ELKHART — Hoosier businesses are doing well and education is improving, but health issues across the state have the Indiana Chamber of Commerce concerned for the future, the organization said Thursday as it released its Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card.
The report outlines how the state is doing compared to other states in 65 economic measurements.
Leaders of the Chamber of Commerce began a statewide tour in South Bend on Thursday, discussing and analyzing the report card at the Gillespie Conference Center.
Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Levon Johnson said the report showed both good and bad issues about the state.
“Indiana continues to be a really good place to do business, and the business environment has been set up to be business-friendly, and I think Elkhart and Bristol are major drivers of that environment,” he said.
Johnson mentioned Elkhart and Bristol’s willingness to give incentives for businesses to move and expand here as a reason for the area’s success, adding that local governments in those communities set higher requirements for minimum wages than the state, thereby also fighting poverty.
However, neither Johnson nor the Indiana Chamber of Commerce were ecstatic about the report, as the advantages that currently help Indiana maintain a competitive economic climate may not be enough in the future, according to the chamber.
While progress is taking place on some of the education statistical measures as part of the long-term approach to future workforce needs, the health of Hoosiers is low-ranking and getting poorer in comparison with other states, the report shows.
“Indiana’s tax, regulatory and legal environments – vastly improved over the past 15-plus years – have led to justly deserved high rankings in a number of national evaluations,” said Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “But the health of our citizens, and the impact on communities and businesses, is negatively impacting the Attractive Business Climate driver of Indiana Vision 2025 and the state’s ability to compete.”
Indiana’s adult smoking rate of 21.8 percent, an increase from 20.6 percent in the most recent biennial comparison, is 44th among the 50 states. Adult obesity levels escalated from just over 31 percent to 33.6 percent, ranking the state 39th in the nation.
The chamber criticized the Indiana General Assembly for not taking action in recent years to raise the cigarette tax or the legal age for smoking, despite a $6.2 billion annual business impact in health care costs and lost productivity, according to the chamber.
“The negative effects, of course, go well beyond the workplace,” Brinegar said. “Individual illnesses and premature deaths are tragic outcomes for residents, their families and our communities.”
Postsecondary results show Indiana ranking 37th or 38th in the areas of associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees or training beyond high school that includes industry credentials. However, Indiana did see improvement in each of those categories since the prior report card two years ago.
“The current workforce challenges have businesses engaged more than ever in helping craft solutions. Upskilling current members of the workforce and attracting more talented people to the state are also important parts of this equation,” Brinegar said.
The most recent data shows a 2.6 percent unemployment rate in Elkhart County, and that is affecting the ability of local businesses to hire skilled labor, according to Johnson, who also pointed to “upskilling” as an important area to focus on.
“Some of that certification can be done while students are in high school, through career centers and things like that. It’s a challenge, but it’s one that a number of people have their eyes on,” Johnson said.
In a new metric, the state is ranked fifth in job creation by businesses six years and older.
Overall, Indiana ranks in the Top 10 in 14 of the 65 metrics, with its highest ranking being third, for state public pension spending. The state has six rankings of 40th or worse, the lowest ranking being 47th. Compared to 2017, the state improved in 23 rankings and declined in 24.
However, according to the chamber, a declining ranking is not the same as an actual decline.
“Those numbers reiterate that our state is not operating in a vacuum,” Brinegar said. “While we improve in performance, other states are moving ahead at a faster rate and passing Indiana in the rankings.”
Johnson said the Elkhart area has done a great job to make the local business environment a good one.
“I would put Elkhart up against any area right now, but again, we’ve got things we need to work on,” Johnson said. “If I was in Vegas, I’d put my money on Elkhart.”
The full report is available at www.indianachamber.com/2025.
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