Alleys of devastation

July 2, 2009
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Plenty of stories have been published and aired in recent days about migration patterns in Indiana. People in the early part of the century are moving to the Indianapolis suburbs, particularly Fishers, Noblesville, Greenwood and Carmel, the Indiana University study showed.

Overlooked in the coverage are the swaths of the state that keep losing population.

The biggest swath runs from Richmond in eastern Indiana toward Chicago. It’s largely the U.S. 35 corridor that once boasted a sophisticated mastery of the industrial revolution. Richmond, Anderson, Muncie, Marion and other towns hosted factories churning out products as diverse as school buses, cars, transmissions and television screens.

In most cases, companies headquartered outside the state ran the plants into the ground and then pulled out, says Morton Marcus, an economist who formerly headed IU’s Indiana Business Research Center. One exception is Chrysler’s ongoing investment in Kokomo.

The other major “alley of devastation,” as Marcus calls it, starts at Terre Haute and runs south toward Evansville. The area used to be pockmarked with coal mines and thousands of jobs that, like manufacturing, paid well for the level of formal education required.

Points of light glimmer in these areas, but they’re small. Among other victories, Marion has landed a plastics company to take over part of the TV screen plant abandoned by Thomson Consumer Electronics. Coal country might see new life if clean-coal technologies are accepted.

Otherwise, odds of revitalization are slim, says Marcus, who is familiar with the woes as a result of his travels throughout the state. The areas should double down on school quality in hopes people will move back to take advantage of cheap housing, he says.

“These communities need to find ways to make themselves more attractive. The best we can hope for is stability, to stop the decline.”

Bummer of an outlook. But is it realistic? Do you see anything that might bring back these once-thriving areas?

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  • Here's the problem with most of Indiana: no money for young
    entrepreneurs and no ambition. Making your community more
    attractive might attract a few bucks, but if your want long term
    growth, you have to find a way to grow local businesses owned
    by local business people. Otherwise you are doomed to run on
    the tax abatement treadmill where you get a new facility, collect no
    taxes, and then the either leave, close or sell out before the abatement
    ends.

    Which gets to the real issue: Hoosiers need to stop gambling on horses
    and start gambling on business start ups. We actually might win from time to time.

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  1. Why not take some time to do some research before traveling to that Indiana town or city, and find the ones that are no smoking either inside, or have a patio? People like yourself are just being selfish, and unnecessarily trying to take away all indoor venues that smokers can enjoy themselves at. Last time I checked, it is still a free country, and businesses do respond to market pressure and will ban smoking, if there's enough demand by customers for it(i.e. Linebacker Lounge in South Bend, and Rack and Helen's in New Haven, IN, outside of Fort Wayne). Indiana law already unnecessarily forced restaurants with a bar area to be no smoking, so why not support those restaurants that were forced to ban smoking against their will? Also, I'm always surprised at the number of bars that chose to ban smoking on their own, in non-ban parts of Indiana I'll sometimes travel into. Whiting, IN(just southeast of Chicago) has at least a few bars that went no smoking on their own accord, and despite no selfish government ban forcing those bars to make that move against their will! I'd much rather have a balance of both smoking and non-smoking bars, rather than a complete bar smoking ban that'll only force more bars to close their doors. And besides IMO, there are much worser things to worry about, than cigarette smoke inside a bar. If you feel a bar is too smoky, then simply walk out and take your business to a different bar!

  2. As other states are realizing the harm in jailing offenders of marijuana...Indiana steps backwards into the script of Reefer Madness. Well...you guys voted for your Gov...up to you to vote him out. Signed, Citizen of Florida...the next state to have medical marijuana.

  3. It's empowering for this niche community to know that they have an advocate on their side in case things go awry. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lrst9VXVKfE

  4. Apparently the settlement over Angie's List "bundling" charges hasn't stopped the practice! My membership is up for renewal, and I'm on my third email trying to get a "basic" membership rather than the "bundled" version they're trying to charge me for. Frustrating!!

  5. Well....as a vendor to both of these builders I guess I have the right to comment. Davis closed his doors with integrity.He paid me every penny he owed me. Estridge,STILL owes me thousands and thousands of dollars. The last few years of my life have been spent working 2 jobs, paying off the suppliers I used to work on Estridge jobs and just struggling to survive. Shame on you Paul...and shame on you IBJ! Maybe you should have contacted the hundreds of vendors that Paul stiffed. I'm sure your "rises from the ashes" spin on reporting would have contained true stories of real people who have struggled to find work and pay of their debts (something that Paul didn't even attempt to do).

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