Indiana hopes to entice Bill Gates wannabees from the East Valley to build the next Microsoft-like empire in the Hoosier state.
Rose-Hulman Ventures, a technology business incubator spawned by the high-ranking engineering college Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, has teamed up with Indiana State University and the state’s economic leaders to host an entrepreneur recruitment session Friday in Tempe.
The group has invited alumni, “because they are familiar with the area,” said Dee Reed, marketing director for Rose-Hulman Ventures.
Reed said she hopes the former Hoosiers will come and bring friends and colleagues with an entrepreneurial bent to the networking session. Tempe is the second stop in a three-state road trip to identify, support and recruit new companies to Indiana as part of the state’s aggressive “INmigration” program, Reed said.
The first session in Chicago identified three possibilities and is likely to land two new companies for the incubator to nourish to maturity, she said.
After Tempe, the high-powered recruiters are heading to Atlanta, she said.
The group is offering the entrepreneurs all the advantages of a well-funded incubator, including “the technical expertise of a dozen full-time engineers, assistance in creating business plans, marketing plans, venture capital and infrastructure.”
Reed also said major lures are a lower cost of living, a large pool of engineers providing a ready-made work force — “Indiana graduates more engineers than any other state” — and good access for product distribution — “Fifty percent of the North American population lives within a day’s drive of Indiana.”
Targeted entrepreneurs might be able to negotiate other incentives, she said.
“But they can’t duplicate our weather or our economy,” said Roc Arnett, executive director of the East Valley Partnership.
“My suggestion to prospective recruits is, ‘Don’t go.’ We have a strong emerging economy in the Sunbelt. There’s all the reasons to stay here.”
Arnett said the nationwide competition for entrepreneurs, technology companies and workers is getting fierce.
“It’s no secret that places in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Indiana need employers and jobs and will do all they can to get them,” he said.
Arnett said keeping entrepreneurs from leaving was a hot topic at a recent Arizona Business Coalition session.
“It’s clear we have to nurture and protect what we’ve got,” he said. “We need to redouble our efforts.”
But Arnett admitted Valley leaders also recruit entrepreneurs and companies from other locations.
The most aggressive and successful effort landed the Translational Genomic Research Institute, a public-private partnership that is researching cures for genetically related diseases such as cancer, he said.
“GPEC (Greater Phoenix Economic Council) is continuously engaged in recruitment,” said GPEC spokeswoman Jeanine Jerkovic. “It’s a competitive world for economic talent. You have to get out there.”
But Jerkovic said she’s not overly concerned about Indiana’s efforts.
A similar ploy by Iowa a few years ago doesn’t appear to have made a dent in the Valley’s technology talent pool.
“Our region is growing faster than 98 percent of the places (in the Midwest),” she said.