Unleash funding so Hoosiers can promote state tourism

Apologies to my fellow dataphiles; there are no numbers in this week’s column. This will delight those who suffer dataphobia. I’ve seen the numbers and they are too embarrassing to Indiana to be displayed here.

Our candidates for governor want to create jobs for Hoosiers. They want “good paying jobs.” But they also admit Indiana’s workforce is not prepared for “high-tech” jobs.

For several decades, Indiana has said it won’t subsidize new jobs paying less than the average wage in the county. This is a self-destructive policy.

If Hoosier workers are not qualified for higher paying jobs, does that mean we shouldn’t make every effort to find them jobs nevertheless? Is unemployment preferable to a low paying job that can be the springboard to something better?

This brings us to travel and tourism. In the past, I was not an advocate of this sector of the economy, but I’ve been on the road to my own Damascus and seen the light.

Indiana does an inferior job of promoting itself for tourism and luring travelers. We dismiss our assets and lament loudly our lack of mountains and seashore.

Just start with the Indiana highway map. Half of it is advertising from the tourism industry. Not a single ad makes me want to visit places in Indiana. It’s mainly commercial bilge. The state would rather sell space for revenue than to insert city maps to make our cities convenient to navigate.

I cannot imagine why Indianapolis is the only city honored by a map. If you wanted to stop in Terre Haute, Evansville, South Bend or any of our other major cities, Indiana’s highway map is useless.

Other states feature their cities on their maps which are available for free at their attractive welcome centers. When I stopped at the Terre Haute Interstate 70 welcome center last Monday afternoon, there were no maps available, no greeter, and two out-of-date maps posted on a wall. Budget cuts?

The brochures available included something about muzzle-loading guns. How nice; a tribute to our burgeoning high-tech economy.

If we want to attract businesses and people who can help Indiana thrive, we need to present ourselves in our best light. This means featuring our great assets, natural and cultural.

There nothing wrong with agri-tourism. But where are the tours of our ultra-modern manufacturing facilities? Rather our little burgs present themselves as good places to rediscover the world of 1910 in their “historic downtowns.”

Indiana has numerous spectacular locales and institutions. We have some good websites wooing the wanderer. Our state and local parks, as well as the state and national forests, offer great natural beauty. Our museums and local restaurants feed the soul and the most demanding appetites.

But we haven’t told the world enough about them. Our location makes us accessible, but our legislature won’t allocate the funds necessary to tell our story well, to increase visits and to create jobs.

Morton Marcus is an economist, writer and speaker. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.