NICK DARRAH, DIRECTOR OF STAKEHOLDER DEVELOPMENT AT THE NORTHEAST INDIANA REGIONAL PARTNERSHIP
For me, it’s personal. As a combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps, I know firsthand the importance of having the best gear and equipment when you’re in a fight. Make no mistake, in war there is no such thing as a fair fight. You either have an advantage, or you are likely to get killed. It’s the U.S. defense industry’s job to make sure our warfighters have every possible advantage when it’s time to fight.
Fortunately for our military and allies, Indiana is home to some of the world’s greatest innovators and engineers with production capabilities dedicated to providing the equipment and services needed to keep the warfighting advantage on the side of freedom and democracy. In my corner of the state –Northeast Indiana – we’re home to many of the names you’re familiar with: Raytheon Technologies, BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Ultra Electronics, L3 Harris, etc. We also have hundreds of small- and medium-sized defense companies, as well as non-traditional defense firms with technological and manufacturing capabilities to serve the industry and support the warfighter.
It’s not luck or happenstance that these companies have all clustered here. We make things in Indiana. We are one of the most manufacturing intensive states in the country, and my 11-county region has the highest concentration of manufacturing in the state. We also have some of the best engineering and business schools in the world, stocking the pond every year with new highly talented graduates for companies to recruit. We’re geographically well-positioned to get goods to market. We have the infrastructure, specialized supply chains and deep labor pools already in place to make our state well-suited for developing, testing, commercializing, manufacturing and distributing the assets our military needs to maintain it’s globally dominant status.
And sure, we have a low tax, low cost of living, pro-business environment (all of which we are proud of), but so do many other Midwest and Southern states. What makes us different? What sets Indiana apart from those other areas?
In a word, it’s collaboration. We have cultivated and developed collaborative relationships among the various regional economic ecosystems throughout the state to support and advance the competitiveness of defense and aerospace in Indiana.
By working together with our statewide partners in government, academia, economic development and private sector business (large and small), we can leverage our regional manufacturing mastery in the northeast with the IT capabilities of central Indiana and the R&D power of our research universities, then connect those with our various military installations such as NSWC Crane, Grissom Joint Air Reserve Base and Atterbury-Muscatatuck Training Center for testing and proving. Through the power of collaboration, we increase efficiencies, eliminate redundancies and produce the highest quality product for the warfighter at the best cost for the taxpayer.
As a country we find ourselves at a time of concurrent inflection points:
The first inflection point we saw coming, and as a state we’ve been preparing our stakeholders for success by rewriting the book on procurement in our own image and building the collaborative ecosystem referenced earlier.
While we didn’t have time to prepare for the second inflection point, its reality and the need to adapt to that is just as stark – beyond just defense and aerospace. Policymakers and business leaders have to reimagine and reinvent how we will do business in the future. Supply chains need to be diversified and regionalized. Investments need to be made in people and technology to increase productivity and protect against future shocks and interruptions.
The silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it impacted every state and region across the country and around the world. However, Hoosier businesses and institutions weathered this storm relatively well. Because we have already laid the groundwork for regional collaboration across the state, we are well-positioned to accelerate out of this pandemic and capture opportunities created by the new ways of doing business that COVID forced upon the world. Coupled with the opportunities to serve the business needs of the DoD, we as a state have the potential for significant growth in the short term, generating positive impacts that will last for decades.
We owe it to those who protect the freedoms that we are blessed with to provide them with sustainable, high-quality resources to carry out their missions. Hoosiers are uniquely capable of doing that in the most efficient way. If you want to get plugged into the defense industry ecosystems we have created in this state and join us in our mission to support the warfighter, reach out to any of the organizations below.
Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership
Indiana Innovation Institute (IN3)
National Defense Industry Association - Greater Indiana Chapter
Northeast Indiana Defense Industry Association
Procurement Technical Assistance Center (Indiana PTAC)
Grissom Area Defense Alliance
Indiana Economic Development Corporation – Defense Development
Nick Darrah, Director of Stakeholder Development at the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership