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home : most recent : statewide implications July 21, 2017

7/9/2017 7:07:00 PM
Study finds Indiana in the middle for business startups in U.S.

Larry Avila, Times of Northwest Indiana

When it comes to places to start a business, a new study suggests Indiana isn't necessarily the best location in the U.S., but it also isn't the worst.

Indiana ranked 31st, according to the Best & Worst States to Start a Business report released by WalletHub, a think tank of financial experts, which analyzed a myriad of economic data from the government and several private organizations including the National Venture Capital Association and Tax Foundation

Indiana ranked lower than bordering states. Michigan ranked 16th, Kentucky came in at 19 and Illinois at 25. North Dakota, with its low unemployment rate and booming energy sector, topped the rankings, while New Jersey, because of high labor costs and pricey office space, finished last. 

Jill Gonzalez, an analyst with WalletHub, said Indiana's ranking was weighed down by weak showings in average growth in number of small businesses, startups per capita and share of college-educated population. Indiana earned low rankings in those areas when compared to the rest of the country. 

But the state can take steps to improve, she said.

"The state can provide stronger incentives, i.e., sales tax refunds, exemptions or other sales tax discounts, cash grants, loans or loan guarantees and property tax abatements to encourage startups and entrepreneurs," Gonzalez said. 

Lorri Feldt, regional director of the Northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center in Crown Point, was surprised by the state's showing in the WalletHub study, noting other reports have shown Indiana to be a business-friendly state.

"Indiana routinely shines in most surveys," she said. Feldt pointed to a 2016 CNBC ranking of America's Top States for Business, which ranked Indiana first in overall cost to conduct business when compared to the rest of the country. 

The WalletHub study also ranked Indiana low, 48th, in availability of human capital, or people, to fill jobs. The state's jobless rate in May, the latest available from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, was 3.2 percent, which was below the national rate of 4.3 percent.

Feldt agrees availability of workers is a problem in Indiana, but it also is an issue nationally when jobless rates are low.

"It's something we hear from business owners regularly," she said. There also is an issue with people lacking necessary skills to fill available jobs.

Feldt said some business sectors including construction are implementing more apprentice programs to shore up needs for additional tradespeople.  

Feldt said the state also is challenged in retaining people with technical skills, particularly in information technology. 

"Coding is a very hot area, but we don't have a lot going on for younger people to learn coding and if someone does get that training at the university level here, they tend to seek work in the Chicago area or other technology hubs," Feldt said. "So we train them, and they tend to leave." 

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