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George Vlahakis
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Monday, May 3, 2004

New IU report looks at I-69 corridor and efforts to create clusters of innovative activity

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A new Indiana University report suggests that communities bordering the northern half of the proposed Interstate 69 corridor are getting ready for future business opportunities by creating "clusters of innovation activity."

In her article in the spring issue of Indiana Business Review, "Letting It Ride on Indiana's Technology Belt," Jennifer A. Kurtz found that many communities along the interstate highway already have most of the necessary ingredients: easy access to respected academic institutions, committed companies and civic leaders and technological expertise.

"The high-speed Interstate 69 thoroughfare is morphing into an elongated technology belt, connecting clusters of innovative activity," observed Kurtz, a consultant, research fellow at the Indiana Business Research Center, and adjunct faculty member at Ball State University. "Perhaps this will be a road well traveled."

The Indiana Business Review is a quarterly research publication of IBRC in IU's Kelley School of Business.

Kurtz's research focuses on the highway's path through Steuben County in the north to Hamilton County in the south, and her "technology belt" also takes Kosciusko and Jay counties into account. Her article does not address counties along I-69's proposed southern Indiana route. Another article in the IBR spring issue provides a demographic overview of those nine counties.

"The I-69 technology belt facilitates intercommunity collaboration. This is beginning to create a counterbalance to the dominant Indianapolis metro area, and its people will benefit from the decentralization of multiple innovation clusters," she said. "Other clusters are developing around Bloomington-Crane and along I-65, from Lebanon to greater Lafayette to Gary-Hammond."

The counties Kurtz studied accounted for 21.7 percent of Indiana's 2002 population. Per capita income in 2001 was 104.2 percent of the state average. The 5.7 percent unemployment rate for the region in January was 104.2 percent of the state average.

While manufacturing remains the largest industrial sector, accounting for 18.6 percent of the workforce, the region's information sector paid the best on average, $46,565. It also has significant numbers of people in higher-paying jobs in wholesale trade and professional, scientific and technical services.

Two of the state's seven technology parks certified by the Energize Indiana initiative are located within the I-69 belt and another park in Muncie has received preliminary approval.

Kurtz also cited long-term development of companies that are representative of four high-tech areas -- advanced manufacturing, 21st century distribution and logistics, information technology and life sciences.

For example, the I-69 corridor is home to the state's largest software developer and its largest orthopedic device company. The medical device industry is significant in Allen County and in Kosciusko County, where it comprises about 25 percent of total employment. Many residents also work for suppliers to biotech companies.

"Many of these companies have been around for decades and have adapted to new market opportunities," she said. "The presence of these biotech companies helps traditional companies transfer their precision manufacturing expertise to production for an expanding marketplace."

She also complimented communications infrastructure initiatives, particularly those in Fort Wayne, Muncie and Jay County. "Grassroots initiatives are driving the deployment of the communications infrastructure necessary to accommodate 21st century businesses in this region," she said.

Also in this issue

Another article in the new issue of the IBR is about a survey of 73 Indiana chief executive officers and their views on emerging business issues. Daniel Rutledge and Derek Bjonback, professors at Purdue University-North Central, found the CEOs appeared to be conservative and self-reliant. They believed that they were capable of dealing with the complexities of a changing global business environment.

A large proportion of the chief executives expressed no opinion about the effect that the North American Free Trade Agreement has had on their businesses. Of those who did suggest an impact, just under half said they had a favorable experience with NAFTA.

"Also noteworthy is that one-third of companies indicated export sales exceeding the 6 percent mark. This leads to the idea that foreign market development has potential for Hoosier business expansion," Rutledge and Bjonback wrote.

Vincent Thompson, IBRC economic analyst, wrote about Indiana population trends in his article, "Exodus to Suburbia Continues, But a Little Slower."

Indiana Business Review is available online at