Grade 'C': Indiana Needs to Continue Economic Transformation, Not Take Steps Back

Economic Vision 2010, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s economic development plan released in 2000, states the following goal: “Indiana will be one of the best business start-up and growth economies in the world, focusing on the creation of high-skill, high-wage jobs and outstanding productivity.”

It’s clear, from the Chamber’s latest annual Economic Vision 2010 Report Card, that the objective is not going to be achieved – at least not by 2010. Why? Even with a series of important accomplishments in the last two years that will improve Indiana’s standing on future Report Cards, the simple truth is that too many Hoosiers remain in denial.

“The evidence continues to grow every day,” laments Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar. “Despite repeated calls for accelerated progress, despite warnings that the status quo will not be acceptable in the 21st century economy, despite a governor and administration that recognize these truths and are striving to lead the way, far too many legislators are simply unwilling to come along at the necessary pace or, in some instances, at all.”

The Report Card, in its seventh year, is funded by the Indiana Chamber Foundation and developed in conjunction with a research team led by longtime Indiana economic expert Graham Toft, Ph.D. The 2007 edition, utilizing the latest data available for all 50 states (primarily sources that reflect data from 2004 and earlier) gives Indiana an overall grade of C, an improvement from the C- of the past two Report Cards.

While the state is on a par with its Midwest competitors and those substantial improvements enacted by the Daniels administration (balanced state budget, Major Moves transportation infrastructure and job creation plan, telecommunications reform, strong business attraction and retention efforts of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, increased state government efficiency and more) are not yet reflected in the statistics, it’s also evident that more work needs to take place.

“Shifting an economy takes time and a concerted focus – maybe even longer than the 10-year period the Chamber envisioned in 2000,” Brinegar admits. “While we’re confident that future Report Cards will show improvements due to the public policy enhancements of the past few years, it’s clear that the work is far from finished. At a time when we should be taking the next steps forward, instead:

  • “we’re rejecting public-private infrastructure financing proposals that would increase commerce and economic growth;
  • “our legislative leaders in the House refused to consider an innovative lottery lease proposal that would dramatically help reverse the “brain drain” by providing scholarships for needy Hoosiers and assist research efforts associated with the critical life sciences industry; and
  • “we fail to properly invest in what must become our greatest asset – our workforce. A proposed job training tax credit was just one step in many needed to bring Indiana workers’ skills up to speed.”

Brinegar adds, “It takes all entities working together to reach the Economic Vision 2010 goal. The Daniels’ administration’s Accelerating Growth plan addresses those areas we have identified as needing improvement. The governor clearly understands and embraces what it will take to greatly improve Indiana’s competitive economic position and has pursued critical initiatives with a proper sense of urgency.

“The General Assembly, however, must fulfill its role in moving policy initiatives forward, the business community must do its part and the citizens of our state need to demand more – and hold opposing legislators accountable for their inaction.”

The Report Card uses six drivers, 15 sub-drivers and 97 metrics to compile one of the country’s most comprehensive state evaluations of economic performance. Indiana’s grades in each of the drivers are: Education and Workforce Development, C; Business Costs and Productivity, C+; Government and Regulatory Environment, B+; Infrastructure and Connectivity, B-; Dynamism and Entrepreneurism, D+; and Quality of Life, C-.

Massachusetts, Utah and Maryland are the only states to earn overall grades in the A range. There are 14 B’s, 25 C’s, six D’s and two F’s. Grades for Indiana’s Midwest competitors include Michigan, C+; Ohio and Illinois, C; and Kentucky, D.

The Report Card is produced in cooperation with TechPoint, which published the Indiana Technology Index in October 2006. That report includes 23 technology-focused metrics.

Financial support for this Report Card was provided by the Duke Energy® Foundation, Vectren and Indiana Michigan Power®. To obtain the executive summary and/or the full report, go to www.indianachamber.com.

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