THE ROAD AHEAD
To thrive, Indianapolis and its communities must figure out how to keep things on the right path to avoid falling behind. In the face of faster economic and job changes, Indy needs to grow the talent pool across communities and create diverse economic opportunities. With the additional challenges faced today as a result of COVID-19, Indianapolis, like other cities, must focus on making its recovery equitable for all.
Mayor Hogsett on the Road to Recovery
Like cities all across the country, Indianapolis suffered the effects of the pandemic and is now pushing toward its economic recovery.
Mayor Joe Hogsett notes the downtown area is an important component to the economic recovery. “Downtown has seen a surprising level of activity and development occur during the pandemic. New announcements like the new headquarters of global animal health leader Elanco—which will repurpose a long dormant GM stamping plant—have put wind in a lot of sails.”
Hogsett also acknowledges the importance of the tech sector to the city. “Tech industries are no longer the industries of the future, they’re the industries of today. These are the industries that can allow residents to move into good jobs that offer prosperity wages.”
“While it isn’t the largest slice of the employment pie today, tech is still substantial in our ecosystem, with over 5,000 open positions today. Plus, as gateways to the middle class, we must do everything we can to make sure a more economically and racially diverse workforce fills those jobs.”
“In addition to college-completion efforts, the city offers and supports technology, coding, and computer training programs. Breaking the barriers to this industry can enhance upward mobility for low-income families in Indy,” says Hogsett.
He points out that tech firm Infosys is repurposing the former Indianapolis International Airport as the company’s U.S. training headquarters.
“Unemployment is now thankfully under 5%, but big challenges remain,” says Hogsett. “Over 90% of Indy residents who have filed for unemployment reported making less than $50,000 a year. For families, these wages are often not sustainable and don’t always allow for spending on educational opportunities to advance.
Hogsett notes there are a number of pathways for local residents to be included in the recovery. “In 2019, we introduced the Roadmap for Inclusive Economic Growth. It was a recognition by community stakeholders that not all job sectors are created equal. Its aim is to reposition existing economic development incentive programs to advance job opportunity for Indianapolis residents and remove barriers to employment – such as childcare, transit, and skills training.”
"Indy Achieves helps more students gain access to funding that allows them to complete the journey of postsecondary education.”
"We also introduced Rapid Re-skilling Grants to make sure the 14% of our residents who lack a high school degree had the tools they needed to transition into new opportunities. This funding contributed to enrolling thousands of students in high school degree or equivalency programs while also filling the technology gaps many residents face.”
Hogsett explains an additional resource, “To bridge the gap, city partners created the Rapid Re-Employment Response job search tool. Through an online portal, job seekers have access to recruiters who then advocate on their behalf for the kinds of positions that will take them where they want to go.”
After the hardships of 2020, Hogsett looks ahead to when the city can fully reopen. “Beyond the general importance of our residents getting their vaccines for the health of themselves, their friends, and their families, we’ve also stressed that vaccination is the way to get our economy moving again.”
Governor Eric Holcomb on Determining Your Own Destiny
“The middle class is truly the engine to our economy and to someone's life,” says Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb. “It’s about skilling up and keeping up with the times.”
Even before the pandemic, Indianapolis and the state of Indiana—like the rest of the country—were undergoing economic change. “There’s been such a transformation due to technology. We’re living in this digital age where it’s every sector, plus tech. This is where you look specifically at the middle class. We don’t want anyone to be left behind,” says Holcomb.
Three years ago, in response to the shift in the economy, Holcomb created the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet. “Our goal was to not just tweak, but to transform our workforce development efforts by building a stronger collaboration among our employers, educators, workforce systems and consumers themselves,” he says.
Like the rest of the country, the pandemic hit some workers harder than others. “Our unemployment data showed those with lower levels of education were more likely to have become unemployed over the past year, so our opportunity is to increase the value that Hoosiers see in education and training beyond high school. We’re connecting people to the many resources Indiana has available to help them upskill or reskill.”
Indiana is showing strong signs of recovery, “including an unemployment rate of 4.2% and regaining nearly 9 out of 10 jobs lost over the last year. What hasn’t changed, however, is the knowledge that advanced education and training is the key to unlocking the economic potential of Hoosiers and our state."
“We have tremendous leadership throughout our capital city—leaders that understand the issues and challenges we’re facing today and who are rolling up their sleeves to help Hoosiers get prepared for the jobs available today and tomorrow. Indianapolis is fortunate to have a strong philanthropic and community network, as well, which is critical to ensuring all Hoosiers are getting connected to the right resources for their individual lives.”
The governor says there are growing opportunities each day to become part of the middle class. “We can’t be content. We’ve got to skill up. If the individual is growing, if the middle class is growing, that means our community is growing.”
Governor Holcomb says everyone should aspire to acquire the skills they need to get a good job. “The American Dream to me is all about being able to determine what your destiny is and will be.”
“The culture here is one of collaboration, and it’s something that you will see quite often here, where the business community has collaborated with the government officials in terms of getting things done.”
— Pete Ward, Chief Operating Officer of the Indianapolis Colts
“It’s gotta be more than hope. Expectation and hope for the middle class is that we will, over the next 50 years, have just as strong and just as vibrant a middle class as we had over the last 50 years, which is absolutely the way that the economy grew and we became the richest major nation on earth. We face challenges, but I do think that it is entirely doable. And that’s really what everybody has got to hope for, for the middle class in the country.”
— Austan Goolsbee, Economist at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business