The CEO of one of Indiana’s largest employers said on April 21 what researchers, workforce officials and educators have warned Hoosiers about for years.
Educational attainment in Indiana is low, the state’s workforce is struggling to keep up with the science, technology, engineering and math skills many employers require, and health care costs are too high.
Such a statement could be found in multiple reports issued over the past decade, but that summary was offered by David Ricks, CEO of Eli Lilly.
Ricks’ comments came before the Economic Club of Indiana, demanding the attention of some of the state’s top business and government officials.
Just as foreboding, Ricks said that Black and brown Hoosiers are the most likely to suffer from a lack of gainful employment, affordable health care and quality education.
While elected officials such as Gov. Eric Holcomb have countered that the state is doing a good job of recruiting talented workers, Ricks’ comments paint a different picture.
And while Eli Lilly is headquartered in Indianapolis, it’s no secret that the pharmaceutical giant has invested billions of dollars in facilities in other states. The company certainly isn’t obligated to stay in Indiana.
Though they are private companies, large employers like Eli Lilly depend on the government to, at the least, partner with them when it comes to workforce training.
They typically demand the public sector provide quality educational opportunities, affordable and reliable health care and quality-of-life amenities before locating in a particular state.
Too often, we’re hearing from high-ranking business officials such as Ricks that Indiana is failing on these fronts, and the consequences could be catastrophic for the state’s labor force.
Large corporations and businesses are taking a stand on issues their leaders feel are too important to ignore. Such companies are showing their strength to demand change through their economic effect.
The day after Ricks’ comments, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis singed a bill stripping Disney World of its special tax district status. DeSantis and other Florida Republicans were unhappy with Disney leadership’s stance against the Parental Rights in Education Act, which has been dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
But Florida taxpayers could be on the hook for $1 billion in bond debt if the district is abolished, multiple media outlets have reported. Bad policy can have a devastating effect on taxpayers.
While hopefully we don’t see such a drastic showdown in Indiana, our state could experience an exodus of employers if more isn’t done to provide a skilled workforce, to ensure Hoosiers have adequate and affordable health care and to increase wages.
Failure to improve on those fronts also will put us at a disadvantage in competing with other states to attract businesses and residents.
Indiana’s elected officials have been aware of these issues for years. The can has been kicked down the road for too long.
Jeffersonville News and Tribune