MARCUS: Diversity reigns among state's economies

Morton Marcus
November 14, 2009
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Morton Marcus

Not every county in Indiana is like every other county. This is important to understand (particularly if you are a state legislator) because we cannot assume one remedy is appropriate for all ills statewide. Likewise, your county is not unique, probably not even distinct from other Indiana counties. This is important to understand (especially for members of the General Assembly) because it is unlikely the problems your county faces deserve unique legislative attention.

Where is what done in Indiana? First, let’s look at farming. Statewide, farming accounts directly for 0.8 percent of the state’s earnings by individuals (figures are for 2007). The top five farming counties are all in the northwestern quadrant of the state. Another 15 counties derive more than 5 percent of their earnings from farming. In 49 of Indiana’s 92 counties, farming amounts to less than 2 percent of earnings.

Second, consider manufacturing, Indiana’s most important sector, with one-quarter of the state’s earnings. Howard County is most dependent on manufacturing at 59 percent, followed by five more clustered around 55 percent. Another 25 counties derive a third to half their earnings from manufacturing. Only six counties (including Hamilton) receive less than 10 percent of their earnings from manufacturing.

Next to manufacturing, private health care is the second-largest sector in our economy. (Health care provided by government institutions are not included here.) Statewide, private health care accounts for 9.7 percent of Hoosier earnings, but we have data for only 55 of the 92 counties. Disclosure issues limit our analysis for this and many other sectors, but we won’t go into the oddities of efforts to protect the privacy of individual firms.

According to the available data, Delaware County is most dependent on health care, with 19 percent of its earnings originating in that sector. Low shares (under 5 percent) of earnings are found in 14 counties. Does this indicate inadequate access to health care? Let’s hope no one in a position of authority says “yes” to that question without some intense thought and investigation.

Cutting the data a different way, we find that real estate services are the most concentrated: Marion and Hamilton counties alone account for 50 percent of earnings originating in that sector. Those two counties also provide 48 percent of earnings from professional and technical services.

By contrast, farming is the least-concentrated activity, followed closely by utilities, local government, manufacturing and retail trade. When you think about it, only manufacturing is a surprise. Every place has utilities, local government and retail trade. But that manufacturing should be among the least-concentrated activities suggests Indiana is truly a state where manufacturing is pervasive, vital to the economies of most counties.

Among the counties, Martin, with the Crane facility, has the most concentrated economic activity (75 percent of earnings originating on federal payrolls). Heavy manufacturing counties are heavily concentrated as well.

Beyond that we dare not go because of missing data stemming back to those infamous disclosure problems. For example, only 65 percent of earnings in Monroe County are reported by sector by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. What’s missing? State and local governments. Why are these missing? Only BEA can say. We can guess there is concern about the size of Indiana University in the state sector. But IU is a public agency. Why are public data suppressed?

These disclosure issues are found in state as well as federal data. For example, why can’t we have accurate sales tax revenue by county when such data are available in other states?

You’ll excuse me now. I have to take anti-depressants every time I deal with the incomprehensible disclosure rules of our statistical agencies.•


Marcus taught economics for more than 30 years at Indiana University and is the former director of IU’s Business Research Center. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at mmarcus@ibj.com.


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  1. Cramer agrees...says don't buy it and sell it if you own it! Their "pay to play" cost is this issue. As long as they charge customers, they never will attain the critical mass needed to be a successful on company...Jim Cramer quote.

  2. My responses to some of the comments would include the following: 1. Our offer which included the forgiveness of debt (this is an immediate forgiveness and is not "spread over many years")represents debt that due to a reduction of interest rates in the economy arguably represents consideration together with the cash component of our offer that exceeds the $2.1 million apparently offered by another party. 2. The previous $2.1 million cash offer that was turned down by the CRC would have netted the CRC substantially less than $2.1 million. As a result even in hindsight the CRC was wise in turning down that offer. 3. With regard to "concerned Carmelite's" discussion of the previous financing Pedcor gave up $16.5 million in City debt in addition to the conveyance of the garage (appraised at $13 million)in exchange for the $22.5 million cash and debt obligations. The local media never discussed the $16.5 million in debt that we gave up which would show that we gave $29.5 million in value for the $23.5 million. 4.Pedcor would have been much happier if Brian was still operating his Deli and only made this offer as we believe that we can redevelop the building into something that will be better for the City and City Center where both Pedcor the citizens of Carmel have a large investment. Bruce Cordingley, President, Pedcor

  3. I've been looking for news on Corner Bakery, too, but there doesn't seem to be any info out there. I prefer them over Panera and Paradise so can't wait to see where they'll be!

  4. WGN actually is two channels: 1. WGN Chicago, seen only in Chicago (and parts of Canada) - this station is one of the flagship CW affiliates. 2. WGN America - a nationwide cable channel that doesn't carry any CW programming, and doesn't have local affiliates. (In addition, as WGN is owned by Tribune, just like WTTV, WTTK, and WXIN, I can't imagine they would do anything to help WISH.) In Indianapolis, CW programming is already seen on WTTV 4 and WTTK 29, and when CBS takes over those stations' main channels, the CW will move to a sub channel, such as 4.2 or 4.3 and 29.2 or 29.3. TBS is only a cable channel these days and does not affiliate with local stations. WISH could move the MyNetwork affiliation from WNDY 23 to WISH 8, but I am beginning to think they may prefer to put together their own lineup of syndicated programming instead. While much of it would be "reruns" from broadcast or cable, that's pretty much what the MyNetwork does these days anyway. So since WISH has the choice, they may want to customize their lineup by choosing programs that they feel will garner better ratings in this market.

  5. The Pedcor debt is from the CRC paying ~$23M for the Pedcor's parking garage at City Center that is apprased at $13M. Why did we pay over the top money for a private businesses parking? What did we get out of it? Pedcor got free parking for their apartment and business tenants. Pedcor now gets another building for free that taxpayers have ~$3M tied up in. This is NOT a win win for taxpayers. It is just a win for Pedcor who contributes heavily to the Friends of Jim Brainard. The campaign reports are on the Hamilton County website. http://www2.hamiltoncounty.in.gov/publicdocs/Campaign%20Finance%20Images/defaultfiles.asp?ARG1=Campaign Finance Images&ARG2=/Brainard, Jim