Building a better sandbox

I have been keeping an eye on Indiana over the past few years – particularly after they landed the largest pharmaceutical benefits management (PBM) project I have ever seen – the HQ of Medco and 1,600 high paying jobs.

In this op/ed, the Governor talks about building “the best sandbox in America.” If you get through the hyperbole, you see a few interesting things that the state did:

We lowered the taxes on research and development…

Another example of using the tax system to incentivize a specific behaviour (i.e. more R&D) rather than just generalized tax cuts.

A great product doesn’t promote itself, of course. We abolished a stodgy state bureaucracy that had been constantly outrun by its competitors, and replaced it with a non-profit corporation staffed with real businesspeople. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation shattered the previous record for new jobs attracted in its very first year, then proceeded to rebreak that record every year since. Companies like Honda, AT&T, Nestle, Toyota, Amazon, Medco, and hundreds more have begun choosing Indiana over a literal world of alternatives. In 2006, we were number 1 among states of all sizes for insourcing new production jobs through international investment.

I think this speaks for itself.

….the jobs that IEDC deals have landed average well above the current state wage level, and more than half have been in towns of less than 25,000 people.

This is vital. Most economic development agencies require that new projects looking for government tax breaks or incentives pay wages above the average. Do we in New Brunswick? Or do we replace $25/hour paper mill jobs by offering incentives to companies offering $14/hour for manufacturing jobs? And as for the smaller city/town thing, that’s common.

In the last two years, we’ve become home to the world’s biggest soy biodiesel plant, the nation’s second-largest wind farm, and the world’s first full-scale clean coal power plant is now under construction here.

You can talk about alternative energy until your head pops off. Or you can go out and help build an industry. We are 10 years behind on wind energy compared to Quebec and much of Europe where will NB sit on this file?

The soft spot we must address to complete our portfolio is education and workforce readiness…

Interesting that education and workforce development concerns come after five years of record levels of growth. There’s a learning here. If you put all your eggs in the education basket, you just become an incubator for Ontario, BC and Alberta’s workforce needs. I am not saying cut education funding – don’t freak out on me. But I am saying that if we don’t look at these issues on parallel tracks, we do so at our own peril.

I like what I am hearing out of the Governor of Indiana. Mostly because he has hard data and facts to back up a successful record. In New Brunswick, the jury is still out…..