Why job creation falters in Indiana

Maybe the media shares some of the blame for Indiana’s doddering entrepreneurship. Follow the logic of Ball State management prof Susan Clark Muntean and decide for yourself.

Writing in a recent issue of Indiana Business Review, Muntean points out the media tends to dwell on expansions and other moves by big companies, many of which are in mature industries. You’ve seen this: If a startup adds a few jobs and the event is covered at all, the story is virtually always short and thinly reported.

Because politicians are under pressure from constituents to support what’s “tried and true and visible,” they tend to create credits, deductions and other traditional economic development tools to help those kinds of companies, she says. Problem is, big companies in mature industries are shedding workers, not hiring them. So politicians could use public resources more wisely, and help pull the state out of its economic problems, by helping armies of companies get off the ground or expand.

That raises another point Muntean has made to the General Assembly twice this year. How can it be that Indiana hosts two of the better entrepreneurship programs in the nation—Ball State’s and Indiana University’s—yet entrepreneurship here is so weak? Indiana is 44th in the percent of employment created by young firms, according to one study. Somewhere there’s a big disconnect.

The fastest route to more jobs is to help entrepreneurs, who already are responsible for most job creation, she says. They need business skills, networks and partnerships, and links with research universities.

The state also must come to understand that “intelligent risk-taking, creativity and innovation is good public policy,” Muntean says. “A failed startup is not a net loss to society.” Everyone involved in the venture will be smarter the next time they try.

Lots to talk about here. Do you agree the media under reports the important stuff and dwells too much on the wrong kinds of companies?

And are you with Muntean when she says politicians should turn their attention to entrepreneurs instead of big companies?

Your thoughts, please.

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