Thursday, October 11, 2012

Proximity Dividend And Indiana Politics

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is a zero-sum thinker. In the Rust Belt, he's the King of Schadenfreude. His state looks downright Sun Belt by comparison. That's not a compliment. I can hear the City of Gary from DC, "Gee Daniels, thanks for nothing."

For all the good that is Indiana and Indianapolis, Daniels can thank Chicago:

At any rate, to even talk about an “Indiana economy” poses a lot of difficulties. In a way we’re a “southern state” — gaining low-paying service jobs, farm jobs, non-union manufacturing. That seems to be something the plans and efforts we hear these days want to perpetuate.

But up in our corner of the state, things are more complicated. In Indianapolis, if someone from Indiana graduates from college and moves to Chicago, it’s “brain drain.” In Northwest Indiana, if someone does the same, is it? Not really. Our area is so much part of the Chicago region that economic activity there is in many ways more important than economic activity in Indianapolis.

If a Subaru plant in Lafayette announces significant job hirings, and if a Ford plant in the south suburbs announces the same, which is “economic development” for Indiana, and which is for Northwest Indiana? In real ways, both are economic development for each. But that’s not necessarily the way policy makers and statewide politicians look at it.

With all due respect, the dominant mental map in Northwest Indiana should be the one for the entire state. Talent migrating from Indianapolis to Chicago isn't brain drain. It's an indicator of the strong ties between the two metro economies.

For the most part, Governor Daniels gets all the spillover benefits from Chicago without any costs. Indiana is living fat off of Illinois. If Chicago sneezes, Indianapolis will catch a cold. Indiana takes but adds very little to Chicagoland. Yet despite playing parasite, Daniels will leave the state in worse shape than when he started his stint as governor.

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