From Bedford to Bloomington and Beyond: Building for the Future of South Central Indiana

101st Annual Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce Dinner
Lawrence County 4-H Expo Hall
Bedford, Indiana

Friday, August 18, 2017

Welcome and Acknowledgements

Thank you, Shance [Sizemore], for that kind introduction.

I am delighted to be in Bedford among so many friends of Indiana University.

I am very pleased that State Senator Eric Koch is with us this evening. Senator Koch earned his law degree in Bloomington at the Maurer School of Law. He is here with his wife, Connie, who holds two IU degrees and who recently retired from her respected career as a teacher at Shawswick Elementary School.

I am also very pleased that State Representative Chris May, who represents District 65 in the Indiana Statehouse, is here with his wife, Amanda.

There are also, of course, many IU graduates in attendance tonight, including Mayor Shawna Girgis—also an adjunct faculty member in IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, the number one school of its kind in the country—and her husband, Dr. Kamal Girgis, who is a physician with IU Health Bedford.

Lawrence County Commissioner Gene McCracken, who is the former executive director of the Lawrence County Economic Growth Council, and who was honored with the Bedford Chamber’s Community Service Award last year, is also an IU alumnus.

The Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce

I want to begin by expressing my congratulations to the Bedford Chamber on its 100th anniversary, which you celebrated last year.

The State of Indiana, of course, also celebrated its bicentennial last year, and Lawrence County will celebrate its bicentennial next year, in 2018.

At Indiana University, we are also preparing to celebrate, in 2020, the bicentennial of IU’s founding in 1820.

Major milestones such as the centennial of the Bedford Chamber, and the bicentennials of our state, this county, and the state’s flagship and namesake university give us the opportunity to celebrate all that our institutions have achieved—and the Bedford Chamber’s achievements have been truly impressive. The Chamber’s recent honors include Bedford being named by the Indiana Chamber as the 2013 Community of the Year, as well as being selected—in 2013—as one of two Indiana cities to be part of the Stellar Communities program.

Through the Stellar Communities program, you have improved the downtown square streetscape, and, of course, launched the Stonegate Arts and Education Center, which allows local residents the opportunity to attend classes right here in Bedford and obtain degrees.

All of these honors and endeavors prove the effectiveness of your partnerships—partnerships that truly will help to build a better Bedford.

Bedford, Bloomington, and Beyond

And Indiana University is proud to be engaged in partnership with you.

As the number of IU alumni here tonight attests, IU provides the educational foundation for many of this state’s professional leaders. Around 300 students from Lawrence County are enrolled at IU Bloomington each year. And, given IU’s close proximity to Bedford, very often the talented Lawrence County graduates who come to IU to earn a degree return to live and work in Lawrence County.

IU’s Admissions Office has a dedicated admissions counselor, Kelly Waggoner, who works with Lawrence County students, parents, teachers, and guidance counselors to bring more of your finest students to IU.

IU is also the state’s sixth largest employer.1 But when taken together with our close partner, IU Health, we are by far the state’s single largest employer. IU Bloomington alone employs more than 3,000 full-time faculty and 6,000 staff—and among those numbers are about 470 residents of Lawrence County.

Our close proximity to Bedford also allows Lawrence County residents to take advantage of IU’s rich academic and cultural resources and of events that are available—often free of charge—to area residents. The caliber and variety of such events can usually only be found in the nation’s largest cities, and they help make South Central Indiana a highly attractive place to live and work or to locate a business.

Moreover, IU understands the importance of a robust regional economy. As our regional economy grows, we will become more attractive to entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, and highly skilled workers, making our communities more competitive.

As we look to the future, even greater engagement and collaboration between IU and Bedford is possible because, in so many ways, we are already united. We share the same vision for the future of our state and its communities.

And so, this evening I would like to spend some time highlighting several priorities that are driving change at IU and will continue to do so over the next decade. And as I do so, I will also highlight some of the ways IU is already engaged in the Bedford area, and some of the ways in which we might partner more closely in the future.

Planning for IU's Next Century: Collaboration to Improve Hoosier Lives and Strengthen Economic Vitality

Indiana University’s core missions are, as they have been for nearly 200 years, to provide the best possible education for the sons and daughters of Indiana and to create an environment in which the university’s faculty can conduct research of the highest quality that contributes to state and national prosperity.

As we approach the university’s Bicentennial, IU is committed to improve the quality of life of Hoosiers and strengthen the economic vitality of our state. These commitments are among the highest priorities of IU’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan, a sweeping set of vital goals approved by our Board of Trustees in 2014.

In support of these goals, we are in the midst of the university-wide Bicentennial fundraising campaign. It aims to raise $2.5 billion by 2020. This is by far the most ambitious fundraising goal in IU's history and among the largest ever by a public university anywhere in the United States. And I am delighted to report that we are very close to the $2 billion mark—well ahead of schedule—through the support of nearly 267,000 donors.

This campaign will help fund hundreds of new academic positions and thousands of scholarships for students in financial need including many right here in Lawrence County.

The Regional Opportunities Initiative, The Applied Research Institute, and The Rural Center

As you may know, in late 2015, the Lilly Endowment awarded three grants totaling $42 million for regional development in Lawrence County and in the 10 counties of Southwest Central Indiana.2 A $25.8 million grant led to the establishment of the Regional Opportunity Initiative in 2016. It has enormous potential to advance economic and community prosperity here in Lawrence County, in Monroe County, and throughout the region.

ROI is implementing an education and workforce plan and a regional opportunity fund for quality-of-place investments in Southwest Central Indiana.

The Lilly Endowment also made a grant of $16.2 million to develop an Applied Research Institute. Its establishment was also recommended in a 2014 report by the nonprofit research and development organization, Battelle. It is our hope that the ARI will have its headquarters in Bloomington.

The ARI will allow NSWC Crane, IU, and others to collaborate in areas of mutual research and technology strength. A detailed vision for ARI is already being developed that it is expected will attract more federal and industry funding, helping the region develop specialized expertise that sets it apart from other regions.

The third generous grant made by the Lilly Endowment in 2015 was a grant to IU to explore the feasibility of establishing a Center for Rural Excellence at IU.

The challenges facing our region are common to much of rural and small-town America: poverty, lack of economic opportunity, and poor educational and health outcomes, including the growing crisis of opioid addiction that is rapidly becoming one of the nation’s most severe public health problems. I want you to know that IU understands these issues and problems, and IU stands with you in our commitment to find solutions to them.

IU Bloomington Provost Lauren Robel and a team of faculty and staff have recently visited the 11 counties of southwest central Indiana to meet with regional leaders to discuss these problems and how IU can help find solutions to them. She subsequently received almost 100 requests to form new partnerships, from every county, in fields ranging from sustainability and health to arts and humanities. This has led to the establishment of IU’s Center for Rural Excellence, the goal of which is to marshal IU’s broad resources to improve the lives of people living in Southwest Central Indiana.

In fact, a pilot program is just getting underway here in Lawrence County, where the “Sustaining Hoosier Communities” initiative will begin this fall. In the academic year that begins on Monday, IU students and faculty will work with the community on projects in the area of sustainability, including creating bicycle and pedestrian networks in Bedford to encourage walking and bicycling; creating a land use plan for the Avoca Fish Hatchery; and creating displays that will showcase the magnificent Indiana limestone to visitors.

Intelligent Systems Engineering

All of this, and more, will require well-trained graduates in high-demand, high-paying fields. It is IU’s core mission to keep changing and keep providing the new programs that will produce such graduates. This is why we have recently established a new program in intelligent systems engineering in IU Bloomington’s School of Informatics, Computing, and—now— Engineering. The program specifically focuses on the engineering and design of small, mobile, personal technologies that integrate big data, computational modeling, and intelligent systems into their design.

The development of an engineering program at IU Bloomington was vitally needed to build on IU’s already formidable technology base to produce the kind of engineers who are in very high demand all over the state and nation, and to further increase the number of graduates in the critical science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields—the so-called STEM disciplines. IU already produces more STEM graduates than any other institution in the state, and has provided by far the greatest increase in such degrees.

In addition to all the other benefits the program will bring to the region, IU’s engineering program will help address Crane’s need for better capabilities in software engineering, sensors and data fusion, and cyber-physical systems. The program will also help address the projected rapid growth in the number of employees Crane will need who hold doctoral degrees in computer-related fields. IU’s School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering is already a popular choice for Crane employees seeking a Ph.D.

We welcomed the first students in the engineering program one year ago, and they will fittingly graduate in 2020, IU’s Bicentennial year.

Renewed Commitment to Hoosier Health

One of the major ways in which IU contributes to the social and economic development of the state of Indiana is through the activities of IU’s health science and clinical schools—the schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, optometry, public health, social work, and health and rehabilitation science.

Nearly 60 percent of Indiana’s physicians, 40 percent of nurses, 90 percent of dentists, and 64 percent of the state’s optometrists are all trained at IU.

IU’s impact is amplified even further by its close partnership with IU Health, the state’s largest and most comprehensive healthcare system. IU Health, which fully and extensively integrates the research and clinical expertise of the IU School of Medicine, continues to be ranked among the most highly regarded healthcare systems in the nation and among the very top of hospitals in Indiana. And here in Bedford and around the state, IU Health is partnering with chambers of commerce and other groups to promote health and wellness. I am very pleased that Bradford Dykes, president and CEO of IU Health Bedford, is here tonight. And he is yet another of the many IU graduates who are here this evening.

IU has also launched a major effort to address our state’s poor rankings among all states in measures of the leading causes of illness and death such as smoking, obesity, addiction, and heart disease, as well as measures of the causes of these through the establishment of two new schools in the vital field of public health: the Fairbanks School of Public Health on the Indianapolis campus, and the School of Public Health at IU Bloomington.

These are the first schools of public health in the state.

The mission of these schools is to improve public health by conducting research of the highest quality and by educating the next generation of public health professionals.

They are two of the eight new schools established at IU in just the last few years.

In Bloomington, the former School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation has been transformed into the School of Public Health—and the school is deeply engaged here in the Bedford area.

Mayor Girgis serves as a member of the school’s Community Advisory Board and also serves on the school’s Dean’s Alliance, a small group that assists the dean with strategic planning. And both Mayor Girgis and Judge Michael Robbins, of the Lawrence County Superior Court, who is also an IU alumnus, have been actively involved in partnership with the School to help combat domestic violence in Lawrence County.

In fact, the School of Public Health provided support and technical assistance in the development of Indiana’s first certified Domestic Violence Problem Solving Court, which Judge Robbins oversees. Judge Robbins was, of course, the driving force behind the establishment of the court, which receives funding from the Indiana Supreme Court, and has been serving families involved in domestic violence cases for the last three years.

Researchers from the School of Public Health and many other parts of IU are also investigating new strategies for attacking drug and alcohol addiction in Indiana.

School of Public Health faculty and students have also worked to address obesity issues in Lawrence County; to help develop educational programs; to promote the growth and consumption of healthy food; and to implement interpersonal violence and bullying prevention programs in Lawrence County schools.

Many other IU schools have partnered with Lawrence County in areas ranging beyond public health.

Students in IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the new School of Art, Architecture + Design worked on the creation of the “Gus Grissom Trail,” and the design of trail markers to educate visitors about the life and accomplishments of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronaut.

Students in the IU Media School, another of IU’s eight new schools, have worked with the City of Bedford and Lawrence County to assess and enhance the perceptions of inclusiveness and welcome for the city and county, and to create a public relations campaign to promote diversity and inclusion, areas of such importance to our nation.

Economic Development and Educational Partnerships

I have already made a number of references to the Crane Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, which is a major partner with both IU and the Bedford Chamber.

The presence of the base helps to attract investment and new high-wage jobs.

Crane is, as you know, the third largest naval installation in the world.3 It is one of Indiana’s largest employers, and the work that is done there is vital to the defense, protection, and security of the nation.

IU also takes pride in its longstanding relationship with Crane.

We now have numerous collaborations in place between our two institutions. Those include collaborations in public management and administration, energy and matter, chemistry, physics, and engineering programs on our Indianapolis campus.

In 2011, we formalized an educational partnership with Crane to support collaborative efforts in such areas as informatics and computing, cybersecurity, kinesiology, optics, and intellectual property research.

In 2012, we signed an agreement that allows IU campuses to work more closely with Crane and with private-sector partners to transfer technology to and from the Crane federal laboratory with the goal of advancing research that leads to better products and business and employment opportunities.

In 2015, we announced a partnership that gives IU students and staff more open access to the base, where they work on sustainability and other issues.

And earlier this year, we announced a new partnership in which IU and Crane are working together to transform existing military sensor technology through machine learning and artificial intelligence.

And it is our goal to build yet further on all of this in future years.

IU is also working with innovation centers and technology parks across the state to help strengthen collaboration with regional economies.

Many of our economic development efforts are focused through the IU Research and Technology Corporation, whose mission is to accelerate the transformation of innovations and intellectual property developed by IU faculty, staff, and students into new products, services, and companies—all to improve Indiana’s economy and our national competitiveness.

IURTC was recently reorganized so that it is now positioned to more efficiently identify, fund, and disseminate IU discoveries, creations, and intellectual property.

As a result, IU faculty, students, staff, and alumni have access to a broader array of resources dedicated to entrepreneurial activity—including advancing their ideas and creations into startup companies.

This, in turn, will enable IU to contribute even further to the economic vitality of the state.

IURTC is part of IU’s Office of the Vice President for Engagement, led by Vice President Bill Stephan.

Kirk White, who is here tonight, serves as Assistant Vice President for Strategic Partnerships in this office. He is also a Colonel in the National Guard, has served in two tours of duty in Afghanistan, and serves as military liaison for my office.

Joe Carley, who serves as Associate Director for Economic Development in the Office of Engagement is also here tonight. Kirk and Joe would be very pleased to speak with any of you who might be interested in partnering more closely with IU in the future.

International Engagement

Another area that is driving change at IU and in our communities around the state is globalization.

As Governor Holcomb said when I interviewed him recently, “…globalization is a fact of life and it has led to so many advances that to think that you could retreat from that would be to be in a state of denial. Or certainly, you’d be handicapping yourself. …[T]he world will continue to get smaller and smaller. …in Indiana, there are over 800 foreign-owned companies employing over 152,000 Hoosiers. And it works both ways, of course.”

As members of the Chamber of Commerce, you are well aware of the increasingly global nature of the Indiana economy.

With more than $34 billion in international exports, the state of Indiana ranks 12th in the nation in terms of total exports.4 In this increasingly competitive global economy, it is absolutely essential that communities like Bedford develop and pursue strategies for international investment. You are doing just that, having developed a Sister City relationship with the Chinese city of Fenghua, and through trade missions to China by the Bedford Chamber and the Lawrence County Economic Growth Council.

IU was very pleased to be able to provide support to the Bedford Chamber and the Economic Growth Council in advance of those trade missions through consultation with our East Asian Languages and Culture Department.

IU has also established three Global Gateway Offices around the world—in Beijing; in New Delhi, India; and in Berlin. These offices host academic conferences, support our faculty, host events for our alumni, and serve as a base for state and local officials who visit on trade missions, such as yourselves.

We will be opening a number of other Global Gateway Offices in other locations around the world between now and IU’s Bicentennial.


As I said earlier, greater engagement and collaboration between IU and the people of Bedford and Lawrence County is possible because we share a common vision for the future of our state and its communities.

We want a first-rate education that is affordable and accessible to Indiana’s best students and that allows them to realize their most lofty ambitions.

For our communities, we share a vision of more jobs with better pay, enhanced educational and cultural opportunities, and a wider range of career opportunities.

We aspire to healthier and happier Hoosiers, who have access to the best health care, medical education, and research.

We understand that progress only comes through partnerships with individuals, community organizations, and industries. We experience the realities of living in a global economy, and we are prepared to meet the challenges of this changing world through hard work, teamwork, and innovation.

Most important, we share a commitment to excellence in everything we do—from education and research to economic development, the health and life sciences, and the arts.

This is the key that will keep us moving forward.

This is the key to a stronger, brighter future for Indiana and all who call it home.

Thank you very much.


  1. “Largest Indiana Employers,” Indianapolis Business Journal, Book of Lists: 2017, Web. Accessed August 11, 2017, URL:
  2. Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen and Washington counties.
  4. “Indiana’s Economy: Exports,” STATS INDIANA, Web, Accessed August 13, 2017, URL: