BRAD CHAMBERS, INDIANA SECRETARY OF COMMERCE & CEO OF THE INDIANA ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (IEDC)
I begin each year with a sense of anticipation and a focus on the challenges, opportunities and goals for what may lie ahead for myself, my family, and for the business I founded decades ago. The best laid plans aside, life can come at you fast, and sometimes you just have to hang on.
In April, Governor Holcomb called. When the Governor calls, you answer. He made it clear at the outset that he was looking for someone to lead our State’s economy as its Secretary of Commerce.
Suffice to say, this wasn’t anything that I had anticipated, it wasn’t in my plan, and my initial reaction was, “No, I can’t do that, the timing just isn’t right.” I took time to consider the offer, and it became clear that a refusal to serve would be contradictory to my values. I believe in civic duty. I believe in servant leadership. I believe in giving back and paying it forward. This was an opportunity to live out those values, and so I said, “Yes.”
The first step was to learn as much as possible about the opportunities and challenges that faced our state and to formulate a strategy. That process was much like my yearly goal planning -- all organizations must continually ask themselves, “What can we do better? How high can we shoot? Who are our competitors?” While Indiana is winning in a number of ways, both small and large, winners never get complacent—they analyze their performance and strategize on how to improve. While remaining firmly committed to industries that have made Indiana a beacon of economic growth, there are additions to that list that will help empower the Hoosier economy of the 21st Century – our Economy of the Future. And within that, the defense sector is a particularly exciting opportunity for growth.
In the most recent report from the Department of Defense, Indiana ranked 36th for defense spending as a share of state GDP and 30th in total defense spending, yet we have some of the largest defense assets in the U.S. here in Indiana. We are home to NSWC Crane, the third largest Naval installation in the world, spread over 64,000 acres and employing 38,000 people. We are home to several prime contractors and hundreds of small and medium-sized companies producing cutting-edge technologies essential to our warfighters. Indiana is a proud state. We are proud of our veterans. We are proud of the numerous ways we support national defense and we are in a perfect position to both grow what already exists and to capitalize on regional capabilities to win in new areas of mission needs such as artificial intelligence, hypersonic, and cyber. Indiana must leverage these sectors to meet our goal of tripling defense spending in our state by 2025. It is a daunting task, but it can be met if we work hard and if we have a collective plan.
To focus the efforts of our team, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (“IEDC”), and our many economic development partners, we developed a strategy and mission we call our “Five E’s.” They are the Built Environment, Entrepreneurship, Economy of the Future, Energy Transition, and External Engagement. This mission is inextricably linked to our national security.
The Built Environment focuses on our communities and current assets, still we must continue to build to grow and attract industry and talent. Entrepreneurship and the capital to support that effort are critical to the startup community and its supporting ecosystem. The Economy of the Future is not at all an indictment of our proud manufacturing history; rather, it is an acknowledgment that we must work diligently to stay ahead of the technology curve to be prepared for the economy of 2031 so that Indiana remains at the forefront of the economic war. As the world transitions away from traditional sources of energy, we must build a comprehensive plan for the Energy Transition detailing how Indiana can be a leader in battery innovation, solar, wind, etc. None of those four E’s matters much without the fifth - external engagement. It is incumbent upon us to work with each of you, inform and engage you, and ask for your partnership to create the reality we envision.
Indiana is prospering: but we cannot rest on our laurels. We must continue to march onward into an ever-changing, dynamic 21st Century. If we stay focused, if we execute our 5E mission, if we work together, I’m convinced that we will lead nationally and our State’s economy will thrive well into the next century and beyond.
So, when your phones ring, be ready. I’ll be calling for you to help grow our State, and I hope, like me, you’ll answer the call.
Brad Chambers, Indiana Secretary of Commerce and CEO of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation
Bradley B. Chambers is the Secretary of Commerce for the state of Indiana and CEO of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), serving as a member of Governor Eric Holcomb’s cabinet and leading the state’s economic development efforts since his appointment in summer 2021.
For more than 37 years, Chambers has been a leader in the investment, development and management of high-quality multifamily and mixed-use properties across the nation. As founder, president and CEO of Indianapolis-based Buckingham Companies, Chambers has led the strategic direction of the company’s integrated divisions, including development, construction, property management and institutional asset management since he started the company as a student at Indiana University in 1984. With a focus on midwestern values, creativity and community involvement, Buckingham has grown from its first rental property purchase to the development and acquisition of its investments exceeding $3 billion.
In addition to his role at Buckingham Companies, Chambers also serves as a founder and board member of the Buckingham Foundation Inc., a philanthropic organization focused on making a positive impact on communities within the mission areas of affordable housing, community and economic development, arts and culture, and childhood hunger. To date, the foundation has awarded more than $2.5 million in grants and sponsorships to 600 nonprofits.
Chambers received his bachelor’s degree in finance from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. He and his wife, Carol, are parents to their son, Nick.