INDIANAPOLIS - Once upon a time, in the Hoosier Holyland, our focus was on companies. How can we convince them to move to or expand in Indiana? What do they want? What can we give them to induce their capital expenditures within our borders?
 
We could hear that wonderful Fats Waller song: “Find out what they like, and how they like it, and let them have it just that way.”  Proximity to a golf course, an interstate highway, an open sewer? We have it. Tax breaks? We’ll break every tax in the book. Compliant workers? You’ll never hear a mumblin’ word.
 
Every county has a building just waiting for your company. Regulation is not the Hoosier way. Safety is a personal matter. Our motto is “No frills, no bills.” We’re comfortable being close to the bottom in most state rankings for education, environment, and economic progress.
 
But all that was yesterday. Indiana has turned the corner. We’ve shined our shoes, patched our pants and are heeding a different drummer. Now our focus is on the worker.
 
And yet, what do we say about our workers? They’re inadequate. They are poorly educated, unskilled for the needs of modern business, and unprepared for the world of work. Our families and our schools have failed our children. We’re a mess.
 
Hence we must go out-of-state to find suitable workers. But our legislature won’t find more funds to pay our teachers. Our institutions of higher education bemoan their poor enrollments, but do little to recall their defective graduates.
 
We change the names on office doors and websites to “Workforce this-and-that” as though such efforts can actually change the lives of our citizens.
 
If Indiana companies want better workers, why don’t they pay for the education of our Hoosier children? Why are business taxes continuously reduced while the burden on Hoosier households increases?
 
The answer is that Hoosier businesses are sluggish. In the past decade, 2008 to 2018, American businesses have seen a 5.2 percent shift in the distribution of their workers among the 22 major categories of occupations. For Indiana that shift has been only 4.1 percent. In 2008, the difference between the occupational distribution of the Hoosier workforce and that of the nation was 8.8 percent. By 2018, that differential crept up to 9.1 percent.
 
What are these numbers telling us? The nation made a greater change in its workforce over the past ten years than did Indiana. And, the occupational gap between the national workforce and the Hoosier workforce has widened.
During that decade, Hoosier businesses increased the number of jobs reported in the Occupational Employment Statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, by 4.1 percent while nationally the number of jobs grew by 7.1 percent.
 
Isn’t it time for Hoosier businesses to step up and put their dollars to work?
               
Mr. Marcus is an economist. Reach him at mortonjmarcus@yahoo.com. Follow his views and those of John Guy on “Who gets what?” wherever podcasts are available or at mortonjohn.libsyn.com