That was such a fiery speech by state secretary of commerce Jim Schellinger at this week's annual Knox County Development Corp. luncheon, a real rouser, delivered by a truly gifted orator under difficult circumstances, and our hats off to the secretary for his performance.
If you didn't leave the Robert E. Green Activities Center feeling good about Indiana then you must be just an old curmudgeon.
If Indiana is doing so well, ranking so high in all those surveys, the darling child of all those business-oriented publications, why are we still losing so many of our best and brightest young people to other states — states, secretary Schellinger pointed out, that aren't so business friendly?
Secretary Schellinger's speech reminded us of the briefings the late secretary of defense Robert McNamara used to give Congressional committees on the “progress” being made by U.S. forces in Vietnam.
Flanked by charts and graphs, surrounded by stacks of thick, bound volumes holding reams of computer paper, McNamara would cite seemingly endless statistics showing that we were winning the war — and then, after the television cameras had quit filming, he'd ask for another 20,000, 30,000 or 40,000 more troops to be sent to the conflict.
It took years before anyone starting asking why, if all the data showed we were winning, there was always that need for all those additional troops.
Is it time we started asking whether the effort to be No. 1 for business is actually worth it? To consider whether, in fact, with the policies the state is adopting — and especially those it is NOT adopting — Indiana is perhaps driving away its future entrepreneurial wizards?
Even the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, which is something of a think tank for the state's Republican Party, questions (at times) the overemphasis that's placed on Indiana being so boundlessly business friendly.
“In the end, all the efforts to boost a local economy that do not specifically focus on improving education and quality of place are a waste of time and money,” wrote Prof. Michael J. Hicks, the director of the Center for Business and Economic Research in a column that we published on Feb. 14.
What if we actually RAISED taxes to provide more resources to public education? Education takes up the biggest slice of the state budget, but it is a relatively small pie to start with, and the slice going to schools isn't nearly adequate to satisfying parents' appetite for more opportunities for their children.
And what if we stepped back a bit from some of these business-friendly polices state officials like to brag about and shifted those resources to more community-enriching programs?
Even secretary Schellinger mentioned the importance of “quality-of-place” programs in his address on Wednesday afternoon, touting what state government has done to invest in communities. We could be doing more if that were truly our focus.
Local governments, including KCDC, look to be more mindful of investing in projects that won't lead to a direct return — not an immediate monetary return, anyway
Tax dollars are needed to pay for those investments. A state, a community, has to have jobs to produce incomes that can be moderately taxed to pay for education and quality-of-life projects — whatever those may be.
We need to better balance the quest for jobs with making Indiana more attractive to young people who will want to remain at home and be Hoosiers for all their days to come.
Let's make it our goal to be No. 1 in homegrown talent, whatever policy changes it requires.