Indiana: Sending Tech Messages
New grants and jobs bolster Indiana’s diverse technology industry.
In February, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) began accepting proposals for its commercialization enhancement program, an initiative that provides up to $350,000 in grant money to businesses participating in the federal government’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. These programs allow small, high-tech businesses to have a role in the research and development efforts of the U.S. government.
“By encouraging the development of innovations in Indiana, we are commercializing new technology that has the potential to translate into more high-paying jobs for Hoosiers,” says Nathan Feltman, secretary of commerce and CEO of the IEDC.
The most recent company to take advantage of Indiana’s commercialization enhancement program is Indianapolis-based engineering firm Wolf Technical Services, Inc.— exactly the type of high-tech business the grant program is designed to assist, according to Feltman. The company is in the final stages of developing a new restraint system for military aircrew members.
“The grant enhancement program has enabled us to accelerate the development of our restraint system and pursue early commercialization opportunities,” says Mark E. Lewis, vice president of Wolf Technical Services. “These funds will allow us to complete final-stage environmental testing, flight testing, and additional development work to make the device production-ready.”
The commercialization enhancement program is funded by Indiana’s 21st Century Research and Technology Fund, which has directly invested more than $65 million in 51 high-tech companies since 2006.
In January, the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund awarded Comfort Motion Technologies (CMT) a $1.085 million grant to further develop, test, and commercialize its Vehicle Seat Multi-position software. The Anderson, IN-based software research and design firm hopes its product will provide ergonomic benefits to vehicle drivers by making automated seat changes to redistribute the driver’s body weight.
“With the 21st Century grant, CMT will continue product refinement with the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Purdue University, Anderson University, and Ball State University,” says Tom Epply, senior VP of engineering for CMT.
With a successful track record of collaboration between research companies and university technology parks, Purdue Research Foundation announced last summer its plans to establish an Indianapolis-based technology park that will help high-tech entrepreneurs create new businesses and promote the expansion of established companies. The new Purdue Accelerator Park, set on 78 acres of the AmeriPlex-Indianapolis development, will accommodate up to 75 businesses and create 1,500 jobs with an average annual salary of $54,000. The park will be located along the I-70 corridor near the Indianapolis International Airport.
The Purdue complex will include a 100,000- to 150,000-square-foot industrial flex building; a 50,000- to 70,000-square-foot multistory office building; the potential for four additional buildings for companies to accelerate business opportunities; a 300-bed, six-story hotel with a 30,000-square-foot conference center; and three sites for restaurants or retail shops.
Besides high technology, other sectors of Indiana’s technology industry are seeing expansions and developments. In January, water treatment technology developer, Freije Treatment Systems Inc. announced plans to expand its corporate headquarters and product development center in Greenfield, IN, creating over 200 new jobs by 2010. The company will invest more than $2 million to locate its new facilities in 34,000 square feet of an existing space at the Mount Comfort Industrial Park. Freije currently employs 12 associates in its Northeast Indianapolis offices and plans to begin hiring sales staff, managers, and business professionals in March.
“Freije is a company on the leading-edge of technology who will bring new jobs and new opportunities to Hancock County and Central Indiana,” says Bill Bolander, president of the Hancock County Council.
Information technology (IT) is another sector seeing growth. With over 18,000 IT professionals already located in central Indiana, Fusion Alliance announced in January that it will add over 100 new jobs at its headquarters in Indianapolis. The company, which employs more than 220 IT professionals in Indiana and Ohio, plans to begin hiring additional infrastructure consultants, application developers, Web designers, business analysts, and project managers throughout 2008.
The medical technology industry in Indiana is also formidable. According to rankings released in December by the Advanced Medical Technology Association, Indiana ranks second in the nation for the number of jobs created to support the medical technology field. An estimated 63,300 Indiana residents are employed as a direct result of this industry, good for fifth in the U.S. as a percentage of the workforce.
“The medical technology industry not only provides high-paying jobs for Hoosiers,” says Dan Peterson, chairman of the Indiana Health Industry Forum, “it creates a substantial ripple effect throughout the entire economy. This study illustrates the continued momentum the industry has in Indiana.”