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Furthermore …


Hopeful signposts for the Hoosier economy

Gov. Mitch Daniels presented some potentially great news Tuesday about economic development in Fort Wayne and throughout the state. Hoosiers have good reason to be optimistic, but they may want to hold off a bit on popping the champagne corks to celebrate.

Daniels outlined plans for private business expansions that are expected to generate more than 2,500 jobs. In Fort Wayne, Brunswick Leisure Boat Co. plans to move its plant to a bigger building and hire up to 200 additional workers by 2016. In Bluffton, snack food maker Inventure Foods plans an expansion with up to 80 new jobs by 2015.

Elsewhere, Indianapolis-based Angie’s List plans a $1 million expansion that could create up to 850 new jobs by 2017. In all, Daniels announced nine expansion plans.

But Hoosiers should note the “up to” qualifier before the number of jobs and also realize that a lot can happen between now and 2015 or 2017 that could change the plans. Indeed, a Brunswick spokeswoman acknowledged that the company is still working on project details and that Tuesday’s announcement was “probably a little bit premature.” But, importantly, she said the company is committed to move to a larger building in the city.

Cynics and political opponents might see this week’s announcement as a type of victory lap for Daniels, a grand economic development announcement a month before his tenure as governor ends.

But more jobs is almost always good news, and employers’ plans are a welcome sign that the Hoosier economy is moving ahead.

The top five reasons we like lists

Just in time for the end-of-year onslaught of best-of lists, Purdue University professor Randy Roberts offers – what else? – a Top 5 list of reasons we love them:

5. Lists are fun. Whether it’s news, religion or learning, people expect to be entertained.

4. Lists fill empty news holes. The proliferation of the news cycle has created an endless demand for news content. Lists can help bring new life to the monotony of the 24-hour news cycle.

3. They help organize history. Every detail or moment can’t be remembered, but lists provide a snapshot.

2. Lists build community by providing something for people to discuss.

1. They feed our desire to bring order to a chaotic world. Most lists are arbitrary, but they help make sense of all the information that inundates us.

“It’s a phenomenon, especially as we wrap up each year, that goes back for decades,” says Roberts, a distinguished professor of history who focuses on American and sports history. “Like any tradition, making lists and ranking aspects of our lives is culturally significant.”

Contrary to public opinion

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma said this week that he discourages his caucus from making decisions based on poll results – a not-so-subtle hint that House Republicans won’t be discouraged by a new poll that says 54 percent of Hoosiers oppose a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Of course, this is the same caucus that a year ago ignored poll results showing support and opposition to a right-to-work law were nearly even and that nearly half of Hoosiers were undecided on the issue.

The poll results are from Ball State University’s Bowen Center for Public Affairs, which each year surveys Indiana residents on issues likely to come before the General Assembly.

Ray Scheele, professor of political science and co-director of the Bowen Center, said the latest survey showed that support for legalizing same-sex marriage was greatest with younger respondents and those with more education.

The greatest opposition comes from those without a high school degree.

At a legislative preview conference Thursday, Sen. James Merritt, the GOP caucus leader, said he was certain a bill to amend the constitution to ban same-sex marriage would be filed. Bosma said such a bill would be treated just as any other piece of legislation and allowed a full discussion.

But Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane noted that such a measure was at odds with economic development efforts, given that many of the state’s major employers say it will hamper their ability to attract top-level talent.

“Hopefully, we’re going to take a timeout on the war on unions, on women’s health matters and on immigrants and gays,” he said.

With GOP super-majorities in the House and Senate, don’t count on it.