Your Ward Room blogger has been getting quite an colorful response to a Monday post suggesting the Chicago Mercantile Exchange will never move to Indiana because the state lacks the cultural and educational amenities to attract a talented workforce. In themselves, these tweets and letters implicitly refute my criticism of the state by displaying marked intelligence and an ability to reasonably state their case.
However, I stand by my larger point. Indiana can steal blue collar jobs from Illinois, because employers are attracted by its anti-labor policies: it’s a right-to-work state with lax environmental laws that is less likely to grant workers’ compensation or unemployment benefits to injured or discarded employees.
When Modern Drop Forge Co. announced plans to move from Illinois to Indiana, it cited the Hoosier state’s less generous workers’ compensation laws as a motivation. However, stealing white collar jobs requires a cosmopolitanism that is just not part of Indiana’s makeup. Except for The Calumet Region, which one native described as “a barnacle hanging from the underside of Chicago,” Indiana is primarily a rural and small-town state. Most Hoosiers like it that way. Most college graduates looking for exciting careers and social opportunities don’t. Indianapolis is the 12th most populous city in the United States, but that’s a misleading statistic, because it annexed the entire surrounding county. It’s only the 34th largest metropolitan area.
In the interest of equal time, here’s a letter from Yuval Sharon of Indianapolis, defending the place I called India-no-place:
When I was a student at Indiana University, attitudes like yours were why students from Chicago were disliked by others. Chicago is not the only city in the world where it is possible to do business, raise a family, and spend one's evenings out.
You claim that Indianapolis merely takes up space between Chicago and Cincinnati. I sure hope people can find our fair city when they come in for the Super Bowl in a couple months. When was the last time Chicago hosted a Super Bowl, again? I get all the years confused. Somehow every May our little “space between Chicago and Cincinnati” manages to host the world's largest one day sporting event, as well as one of NASCAR's biggest events in July. The NCAA seems to think Indianapolis is a fine place to stage Final Fours every few years, as well as maintain Indianapolis as the permanent backup site in case of emergency. I suppose you forgot that Indianapolis was the city the beat out your beloved Chicago for the Big Ten Football Championship Game as well.
It isn't all about sports though. Indianapolis boasts a full-time professional opera company and symphony. We are home to several professional, renowned theaters and we also have many national touring acts come through the area to play one of our concert halls, arenas or amphitheaters. We have a long and wonderful history with the jazz music world and boast several great clubs where one can hear local and national jazz musicians, as well as hosting the Indy Jazz Festival each summer. People of many different nationalities host their own festivals showcasing their unique culture, music, food, etc. every year. Our city is home to the world’s largest Children's Museum, as well as a large Art Museum. Our zoo just announced a $30,000,000 fundraising project to build a world class orangutan exhibit. We may not be Chicago, but your blog implies a certain dearth of culture here in Indianapolis that simply doesn’t exist.
You seem to think that Indianapolis is no place for a business to locate itself, because apparently it is a terrible place to live and you couldn't possibly get any talented young professionals to want to come here. Have you ever driven south or east of West Lafayette? There are other schools of business and universities in Indiana. While Krannert is no slouch on its own, IU and Notre Dame are both home to excellent, and nationally ranked, schools of business, with many talented candidates to draw from. IUPUI and Butler also boast schools of business with talented students who would make excellent employees. But you are right, Indianapolis is no place for big business. I sure hope nobody uses any drugs or products made by Eli Lilly. They hire the morons who have to settle for working in Indianapolis. It’s a wonder that Simon Property Group somehow managed to become the country's largest owner of shopping malls and Wellpoint somehow managed to insure more people than any other private insurer, given that they have to deal with the yokels who choose to live in Indianapolis I suppose the folks at Roche are just as dumb as the students at Krannert. They chose the wrong place to base their diabetes strip manufacturing and to employe 4,000 people. I guess I should recommend not buying into the IPO of the quickly growing ExactTarget, as they have their operations out of a building downtown (yep, we idiots here in Indianapolis figured out how to build office buildings that are more than a story high). And, shh, don’t tell anyone, but they hire a lot of people who went to Purdue. We don't want that getting out, or the company might collapse.
You seem to not believe that anyone would choose to live in Indianapolis over Chicago. I guess that the lower cost of living (particularly for real estate) doesn’t matter. Without even looking at statistics, I am certain that our crime rate is lower than Chicago’s. I know for certain our politics are significantly less corrupt. The people here are hospitable, generous and kind. Perhaps you can make a trip down here and check us out sometime before the next time you mention us in a blog. I get civic pride and all, but there’s no reason to belittle other cities in an attempt to make a case for yours.