The U.S. auto industry has obviously seen better days, with Chrysler becoming the first major automaker to enter bankruptcy since the Great Depression and General Motors pursuing a similar path (though facing legal challenges from Indiana’s pension funds). Sales have plummeted and the future is cloudy.
The automotive industry represents around 16% of Indiana’s total manufacturing jobs. Our manufacturing industry is immense (employing one of every five Hoosiers and accounting for more than a third of our Gross State Product), but clearly companies like GM have a huge presence.
One thing is certain – manufacturing will continue to be the foundation of Indiana’s economy for the foreseeable future. But like every sector of our economy, manufacturing continues to evolve…
That’s why it was interesting to note a new Milken Institute report on high-tech metropolitan areas ranked the Indianapolis region #5 nationally in pharmaceutical manufacturing and #10 in medical instrument manufacturing. This comes on the heels of an IU study that showed that the life sciences sector increased its share of the state’s total manufacturing output from 11% in 1997 to 20% in 2007.
Clearly this is good news at the intersection of two of our largest and most dynamic industry clusters, advanced manufacturing and the life sciences. And while we all hope for a robust economic recovery that includes the auto sector, it also tells us that we have other emerging manufacturing opportunities that we need to pursue, in the life sciences, ‘clean technologies,’ nanotechnology, aerospace, and more. The automotive industry is hugely important, but diversity is strength in this economy.
What we make and how we make it is changing and will continue to change. We have to be agile in adapting our economic development, business climate and workforce policies to welcome these new opportunities in addition to playing to our traditional strengths.