Making sure Indiana is competitive on all economic development fronts – from workforce attraction and expansion to entrepreneurship and innovation – takes a collective effort.
Two prominent voices with big visions in this area are Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indianapolis businessman John Thompson. They are the 2019 Birch Bayh-Richard Lugar Government Leader of the Year and 2019 Dynamic Leader of the Year, respectively.
The pair will be honored at the Chamber’s 30th Annual Awards Dinner, presented by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, on November 7. Plymouth was previously announced as the Republic Airways and LIFT Academy Community of the Year; the Ogletree Deakins Business Leader of the Year honoree will be revealed on September 24.
The Governor’s Next Level legislative agenda has involved numerous efforts to address Indiana’s workforce needs and improve the ease of doing business.
Offers Holcomb, “We wanted to be very deliberate, very disciplined, very focused about how do we strengthen the state of Indiana. And that came down to making sure that we were constantly focused on strengthening our economy, and constantly focused on strengthening our infrastructure platform of which it sits on, focused on strengthening our greatest asset, our people.”
Employers now have access to state guidelines on steps they can take to help employees dealing with opioid and drug misuse. The Governor’s Next Level Jobs initiative has made substantial grants available to qualifying organizations so they can retrain workers for current and future job demands.
Meanwhile, broadband service expansion in rural parts of the state is a significant action in making those locations more attractive to business and talent.
Dynamic Leader of the Year Thompson got his first taste of entrepreneurism as a child. He was eight years old – and living in tough Baltimore housing projects – when he started working at fruit wagons and earning extra money carrying groceries for neighbors who couldn’t afford a car.
Today, he’s the chairman and CEO of four Indianapolis-based organizations – including Thompson Distribution and Indiana Electric Supply – and an investor in a variety of successful endeavors. He also spends time mentoring the state’s next generation of entrepreneurs.
In addition to his business success and active community involvement, Thompson works closely with the Chamber in several ways. This includes testifying at the Statehouse on policies that are important to the business community – such as bias crimes and smoking reform legislation.
“I enjoy going before the state Legislature – it makes a world of difference. I’ve encouraged others to go before them. Everyone has their own little world; the more perspectives they (legislators) can hear with real-live examples, the better.”