Growing a Statewide Logistics Sector

Tags: Economic Development

David Holt is vice president, operations and business development, Conexus Indiana.
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Recognizing that advanced manufacturing and the logistics sector represent a key economic development opportunity for Indiana, local leaders formed Conexus Indiana, a statewide forum for key logistics and manufacturing employers, academia, and government. Its goals are to attract and grow logistics and advanced manufacturing companies, add value to the goods that move through the state, and create high-paying jobs by building the human capital needed to support the growing demand for logistics services.

Like the rest of the country, Indiana faces a shortage of workers with the skills necessary for logistics and advanced manufacturing careers. One key to building a workforce is bringing together educators and manufacturers to develop a skills template and curriculum that fills the gap between classroom and workplace.

Indiana also has taken a hard look at how to strengthen its image as the “Crossroads of America” and ensure its infrastructure and public policies foster continued growth. Conexus Indiana has addressed these issues and completed a statewide plan for future success.

The process Conexus Indiana took to develop this plan was unconventional. It included creating a dedicated leadership team of 36 executives from major logistics operations throughout the state, as well as community leaders and service providers. This team, the Logistics Council Executive Committee, represents all facets of the supply chain.

Plotting a Roadmap

Building consensus among a group from competing industries and spanning a statewide geography wasn’t easy. To lay the foundation for its strategic plan, Conexus Indiana traveled the state, listening to local leaders and economic development groups who identified opportunities for logistics growth in their region. Those findings were shared with the 36 council members who collaborated on strategies to address each opportunity— whether it be infrastructure improvements, curriculum development, or public policy.

The result is a statewide roadmap for future progress. The plan aligns public and private partners, and will allow existing companies to grow their businesses, develop a more attractive environment to locate in Indiana, and create high-paying jobs for Hoosiers.

Conexus Indiana allowed industry partners to come to consensus on areas of statewide importance, such as intermodal capacity and projects to expedite freight movement. Forming a unified voice among the logistics enterprises of an entire state gives weight to its efforts and helps advance the industry’s agenda at the state and federal levels.

Significant buy-in from the private sector also ensures that the plan won’t gather dust, but will take the next step toward legislation, capacity-building projects, and a more prepared workforce.

In the coming year, Conexus Indiana plans to release a second phase of the plan that will include recommendations for funding the projects outlined in the first phase, an improved financing mechanism for infrastructure projects statewide, the public policy package, and other long-term goals.

Building a statewide coalition dedicated to helping logistics and advanced manufacturing businesses succeed gives the sector a louder voice in advancing its agenda at the state and federal levels, and opens the door for future partnerships and new efficiencies. Ultimately, the process will allow logistics operations to grow in Indiana, and will attract new businesses and high-paying jobs.