The link between an excellent higher education system and a healthy state economy is direct and powerful. Over the years, I have discussed the topic frequently in this letter, and there is strong evidence that a consensus is building among government and business leaders in Indiana.
Consider these developments, all of which have occurred in recent weeks:
The presence of CERIAS, along with Indiana University's Abilene computer network center, positions our state to assert itself as a high-technology leader. This becomes especially relevant in light of a recent Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute study, which shows that Indiana ranks 50th among the states in the proportion of our labor force in professional and high-skill positions. Because 80 percent of future job growth is projected to occur in these sectors, our economic future depends on developing and attracting more high-tech businesses.
"The interrelationship between a state's economy and its universities is apparent. Look at any of the areas in our nation that constitute high-tech centers of innovation -- the San Francisco Bay Area or Boston or the Research Triangle in North Carolina. One predictable constant for every one of these economic hot spots is a close proximity to several first-rate research universities. Look a little closer, and you'll see a rich network of two-way relationships between the universities and the companies that are creating that growth."
Each of these developments has strengthened the case for a state economic strategy that takes into account all the pieces needed to solve the puzzle of long-term economic success. Certainly Indiana and Purdue universities -- as our major research institutions -- are a major factor, but so are other colleges and universities, K-through-12 schools, tax policy, existing business and industry, and governmental philosophy.
As Randy Tobias pointed out, if Indiana has an advantage in the global business arena, it is in our ability to make the most of our human capital. The Hoosier people are the real key to success.
If we are ready to invest in ourselves, to make a commitment to work together, and to think in terms of long-range benefits, we can create a brilliant legacy for the 21st century.