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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: We shouldn't let market mayhem obscure progress

October 20, 2008

Amid all this joyless market watching, this much is clear: The financial markets and the economy are going to get worse before they get better. But market watching is never a healthy sport, especially since it tends to make us lose track of the real economy at times like these.

Over the past couple of weeks, the real economy has shown a bit of resilience. And here in Indiana, really great news has been lost in the wake of the turmoil.

Nationally, the unemployment rate remains near the 50-year average and jobless claims actually have declined. This suggests that firms are hesitant to overreact to financial markets-a good sign.

Here in Indiana, we had truly important economic development news that was largely overshadowed by financial markets. Brevini USA, an Italy-based manufacturer of wind turbines, announced it would move its American headquarters to the Muncie area.

I don't usually gush over new-job announcements, but this is far more important to Indiana than either the Indiana Economic Development Corp. or the governor's office were able to explain, given all the background noise of the financial markets. Brevini USA will add 450 jobs paying an average of $46,000. These are great jobs by any standard, and especially welcomed in east-central Indiana.

Several years ago, while working at another university research center, I spent much time analyzing sites for a similar, though smaller, European wind turbine plant. The company was interested in the community, was open to working with the university and community college, and was excited about the transportation infrastructure in the region. Despite huge economicdevelopment incentives and much local interest, the firm ultimately chose not to locate in the community. Its primary concern was availability of the right work force.

Fast forward to 2008, and a larger, better company producing superior wind turbines chooses east-central Indiana for production and management. Of course, all the same factors matter, but here in Indiana there is promise of the right labor force and effective cooperation from Ivy Tech Community College and Ball State University.

This is a new corporate headquarters of a company, in a rapidly growing, competitive industry that has huge potential to spill over into other firms engaged in green manufacturing. In affirming the good things that are happening in Indiana, it is hard to find a better example.

If this were merely a bright spot, I probably wouldn't mention it, though bright spots nowadays are worthy of note. Rather, this announcement points to what many in the state have been saying for a while: Strong public policy that favors a market economy, continual effort to strengthen and focus attention on human capital, and the really big infrastructure investments we are making in Indiana will matter a lot more in our lives than will a few bad weeks in the stock markets.



Hicks is director of the Bureau of Business Research at Ball State University. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at bbr@bsu.edu.
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