TERRE HAUTE —
Illinois served as the easy target.
At that moment.
In another circumstance, it could be Indiana getting zinged.
In an interview after delivering the keynote address at the Terre Haute Groundhog Day Economic Forecast, Indiana Secretary of Commerce Victor Smith labeled neighboring Illinois “one of the worst states in the country for doing business and getting worse.” Smith cited Illinois’ fiscally beleaguered state government and its increased taxes as the basis for his blunt assessment. An economic-development counterpart in Illinois responded by not only listing some advantages present in the Land of Lincoln, but also acknowledging his state’s problems and detailing progress to address those issues. He added a reminder that Illinois possesses a much larger economy than Indiana and “so many more Fortune 500 companies.”
Not quite Richard Sherman and Michael Crabtree in trash-talking terms, but this is economics, not the NFL.
The exchange conjured reminders of Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s occasional digs at Indiana. In a 2012 New York Times interview, Kasich boasted about the Buckeye State’s competitive pluses, saying, “We have a lot of great cities. I mean, if you think of Indiana, you’ve got Indianapolis and then what?” Throwing up his hands, he added, “Terre Haute?”
Kasich gave an encore last year, insisting Ohio could become the nation’s best state, Cincinnati is a “cool, happening place,” that Ohio “is not Indiana,” and a visitor to Indianapolis would wonder where else to go — maybe “Gary?”
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s comeback was more Chamber of Commerce than DeNiro huffing, “You talkin’ to me?” as he defended Hoosierdom. “Indiana is the best state in the Midwest to start a business, grow a business and get a job,” Pence told the Indianapolis Star last March. “With the Hoosier state consistently winning the competition for fiscal responsibility and reform, somebody should remind the governor of Ohio that trash talk usually comes before the game.”
In both scenarios, the jabs pointed out legitimate vulnerabilities. Illinois has begun the difficult work to fix its governmental messes, which Smith pinpointed, but what is the state of Indiana doing to make its cities more attractive to outsiders who are looking for a vacation spot or a new place to live? Not enough. That’s the Achilles’ heel Kasich targeted. His western neighbor has leaned on its low-tax, lean-government reputation, which has its corporate appeal, but the benefits haven’t trickled down to the aging hearts of most Indiana cities.
Smith, in his Terre Haute visit, gave a tantalizing description of a step in the right direction.
He referred to a proposal before the Indiana Legislature, House Bill 1035. It’s wording sounds vague, and would require the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to “assess Indiana’s regional metropolitan areas” and deliver a report on the needs of each metro by Oct. 1. The study would include “recommendations on initiatives and improvements in each regional city that will lead to regional economic growth.” What could that lead to?
Smith alluded to a fund, pooled from public and private resources, perhaps as large as $1 billion. Using as models the Hoosier cities that already have strong “quality of place” attributes, other metros could seek a slice of those funds for enhancement projects. “Maybe it’s a park along the river,” Smith said. “Maybe it’s an infrastructure investment. Maybe it’s a ‘first we want to do this, then we want to do this,’ to encourage not only the infrastructure piece of it, but also the quality of place.”
Terre Haute’s well-planned Riverscape project comes to mind, especially elements such as the cantilever pedestrian bridge across the Wabash, the riverbank trail running beneath the Dresser and Dreiser bridges and south toward Interstate 70, and the pedestrian bridge over Third Street to safely reach the riverfront area.
House Bill 1035 only authorizes the study to assess metros’ needs and plans. It doesn’t detail any mechanism to create such a $1 billion fund. Its author, Rep. Steve Braun, a Zionsville Republican, expects the General Assembly to approve the study. Once that information is gathered by October, a funding plan would follow in the 2015 legislative session, Braun hopes.
Communities stand a better chance of realizing their quality of life initiatives if they’re pursued on a regional basis, Braun said. “I believe that when we do economic development planning, it is foolish to think that we can do that on a city or county level,” he added.
For the most part, cities and counties have had no other choice. The local Riverscape organization, and the surrounding Terre Haute community, have diligently kept the transformative plans moving forward, one step at a time. Some have come to fruition. Others remain in wait. State investment in “quality of place” projects such as Riverscape would directly benefit cities and their residents.
When asked if “quality of place” as an economic-development tool has been a backburner consideration for the state, Braun said, “I’d have to think about that.”
The more thought on the topic by legislators, the better. It might help keep Ohio’s governor quiet.
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TERRE HAUTE —
Illinois served as the easy target.
- Mark Bennett Opinion
MARK BENNETT: People spaces
Demolition machinery chipped away at the buildings on the 500 block of Wabash Avenue. I stood and watched awhile, last week. By July 2015, a new $18.7-million structure will replace those relics.
MARK BENNETT: Blessings of a long, cold, snowy winter
As spring, summer arrive, Hoosiers will appreciate icy months (well, maybe a little)
MARK BENNETT: Healing Indiana’s Achilles’ heel
Illinois served as the easy target.
At that moment.
MARK BENNETT: Yeah, yeah, yeah... For some grownups, first impression not so fab
We’re pretty smart here in middle America.
Our DNA carries the common-sense chromosome. From birth, Midwestern culture begins honing us into the most rational and perceptive of human beings. Sure, our prisons are full, but generally, we mean well. And we’re wise.
MARK BENNETT: Remembering the less glitzy days on Manning’s road to the Super Bowl
A blur of memories.
They’ll flicker fast and furious tonight, like a spinning Rolodex, when Peyton Manning runs onto the MetLife Stadium turf in Jersey City, as a Denver Bronco, playing for a Super Bowl ring against the Seattle Seahawks. Most Hauteans will experience flashbacks, too.
MARK BENNETT: A lengthening climb
The American economy is improving.
Confidence has risen since the government shutdown by the polarized Congress last fall. Indicators in various sectors show promise.
MARK BENNETT: Tackling entrenched economic problems could brighten local forecast
Without a DeLorean, there’s no going back to 1995.
MARK BENNETT: What is Indiana’s image in the eyes of the world?
A bus pulled up to the curb near the riverfront in downtown Chicago. An unusual advertisement was painted on its side.
Raising the bar
Around coffeeshops, kitchen tables and office watercoolers, Hoosiers have cussed and discussed the federal health care law.
MARK BENNETT: ABA’s record proves Bobby Leonard’s a legit Hall of Famer
Bobby Leonard symbolized the feisty competitive flair of the old ABA.
MARK BENNETT: Letter from coach’s young daughter put pro sports, Christmas in perspective
Most of us sympathize with people forced to work on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
That list is growing, now that Black Friday has morphed into Black Thursday, causing retail employees to join doctors, nurses, hospital staffers, police, firefighters, emergency responders, military members, convenience store clerks, road crews and media to spend holidays at work. Ideally, we’ll feel gratitude when we require their services on those special days. Too often, their sacrificed time gets taken for granted.
Terry Leonard wanted the executives to remember her dad, and their family, at Christmastime.
And, amazingly, they listened.
MARK BENNETT: A degree of success
Determination to get that diploma Larry Bird’s deepest bond with fellow ISU alums, students
MARK BENNETT: Brad Fenton and friends set dominos in motion to make Larry Bird statue a reality
The idea has been out there for awhile, floating.
Locals in the 1980s, ’90s and 2000s would say, “They need to put up a statue of Larry Bird. I mean, one of the all-time greatest basketball players played right here in Terre Haute at Indiana State University.”
MARK BENNETT: Next chapter set to begin
Use the classic Tommy Tutone song to memorize the following number …
MARK BENNETT: One-ring blues?
Minutes before kickoff tonight, the Lucas Oil Stadium tech crew should play Sam Cooke’s classic, “(What a) Wonderful World” over the sound system.
MARK BENNETT: At Peace in Parke County
Northwestern Parke County — The stream merely trickles beneath Mill Creek Bridge. It’s just a few inches deep, but the water keeps moving.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute native Tommy John belongs in Cooperstown for pitching like a Hall of Famer
Few players in history left a greater impact on baseball than Tommy John.
And he did so through his performance on the field.
MARK BENNETT: Remotely confused
“Must See TV,” where have you gone?
MARK BENNETT: Popularity Contest: Congress does little to improve its standing with Americans
The members of Congress ardently resisting the Affordable Care Act emphasize its unpopularity.
MARK BENNETT: ‘The voice of the Democratic Party’
The ad stands as a campaign classic. Its scenario is part of history. Its narrator would be familiar to millions of Americans, yet anonymous, too.
MARK BENNETT: Transparency in public decision-making includes sincerely listening to the people
Transparency isn’t universally accepted in public entities.
MARK BENNETT: This Little Light: Remote chapel keeps a light shining on story of Flight 93
Father Al explained the meaning of the lamp. He asked me to light it.
The reverence in his voice offset the raspiness, left by his latest battle with cancer. Clearly, he saw this place as special.
MARK BENNETT: Reflections on the Wabash
The series “500 Miles of Wabash” wrapped up last Sunday after a five-week run. Readers offered some enlightening insights, memories and photographs as the series unfolded.
MARK BENNETT: Current Information: Put your Wabash knowledge to the test … or quiz
Just for fun, ponder a few questions concerning the large waterway flowing through Indiana and Terre Haute, as the Tribune-Star’s series, “500 Miles of Wabash” concludes in today’s editions. Those who’ve followed the five-part series of stories, photographs and videos about people and communities uniquely embracing the Wabash River may have a head start. If you’re just catching up, check them out in the online editions at www.tribstar.com.
- Answers to the Wabash River Quiz
MARK BENNETT: Pedestrian paths across the Wabash few, so far, but appreciated
The future tends to sneak up on you. Planning for it offers no guarantees, but it helps.
MARK BENNETT: Questions of fairness, impartiality, public trust legitimate in wake of school rating controversy
The discovery of a double-standard in public policy — or the appearance of it — weakens trust. The acceptance of a double-standard in public policy — or the appearance of it — erases trust. Indiana needs to draw a clear line between the former and the latter, and not cross it.
MARK BENNETT: Living downstream: From source, Wabash bears mark of mankind mile after mile
Something was missing. I’d never visited this spot before, but the view looked familiar. I’ve walked the banks of the Wabash River and its tributaries countless times, catching crawdads and skipping rocks in Honey Creek as a kid. On the other side of the state, where the Wabash crosses from Ohio into Indiana, trees arched over the water as it ran under a bridge on a quiet country road. It looked like western Indiana, except for one absent element. Litter.
MARK BENNETT: We are Hauteans (ho-shuns)
I fielded an hilariously disturbing question recently. A friend asked if the word “Hautean” is meant to be a derogatory label.
MARK BENNETT: Lesson in the Test
ISTEP is important, but it should not be predominant.
- More Mark Bennett Opinion Headlines
- MARK BENNETT: People spaces