By Michael D. White, author and freelance writer
Just last summer, Bradley B. Chambers took his post as Indiana’s Secretary of Commerce and CEO of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC).
Prior to his appointment, Chambers, who earned a degree in finance from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, spent almost four decades in business as founder, president and CEO of Indianapolis-based Buckingham Companies.
Chambers oversaw the firm’s growth from its founding in 1984 into an integrated development, construction, property management and institutional asset management powerhouse from its first rental property purchase to the development and acquisition of investments that now exceed $3 billion.
In January, Chambers and Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb announced the end of a fifth-consecutive, record-breaking year for economic development in Indiana with nearly 300 companies committed to locate and expand in Indiana, and invest more than $8.7 billion in their operations, a 56 percent increase from 2020, with an increasing average wage of $28.49 per hour.
This marks the highest capital investment and annual record for average wages since the IEDC was established in 2005.
Expansion Solutions recently had the opportunity to speak with Secretary Chambers about Indiana’s business environment and his strategy to move Indiana’s economy forward.
Expansion Solutions: You recently announced the end of a fifth-consecutive, record-breaking year for economic development in Indiana. What is unique about the state’s business environment that spurred that record-breaking growth surge?
Bradley Chambers: I’ve never been more optimistic about the economic future of our state. Indiana is winning in a number of ways. In 2021, IEDC delivered record payroll increases and capital investments from new or expanding businesses, from both domestic and international companies. We’ve also committed near-record investments in small- and medium-size businesses.
Ending last year well and starting this year with real momentum around the 5E strategy including in our first E—Environment—with the $500 million Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI). Those projects will translate to billions of dollars of total public and private investment, making our state even more attractive to talent and businesses.
ES: How would you encapsulate your overall economic development strategy?
BC: It was important to quickly and clearly articulate a fresh vision in support of our state’s future growth prosperity. Working closely with Governor Holcomb and the IEDC team, we established five themes to guide our efforts and Indiana’s economic development focus. We call our strategy for economic growth our “5Es”—Environment, Entrepreneurship, Economy of the Future, Energy and External Engagement.
The first E focuses on the built environment. By investing in our communities, places and quality of life, we make our state even more attractive to large companies, start-ups and talent.
With our second E, we’re placing renewed focus on enabling Indiana’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, providing young visionaries access to the resources necessary to make their dreams a reality and in turn create high-paying jobs that power our economy for decades to come.
Our third E, Economy of the Future, envisions Indiana’s economy 10, 20, 30 years from now and beyond. With eyes toward tomorrow, we’ll establish a plan and set a course to increase our investment in industries that provide that growth.
The fourth E involves creating a plan for how Indiana can best leverage its assets to participate in the energy transition, given that renewable energy will have a market value of $2.15 trillion by 2025. We know renewable energy sources are important to many companies that are growing and expanding, and we must be able to articulate Indiana’s renewable energy offerings.
Our fifth and final E is about telling Indiana’s story. Our humility should not stop us from celebrating our victories and inviting others to join in our successes. The state has long been a pro-business, family-friendly location, and it is time to better share the story of the nation’s best-kept secret.
ES: Are there particular industries that you feel are especially set for growth?
BC: Our second E, Economy of the Future, keeps our focus on higher growth industries. We’re not just focused on 2022 or 2023. At the IEDC, we’re having conversations about what our economy will look like in 2032, about what needs to be done today to ensure success decades from now and beyond.
Our decades of stability, a great quality of life, and vibrant universities offer confidence that Indiana is absolutely the right place for new industries, R&D and entrepreneurship.
Indiana is poised to attract agricultural and environmental innovation, renewable energy, mobility related industry like electric and autonomous vehicles, and continued momentum in life sciences to name just a few. The state is investing—and growing a talented workforce—in support of these exciting businesses and industries of the future.
ES: How do you plan on coordinating the efforts of the state’s regional and local economic development agencies?
BC: Indiana is facing more opportunity for its future now than ever before, and we are best equipped to take advantage of these opportunities because we have built partnerships that allow us to harness Indiana’s collaborative energy across private industry, non-profits, the community, academia, economic development and the public sector.
Indiana’s a state that works together, and we plan to take this collaboration to the next level as we implement the 5E strategy and begin telling our story in a bigger, bolder way.
ES: You’re relatively new in your position as Secretary of Commerce. Based on your personal and professional experience, what do you feel you bring to your post?
BC: I’ve offered my service as Secretary of Commerce in gratitude to our state, which provides a stable, steady and business-friendly climate that supported a young entrepreneur in my effort to start and grow a national business.
I bring almost four decades of experience growing a business, creating a strong workforce culture. Most importantly, I come from a world that requires fiscal discipline with a profit imperative, balanced risk taking and vision to navigate into the future with urgency, efficiency and determination.
ES: What is your vision for Indiana’s economic growth over the medium- and long-terms?
BC: I’m confident our 5E strategy can be the basis to support significant growth in the short, medium and most importantly the long term for the state of Indiana. It’s an aggressive plan to focus on and invest in five critical areas concurrently — Environment, Entrepreneurship, Economy of the Future, Energy, and External Engagement.
The state’s leaders have our collective feet firmly on the gas pedal to drive growth, innovation and results now and decades in the future.
Indiana’s economy is bright and getting brighter. We’re building on a remarkable foundation, and our strength and stability will drive our strategy and accelerate us toward the economy of the future and next-generation industries.
There’s never been so much opportunity for the future of this state, and I’m proud to stand alongside Governor Holcomb and the dedicated team at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation as we shoot higher and run faster for our state’s prosperity.
Bio: Michael D. White is a published author with four non-fiction books and well more than 1,700 by-lined articles on international transportation and trade to his credit.
During his 35 year career as a journalist, White has served in positions from contributor and reporter to managing editor for a number of publications including Global Trade Magazine, the Los Angeles Daily Commercial News, Pacific Shipper, the Los Angeles Business Journal, International Business Magazine, the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Los Angeles Daily News, Pacific Traffic Magazine, and World Trade Magazine.
He has also served as editor of the CalTrade Report and Pacific Coast Trade websites, North America Public and Media Relations Manager for Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, and as a consultant to Pace University’s World Trade Institute and the Austrian Trade Commission.
A veteran of the United States Coast Guard, White has traveled in both Japan and China, and earned a degree in journalism from California State University and a Certificate in International Business from the Japanese Ministry of Trade & Industry’s International Institute for Studies & Training in Tokyo.