Opinion and Forefront

DAVIS: Voices of moderation, speak up

December 1, 2012

Kathy DavisAcross the country on Election Day sprang voices and signs of social acceptance from young people, gay people, women, immigrants of many decades and people with disabilities. America has changed, and will continue to. Americans are seeing the relationship between equal opportunity and economic opportunity.

Indiana excludes voices and talent at our peril. About eight hours after election results were in, I heard Kevin Brinegar, head of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, on NPR radio rejoicing over the Republican super-majority in the state Senate and House. Brinegar proclaimed this administration and Legislature will be good for business.

I wonder. Despite campaign promises to work for jobs, I fear an Indiana leadership team that works for some and not for others.

Brinegar may envision the rate at which right-to-work legislation would have passed the upcoming super-Republican-dominated General Assembly. One company, a large employer in my hometown, is likely liquidating, tripling the salary of the CEO and blaming workers for company failures. Pundits were speculating they might look for a right-to-work state. Is defunding an advocacy for working people a top selling point for Indiana, given where we need to go?

What else from the Republican 2010 and 2011 general assemblies was pro-business? I won’t go through the list of proposals. But to me, many represented a small world view and mean-spiritedness that is not what I’ve experienced as Hoosier hospitality. Without a Democratic voice in the General Assembly, we will need a drumbeat from citizens, community and business leaders advocating for the factors that create economic prosperity.

How will we hold elected leaders accountable to their campaign promises—a focus on good jobs? Who will stay tuned and stand up? I ask our leaders in manufacturing, life sciences, distribution, information, agriculture and education to be on alert.

The 21st century economy will be powered by folks who value inclusion, acceptance and science. Indiana must seize the road ahead.

Openness to truth, seeking the facts, will get us there fastest. We are best off when we work with what is real, get through the sticky wickets, and get excited from operating and succeeding in the big, forward-looking picture.

Changes in people, climate and the way we share information are coming fast. The changes in communication and access to knowledge are immense and powerful and growing almost like Moore’s Law. Information management has yet to make it to Indiana’s list of target industries.

Let’s welcome the people, businesses and jobs we want to attract. Career-making jobs, technology jobs, spirit-building jobs that help Indiana play in a global economy.

Gov.-elect Pence’s plan for Indiana—where fewer than half of our students graduate—includes restoring high school vocational education. I loved my technical drawing class. Many remember shop class fondly. The vocational jobs of today, though, are different.

Whether students pursue a vocation or college degree, they need a full complement of language, math and science courses in high school. Then they will need more skills, beyond high school, to grow and build things in the dawn of the information age.

Let’s start introducing students to career options in fifth grade, offer a curriculum that supports many paths. But not expect that high school will be enough to prepare us for jobs anymore.

Let’s keep current this session, talk with legislators and keep Indiana focused on true prosperity for all. Design our health care, education system, tax code and infrastructure to boost our economy. Keep faith and know we need all people to make it happen.•

• Davis is a former Indiana lieutenant governor who owns and operates the Indianapolis technology firm Davis Design Group LLC. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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