The unemployment rate in Indiana is above 10 percent right now. The state of Indiana and most of its cites of any size employs hundreds of people with the goal of attracting new business to the region in hopes of generating more jobs in the area. I liken this to the surprised 2nd wife who discovers that the man she married is cheating on her even though he had been cheating with her when he was married to his first wife. Any business that can be lured here with incentives can be lured away with better incentives down the road. So, why does our state government continue to put so much effort into bringing businesses here while putting almost no effort into growing the businesses that started here and have roots that will likely keep them here forever.
Now, don’t get me wrong. If a business gets large enough, there will be opportunities to eat at the state government trough. Just yesterday, the governor announced alocal business incentive that will bring 500 new jobs at Exact Target to central Indiana over the next five years. That’s $22,450 per job! Give Port-to-Port that kind of money and we’ll create jobs too. We’ll do it faster too. But don’t take my word for it.
A recent study reported in the Harvard Business Review shows that “regional economic growth is highly correlated with the presence of many small, entrepreneurial employers – not a few big ones.” Indianapolis is at the lower end of the job growth graph that accompanies this article, yet our local officials (and banks and funders) continue to chase the big boys. We have a system that won’t allow an abundance of small businesses to grow up here because we don’t offer adequate support until they have scraped and struggled to survive on their own.
I’m not knocking Scott Dorsey and his team at Exact Target. My knowledge of their founding leaves me duly impressed with their accomplishment and growth. I’m just saying that for $22K per job, I can do it too. But I won’t get the chance unless I manage to navigate the same traps and hurdles that Scott did. Shouldn’t we look at ways to make it easier for more of us to succeed? Let’s start with making it easier to get through the early growth stage. Throw a little effort into supporting the struggling entrepreneurs who, like Scott Dorsey and Chris Baggot, started here because they already love living here.