State should alter job-poaching skill

(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star

It is possible that a Connecticut corporation will actually buy into the politically motivated invitation from Indiana officials to pack up and move to the Hoosier state.

After all, Gov. Mike Pence’s administration has successfully coaxed some out-of-state corporations to relocate in Indiana. The Indiana Economic Development Corp. targets state with higher corporate taxes — primarily those with Democratic governors or legislative majorities — through ad campaigns, disparaging the rival state while trumpeting the “innovative,” “business-friendly,” “low-tax” strategies generated by the Hoosier leadership.

The targeted states call Indiana’s tactics “poaching.” “We like to use the word ‘hunt,’” Victor Smith, Indiana commerce secretary, told USA Today last year.

Indiana took its corporate safari to Connecticut this week. The Hoosier state bought a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, lampooning Connecticut for increasing its taxes on businesses’ data processing, limiting tax breaks and changing the requirements for reporting taxes, according to an Indiana Business Journal story. Indiana’s ad specifically mentioned a handful of corporations — General Electric, Aetna and Travelers — that have criticized the tax increases in the budget approved by the Connecticut General Assembly.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy is considering changes to the tax hikes, after a corporate backlash. Regardless, Indiana set its sights on the Constitution state.

“We offer our support in the wake of Connecticut’s looming tax increases,” the ad said, “because friends don’t let friends pay higher taxes.”

Pence also wrote to the companies’ top executives, pitching Indiana — “a state that works” — as a relocation site, the Business Journal reported.

Not coincidentally, Connecticut’s governor is a Democrat, the incoming head of the Democratic Governors Association, and the same guy who criticized the handling of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act this spring by Pence and fellow Republicans in the Indiana Legislature.

Given the potential for political grudges and gamesmanship, it is hard to tell if Indiana’s business poaching is a one- or two-pronged mission to lure out-of-state employers but also to influence political change in those states. The latter should not be a state-sponsored project.

Let’s assume politics has nothing to do with Indiana’s approach, and one, or all, of the targeted Connecticut firms moves here. Will their workforce come along? If so, will those folks earn similar paychecks?

The worker climate and business climate are different things. Connecticut leads the nation in per capita income at $37,892; Indiana ranks 38th at $24,635, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics. If the relocated firms build staffs with Indiana residents, will they pay the Hoosiers less than an equivalent employee earned in Connecticut? If so, is that lower pay level part of the Indiana leadership’s sales pitch?

Indiana has plenty of virtues, apparent without bashing the shortcomings of other states. Indiana leaders need to follow a classier, less-obnoxious style of economic development. Hoosiers have a neighborly reputation, and arrogant business poaching clashes with that hard-earned image.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfieldreporter.com.