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Leaders paint business-friendly picture of state


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Columbus was represented among Indiana’s economic development elite wooing business prospects in New York recently.

Their catch phrase was: “New York: If you can make it there, you can make a lot more of it here. Indiana, a state that works.”

That was the message in a full page ad that ran in the New York Times in January. It was repeated by a delegation led by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a Columbus native, on an economic development mission to New York this month.

 

The delegation included members of Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) and community leaders, including Jason Hester, chief executive officer for the Columbus Economic Development Board.

While New York is a target market in the IEDC’s effort to attract businesses to Indiana, the trip’s purpose had a much broader focus.

Hester said the goal was to present the merits of Indiana to companies and site consultants who recommend development opportunities to business owners throughout the country that are looking to expand.

“Site consultants are the gatekeepers of approximately one-third of all business attraction projects that consider Indiana,” Hester said. “Each consultant may potentially represent dozens of prospective companies in any given year.”

In a statement outlining the goals of the trip, Pence said if New York is the city that never sleeps, Indiana must be the state that never ceases its pursuit of job opportunities for its residents.

“We are shouting Indiana’s story from the soaring rooftops — a story of a state that works for growing a business, finding a job or chasing your dreams,” Pence said. “It is our mission to let Indiana shine brighter than the lights of Broadway, sharing with business executives and site selection consultants that Indiana is the affordable solution to high-tax, high-regulation states like New York.”

This is the eighth consecutive year Indiana has sent a delegation to New York City to meet with prospective companies and location consultants.

The group also hosted a reception at Yankee Stadium during the subway series between the Mets and Yankees that coincided with the trip.

Hester said the event, which was funded by sponsors, was a great draw and provided a captive audience during the game.

Dennis Donovan, with the New Jersey-based consulting firm WDGC, said trips such as this are probably the wisest use of a state’s economic development marketing dollars. Donovan said WDGC was unable to meet with the delegation this year, but has attended previous events.

When you have direct contact with your customers at a reasonable cost, it’s very effective, Donovan said.

“It allows you to get the message out in a very clear tone, and hopefully get on the radar screen more often, by virtue of this event. Word spreads and consultants talk with their peers,” he added.

Promoting the state and its individual cities and regions to consultants allowed the delegation of 14 to expand who heard the message.

Donovan said including local and regional representatives is invaluable because it allows them to make contacts with companies that they otherwise would not have the resources to reach.

Members of the delegation split into teams and met with more than 16 consulting firms and several individual consultants from each company.

The meetings are part of a process that is not expected to reap immediate benefits, but provides the consultants with the information they need to pitch the Hoosier state to clients.

“To use the farming metaphor, we were sowing the seeds,” Hester said.

At the state level, delegation members focused on Indiana’s favorable tax environment, the state budget surplus, the strong manufacturing workforce and the robust presence of life science industries.

Logistics advantages, which is the convenience of prospective businesses to their customers, were also a strong selling point. Hester said Indiana is within an 11-hour drive of 70 percent of the U.S. population.

Strengths in engineering talent and a deep manufacturing base that includes corporate headquarters, research and development and production facilities, were among the Columbus region’s selling points.

Hester said the delegation also talked about the availability of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education resources in and around Columbus.

Katelyn Hancock, director of media relations for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation said the trips make sure consultants have the most up-to-date information to share with clients.

“We need to make sure that they are hearing our story because it’s a pretty easy story to sell,” Hancock said. “When you compare Indiana to New York, we stand out because of our low tax environment, we’ve been cutting red tape, and we have a skilled work force and right-to-work status.”

Right-to-work laws prohibit agreements between labor unions and employers that require employee membership as a condition of employment.

The campaign to target the New York market also included electronic billboard ads that ran in six high-traffic locations near MetLife Stadium in the run-up to Super Bowl XLVIII.

The IEDC also ran two 15-second advertisements on the CBS Super Screen last year in Times Square, one of the world’s most popular advertising venues. The IEDC relaunched the Times Square advertisements at the beginning of April and will run the spots until mid-June.

New York is not the only state targeted in the IEDC’s campaign to entice businesses from high-tax states.

Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts and California have also been identified as states where businesses looking to expand or relocate might find Indiana attractive.

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