One of the most powerful economic development forces that I’ve seen in my work is the impact that clusters can have on a region. They are often a major job generator and help regions to erect barriers of entry which help to protect those jobs.
The automobile industry was one of the first major clusters in the USA and it dramatically impacted the economies of many small towns in a triangle that stretched from Detroit to Indianapolis to Columbus. Tens of thousands of high paying jobs were tied to this cluster and were relatively safe until the disruptive technologies and lower cost production models of the Japanese auto makers started to erode it.
Indiana has an opportunity to reignite a new auto cluster in hybrids. Most of the pioneering in this new automobile area is concentrated in the Indy-Lafayette-Anderson-Kokomo region of north-central IN. Bill Wylam who once led 300 engineers dedicated to hybrid technology in the region says, “Probably the greatest concentration of resources for hybrids exists in this region.”
Toyota is rumored to be looking at building hybrids in Lafayette and Ford is vowing to make 250,000 hybrids a year by 2010. I hope that IN jumps onto this cluster and develops a very unique niche for itself.