Permit me a personal moment. A few days ago was the 24th anniversary of this weekly newspaper column. It began with prompting from my wife and a few Hoosier editors and publishers who believed regular reporting and commentary on the Indiana economy was needed.
At that time, Indiana’s newspapers, radio and TV broadcasts carried little statewide business and economic news. Today, they carry less. Today, if it isn’t local or national, it is likely ignored.
For more than 1,200 weeks, whether from Angola, Evansville or Hammond, out-of-state or out-
of-the-country, an eye has been kept on the pie.
Why that title for this column? The pie is the economy of which we all want a bigger piece. The column keeps an eye on how large that pie is, how fast it grows and how it is distributed. Also, we ask “Which economic developments are beneficial or too costly for our communities?”
The column appears only in local Indiana newspapers, although many topics have wider applicability. There is no blog, any radio or TV version because I’m a newspaper fan. No matter how devoid of meaningful news, I place a high value on local newspapers. They tell us much about ourselves and the environment in which we live and work.
Two examples: Last week, a newspaper wrote about a firm seeking a six-year property tax abatement worth more than $800,000. The company wants to build an office building near the Fashion Mall (86th and Keystone).
If you live in or travel to Indianapolis, you know this location. It’s where shoppers from all over the Hoosier state go to see clothing and other items they cannot afford. It is the top of the Indiana retail pyramid.
Does a developer need an incentive to build there? This is not a depressed area wanting investment. The developer will add to the office building a 300-space parking garage plus nearly 200 apartments. This is a good case for a congestion impact fee, not a tax break.
Issues similar to this arise in your community regularly. Are appropriate questions being asked?
Second, the same day, a newspaper ran an insert from USA Today with this interesting juxtaposition: November auto sales were the best since 2001, while the Business Roundtable reported: “The economy ended the year essentially where it started — performing below its potential.”
Which are you willing to take seriously: A statement of fact (the auto sales) or the opinions of top business CEOs? Do business leaders pay attention to facts? The economy at the beginning of 2014 was hit by major weather traumas. In contrast, the year is ending with considerable strength in most sectors. And what do CEOs know of the economy’s potential?
Enough. I thank you for reading this column as frequently as you do and for supporting your local newspaper. In addition, my thanks to the editors of the 25 newspapers that carry Eye on the Pie, whether or not they agree with my views.