The big economic development news in Indianapolis the last couple of weeks was the announcement that Medco would build a mail order pharmacy center there employing 1,300. That was big news in both the mainstream media and the blog world, and articles posted about it drew significant comments.
But I was more attracted to a Sunday Indy Star profile of a much smaller local company called AIT Laboratories [dead link]. This is a lab outfit offering toxicology and other services that employs 160. The online version of this article only attracted four comments.
The profile in itself was interesting, but I also was particularly taken by this passage:
Central Indiana is becoming a hub of specialized laboratory and service companies. Dozens of outfits — from clinical-trial operations to toxicology labs to specialized biological-storage companies — employ more than 6,000 people in Indiana, according to BioCrossroads, a life-sciences initiative that invests in emerging Indiana companies.
This is where the real economic base and future of a city is built. It is in a thriving SME sector of companies like AIT. These companies don’t usually make the headlines. But they are the fundamental base of any economic ecosystem. If Indianapolis is to realize its dream of being a life sciences hub, it won’t be because of a handful of Medcos. It will be because of dozens of AIT’s. Some will succeed, others fail, but this is where a dynamic local economy is built. Cities shouldn’t lose sight of this in the competition for major plants, etc.