Hoosiers: Economic acceleration slow but steady in Indiana
‘Our goal is to make this a place people want to come and work and be successful’
Robert Schilling can discern quickly if the economy is improving or stagnant. Schilling is CEO of a company that launched in 1955 with a single truck to haul farm machinery. Now Fraley & Schilling, a trucking and logistics business, puts 500 rigs on the road to serve customers all across the Eastern U.S.
“We haul a lot of building and metal products and the materials to manufacture them,” Schilling says. “They’re moving well, and business is stronger. It’s not gigantic, but we are seeing an increase. So right now, business is pretty good.”
Fraley & Schilling of Rushville, Indiana, employs more than 600 people and has facilities in Alabama, Indiana, Ohio, Maryland, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Seven years after the Great Recession, Hoosiers, like many Americans, are more upbeat about the economic health of their own communities than they are about the national economy, according to recent USA Today/Wells Fargo research. For example, of those surveyed in Indiana, 23 percent believe economic conditions in the U.S. are good, but considerably more, 43 percent, feel that way about their local economies.
The survey results come from an online Ipsos poll for Wells Fargo and USA Today taken Feb. 4–11 of 2,511 adults age 18 and older.
Good for business but room to grow
Two-thirds of those surveyed in Indiana say their state offers a competitive and attractive climate for businesses. However, just half say that wages are good and competitive with other states. That sentiment is strongest among men (61 percent), those with a college degree (60 percent), and those with higher incomes (62 percent).
Nearly nine in 10 surveyed say small business positively affects local communities, and nearly six in 10 say Indiana provides an atmosphere that fuels entrepreneurship.
Sixty-five percent say the state’s workforce has the skills needed to help businesses succeed — although even greater proportions say the state needs to invest more in vocational training (80 percent) and higher education (76 percent).
Manufacturing is considered especially important to Indiana’s economic health. In fact, 64 percent of those surveyed in the state say the sector is vital to local economic health — the highest rate found among states included in the survey. Nationally, the figure was 37 percent.
When it comes to what makes a strong economy, Hoosiers placed these four factors at the top of the list:
- A growing job market (78 percent)
- Reasonable cost-of-living expenses (78 percent)
- A healthy business climate for small and large businesses (74 percent)
- The ability to have financial security in retirement (74 percent)
Low capital costs spur investment
With the cost of capital low, many Indiana businesses have “made investments because of their confidence in their businesses and future.”
Chris DesJean — an Indianapolis-based business Wells Fargo banking manager who has helped Fraley & Schilling with the equipment financing for the 75 to 100 new trucks it adds to its fleet every year, buy real estate for terminal expansions, and more — says the business’s success isn’t an anomaly.
“We have seen modest growth in many of the industry segments we serve,” DesJean says. “With the cost of capital still very low, many clients have put growth strategies into action and made investments because of their confidence in their businesses and future.”
Schilling says the best way to succeed remains the same in any economic environment: give good service.
“Listen to what customers need, bring them a better value, and do everything to get better at what you do,” he says. “Our goal is to make this a place people want to come and work and be successful. That works anywhere.”