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INDOT sets standard of government at work

Some time ago when I served in local government, I discussed an economic theory called “economic gardening.”

Economic gardening takes an entrepreneurial approach to regional prosperity and is based on research by MIT’s David Birch. The theory states that most new jobs in a region are created by the small, local businesses in that area.

Often referred to as a “grow-from-within” strategy, it helps existing companies within a community grow larger by giving current and future entrepreneurs access to resources such as geographic information systems. This statistical information helps identify new customers and trends, local and affordable college classes or technical/vocational schools, and a safe, modern and efficient infrastructure.

At the state level, we are continually working to make Indiana the most attractive place in the nation for economic and business development. But without good roads, rails, airports and waterways, the effectiveness of our other economic development resources will be greatly reduced.

The Indiana Department of Transportation, one of our state’s largest agencies, manages some of these important resources that can affect the future economy of our state. While Indiana is often referred to as the “Crossroads of America” because of its expansive infrastructure network (most notably the roads and major highways that run through the state), most people do not realize that INDOT also has responsibility over air, rail and water transportation. All of these modes of transportation play a vital role in building Indiana’s economy, attracting industry from around the world and bringing jobs to the people of our state.

Many might not know that Indiana has international ports on Lake Michigan and on the Ohio River.

While employing about 3,600 Hoosiers statewide, INDOT maintains more than 11,000 centerline miles, 14 interstate highways and 6,000 bridges across the state. It also regulates about 4,500 rail miles and more than 670 airports throughout Indiana (110 public-access and 560 private-access).

During the 2013 legislative session, I had the privilege of serving on the House Roads and Transportation Committee. In this role, we worked closely with INDOT to address transportation issues facing Hoosiers. I was pleased with what we accomplished and specifically happy that the budget passed by the General Assembly this year provides a 33.5 percent increase in motor vehicle highway account funding for state and local roads. That’s an additional $215 million per year that will be implemented statewide, with $1.8 million of that benefiting our community. It is impossible to travel through our community without seeing much-needed maintenance being undertaken by state, county and municipal agencies.

Despite the inconveniences, we are truly fortunate to be able to undertake these projects and improve our transportation system here as well as across the state.

The budget also reserves $400 million in the Major Moves 2020 Fund over the next two years for future transportation and infrastructure needs. Planning for the future will help us when we are faced with unexpected challenges, such as our most recent recession. I am excited to continue working with INDOT to find new ways to improve our roads, railways, airports and waterways to make Indiana the example that other states seek to emulate.

Businesses both large and small need a useful, efficient and effective infrastructure to be competitive and employ Hoosiers in order to be successful in the long term. INDOT serves as a prime example of how to allocate limited – but critical – resources so that Indiana blooms, giving economic security and prosperity for us all.

For information regarding our district of INDOT and a list of its current and past projects, visit www.in.gov/indot/2703.htm, and as always, please contact me at h52@iga.in.gov with any comments, concerns or ideas on how we can build a better, stronger Indiana.

Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn, wrote this for Indiana newspapers.

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