Aug 8, 2023 - News

Education, workforce Indiana Chamber of Commerce plans for next decade

Illustration of a pattern of briefcases in different skintones.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce wants leaders to spend the next decade tackling state shortcomings like education attainment and access to opportunities for minorities.

Driving the news: The chamber yesterday released a new vision plan for the state's economic future, titled Indiana Prosperity 2035.

Why it matters: The goals in the plan will drive the work, and statehouse lobbying efforts, of the influential chamber for the next dozen years.

State of play: The chamber says Indiana has successfully built a competitive business climate but risks falling behind if challenges around education, opportunity, health, quality of place — the things that make people want to build not just businesses, but families and lives somewhere — aren't addressed.

  • Other states have gotten more competitive, too.

What they're saying: "If Indiana excelled in addressing every other goal outlined in this plan and failed to make significant progress on the workforce and K-12 education goals, we are doubtful that Indiana's economy will hold its place — let alone accelerate at the pace of improvement necessary," said chamber president and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

Details: The chamber outlined more than 30 goals on issues like workforce, education and economic growth.

  • A top workforce goal is increasing the share of Hoosier adults with some kind of post-secondary education from the current rate of 54% to 70% by 2035.
  • The chamber's previous goal was 60% by 2025.

The intrigue: The chamber has been a powerful player at the Statehouse, but some question if its influence has waned in recent years after several priorities, such as raising the cigarette tax, failed.

Yes, but: Brinegar said lawmakers were close last legislative session to raising the cigarette tax, but a better-than-expected revenue forecast in the final days of the budget-writing session killed the proposal.

Separately, the chamber continues to push for consolidation of small school districts.

  • This has long been a goal for Brinegar, who is retiring in January after more than 20 years at the helm, but some lawmakers have been reluctant to support legislation that would eliminate schools in their districts.

The bottom line: The chamber is willing to point out the state's policy flaws and some of its most difficult challenges while advocating for solutions that won't always be popular.

  • "I have this old saying that around the General Assembly, the good ideas sometimes take three or more years to pass and bad ideas only take one," Brinegar said.

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