Jim Reno, of Valparaiso, works Wednesday on the new Interstate 65 and 109th Avenue interchange in Crown Point. Construction is one of the industries that will see new jobs in the state this year. JOHN LUKE | THE TIMES
Jim Reno, of Valparaiso, works Wednesday on the new Interstate 65 and 109th Avenue interchange in Crown Point. Construction is one of the industries that will see new jobs in the state this year. JOHN LUKE | THE TIMES

By Dan Carden, Times of Northwest Indiana


INDIANAPOLIS | Three hundred-fifty manufacturing jobs in New Albany; 100 construction jobs in Indianapolis; up to 50 automotive jobs in Elkhart.

Surprisingly, this isn't the latest list of jobs lost during the Great Recession. These are new jobs coming to Indiana over the next year.

How can Indiana possibly be attracting new businesses during the worst economy in a generation?

Gov. Mitch Daniels said it's because Indiana is "fighting this recession to win."

"Everybody understands that somehow keeping taxes and the other costs government imposes down is the most important thing we can do, so jobs come here," Daniels said.

Growing the Indiana economy is "the single best way" to pull Indiana out of recession, he said.

And it seems to be working.

Moody's economy.com, an economic forecasting firm, said last week Indiana is one of 11 states "emerging" from recession. In the Midwest, Iowa and Missouri also are emerging. In all other nearby states, including Illinois, the recession is merely "slowing."

In September, Indiana's unemployment rate was 9.6 percent, lower than the current national rate of 10.2 percent and better than Ohio's 10.1 percent, Illinois' 10.5 percent, Kentucky's 10.9 percent and Michigan's 15.3 percent.

One reason for Indiana's relative success could be the Indiana Economic Development Corp., a state agency.

The IEDC aggressively sells Indiana - its location in the center of the nation, its low business taxes, its skilled work force and its lifestyle -- to businesses around the country and around the world. The IEDC coordinated Daniels' recent economic development mission to China and Japan.

And Daniels has not been shy about using the IEDC to get companies from other states to relocate to Indiana. At least 42 companies this year have closed up shop elsewhere and relocated or added jobs to existing operations in Indiana. Some of those companies could receive tax credits based on their job-creation record.

So far this year, IEDC has commitments for the creation of 14,056 jobs statewide. However, just 120 of those jobs are in Northwest Indiana. UGN Inc., an auto-parts manufacturer, plans to add 120 jobs in Valparaiso.

At the federal level, stimulus dollars have saved or created 18,876 jobs in Indiana, according to the White House. Most of those jobs have been in road projects. The Indiana Department of Transportation accounts for $497 million of Indiana's $848 million in stimulus spending.

But even if Indiana is starting to pull out of the recession, the trickle-down effect of earlier weakness in the economy now threatens the jobs of thousands of more workers: state government employees.

Since the state budget took effect in July, income and sales tax revenue have fallen far below what was expected to come in. That has knocked Indiana's budget out of balance.

Last week, the governor ordered an additional 5 percent cut out of state agency budgets. That's on top of the 5 percent cut he ordered in July.

State employees now are being encouraged to take voluntary unpaid days off. But if revenues don't improve, those voluntary days off soon could turn into mandatory furlough days or layoffs.

House Speaker Patrick Bauer, D-South Bend, thinks the way out is a state jobs program, paid for by Indiana Toll Road lease funds. A state stimulus would create jobs and lead to higher income and sales tax receipts as newly hired workers get paid and spend money, he said.

Daniels disagrees. Indiana shouldn't spend its reserves in a single shot but instead invest those assets to improve the overall business climate, the governor said.

"Until we have a stronger economy in this country and in this state, we'll always be chasing our tail in terms of state revenue," Daniels said. "Our objective is a stronger Indiana economy over the long, long term."

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