Indiana leads the country in duck production and popcorn production. The state ranks second in tomatoes, third in chickens, fourth in egg production, fourth in corn and soybeans, fifth in hogs, sixth in turkeys, seventh in cucumber production and 10th in blueberries.
Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann says we also have premier research institutions in Purdue University, Indiana University and other educational resources. So why isn't Indiana known as a hub for agbusiness like Research Triangle Park in North Carolina or the animal health corridor in the Kansas City area?
"We've got to bring it all together," says Sue Ellspermann, Secretary of Agriculture. "The research capabilities and businesses we have here can add value to food processing. These things complement our industry."
The fact is that someone is trying to develop the kind of reputation for food and nutrition businesses that North Carolina and Kansas City enjoy for their fields. It's actually someone, but a collaboration of groups that started working on this effort over 10 years ago.
"It dates back to 2002 when we coined the name Bio-Crossroads," says David Johnson, president and CEO of the Bio Crossroads effort. Two years ago, Beth Bechdol of the Ice Miller law firm led an effort that produced a report urging Indiana to put the pieces together, and go after developing this type of targeted industry corridor.
Recently, Ellspermann, Johnson, Bechdol and a host of other ag business executives gathered to launch the Food and Nutrition Initiative to make this happen in Indiana. Johnson is also CEO and president of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, which brings together executives from several industries, not just agriculture. CCIP is the official sponsor for the new initiative.
"We don't have the name to call it yet or the right brand, and there's a lot of work to do, but we can do it," Bechdol says. She believes the climate is right for this type of development in Indiana. It's a matter of pulling the pieces together.