PLAINFIELD — A committee of 36 business leaders from throughout the state says Indiana is poised to become the logistics destination in America. But not without proper planning.
The Conexus Indiana Logistics Council Executive Committee (LCEC) has spent the past two years formulating methods to ensure continued and proper growth in the logistics industry.
“It’s a statewide strategic plan to help Indiana leverage and optimize its leadership position as the Crossroads of America,” said J. Mark Howell, president of Brightpoint Americas and LCEC chair, at a press conference Tuesday unveiling phase one of the committee’s study.
The LCEC is comprised of leading members of the logistics community throughout the state, representing all industry sectors including air, infrastructure, rail, trucking, warehousing, and distribution. The council met four to five times a year for full-day sessions. Howell said attendance exceeded 95 percent.
“This shows you how important this work is to the people that were involved,” he said.
The top objective of the study is to create jobs.
“There’s not a single thing in this plan that doesn’t directly lead back to job creation,” Howell said.
Specifically, the LCEC sees opportunity in three areas: infrastructure, public policy, and workforce development.
With infrastructure, a Conexus study shows potential for increased volume of direct service for rail lines to the CSX rail yard in Avon. The committee is also looking at ways of attracting some of the air freight business that currently goes to Chicago instead of here.
Reconstruction of key water ports along Lake Michigan and the Ohio River also are important to central Indiana, said David Holt, Conexus’ vice president of operations and business development. That’s because much of the agriculture and steel produced here are shipped via water ports. While the LCEC plan emphasizes private-sector solutions, waterways are public infrastructure the government is responsible for funding. Locks with access to Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River via the Ohio could take more than $1 billion to repair.
“One of the commitments we’ve made is we will come with things (to government officials) with enough data to support them giving defensible positions to drive these initiatives,” Howell said.
Commerce connectors including the Ronald Reagan Parkway are another significant infrastructure need.
“The completion of the Ronald Reagan Parkway is extremely important — not just for Hendricks County but all the surrounding counties because of the commerce that occurs from the movement of freight,” Holt said.
As for public policy, the plan is to start working with major associations like the Indiana Chamber of Commerce to craft strategy to give to the governor and general assembly.
With workforce development, the LCEC has already met with human resources representatives at several companies to learn what job skill gaps exist. Holt says Hoosiers have the proficiency for logistics but require continuing education. The committee is working on a curriculum now that addresses that. They hope to implement it at schools like Vincennes University, Ivy Tech, and private online institutions like Harrison College. Eventually the goal is to have this training right in the employers’ hands.
Conexus recently launched a website — www.dreamitdoitindiana.com — that targets youth ages 16 to 24, as well as displaced workers and the underemployed, about advanced manufacturing careers. As Holt explains, it’s not just driving a forklift anymore.
“I call it a pre-emptive strike,” he said. “The baby boomers are going to be retiring, and there’s going to be a huge need for workers. This is our attempt to get out in front of this and make sure they do have the right skills, because the skills needed are getting more complex and higher tech.”