By Heath Murray, Partner & Portfolio Director
Collaboration is born out of necessity. Groups of people must come together to solve a problem that otherwise, if they worked alone, would not be solvable.
My childhood (sometimes still adulthood...) Saturday mornings consisted of watching TV, usually the Power Rangers, Voltron, and Captain Planet and the Planeteers (come on, you all knew this blog was going to have some nerd references). Marvel has the Avengers. DC has the Justice League. Indiana has smart, honest, and hardworking people who fight for what they believe in. Whether it be pop culture, all-star athletic teams, or defense innovation, they all have one thing in common – people coming together with different skillsets to overcome a much larger issue.
Sometimes this larger (fictional) issue consists of intergalactic villains hell-bent on destroying New York, but most of the time it’s much less grandiose and much more real, like figuring out how to triple defense in Indiana.
Since my time as a police officer, I have always believed that collaboration was the key to a strong community. As those law enforcement days are almost a decade behind me, I now focus my
efforts on collaborating within the Midwest, more specifically, the Indiana Defense Ecosystem. If you’re reading this, you know I can get on a soapbox about why Indiana, being the epicenter for defense and tech investment, is a very real possibility. We have generous tax incentives, we have low cost of living, we have world-renowned universities, and we have corn...well, maybe that’s not important to everyone.
Seriously – we have THE most important piece of the collaboration puzzle – Hoosiers. In Indiana, people understand that 1% of a win is better than nothing. We do things for each other because it’s the right thing to do, and if we don’t do it, our chance of winning high-value awards, as a state and a team is zero.
Unlike other major defense hubs, the Midwest is not an epicenter of military and government installations that are a focal point for major DoD budgets. Our state does not house headquarters for the largest defense contractors or federal agencies or large active-duty bases.
What we do have are Hoosiers that are ready and willing to grind for every dollar, scrap for every contract, and deliver the quickest and most cost-efficient solution to the government’s toughest problems.
And you know what? We will do it together as a team.
Our government small business liaisons work hard to push set aside contracts to non-traditional companies. Our federal technology transfer offices are actively seeking grants and eagerly reaching out to commercial businesses to collaborate with government civilian inventors to lease and use government IP. Organizations like S2MARTS consistently work with NSWC Crane to push hundreds of millions of dollars through their OTA contract vehicles.
We have Indiana University and Purdue University that are actively investing in programs like NSIN to make sure their students and alumni are available to research and work on complex national security problems, both in school and after they graduate.
Labor shortage problem? Ivy Tech Community College is actively reaching out to industry and government alike to grow competent and credentialed individuals ready to go straight to the federal workforce. The Ivy Tech Cook Center for Entrepreneurship is going to start training individuals and educating companies at different stages of maturity on how to do business with the government and effectively team with large primes.
Non-profits like Dimension Mill and Defense Entrepreneurs Forum are vital to creating and growing innovative mindsets and force collisions between startups and established companies.
We now have economic development groups like the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership to not only bring out-of-state large prime contractors to their regional ecosystems, but also to get them to actually invest in their regions and throughout the Hoosier state!
Local Institutional finance organizations like German American Bank are ready and willing to send their people to training to educate non-traditional companies on government payment practices so they may actually become DCMA compliant (you know, to actually get paid by the government).
The coolest part of all of this? It’s already being done. People in our great state are collaborating at all levels to grow our Indiana companies, recognize our universities and colleges, and highlight our federal defense centers. Our elected officials in Congress are fighting the good fight for defense dollars to flow and our local nonprofits, institutions, and businesses are actively investing in the communities to make this the best damn defense ecosystem in the continental U.S.
The cost? The best currency of all, a Hoosier handshake.