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Holcomb says quality of place investments key to economic development approach

Gov. Eric Holcomb (R-IN) speaks with Kerry Thomson, Executive Director at IU's Center for Rural Engagement Thursday in French Lick. (Brock E.W. Turner, WFIU/WTIU News)

Gov. Eric Holcomb (R-IN) says the state must do more if it hopes to retain and attract workers.

"We’re [the] number one per capita manufacturing state in America," Holcomb told attendees at the IU Center for Rural Engagement's Rural Conference Thursday. "If we want to be the number one advanced manufacturing state in America ten years from now, we’re going to have to make a lot of investments in equipment, etc. and skilling up the talent," Holcomb said.

The governor was clear the state needs "to create a destination where people want to live and you have to cultivate the talent."

He touted the state’s READI grant program, which earlier this year funneled $500 million in grants to local projects, as a potential area for growth.

However, the program's funding comes from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan—which drew no votes from Hoosier Republican representatives in Washington. 

That isn’t keeping Holcomb and state officials from taking credit.

"$500 million state dollars attracted $10 billion off the sidelines that probably never would’ve happened," the Governor touted. "Maybe parts, but I’ve already publicly said I want to go back for another round."

Late last year when asked what credit Democrats and President Biden should take over the state’s $500 million program for local community development, Holcomb said Democrats “can take any credit they want.”

Indiana Democrats have embarked on a statewide tour attempting to highlight the investments.

How future grant rounds develop is noteworthy. Will the state dip into reserves to send more to local officials seeking cash to invest in their communities?

The pandemic accelerated remote work and the importance of quality-of-place investments. As communities seek to attract workers in a tight labor market, having a pool of available workers is increasingly important.  

"When we close the books this June 30—fiscal books—I think you’ll see some unprecedented, record-breaking investment numbers," Holcomb said after the event.

In the absence of federal dollars, next year’s state budget may demonstrate whether conservatives in the General Assembly are on board with record state investment.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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