with regard to Local Income Tax reserve requirements will also be on the table.
They don’t write songs about “downtown” for nothing. As the epicenter of the Hoosier state, Indianapolis sets the tone for national perceptions of Indiana—making the vitality of Indy’s downtown a priority for the state and region. Transformational investments are needed to catalyze business opportunities, develop attainable housing (at all income levels), and enhance neighborhood connectivity in downtown Indianapolis. This session, we’ll be urging legislators to prioritize comprehensive solutions and investments to make Indianapolis the most livable downtown in the United States.
And his name is Eric. As luck would have it, the budget and policy agenda Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb released last week share a number of priorities with the Indy Chamber’s agenda. We noted earlier the governor’s commitments to fundamentally improving Hoosier health outcomes by increasing investments in core public health services in all 92 counties and improving access to mental health services statewide. He also called for historic investments in K-12 education, his support for the idea of auto-enrolling eligible students in the 21st Century Scholarship program, proposed increased investments in workforce development, and a commitment to strengthening and diversifying economic development strategies. We look forward to working with Governor Holcomb’s administration to advance these priorities as the 2023 Indiana General Assembly session gets underway.
To keep track of our efforts in real-time, follow @IndyChamber, @staylorhughes, and @Adam_Burtner on Twitter throughout the session (or until Twitter goes down in flames, whichever comes first) and look for #indychamberadvocacy on social media to see what our team is up to. Interested in supporting the #IndyChamberAdvocacy priorities? Click here to access a digital toolkit to help spread the word.