IBJOpinion

MARCUS: Kokomo works to advance economy

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Morton Marcus

What do you do when you have little discretionary money and enormous challenges? You might follow the example being set by Mayor Greg Goodnight in Kokomo.

Yes, Kokomo, the city named for a Miami chieftain, is known nationally through a song by the Beach Boys (which referred to the former name of a Caribbean island) and panned statewide for the string of traffic lights on the infamous Kokomo Bypass.

Kokomo enjoyed being the place with the highest average wages in Indiana, but recently has ranked behind only Elkhart in distress from the recession. As a center of production for Chrysler Corp. and Delphi Corp. (both based in Michigan), Kokomo has shared the glitter and the tarnish of the American automobile industry.

Like every other Hoosier mayor, Goodnight fights the battle of the budget. In response to the disastrous financing policies of the General Assembly, he reduced city employment and trimmed services. To do this, he closed the city’s day care center, shifted ambulance service from the fire department to the hospitals, and requires homeowners to move their trash cans to one side of the street for pickup.

The mayor’s opponents probably fantasize that this last measure will be revoked when the first sweet old lady is run down on a dark, icy winter morning while struggling with her mammoth garbage receptacle. Normally, her daughter would have moved the can, but without the city day care center, the grandchild must be taken to a more distant facility. The tragedy will be complete if the old woman would have survived but for the elimination of the city’s ambulance service.      

Goodnight understands that Kokomo’s economic problem is not the dominance of Chrysler and Delphi and the lack of diversification in the economic base. The central problem is that Howard County (of which Kokomo has 55 percent of the population), does not retain the earnings of its best-paid workers. Twenty percent of the work force lives outside Howard County; this 20 percent earns 30 percent of the income generated in the county.

Kokomo and Howard County must attract more well-paid workers to live there. This will improve the retail and service options in Kokomo. Generally, higher-income families have high expectations of schools. Their housing will add to the tax base as their skills add to the innovative capabilities of the community.

Goodnight is opening eyes with his program to make downtown Kokomo more friendly and attractive. “The City of Firsts” (as Kokomo likes to call itself) is being transformed into The City of Color. Flowers bloom in baskets hung from decorative light poles. New planting areas have been created at street corners. Modern sculptures catch the attention of drivers and pedestrians. Many traffic lights have been replaced by stop signs, which facilitate movement for autos and walkers while discouraging high-speed adventures through town. Some one-way streets are now two-way passages, slowing traffic so motorists can see the many changes being made to local shops.

City parks are getting new equipment and bike/walking trails are being constructed. Efforts to coordinate and promote the arts are being advanced. Even the headquarters building of the Kokomo Fire Department is undergoing a thorough exterior cleaning, removing the grime of three decades.

These are major achievements for a city on a strict financial diet.

Contrast this modest program with the massive, expensive construction being done by the state that will have little benefit for Kokomo. U.S. 31 runs along the east side of Kokomo. Its many traffic lights form a major obstacle to vehicles moving between South Bend and Indianapolis. Instead of fixing the problem, the state Department of Transportation chose to build a new four-lane highway farther east of Kokomo. This invites more suburban sprawl and a relocation of retail trade from the old bypass.

Fixing the bypass would have been more expensive, but modernizing U.S .31 on its current alignment might have been a wiser investment with more benefits to Kokomo than a new bypass.•

__________

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Good Day I am Mr (Victoria Wright) from United state of America, i stayed in NEW YORK, and i have a broke up business, until i found this company email who help me to gain a loan for business,, and now i want to used this short medium to congratulate the below company for the fast and safe money they loan to me without any form of collateral, i loan 500,000USD from the company to save my business and lots more, i saw their mail on the internet, everyone always give testimony for what they did, so i quickly contacted them and they all did everything for me without stress and my money was sent to my account just 3 days later, i was surprise and i feel so glad, now i have a standard business control agent who help me, now i will advice those who need urgent loan to contact him at the bellow email:zenithfirm12@gmail.com

  2. NOTICE:This is to inform the general public that Vampires are real. My name is James Franklyn.,am an agent of vampire,am here to introduce our new world trend to you,a world of vampire where life get easier,we have made so many persons vampires and have turned them rich,you will be assured long life and prosperity,you shall be made to be very sensitive to mental alertness,stronger and also very fast,you will not be restricted to walking at night only even at the very middle of broad day light you will be made to walk.In case you are wildly oppressed by some unscrupulous persons we can still help you fight them.Your protection is assured immediately you join.Just contact the bellow email if you are interested we are here to attend to you anytime you want us. Contact the bellow email for more details. Email:vampirescreed@hotmail.com Sincerely: James Franklyn.

  3. Bravo! Someone else that is willing to speak the truth! Bravo!_____NBCSN is available in almost 2 MILLION more homes than just a few years ago, but Indycar STILL gets less total viewers than it did just a few years ago when NBC took over Versus. Attendance and ratings cratered with the end of season races (just when the title battle got "interesting" HAH!__________And now...new race in Basilia, where Miles celebrated the "rich history" of Indycar racing there. Rich history? What, 7 events in the 100 years of AOW? Yep, some history. Well, at least its an oval. It's not??? Are you kidding me??? Gosh darn road racin furriners.

  4. PURITY RAY LOAN OFFER........ Have you been denied by your banks,or are you in need of of an urgent loan to pay of your bills we are capable of giving loans @ cheaper rate to interested individuals, student, companies and members of the public in need of finance to settle bills, we do offer considerable loans which you can count on. For more information on our various types of loan,then you will have to contact PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM, to help you achieve your desire LOAN APPLICATION FORM TO BE FILLED BORROWERS INFORMATION * Full name:………………………. * SEX * ……………………………. * Country………………………….. * State:……………………………. * Land:…………………………….. * Occupation:…………………….. * phone number:…………………. * Telephone: ………………………….. * Age:………………………………. * Amount needed as loan:……… * Loan Duration:………………….. * Propose of Loan:……………….. * Annual revenue:………………… * Monthly Income:……………….. * Guarantee:………………………. * Payment: monthly or annually Email.....purityrayloanfirm@gmail.com Thank you and God bless Mr Purity Ray PURITY RAY LOAN FIRM we tend to serve you better

  5. Problem: most of the people responding to this article don't know about this service AT ALL! Why? Lack of awareness. This isn't IndyGo. This is CIRTA: might as well be the mattress company because they are asleep at the wheel - something like 3 directors over the last year? Playing with federal grant money is great! This "region" wants commuter rail service, has spent MILLIONS on Transportation studies yet can't even support a commuter bus line? This is largely for suburban riders to get to downtown - not for "service people to work in our hotels and restaurants" ! Get your head out of your backside!! These are professionals, students etc. that don't want to fight traffic, save some money on parking, gas, stress.... if CIRTA would put their federal money into widely promoting the sevive to Greenwood, Fishers & Carmel instead of finding directors and studies - this would be a successful service. Our family uses(d) it daily for the last several years - but the recent uncertainty & now unreliability due to cuts from Carmel has been a problem. Now, costs us an additional $350/month for gas & parking ( $4200/year) plus vehicle wear, service, environmental impact ... YES - this REGION needs this this type of service in order to keep growing and getting the people it needs to fill skilled positions in downtown Indianapolis. Think outside of your own car !!!

ADVERTISEMENT