With electronic dance music pulsating against a neon backdrop against a black backdrop, a “Young Professionals Coffee Rave” kicked off Indiana’s first World Economic Summit on Thursday for hundreds of visitors from across the United States and 30 other nations.
At the end of this Indianapolis 500 weekend, state officials hope their guests will leave the state thrilled with its thought leadership and potential as a hub for emerging industries such as computer chips. , electric vehicles, renewable energy and more.
Indiana is “always at the top of our investment list,” said Yi Zhang of Illinois-based auto parts maker Wanxiang America Corp., one of the glowing attendees at The Pavilion at Pan Am Plaza.
“It’s the mix of the big institutions here, like Purdue [University] and Indiana [University]offering great labor availability and the tax structure,” said Zhang, an IU Kelley School of Business alumnus but originally from China.
Berthan Ugeh, who works in finance in New York but is originally from Nigeria, said he was in town for the day to connect with more potential clients. On his must-see list, he said, was a speech by Governor Eric Holcomb and a China business event that featured Cummins CEO Tom Linebarger.
“I think it’s good for getting Indiana out there,” Ugeh said of the summit. He had visited Indiana once or twice before. “Coming from the East Coast, a lot of people always say, ‘Well, are you going to Indiana? Where?”
Some participants came from closer to home.
Ramona Tin of the Burmese American Community Institute said the Indianapolis-based nonprofit hopes to connect with other business partners through the coffee event and summit. The group’s Employment and Micro-Enterprise team, Tin said, wants to do more to help its clients looking for work.
Summit events throughout the weekend include breakout sessions on topics such as technological solutions to food insecurity, the impact of artificial intelligence, the transition to electric vehicles and the influence of motorsport on sustainability.
Networking events and the chance to attend the Indy 500 will provide fun breaks. At the coffee rave, even Indiana Commerce Secretary Brad Chambers tried out a 360-degree camera with some of the crew.
State officials were optimistic about the impact of the event.
“We’re going to be able to form partnerships that will last long into the future…We’re counting on the real firepower that’s in this room to help us forge that future,” Governor Holcomb told attendees.
“We’ve never seen the economic vitality and momentum that we’re experiencing right now,” Holcomb added. “…There will be a lot of opportunities and what we need are events like this, the NBA2K [basketball video gaming tournament]reaching out to groups and individuals who are far away and [who] maybe you haven’t heard of Indianapolis, Indiana and help us bring them here, so we can continue to grow and diversify not just our economic portfolio, but who we are in as a state.
Ahead of the summit, the state this week announced three new projects totaling at least $4.6 billion in investment and more than 2,000 jobs, with another economic deal expected as part of Thursday’s business.
On Tuesday, Dutch company Stellantis NV, owner of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, announced plans for a $2.5 billion electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant in Kokomo that will create up to 1,400 full-time jobs during of its opening. This project is in line for a state record $188 million in incentives.
The next day, Indianapolis drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co. announced it would invest $2.1 billion in Boone County to build a pair of manufacturing facilities, which will serve as the anchor for a new innovation district near Lebanon. The incentives for this project have not been made public.
And on Thursday, McLaren Racing announced it would spend $25 million to build an office, workshop and training facility for the IndyCar team in Whitestown, creating up to 175 new jobs by the end of 2025.
The announcements came just weeks after Lilly CEO David Ricks gave a speech to the Economic Club of Indiana exposing the state’s shortcomings in economic development. He cited the state’s low grades for K-12 education, high health care costs and lack of skilled workers.