IBJ: Brad Chambers: Lifting rural economies requires further investment

In Forefront
Indianapolis Business Journal

Featured issue: As governor, what would you do to boost the economy of rural Indiana?

By Brad Chambers

Indiana has never done more to boost its rural economy than during my tenure as the state’s secretary of commerce thanks to a strong partnership between Gov. Eric Holcomb, the state Legislature and the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

In two years, we attracted record committed capital investments into rural areas with thousands of high-wage careers that will not only lift up Hoosier workers but entire communities.

And through the state’s READI program, which I helped to design and administer, Indiana is continuing to invest record amounts into quality-of-life projects statewide. This innovative program is leveraging billions of dollars to support new housing, infrastructure, community spaces, trails and more, positively impacting every county—rural and urban communities alike—and is an incomparable improvement from the state’s previous Regional Cities efforts.

While we’ve made great progress for rural Indiana, there’s simply more to do.

As governor, I’ll continue to invest in the READI program and align the Office of Community and Rural Affairs’ Main Street Program with the IEDC’s Redevelopment Tax Credit to encourage the rapid revitalization of communities across the state and further enhance quality of life.

But we cannot boost our rural economies without supporting farmers and agriculture.

Our strong agricultural heritage and proud history of innovation has positioned us to be a leader in the future of the agricultural industry. And with agriculture technology rapidly improving and the industry’s strong and growing presence in Indiana, we should also continue to prioritize investments in AgTech in support of both our farmers and our entrepreneurs who are building these new technologies.

However, we should help farmers adopt these technologies, which are often cost-prohibitive. That’s why I’ve proposed an “Agriculture Readiness Grant” program that’ll provide matching funds for farmers to invest in these new technologies that will boost output and optimize efficiencies.

We can also do more to fight against overregulation and help more young Hoosiers start their farming business.

Of course, small- and medium-sized businesses also play a vital role in Indiana—especially in our rural economies—employing thousands of Hoosiers across the state. That’s why I’ll work with the Legislature to lower taxes, decrease regulatory burdens and provide programs to support efficiency and profitability, like the Manufacturing Readiness Grant program.

We also must do more to boost our rural communities by ensuring they have access to the necessary health care services and public safety and emergency services. It’s unacceptable that a woman in Auburn would need to drive to Fort Wayne to have a child. It’ll be a priority of my administration to ensure that all our communities have access to the vital services and resources they need, including child care, broadband and health care.

There’s only one person in this race with a record of working to boost rural Indiana’s economy—with unprecedented results.

But there’s more to do, and with your help, I’m ready to finish what we started and make all of Indiana an even better place to live, work and raise a family.•