Study shows motorsports impact on Indiana economy

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We've been racing here for more than 100 years, but for the first time, Indiana now knows how big of an impact motorsports has on the state's economy.

Motorsports companies large and small, many of they you've probably never heard of, employ more Hoosiers than GM, Chrysler, Toyota, Subaru, and Honda combined.

The need for speed is more than entertainment. It is a driving force behind Indiana's economy.

Motorsports companies employ 23,000 Hoosiers, who typically earn about $63,000. That's well above the state average.

"Not just jobs, good jobs," said Rollie Helmling of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. "Indiana needs to recognize this is a gem. Motorsports in Indiana is a jewel."

It is a jewel that is largely overlooked. The study done by Purdue University and Indiana's Motorsports Association is the first to quantify the economic impact of racing.

Tom Weisenbach, the association's executive director, pointed to a state map dotted with pins representing all the companies.

"Look at the impact of motorsports all across Indiana. It's not a central Indiana initiative. It is a statewide business," he said.

More than 90 Indiana companies are selling themselves to 30,000 visitors of the International Motorsports Industry Show underway at the Indiana Convention Center. They make machines, metals, tires, and thousands of racing's pieces and parts.

You can't go racing without a radiator. C & R makes them. The Indianapolis company supplies 90 percent of NASCAR's race teams. Despite the company's success and growth, company owner Chris Paulson admitted getting recognition has been difficult.

"At times, but we've come a long way with that," he said

C&R Racing has 60 employees, producing a variety of products and, like other motorsports companies, is expanding beyond racing. Weisenbach visited all of the companies and made an encouraging, yet alarming discovery.

"In the next five years, 65 percent of the companies plan to grow. The concern is the workforce," he explained.

Motorsports companies need engineers, designers, and workers with advanced manufacturing skills. They are looking to colleges and vocational schools to fuel an industry eager to run even faster.

The challenge for the industry and Indiana is to transfer racing's technology and manufacturing processes to other industries. The same principles that make cars fly down a track can be applied to aerospace, medical equipment, and the vehicles we drive to work.