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Almost all of Indiana's candidates for governor say state needs new economic development strategy

Flyers, buttons and stickers from all of Indiana's candidates for governor are arranged together.
Brandon Smith
/
IPB News
There are eight candidates for governor that will appear on Indiana ballots this year — six Republicans, one Democrat and one Libertarian.

Nearly all of Indiana’s candidates for governor, regardless of party, say the state’s economic development strategy needs to change.

All eight gubernatorial candidates who will appear on the ballot this year spoke at a forum Tuesday focused on business issues. It was hosted by NFIB, the Indiana Builders Association and Americans For Prosperity-Indiana.

There was much criticism for the current Indiana Economic Development Corporation strategy of buying up land and redeveloping it, gambling that large companies will then locate here.

Republican Eric Doden, a former head of the IEDC, said that’s the wrong focus.

“The heart and soul of your growth in your economy is small businesses and that’s where we should be creating conditions for them to be successful,” Doden said.

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) agreed and said Indiana needs to “spread the wealth.”

Republican Jamie Reitenour took it a step further, saying government shouldn’t be involved in economic development. Instead, she said the focus should be on education.

“Every senior that graduates in the state of Indiana should graduate having completed an apprenticeship," Reitenour said.

Former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick, a Democrat, concentrated on the fact that Republicans have been running the state for two decades.

“There is a real problem here and a lot of that problem goes back to a lack of accountability and the lack of transparency and the lack of responsibility with it,” McCormick said.

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Republican Curtis Hill, a former Indiana attorney general, said the state’s current plan pits Indiana communities against each other.

“We should be assisting locals who have ideas on how to grow their own economies locally,” Hill said.

Libertarian Donald Rainwater said Indiana’s approach continues to widen the gap between how it treats big corporations and small businesses, handing out big tax breaks to the largest companies.

"How many of you have had the government of the state of Indiana say 'Thank you for being a business owner, we’re going to give you a tax exemption?'" Rainwater said. "That’s what I thought. That’s gotta change, folks."

Only Republican Brad Chambers defended that — not surprising since, as former commerce secretary, he was one of the chief architects of that plan.

“And guess what, those large investments are supporting small and medium-sized businesses,” Chambers said. “The Dairy Queens are doing better, the home builders are doing better, the title companies are doing better, the little leagues are doing better.”

GOP Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch pivoted to her campaign’s primary issue, eliminating the state’s individual income tax. She said that will give Indiana the edge it needs to attract people and businesses.

Early, in-person voting in Indiana’s primary begins April 9.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.