J.D. Vance came to Indiana in October 2017 as part of the Rise of the Rest tour that showcases Midwest communities and their entrepreneurial efforts. He is coming back November 13 as keynote speaker for the Indiana Chamber’s 29th Annual Awards Dinner.
In an exclusive interview with the Chamber’s BizVoice® magazine, Vance talks about a variety of topics. You can read the full conversation online or in the current issue of the award-winning publication. Here are a few intriguing excerpts.
BizVoice: Demographics in Indiana and elsewhere paint a troubling picture. How concerned are you about the viability of rural America?
Vance: “In some ways, I am skeptical whether we can save every single small town in the country. But I also think, on the flip side, we can’t have a viable long-term economic future if the only places seeing high-quality job growth are San Francisco, New York City and Boston.
“To me, there has to be a middle ground between an incredibly concentrated coastal focus on economic growth on the one hand and a very non-dynamic, stagnant society on the other hand where no place is shrinking but no place is growing. To me, the key here is you have to build regional economic powerhouses.”
BV: What type of changes have you seen in economic development from a regional perspective?
Vance: “You definitely see a broad recognition that people have to rethink economic development so that their towns and cities are not left behind. Whether that’s improving infrastructure or increasing educational choice, there is a pretty broad recognition that people need to participate meaningfully in the modern economy and if you want to do that, you have to rethink some of the ways you have been doing things.
“In some ways, thinking about economic development as the sum of the parts that can add up to a more cohesive and prosperous whole is one of the trends that I like and am pretty excited about.”
(The conversation shifts to High Alpha’s Scott Dorsey, the Indiana Chamber’s 2012 Business Leader of the Year while at the helm of ExactTarget).
“Scott Dorsey is a great friend of ours. I think of Scott Dorsey as the paradigm of what we should be doing when we think of Midwestern economic development. I want to create a dozen Scott Dorseys all over the region and that strikes me as a much better way to create long-term prosperity than just investing on relocation.”
BV: You visited Indianapolis as part of one of the Rise of the Rest tours and you have made some investments in companies here. What are your impressions of Indiana and what is taking place here?
Vance: “It’s one of the areas of the country we’re most excited about in terms of high-quality start-ups, high-quality entrepreneurs building great companies. There are a couple of real visionary leaders I point to. One is Scott Dorsey, who built a great company. Another person is Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, who is really trying to figure out what the university has to mean in the 21st century economy, in the 21st century market.
“Purdue is one of those places that is churning out a remarkably high-quality number of talented engineers and technical staff and business leaders who are going to power Indiana’s economy for the next generation. What Indiana has going for it is a committed business community dedicated to growing the long-term pie. There are a lot of cool things happening in government and education that make it a really attractive place to do business and a really attractive place to invest in start-ups.”