AgrIInstitute held a Thought Leaders Luncheon on Friday at Subaru of Indiana Automotive in Lafayette. Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler was the featured speaker. Director Kettler spoke on many topics during the luncheon, including trade exports and how he’s learned how large the hardwood industry is in Indiana during his first few weeks on the job. But one of his primary focuses since taking over the ISDA has been economic development. Kettler says not everyone realizes that ISDA has its own economic development area. “Part of my responsibilities as director (is) developing economic development opportunities within the state focused on agriculture. (We) work with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to figure out if we’ve got a company that wants to come into the state or we have some expansion opportunities of existing companies here in Indiana, we’ll work with them.”
Kettler says studies are currently underway to create “heat maps”, or “agricultural asset maps”, to find out what agricultural assets are prominent in a region. Kettler says many times agricultural assets are overshadowed in a region. “If you do some analysis, manufacturing might come up as ‘the’ thing in that area. It may be true, but if we say, ‘take that out of that analysis’, what we really might find out is that that region really is centered around agriculture. Not to dismiss, in this case, manufacturing, but that may have an oversized look at a region. So, we want to find out what the assets are, how we can utilize them, and then start to bring local economic development folks in and the state economic development folks together to figure out how do we take advantage of that.”
Kettler says that building relationships with local economic development agencies to help bring in business or add to existing businesses will be key. “We want to make sure that it’s not just the state looking at it, or our department, but that we work together in partnership with local economic development organizations because it has to be a comprehensive (and) coordinated approach.”
Beth Archer, Executive Director of AgrIInstitute, told HAT that the next Thought Leaders Luncheon has yet to be announced, but says it will likely be in the Spring. AgrIInstitute will also hold their 21st Annual Agricultural Leadership Program Benefit Auction on March 24 in Fishers.