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EYE ON THE PIE: Here's where Hoosiers get it right

September 10, 2007

We don't have to be obsessed with property taxes. All is not dreadful despite the clamor of some disaffected taxpayers.

For example, La-Porte has two operating barbershops on the same street downtown. This warms the heart. Equally positive is finding an excellent housing stock in LaPorte, with many beautiful homes painted in a joyous, imaginative fashion.

Can you believe the McDonald's in Winamac opens at 4:30 a.m. and keeps its drive-through open 24 hours a day? That alone suggests a level of activity not found in many larger communities.

Have you been to Madison on the Ohio River recently? Downtown is much more impressive than I remember from years ago. The riverfront has been upgraded with a fine promenade. The downtown retail stores appear to be kept better. And there is a vitality to be found there that most places focused on nostalgia rarely convey.

Speaking of nostalgia, let's talk about French Lick. The great hotel in West Baden Springs has been restored to glory. It is beyond magnificent, although rooms are unaffordable for 95 percent of Hoosiers. Nonetheless, you can step inside and discover elegance as it was 100 years ago.

Likewise, the huge French Lick Hotel has also gone through a total remodeling. The rooms are exceptionally spacious and wellappointed. However, take your walking shoes. The hotel's very long corridors remain. Hence, you have the opportunity to do your morning exercises just getting to breakfast. But the breakfast buffet is so generous that you will appreciate the long walk back to your room.

I cannot comment on the casino at French Lick. I imagine it is like all the other Indiana casinos that do not interest me.

More interesting is the proposal to build a modern airport and business center in Madison County, off Interstate 69, not far from Anderson and Pendleton. This development has great potential to relieve future congestion at Indianapolis and to satisfy the growing demand for air service among Hamilton County's progressive businesses.

The main beneficiaries will be the people of Madison County, with additional benefits extending in all directions. As Metropolitan Airport on the Hamilton-Marion County line is phased out, the rapidly growing northeast section of the Indianapolis-Carmel metro area will require more places for use by air travelers.

Increasingly, business sees the advantages of being near airports. Plus, the new small jets now flying make less noise than older piston engines and do not disturb residential areas.

The objections to the new Anderson airport are similar to the problems in LaPorte (where we started this tour). There is an opportunity to build an intermodal transfer point for rail and truck traffic on 3,000 acres in LaPorte County. As in the Anderson area, farmers and other residents of the LaPorte area are concerned about the intrusion new activities will bring to their environment. Their interests deserve consideration. Unfortunately, we have no satisfactory way to settle the disputes that arise in these cases.

Yet it does seem that BP and the state have found a way to maintain the environmental conditions of Lake Michigan without stopping a major investment by the giant oil company. Perhaps we can apply lessons from that experience elsewhere.



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. To comment on this column, send e-mail to mortonjmarcus@yahoo.com.
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