Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Business

April 13, 2014

Reality not built on press releases

John Quill made his annual spring appearance last week and may stick around for another few weeks.

As we enjoyed a relatively warm afternoon on the deck, he asked: “What do you think about the state of the state now?”

“Unchanged,” I said.

“Impossible,” he replied. “Just look at the news about all the plans for new jobs and civic improvements. There can be no doubt that Indiana is moving ahead.”

“Don’t confuse news releases with reality,” I said. “The party issuing the release attempts to relay an impression rather than convey a truth. Anticipated jobs, at best, are hopes, not achievements.”

“But the recently reported numbers about employment and unemployment are almost spectacular,” John said.

“Then look further and see what I see,” I said. “In 2013, Indiana remained 39th on the list of states in per capita personal income. You do remember old PCPI? Hoosier governors have been telling us for years it is a prime metric of economic well-being.

“Our slow slide down the rank of states continues. Ten years ago we were in 36th place; Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Montana slipped ahead of us, while only Georgia fell below us during those years.”

“So, what’s behind this slippage that’s got you up in arms?” John asked.

“Money,” I answered. “It’s become fashionable to blame Indiana workers for our slide. First, there are those who blame our schools for not turning out students prepared for the job market. Second, there are employers who say we don’t have the right kind of workforce. I don’t know if they mean that we have some industries that are unionized, as if that was something evil, or if they mean Hoosier workers don’t have the ability to learn new tasks and procedures.

“Yet, the major problem I see is a lack of investment by Hoosier firms in new equipment and procedures.”

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