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Departure adds more speculation to gubernatorial race

By Steve Bittenbender

  Brad Chambers, left, walks in Terre Haute, Indiana, on June 22, 2023, with 3 Sisters Investments' Tiffany and Mark Baker. Twitter via @SecChambersIN
Brad Chambers, left, walks in Terre Haute, Indiana, on June 22, 2023, with 3 Sisters Investments' Tiffany and Mark Baker. Twitter via @SecChambersIN

Indiana’s top economic development official announced Monday that he would step down next month, with speculation mounting that he may try to succeed Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers said in a three-paragraph statement that his two years in the role have been “even more rewarding than I could’ve imagined.”

His term under Holcomb coincided with Indiana continuing its record-breaking business attraction and expansion trend. Last year, 218 companies committed to economic development projects with a planned investment exceeding $22.2 billion, blowing away the 2021 record investment by more than $13.5 billion. Average wages for the more than 24,000 announced jobs were $34.71, the highest amount in the 17 years of the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

“We have delivered historic results and unprecedented statewide distribution of capital investment, impressive increases in wage growth, an energized entrepreneurial ecosystem, the country’s most exciting new megasite – the LEAP Innovation and Research District – and a top workplace environment,” he said. “Over that same time, we positioned Indiana as a leader in new industry sectors.”

Chambers did not address the speculation in his statement, saying he was “proud to depart this chapter of public service.”

The “overflowing pipeline” of projects in IEDC’s portfolio includes a semiconductor plant that could become a $50 billion investment. Indiana is one of two states reportedly being considered for the project, and last month the Indiana State Budget Committee authorized IEDC to spend $122 million to buy approximately 1,000 acres of land in Boone County, between Indianapolis and Purdue University.

Before joining the public sector two years ago, Chambers had been on the other side of business development deals for more than three decades. He founded Buckingham Companies while a student at Indiana University in 1984, and the real estate investment firm manages more than $3 billion in real estate for itself and business partners.

Should Chambers throw his hat in the ring, he would join the likes of Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and former U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, who have already filed for next year’s Republican primary. Former state Attorney General Curtis Hill joined them in formally announcing his candidacy last week, and Chambers wouldn’t be the only businessman vying for the GOP nomination. Eric Doden, a former IEDC president, became a candidate last year.

An announcement on who will follow Chambers is expected in the next few weeks.

“Sometime following his departure on Aug. 6, I will decide on the next new leader of the IEDC,” Holcomb said. “In the meantime, I will be focused on all items related to the transition so we can continue and grow the strong momentum Secretary Chambers and his team have helped build to take Indiana to the next level.”

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