sealPurdue Letter from the President

January, 1999

The link between an excellent higher education system and a healthy state economy is direct and powerful. Over the years, I have discussed the topic frequently in this letter, and there is strong evidence that a consensus is building among government and business leaders in Indiana.

Consider these developments, all of which have occurred in recent weeks:

  • Gov. Frank O'Bannon proposed the creation of the 21st Century Growth Fund, which would allocate $50 million to encourage partnerships between universities and industry, support the state's research and development infrastructure, and provide matching funds for research sponsored by the federal government and private business.

  • The Lilly Endowment announced a grant of nearly $5 million to support a new information security center at Purdue. The three-year grant will fund operating costs and several new initiatives for the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS). The center will address issues related to information security from numerous perspectives, including economic and international espionage, sabotage, terrorism and vandalism. In announcing the grant, Clay Robbins, president of Lilly Endowment stated: "We were attracted to CERIAS because of its potential to create professional, high-tech economic opportunities in Indiana."

    The presence of CERIAS, along with Indiana University's Abilene computer network center, positions our state to assert itself as a high-technology leader. This becomes especially relevant in light of a recent Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute study, which shows that Indiana ranks 50th among the states in the proportion of our labor force in professional and high-skill positions. Because 80 percent of future job growth is projected to occur in these sectors, our economic future depends on developing and attracting more high-tech businesses.

  • In a guest editorial in the Indianapolis Star (January 25), Randy Tobias, chairman emeritus of the board of Eli Lilly & Co., wrote:

    "The interrelationship between a state's economy and its universities is apparent. Look at any of the areas in our nation that constitute high-tech centers of innovation -- the San Francisco Bay Area or Boston or the Research Triangle in North Carolina. One predictable constant for every one of these economic hot spots is a close proximity to several first-rate research universities. Look a little closer, and you'll see a rich network of two-way relationships between the universities and the companies that are creating that growth."

  • Randy also appeared on Purdue's behalf at a meeting of the State Budget Committee where he strongly urged that the state increase its support of higher education. Ron Dollens, CEO of Guidant Corp., delivered a similar message to the House Ways and Means Committee in January. Both men were among 25 top-level executives who signed a letter to Gov. O'Bannon, asking him to make our universities a top priority.

  • Sen. Teresa Lubbers of Indianapolis is chairing the Senate Committee for Planning and Economic Development, which is charged with taking a long-term look at issues and policy. Don Gentry, dean of Purdue's School of Technology and my special assistant for economic development, made an appearance before the group in January. This new committee is an encouraging step, because it assigns a team of legislators to look and think beyond specific legislation.

    Each of these developments has strengthened the case for a state economic strategy that takes into account all the pieces needed to solve the puzzle of long-term economic success. Certainly Indiana and Purdue universities -- as our major research institutions -- are a major factor, but so are other colleges and universities, K-through-12 schools, tax policy, existing business and industry, and governmental philosophy.

    As Randy Tobias pointed out, if Indiana has an advantage in the global business arena, it is in our ability to make the most of our human capital. The Hoosier people are the real key to success.

    If we are ready to invest in ourselves, to make a commitment to work together, and to think in terms of long-range benefits, we can create a brilliant legacy for the 21st century.

    Steven C. Beering

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