Indiana has employed a scorched earth economic development strategy of degrading the manufacturing and logistical capabilities of its Midwestern neighbors and Southern competitors such as Mississippi.
While generously pointing out all the shortcomings of others the Hoosier State goes up against in the economic development arena, the study sponsored by Conexus Indiana — the state’s manufacturing initiative — had to concede a few indigenous blemishes.
The report card prepared by home- state university Ball State gave Indiana straight As on Manufacturing Health, Logistical Health, Tax Climate and Global Reach. Human Capital earned the lowest mark, a D, while Worker Benefit Costs and Sector Diversification received a C- and C, respectively.
Ball State attributed Indiana’s poor showing in the Human Capital category to a large “relative decline” in graduation rates of associate degree programs in 2010.
Alas, the graduation decline was “a rare statistical anomaly” brought on by the Great Recession, Ball State notes in a series of assessments that finds regional neighbors Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin lagging in a range of categories.
Zeroing-in on its emerging Southern competitor, the Indiana-commissioned study graded Mississippi thusly:
Human Capital: F
Worker Benefit Costs: B
Tax Climate: B
Expected Liability Gap: D
Global Reach: D
Sector Diversification: A
Productivity and Innovation: F
“Mississippi’s grades dropped from “C” to “D” in global position category due to lower relative export growth,” the study says. “As with neighboring states, the real drag on Mississippi’s manufacturing sector is its dismal record of educational achievement.”
Hard to argue with the assessments on global reach and workforce development, though we would invite Ball State to take another look at the state’s global export reach once the Port of Gulfport’s rebuilding from the destruction of Katrina is complete and the expanded Panama Canal opens up new trade horizons in 2015.
Improving workforce education?
That’s a more long-term challenge, one that cries out for non-ideological solutions and a renewed desire to cultivate top-flight educators for our public schools and pay them in a way that reflects the value of the work they do.
We’re encouraged more and more by the increasing priority that our elected leaders and economic development professionals are placing on developing a literate and trainable workforce.
Meanwhile, this is what puzzles us: Ball State handing Mississippi an “F” in productivity and innovation.
Don’t they read newspapers and magazines up there? Already this year, the Mississippi Development Authority has surpassed last year’s industrial recruitment levels. The enlistees are focused on innovations that range from plastics and biomass to cutting-edge building technologies. And without productive workers, Mississippi would not get even a first look from these companies.
We’ve seen this Indiana thing before. You’ll recall a couple of years ago, Conexus Indiana’s Ball State study painted an unflattering picture of Mississippi’s economic development success just as the state busied itself with landing big-time manufacturers such as Toyota for Blue Springs, General Electric Aviation for Batesville and assisting Nissan with a major expansion in Canton.
Somehow the Ball State report card must have eluded the editors and researchers at Forbes. You’ll recall the long-established and respected business magazine last July profiled the state’s manufacturing successes, telling readers: “Think Mississippi’s future and you’re looking at a new American manufacturing center.”
Here’s the lowdown on that assessment: It didn’t cost Mississippi a dime.