No Growth Zone: DWD Says Jobs Have Been Stagnant For A Year

Helpwanted1 The Department of Workforce Development has released job numbers for January. The Indianapolis Business Journal reports:

Employment was about the same in January as December, according to the latest figures from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

The state had 2,994,800 jobs, down 200 from December.

The figures, taken from surveys of employers, are adjusted for seasonal fluctuations. January figures arrived about a month late due to government statisticians' needing additional time for a periodic adjustment.

Aside from a brief spike last summer, job numbers have been virtually flat for nearly a year.

Say again? There's been no job growth in Indiana for nearly a year?

Sorry to bother you, Mitch Daniels, but we need to have a word about your economic development talking points. Yeah, the ones where you've been MAKING THINGS UP ABOUT WHAT AN AWESOME ECONOMY YOU'VE CREATED FOR US?

Cool. Thanks.

Future Interest: Guv's Inaction Means Indiana Economy May Suffer

Danielshalloween2007 While the Guv's been flapping his jaw across Indiana about the economic hot streak in his mind, other states are passing us by. The Star's John Ketzenberger writes this morning:

Gov. Mitch Daniels plans to show a little Hoosier Hospitality on Friday to China's ambassador to the United States.

When will the governor accept China's hospitality?

Daniels has made two trips to Japan but has not taken the next flight into China during his first term in office. It makes more sense, Daniels has said, to tend to existing relationships. Trips to Japan, for instance, netted 29 deals that promise more than 6,000 jobs, said Nate Feltman, director of the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

"The governor can only spend a week or two out of the state on trips like this, so you have to pick and choose carefully," Feltman said.

In avoiding China, though, the governor is bucking a trend and Indiana's economy may suffer.

Even former Republican Lt. Gov. John Mutz thinks we need to be doing more:

Indiana's not usually this late to the game. The state opened its first office in Japan in 1980. Former Lt. Gov. John Mutz led several trade missions to that region from 1981-88. As a result, Japanese companies have more than 240 plants in Indiana that employ 40,000 Hoosiers.

Mutz is on the IEDC board and has encouraged official trade relations with China. He also understands Daniels' desire to leverage the state's existing relationships first.

"That said, if we are to have the same kind of success a decade from now with China, the seeds need to be sown now," Mutz said.

Long-term infrastructure deals for short-term gain? Check. Big ol' outsourcing contracts with little oversight? Check. Call center jobs and ribbon-cutting ceremonies? Check.

Planning ahead? Er, that's not really how the Guv rolls.

Cold Streak: Talk Of A Changing Economy Doesn't Exactly Pay The Bills

Helpwanted This is not a headline the Guv will use in a campaign ad: "GM buyouts further hammer state's eroding job base".

From the story:

GM's decision Tuesday to offer early retirements to thousands of hourly workers and replace them with lower-paid ones deals yet another blow to Indiana's blue-collar middle class, already clobbered by numerous layoffs.

It also underscores the continuing transition of Indiana's economy, which is watching its traditional manufacturing work force slip, replaced by jobs in technology, health care, service and other sectors. Some say the state is ill-prepared for that transition.

Tuesday, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce released a report that said nearly 24 percent of all working-age adults in Indiana lack either enough education or training to succeed in the work force.

From later on in the story:

To deal with the rapid changes in the state’s industrial landscape, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and Indiana Economic Development Corp. offer training funds to new and growing companies statewide, but not all private-sector employers know how to access those dollars or whether they are eligible to receive them.

Probably because the IEDC spends more time talking about how awesome it is than it does actually reaching out to people in need. To hear the Guv tell it, there are no people in need. There are only jobs on the horizon that may or may not be here in a few years.

And don't you forget who brought you those jobs, kids.**

(**Under penalty of political retribution, the elected official responsible for job growth shall not be held liable for job loss, wage cuts or crappy benefits.)

Ironically, many of the major job announcements to which the Guv gleefully points as his success stories are in the manufacturing sector. His track record in other areas isn't very strong, especially if you factor out the Central Indiana market, which has its own set of drivers. Heck, the guy established a position three years ago specifically to focus on the motorsports industry. ROI thus far? Effectively zilch.

And he continues to completely ignore the average working Hoosiers who are barely getting by as we go through this "transition" phase.

Let's Make A Deal: The Floor Is Open For A Debate About Incentives

Questionmark You should read Indianapolis Business Journal reporter Norm Heikens' blog. He takes up interesting issues and asks interesting questions. Like this one:

Gov. Mitch Daniels dished out $6.3 million in incentives as part of Defender Direct’s expansion announcement yesterday. But was the carrot a good deal for us taxpayers?

Defender Direct, which sells home security and satellite dish systems, plans to add 1,100 people, many of them at its Indianapolis headquarters and the rest elsewhere in the state.

The company promises the new jobs will pay an average of at least $18 an hour, not including benefits. Some of the jobs are for call centers, while others are higher-level positions.

A consultant in Cleveland who wrote Ohio’s economic development plan thinks the incentives, which amount to about $5,700 per job, are worth the price. “Those are very high wages, those are very good jobs,” says the consultant, Don Iannone.

Iannone reminds that in Ohio a low-income job is defined as paying $9.71 an hour or less. That makes up the bottom quarter of all jobs in Ohio. So $18 doesn’t sound bad to him.

What do you think? Was this incentive package priced right? Should the state have offered incentives at all?

What's The Rush? Here's A Towel So You Can Wipe Off That Egg, Guv

Disapproval Apologies for the delayed posting. There was no news yesterday, and last night was one of those "Hey, Junior, It's Two In The Morning, How About Some Sleep?" nights with the baby.

Accordingly, we start our Sunday afternoon in Northwest Indiana with a story that makes you wonder if anyone over at the Indiana Economic Development Corp. knows how to use the Google:

"State and former city officials have been gambling with taxpayer dollars, critics of an ongoing economic development deal in Crown Point contend.

"A Times investigation revealed Crown Point and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. promised New York-based Plasmatronics more than $1.8 million in incentives last year to move to Indiana -- without doing a background check and despite warnings about the riskiness of the venture.

"Company owners acknowledge they have had challenges in the past, including financial losses, disagreements with executives and associations with a parent company that declared bankruptcy in 2005.

"But they say they are ready to move forward in Crown Point with their newest product and bring 220 jobs to the region within the next three years.

"Plasmatronics plans to manufacture its Plasma Drive Ignition system in the city, a product owners say will increase gas mileage and reduce air pollution on automobiles, trucks and motorcycles.

"But one Crown Point Development Corp. official who abstained from voting on the city's incentive deal now says he would have voted against approving a $500,000 loan with taxpayers' money had he known about the company owners' past at the time of the vote.

"'It appears, though hard to believe at the time, that they did minimal due diligence,' corporation member Allan Katz said."

The story goes on to detail all the red flags that might have caught the attention of the Guv's overeager lackeys, including this one:

"Plasmatronics is run out of the couple's single-family residence on Long Island."

Sounds like somebody was in such a hurry to make Another Big Future Jobs Announcement that he completely forgot to do his homework.

Do Unto Others: Guv's Oh-Four Rhetoric Coming Back To Haunt Him

HelpwantedUPDATE: This is most telling sentence in today's Star story about the ebb and flow of jobs in Columbus and Martinsville:

"State officials focused on who will be coming rather than who is going."

The Indianapolis Business Journal's Norm Heikens writes on his blog about the Guv's economic record -- and whether it will be an issue in the upcoming campaign:

"At this point four years ago, now-Gov. Mitch Daniels had started outlining a platform based on revitalizing the economy.

"The economy had been headed south since the '70s and had taken another beating early in the decade. Voters were only too familiar with manufacturers' closing plants and laying off workers by the bus load in order to catch up with foreign competitors.

"Under his administration, the ship would begin to turn, promised Daniels, a Republican.

"Now, Democratic challengers Jim Schellinger and Jill Long Thompson are testing messages for the primary election in May, and a recent job report might have handed them more ammunition.

"The government report shows the state is still 27,000 positions short of the peak employment of 3 million nearly eight years ago. In other words, by one common measure, Indiana’s economy has gone nowhere.

"Daniels' supporters have long said the state was so tattered that a single term wouldn’t be enough to reach such an ambitious goal.

"Still, four years is four years. Would Schellinger or Thompson have a legitimate case against Daniels if they played the economy card?"

Simply put: Yes.

The Guv promised average working folks a silver-plated economy while putting our state down time and again on the campaign trail.

There was no need for that.

But the Guv's core group of supporters have yet to realize that John and Jane Hoosier don't give a damn who's to blame for our piss-poor economy. They want answers, and they want progress. The Guv pledged to bring them both but has managed to deliver neither.

Worse, we've seen month after month of job losses and back-of-the-pack economic data, but no one in the administration will admit that those numbers are real people who are hurting. Using the bully pulpit to boast is easy. Reaching out to folks in need, letting them know you understand what they're going through? That's tough.

But when you've sashayed your way into a corner like the Guv has, it's nearly impossible to acknowledge imperfections without admitting failure under the standards you established for your political opponents four years ago.

Biz Whiz? UI Fund Shortfall, Guv's Tax Plan Vex Corporate Types

Helpwanted Well, Guv, which are you, a populist or a business guy? The Star's John Ketzenberger looks at a few problems coming down the pike for your friends in the corporate community. Oh, and about that growth.

"Indiana's business climate is great. Just ask Gov. Mitch Daniels.

"'Indiana has been rated No. 12 nationally for our business tax climate, No. 4 for our overall cost of doing business and No. 3 for economic development success,' Daniels chirped as he wrapped up last week's State of the State speech.

"'We are now No. 1 in the Midwest in all those categories,' the former Eli Lilly and Co. exec added, 'an island of growth, as one economist recently wrote.'

"So why is the business community feeling stranded?

"One reason is the plummeting unemployment insurance fund that just seven years ago had $1.6 billion in reserve. Laid-off workers have gotten an increase in benefits since then, but Indiana's unemployment rate is below the national average and they typically collect just 13.5 weeks of benefits, half of what's allowable.

"So why the slide to insolvency? The Department of Workforce Development has a revolving door in the executive suite and doesn't have enough staff to administer the program.

"It will cost $250 million more a year just to get the fund to even, according to an Indiana Manufacturers Association study. Guess who will pay that?

"Business feels a little put out, too, by the proposed penny increase in the sales tax. That will cost Hoosier businesses about $300 million more a year.

"Don't even get business started on the caps Daniels wants on property taxes. While homeowners would pay no more than 1 percent of a residence's value, businesses would pay up to 3 percent.

"So much for the constitutional call for equity."

Coming Soon? Work On Kokomo Chrysler Plant Put On Indefinite Hold

Construction This, by the way, is why it may not be so wise for the Guv to brag about economic development success stories before they're written.

Unfortunately for average working Hoosiers, if His Mitchiness had to talk about the actual job and personal income growth numbers from his time in office, there'd be a lot of awkward pauses in the conversation. Honesty ain't his strong suit.

"Construction of the $530 million Getrag-Chrysler project transmission plant in Tipton County has been suspended indefinitely, the Kokomo Tribune is reporting.

"Work at the plant, a joint project between Chrysler and the German manufacturer, stopped on Dec. 21. Officials with the Walbridge-Aldinger Construction Co., the general contractors on the project, said it was a holiday break. Earlier this month they indicated work would resume next Monday, the newspaper reports.

"'Until the parties can reach an agreement, we're at a standstill right now,' said Randy Cyman, personnel director for Getrag, handling the Tipton development. 'We're in discussions with Chrysler right now. ... I'm confident the parties will come to the right decisions.'

"The Getrag-Chrysler project is a venture that would build dual-clutch transmissions in Tipton, off Ind. 28 and U.S. 31. To date, site work for the plant includes a new road to the plant, a concrete foundation and portions of a frame for the main structure.

"The plant is scheduled to be finished in 2009 and employ approximately 1,400 people: 1,170 at the plant and 230 in supporting jobs in Kokomo.

"Officials with the Indiana Economic Development Corp. acknowledged the current situation between the two corporations.

"'Our team has been in touch with Getrag and Chrysler. We all remain very optimistic that the project will continue as scheduled,' IEDC spokesman Mitch Frazier told the Tribune."

We should all cross our fingers that this project is completed. Meanwhile, perhaps the Mitchies have learned a valuable lesson about counting chickens before they're hatched.

Spin Cycle: Come With Me And You'll Be In A World Of Pure Imagination

Abacus When the economic going gets tough, the not-so-tough apparently start talking about potential economic gains in magical, mystical Futureland. Witness Indiana Economic Development Corp. president Nate Feltman urging readers of the Indianapolis Star to completely ignore the here and now:

"Clearly, the governor's efforts to in-source jobs to Indiana by reaching out internationally and building a pro-growth environment are beginning to pay big dividends."

Of course, after three years of the Guv's "efforts," Indiana trails the nation in job and personal income growth, and layoffs and closings have left thousands of average working Hoosiers out in the cold. Then there's the credit crunch and home foreclosures. Oh, and a national economy that's in the dumper, too. But we should all be happy because the Guv says things are going really, really well.

From his perch, perhaps they are. Down on the ground, folks are left to wonder whether he'd be willing to share whatever he's been smoking.

Making It Up: Guv All Excited About State's Anemic Job Growth Rate

Helpwanted Snag the nearest dog and pony and put on your rose-colored glasses: It's time for the Guv's year-end jobs press conference.

Friday, December 28

Governor Daniels and leaders from a Columbus company will be joined by Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman and Secretary of Commerce Nate Feltman to make an economic development announcement and to discuss another record-breaking year for jobs creation in Indiana.

10 a.m.
Governor's Office

Speaking of records, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, whose data the Guv cited time and again (and not in a friendly way) during the 2004 campaign, Indiana added slightly fewer than 19,000 jobs between January and November of this year. Admittedly, that's up from the same period in 2006, when state employment increased by slightly more than 8,000 jobs.

Progress! Yay!

Of course, adding jobs at that rate is pretty much the statistical equivalent of adding no jobs, and Indiana trails the nation in terms of its percentage job growth rate, but TDW looks forward to the Guv, like his old boss in Washington, pretending that everything is going fine, just fine. Why else do you schedule this announcement for the Friday of a holiday week when you think no one will be around to challenge your shiny premise?

(Guv's outline for tomorrow's press conference: Talk a lot about this year's big announcements -- most notably Medco -- and the creation of future jobs that don't put food on the table right now. Pull some data out of nowhere about how there are 100,000 more Hoosiers employed today than one year ago. Ignore all of this stuff, the credit crunch and lagging holiday sales as indicators that our economy is tremendously vulnerable. Laugh nervously. Hope no one asks any tough questions.)

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