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New Indiana commerce secretary says project near Lebanon should serve as model

New commerce secretary outlines plans

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana’s new secretary of commerce on Thursday said the state has to continue recruiting employers in high-tech industries in order to remain competitive.

Gov. Eric Holcomb named David Rosenberg to lead the Indiana Economic Development Corp. (IEDC) on Aug. 15 following the resignation of Brad Chambers.

Rosenberg had been the IEDC’s chief operating officer for the past two years. He tells News 8 he wants to continue pursing the kind of high-tech employers the state secured during Chambers’ tenure. He says attracting high-wage jobs to the state means more opportunities for workers not only to get a good-paying job but also to enjoy the indirect benefits such jobs bring, such as better health and education outcomes.

“Being able to attract those high wage jobs and those economies of the future can really change a person’s trajectory and a family’s lives,” he said.

Rosenberg said projects such as the IEDC’s Limitless Exploration/Advanced Pace (LEAP) project near Lebanon will play a critical role. He said employers in high-tech sectors, such as microelectronics, agriculture technology and life sciences, prefer to cluster near each other in places where they can easily find workers with the skill sets they need. Rosenberg said the IEDC is pursuing about $60 billion worth of deals for LEAP, though he said he can’t comment on specifics. He said some counties already are trying to replicate LEAP on a smaller scale.

Lebanon is in Boone County, the county on Indianapolis’ northwest border.

LEAP has drawn criticism from nearby landowners for what they call a lack of transparency and public input. Some even sued the city of Lebanon, claiming officials violated state and federal laws that govern property annexation. That lawsuit is still pending. Rosenberg said he disagrees with claims the deal was done in the dark. He said the IEDC meets regularly with city and county officials and has held a number of stakeholder meetings to explain the project.

“These have been voluntary transactions with landowners that have wanted to sell property,” he said, adding he does not expect LEAP to expand from its 5,000-acre size.

Asked about revitalizing closed industrial plants in cities such as Anderson and Kokomo, Rosenberg said those could be candidates for Regional Economic Acceleration & Development Initiative, or READI, grants. He said bringing back those sites would be up to regional economic development authorities. If they chose to do so, he said, the IEDC would be happy to help them market those sites.