Friday, October 24, 2014

Initiative aims to help Indiana’s -- and Elkhart County’s -- automotive sector

Posted on Oct. 2, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Oct. 2, 2013 at 10:44 a.m.

ELKHART — A statewide automotive-manufacturing strategic plan unveiled Tuesday, Oct. 1, should help strengthen Indiana’s competitiveness globally and benefit Elkhart County’s automotive suppliers, according to the Indiana Automotive Council.

The council is a joint effort between Conexus Indiana and the Indiana Economic Development Corp., and the plan came as an effort between those groups, industry executives and leaders in higher education.

“Indiana has long enjoyed an enviable position as a global automotive manufacturing leader, and we know that we are building on that strong foundation by collaborating with industry, higher education and state and local government to pursue strategic initiatives,” said Matt Conrad, director of the Indiana Automotive Council.

Indiana is the second largest state in the U.S. for automotive manufacturing, according to the groups.

“The automotive industry is an important employer and economic driver in Elkhart County and I am pleased I was able to provide insight and guidance as a member of the Indiana Automotive Council for this statewide plan,” said Chris Miller, vice president of sales and marketing for GDC, Inc. “We have excellent opportunities to continue to grow our automotive industrial base and this plan will help us put in place the additive programs and policies to ensure we reach our fullest potential.”

The plan outlines opportunities for Indiana to enhance its position as a nationally recognized automotive manufacturing hub, highlight its commitment to strengthening industry and academia partnerships, grow its workforce capabilities and innovation pipeline, attract more supply-chain manufacturers to Indiana and promote green technologies, according to the groups’ announcement.

The state’s automotive sector has more than 600 companies employing 120,000 people with a collective output of nearly $9 billion, the groups said. “Indiana has the ideal economic environment for business growth and we’ve seen a dramatic resurgence of the automotive industry nationwide, with specific projects in Indiana leading the way,” said Tom Easterday, Indiana Automotive Council chairman and executive vice president of Lafayette-based Subaru of Indiana Automotive. “Now is the time to ensure we have the best plan in place to leverage this momentum for the future.”

The strategies include building a qualified workforce, growing the state’s automotive innovation pipeline and strengthening Indiana’s automotive supply chain.

The plan calls for manufacturers to work with local schools to strengthen STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs and advanced manufacturing and logistic programs. It also calls for building relationships with colleges and universities, and help reimburse workers for skills development.

It also calls for the development of Centers of Innovation and Excellence that would be driven by industry and focus on innovations to meet industry challenges, while helping students gain experience for job opportunities with local automotive companies.

“Driven by a shared and unrelenting mission to facilitate economic growth, this strategic plan will help us continue to build on our strengths,” said Indiana Secretary of Commerce Victor Smith. “The automotive industry drives Indiana’s economy down the highway of opportunity. Numerous global automotive companies have chosen Indiana not just once, but multiple times for new investment and job opportunities because of the many assets that make Indiana a state that works for business. Together, with industry leaders and statewide stakeholders, I’m looking forward to revving our engines and guiding Indiana’s automotive industry into the next stage of growth.”