Indiana again takes aim at Illinois businesses

The Illinoyed campaign ended but Indiana has a new strategy to lure Illinois businesses. From the featured story on the A State That Works website:

The state of Illinois has been drowning in debt for years due to mismanagement, and their only solution is to keep raising taxes. Sound familiar? Illinois taxpayers have been picking up the tab for longer than anyone cares to remember, but it wasn’t always that way.

Ten years ago Indiana and Illinois had the same AA credit rating, but the unfunded pension debt crisis in Illinois has steadily deteriorated over the years, to the point that their current credit rating of A- is the worst in the nation.

Illinois is borrowing a staggering amount of money to pay for state services and they’re seen as a bad risk to keep making those payments, according to the rating agencies. In fact, the interest alone on Illinois’ unfunded liabilities is about $1.5 billion per year…

Indiana is deliberately making smart financial decisions and defining what a state can do to pass the savings of efficient government on to their taxpayers by eliminating debt, keeping taxes low and continually balancing their budget.  It’s a refreshing change from a state like Illinois that has taxpayers picking up the tab for a public debt-management crisis, and it’s what makes Indiana a state that works.

Such efforts have been going on for quite a while yet I haven’t seen evidence that shows a campaign like this works. I’ve long suspected this is more about scoring easy political points than anything else; “look at the good things happening in Indiana while Illinois languishes.” Yet, somehow the Chicago region with its 9+ million people hangs on and the city is continually ranked as one of the top 10 global cities in the world.

One side note: part of northwest Indiana is in the Chicago metropolitan region. According to this campaign, some might get the best of both worlds: the residents and businesses get the lower taxes, less political gridlock, and less debt yet get to take advantage of the jobs and other opportunities the Chicago area offers. In the long run, a significant decline in Illinois or Chicago’s fortunes probably would have some residual negative effects not just on northwest Indiana but also the entire state.

Indiana moving away from “Illinoyed” campaign to attract businesses?

Indiana continues campaigns to catch the attention of Illinois firms but it may soon take a different tone:

For three years, in an economic development strategy aimed squarely at jobs and revenue in higher-tax states, Indiana has been trying to poach Illinois businesses. While they say the tactic has succeeded wildly, officials in Illinois say the impact of cross-border moves largely has been a wash, more political theater than anything substantive…

Kelly Harrington Nicholl, head of marketing at the development corporation since 2009, is the woman behind Indiana’s most memorably catty catchphrases: “Illinoyed” and “Stillinoyed.” But after years of poking fun at its fiscally challenged neighbor, Indiana is about to soften its tone. “We’re not going to beat up on Chicago anymore,” Smith says.

This means that a cluster of billboards along I-90 cautioning northbound drivers that higher taxes lie ahead will come down soon, Nicholl says. “It’s time to play nice,” she says. She declines to say whether Illinois’ newly elected Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, has anything to do with it. “There is a sunset to everything.”…

Despite Indiana’s bravado, the number of state-to-state moves are increasing in both directions, according to an analysis of preliminary data by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. The data, supplied by New Jersey-based research firm Dun & Bradstreet, show 70 companies in Illinois relocated their entire business or branches of their business to Indiana in 2013, up from 40 in 2012. During the same period, 48 companies in Indiana moved all or portions of their businesses to Illinois, up from 39 in 2012.

The shift in political theater is noteworthy. Did everyone in Indiana get the political things they wanted? While the shift may be due to Rauner’s election, I wonder if it could also be due to (1) the Illinoyed campaign wearing out (marketing campaigns have a limited shelf life before people stop responding and (2) recognition that, according to the data, the campaign has been a wash (even popular lines can’t hold up forever if not supported by evidence). The competition between the states is likely not completely over but it is interesting to consider how Illinois and Indiana might cooperate to enhance the economies of both states…

How time zone boundaries can affect cultural practices

Time zones help keep social life across the world consistent but they can have different effects on social life within each time zone:

Now, Google engineer Stefano Maggiolo has visualized what this difference looks like around the world—how solar time lags behind or marches in front of the time on the clock. It’s a rare look at the rhythm of the day—measured and made uniform by technology—affects communities around the world…

Of course, the reasons for standardization are often as sociological as they are technological—and their effects wind up redounding beyond their intent. As Joshua Keating writes at Slate, Spain standardized on central European time during Franco’s reign. This, in turn, led to later schedules in Spain, and to the nation’s famously nocturnal suppers.

“At the time I’m writing, near the winter solstice, Madrid’s sunset is around 17:55, more than an hour later than the sunset in, for example, Naples, which is at a similar latitude,” writes Maggiolo.

It was Spain’s extreme offset that led to Maggiolo’s writing the story.

China, too, uses a single time zone across its territory, which works for the country’s more urban east but hurts the country’s rural west. India does the same—to, as it happens, the opposite effect. In India’s easternmost state, the summer sun can rise as early as 4:30 a.m.

Some historians argue that the invention of the clock and the subsequent development of clock time had a profound effect on civilization. But, tweaking time zones, whether countries want to have a single zone or want to be half an hour off or areas don’t want to switch for Daylight Savings Time (we experienced this in northwestern Indiana so half the year we were on eastern time, half on central time), can lead to some different outcomes and social patterns. In these instances, time can serve nationalistic (in the case of having a single time zone for one country) or economic (the northwest corner of Indiana is on central time and not eastern time like the rest of the state to maintain its ties to Chicago) purposes.

This makes me think that it would be pretty interesting to study people and communities right at the edges of these zones. If India and China have different single time zones, what happens at their border where there is a substantial 2.5 hour difference? Even consistently traversing a one hour time different in the U.S. within one metropolitan area could be interesting.

Escape the McMansion invasion in New Jersey by moving to Bloomington, Indiana

This is a story you likely don’t hear everyday: in order to escape the sprawl and McMansions of New Jersey, one couple decided to leave their weekend home at the Jersey shore and buy a second house in Bloomington, Indiana.

But that was before McMansions began rising from the sand, and growing numbers of visitors descended as the narrow Atlantic spit solidified its reputation as a destination for families. The Kiefers found their neighborhood inundated by tourists, their property encroached upon by development, and their easy weekend commute become a traffic-snarled crawl.

So after a number of years of coping with sharp change, the Kiefers decided to search for a less suffocating second-home spot.

The hunt led them to Bloomington, a lively college town tucked in the rolling, forested hills of south-central Indiana. Taking full advantage of the huge run-up in property values on the Jersey Shore, they sold their beach house for “a nice profit” and bought a six-bedroom, 3,500-square-foot early-20th-century charmer in Bloomington’s historic Elm Heights neighborhood in 2010 for $321,000. “It feels like a real old-time community instead of a tourist town,” said Fred Kiefer.

Bloomington may not be touristy, but it is very much a destination. Indiana University draws intellectuals from around the country and abroad (mostly China, India and Saudi Arabia), giving the city of 74,000 healthy doses of youthful and international energy. And as a well-run city that consistently makes the lists of America’s best places to live, its status as a quality-of-life capital has lured retirees in growing numbers.

Some interesting points about this story:

1. The “McMansion invasion” theme comes up a lot in the Northeast, particularly in coastal towns. Are there also McMansions in Bloomington (I assume there are)?

2. This couple does have family in Louisville and Cincinnati so they didn’t exactly pick Bloomington out of the blue.

3. The biggest swipe at the area or Indiana comes in this benign phrase: “Drawbacks – Bloomington may not have enough urbane distractions for some.” This could be quite a change from New Jersey and either the New York City or Philadelphia areas.

4. Bloomington is a “creative class” city anchored by Indiana University.This would be appealing to a lot of people.

5. One of the bonuses of this move is the cheaper cost of living in Indiana. Does this outweigh the lack of “urbane distinctions”?

6. This makes me wonder how many people from either the East or West Coasts retire to the Midwest or purchase second homes there.

7. I’m tempted to ask: what happens when this couple wanders outside the relatively cosmopolitan Bloomington into non-creative class Indiana?

The battle between Illinois and Indiana casinos

Due to budget issues, Illinois lawmakers recently approved new five new casinos. But it remains to be seen how the new casinos in Illinois will affect the already-existing casinos in northwest Indiana:

All told, the five casinos [in northwestern Indiana] generated nearly half a billion dollars in tax revenue in 2010.

Five casinos are strung along the Lake Michigan shoreline in some of the Hoosier State’s most economically depressed communities. Ball State University economist Mike Hicks says at least one casino likely would be shut down by increased competition. Some 80 percent of gamblers visit casinos once or twice a year, and choose newer, glitzier options, Hicks said…

Horseshoe spent $400 million to build a brand-new “boat” that is essentially a floating building just three years ago, an investment Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said was made with the prospect of a downtown Chicago casino in mind.

“We wanted to build something that was Chicago-proof,” McDermott said. “I think it’s the best option outside Las Vegas.”

I have to think that the knowledge that this gambling tax revenue was going to Indiana helped motivate Illinois lawmakers to capture some of this money. And I wonder if any politicians were thinking about the talk from Wisconsin, Indiana, New Jersey, and other states months ago regarding encouraging businesses to leave the high taxes of Illinois.

I haven’t seen much talk about many casinos the Chicago area could reasonably support. There are already four, two in Joliet, one in Elgin, and one in Aurora plus the five in northwest Indiana plus more across the borders in Wisconsin and Michigan. And it would be interesting to see how these existing casinos have helped or hurt their communities (and the state government).

Polluting power plants and municipal boundaries

Many people do not want to live near facilities like power plants, sewage treatment plants, and landfills. However, if the facility is outside municipal boundaries, there may be little citizens can do. The Chicago Tribune presents a classic example – a power plant emitting heavy pollution that draws less attention because it is just outside Chicago city limits:

From a plane, it would be easy to think one of the nation’s dirtiest power plants is within the Chicago city limits.

But the aging State Line Power Station, a major contributor to the city’s chronically dirty air, sits just a few hundred feet over the state border in Indiana, leaving it largely unnoticed and untouched during a decades-long effort to transform the Chicago area’s smog-choked history.

Protesters regularly march in front of two other coal-fired power plants in Pilsen and Little Village, demanding an end to noxious pollution that wafts into the Chicago neighborhoods. Federal and state prosecutors are suing the owner of the plants to force significant cuts in smog- and soot-forming emissions.

Yet a Tribune analysis reveals that the State Line plant, built along Lake Michigan by ComEd in 1929 and bought by Virginia-based Dominion Resources in 2002, is far dirtier than either of the Chicago plants. It emits more lung-damaging nitrogen oxide than the Pilsen and Little Village plants combined, and churns more sulfur dioxide and toxic mercury into the air than either plant.

The article goes on to say that there are efforts to force this plant to clean up. Considering the attention these kinds of plants tend to draw when located in more populated areas, its interesting that this one has received less notice than other facilities.

A note: this plant can be seen easily from the Chicago Skyway.

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and playing Portal

Erving Goffman’s 1959 work The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life is a sociological classic. “Portal” is a video game that has received good reviews (90 out of 100 at How could they fit together?

According to a story at, they are both part of some sections of a required Freshman course at Wabash College in Indiana:

The game will be part of a mandatory Freshman seminar called “Enduring Questions” that will explore “fundamental questions of humanity” through “classical and contemporary works.” A theater professor named Michael Abbott is among the faculty members designing the course.

Inspired by a game theory article drawing comparisons between Portal and Erving Goffman’s 1959 sociology text The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Abbott nominated Portal as one of the works that students would be required to experience and discuss to pass the class.

He demonstrated the game for his non-gaming colleagues and was pleased to find that they appreciated and approved the plan to assign Goffman’s text and follow it up with “a collective playthrough of Portal.”

I haven’t played Portal but this sounds like an intriguing combination. I wonder how many college classes today include video games…