More than one year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indiana employers are optimistic about the future – particularly the state’s economy and overall business climate.
In a new research survey, commissioned as part of the Accelerating Indiana Vision 2025+ initiative from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and its Foundation, 895 business leaders completed surveys in late March on issues related to economic recovery, business outlooks and public policy.
Nearly three-fourths of the respondents (74%) think the state has a strong business climate and almost two-thirds (63%) believe the economy will be better a year from now. The confidence is exceedingly higher closer to home with 77% saying the state is heading in the right direction but only 38% agree that is the case with the country overall (with 54% thinking the country is on the wrong track).
“The right track/wrong track divide between how Indiana and the country are progressing is nothing new,” says Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar. “It is also good, of course, to see Indiana employers encouraged about future prospects, but an ongoing and growing challenge is the need for more qualified workers.”
When it comes to their own organizations, 57% anticipate their business will be in a better position a year from now. More than half (53%) say they will resume their business operations with about the same number of employees as before the pandemic. Only 35%, however, foresee increasing their workforce, lower than the 45% in 2019 and 41% in 2020.
Two-thirds of those participating place the pandemic impact on their business as a six or higher on a scale of 1 to 10. Only 14% are unwilling to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and 61% are interested in sharing information on where and how to get vaccinated.
Business leaders identify primary obstacles to their operations as lack of qualified workers (67%), the ongoing effects of the pandemic (36%) and government regulations (27%). The majority (57%) want the state to provide financial incentives to workers with post-high school degrees or credentials to relocate to Indiana.
Support continues to grow for two issues that once again have not been embraced by the Indiana General Assembly:
- A strong majority of Hoosier employers (72%) support a work share program. This is an increase from 60% in 2020. Opinions are solidifying even further with those “unsure” about work share decreasing from 17% to 4%
- On raising the cigarette tax to at least $2 per pack to discourage smoking, support is at 69% – with 50% strongly supporting. Opposition is only at 15%
“Indiana took a number of steps forward in the 2021 legislative session,” Brinegar adds. “A very good session could have been elevated to the ‘great’ category by addressing the important and popular work share and cigarette tax issues.”
Almost two-thirds of respondents think racial discrimination is a problem in Indiana, and 59% think it impacts income, housing, education and job opportunities. Fifty percent would like to see business leaders and organizations get involved in efforts to oppose racial discrimination.