IndyStar: Indiana governor candidate Q&A: Former state Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers

By Kayla Dwyer
Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS — Brad Chambers, the founder and longtime CEO of Indianapolis-based real estate investing firm Buckingham Companies and the most recent secretary of commerce, is bringing a distinctly economic lens to his run for governor in 2024.

His was the most recent entry into the Republican primary, which already included U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, Fort Wayne businessman Eric Doden, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, former Attorney General Curtis Hill and Indianapolis mom Jamie Reitenour. Donald Rainwater is running as a Libertarian and former schools superintendent Jennifer McCormick as a Democrat.

Chambers headed up the Indiana Economic Development Corporation for one two-year term, then stepped down in 2023 to run for elected office for the first time. Under his leadership, the IEDC embarked on a new economic development strategy as exemplified by the LEAP district, where the state plays the role of real estate developer by buying up land to market for development ― an approach some of his opponents have criticized.

IndyStar asked Chambers, as well as the seven other candidates for governor, a set of questions about issues relevant to the 2024 race, some of which were submitted by readers. This interview is edited for length and clarity.

Q: What do you think sets you apart from your competition in the Republican primary?

A: No. 1, I’ve never done this before. I’m not a career politician. I’ve never aspired to run for public office, but I see the opportunity and the need for business leadership, aspirational leadership. And with my family support, we got together and jumped into this race. I believe I’m the only self-made guy in the race. I literally started from mowing lawns when I was a teenager to buying real estate in my 20s and building a business for two years, building it here in Indiana. I’ve been able to access the American dream here in Indiana, and I want to make that available for others.

Q: What would be your first priority as governor?

A: I believe the No. 1 job of a governor is to grow the economy. The No. 1 job of a governor is to grow jobs and lift people up economically. There’s a couple of statistics I use all the time: The average wage in Indiana is below U.S. average. Why is that? Why is Indiana’s GDP growth below U.S. average GDP growth?

I went into the commerce job as a volunteer, a dollar-a-year guy. It was a service job for me. This journey is not a career change for me. I’ve had a great 40-year career. This is a service opportunity. I took that service opportunity, and I proved that we can play economic offense. I proved that we can recruit future-focused industries ― $33 billion worth, and still counting, by the way. Watch the next few months. The punchline is that the wages are 30% higher than anytime in state history. So I proved that we can do more, that we’re not taking full advantage of our potential as a state. I firmly believe that when you’re growing the economy, then you take the proceeds of a growing economy and you can fix the things that need to be fixed. You can invest in education, you can invest in public safety, you can invest in mental health and health care.

Read the full Q&A.