BUNKER HILL - Grissom Air Reserve Base is part of a state plan to create a more strategic approach to grow and enhance Indiana’s defense industry and military assets.

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Monday a “comprehensive realignment” of Indiana’s defense development efforts by aligning the Indiana Office of Defense Development (IODD) as a new business unit of the Indiana Economic Development Corp. (IEDC).

Holcomb also announced the appointment of Maj. Gen. Omer Tooley Jr. to lead the state’s defense development. Tooley will focus on growing the state’s defense industry by promoting military bases, such as Grissom, and attracting and supporting defense-related industry partnerships and activities.

Tooley, who previously served as assistant adjutant general in the Army of the Indiana National Guard, will also coordinate directly with industry stakeholders like the Commanders Roundtable, Indiana Defense Task Force and Indiana Chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association.

“It’s an honor and privilege to continue serving the people of Indiana and our great nation,” Tooley said in release. “Under the leadership of Gov. Holcomb and the IEDC, I look forward to supporting our state’s critical security assets, building on Indiana’s defense development efforts, and collaborating with industry, government and academic partners to drive growth and increase our competitiveness in the defense sector.”

State officials say the new strategic approach complements Indiana’s major defense installations, such as Grissom Air Reserve Base, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division, Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck Urban Training Center.

The realignment also aims to build on a trend of major defense contractors like AM General, BAE Systems, Honeywell International, Raytheon, Rolls-Royce and Saab growing their operations in Indiana.

“With a strong military presence and network of defense assets, combined with the tactical advantage of our state’s pro-growth business climate, Indiana is perfectly positioned to be at the center of global advancements and growth in defense,” Holcomb said in a release.

The announcement dovetails with a new law this year allowing the business park around Grissom Air Reserve Base to renew a special economic-development status that officials hope will attract new business to the area.

The legislation allows inactive or closed military bases, including Grissom Aeroplex, which was once part of the base, the opportunity to renew its status as an enterprise zone.

Jim Tidd, executive director of the Miami County Economic Development Authority, said in a previous interview that businesses inside enterprise zones automatically receive tax abatements.

Employees who live and work at a business in a zone receive tax deductions, and financial institutions also can receive a tax deduction on the interest they collect from loans to businesses inside an enterprise zone.

Tidd said having the status in the past at the business park has been beneficial, and having the chance to renew the designation four years after it expired will give the county more options to attract businesses.

“It’s an additional tool in the economic-development tool box,” he said. “It gives us more tools that help us structure incentives that are truly what’s best for the company. It helps us structure something more competitive when we’re looking to attract or retain companies in the community.”

Around 15 businesses would be included in the enterprise zone around Grissom if the status is renewed, Tidd said.
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