EYE ON THE PIE: David meets Goliath in Hendricks County

The people of Hendricks County are no more stupid, greedy or ignorant than folks most places. Now they have a chance to prove they are more intelligent, far-sighted and wise than most Hoosiers.

Let’s set the scene. Hendricks County lies directly west of Marion County. You can take U.S. 36 straight west from Indianapolis to Avon and Danville. Or you can go out Interstate 70, past the Indianapolis airport, to Plainfield. Alternatively, Interstate 74 will take you to Brownsburg, Pittsboro and Lizton. Located at the western end of the Indianapolis airport, Hendricks has become a warehousing mecca, which is a strange way to describe a place that is also home to a major national center for Islamic learning.

Hendricks’ population was the secondfastest-growing in Indiana, behind Hamilton, from 1990 to 2000. It held the same rank from 2000 to 2004. Its residents had the second-highest median household income in 2003, at $61,475, 42 percent above the state average. In 2004, the county ranked 91st of the state’s 92 in its unemployment rate. On a typical day, Hendricks sends nearly 40,000 workers out of the county to work (predominantly in Marion County) and sees 12,000 commuters enter the county for employment.

Of its people age 25 and older, 88.5 percent have at least a high school diploma, the second-best standing in Indiana. It ranks seventh among the counties in terms of people with a bachelor’s or higher college degree.

Now Hendricks County has an opportunity to do something truly different and exceptionally progressive. An 882-acre industrial and warehousing complex has been announced for a section of unincorporated land between Avon and Plainfield. Both communities have initiated efforts to annex the land and grab the property taxes it will generate.

Avon, with a population of 8,200, must feel like David going up against Goliath Plainfield, with 22,600 people. Avon is young, in that it was not incorporated until the 1990s, while Plainfield made its census debut in 1910.

Does either community have a reason, other than greed, to annex this land? What about making this piece of land an example of property-tax sharing in Indiana? Let all the communities of Hendricks County benefit from the taxes generated by the new buildings and the improvements on this land.

Certainly, if Avon or Plainfield provides police or fire services to this property, then fees or taxes should be paid for those services. But none of the projected 6,000 employees is going to live on that land. They will not necessarily live in Avon or Plainfield. Why should the Avon or Plainfield schools get the school property taxes? Let every school corporation in the county share in this windfall.

Actually, there is no reason to think that all or most of the employees will live in Hendricks County, but we’ll not get into that complexity.

Revenue sharing is an idea that has been bounced around among economic developers for years. I am unaware of any place in the state where it has been achieved. But it makes so much sense. Let’s stop the competition among communities for new businesses and allow the benefits to flow over a wider area, just as the costs similarly may be spread.

This applies not only within counties, but between counties as well. Regional tax sharing makes sense. A new factory in one county may mean more students in a nearby county. Without sounding like Huey Long, let us share the wealth.

Marcus taught economics 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, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to mortonjmarcus@yahoo.com.

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