June 12, 2012

The price of making rain

If you hear someone talking about dry spells in Logansport, they could be referring to brown lawns or the last time a new industry came to the city to expand the labor force.

In fact, it’s been about a decade since new industries were regularly springing up in the industrial park south of Logansport adjacent to the airport.

As for the lack of rain we’re experiencing this month, there was a time in the 1800s when “rainmakers” were paid to launch chemicals into the sky to seed clouds in hopes they would sneeze raindrops.

Whether it worked or not is debatable, and that’s why the process is considered anything but a sure thing.

The same could be said for trying to end local economic dry spells by paying consultants to make the skies rain jobs on communities like ours. In the last week, Logansport officials have approved $130,000 in tax dollars that will be used to somehow “enhance” economic development.

In fairness to one of the consulting firms, William-Lynn-James, it has successfully worked with the city for years in promoting the soon-to-be-completed Hoosier Heartland from the Ohio state line to Lafayette. Although current Mayor Teddy Franklin once questioned the amount of money Logansport paid for lobbying efforts by the company when other larger cities paid less, Logansport arguably had more to gain from a four-lane highway than Lafayette, Fort Wayne or even Peru because those communities already had four-lane access.

But paying consultants on retainer for economic development efforts is a bit different and not exactly a no-brainer. Here’s why:

1. Retainers. There’s a reason why consultants and lawyers like to be paid this way because they may not succeed in doing what you want them to do. If any consultant was paid based on the actual number of jobs directly created by his or her expertise, we would all want to pay them as much as we could. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Hiring consultants to represent your community or to work the economic development circuit is spinning a huge roulette wheel that may not have a winner when the wheel stops turning.

2. Priorities. One of the reasons why Logansport and other communities don’t go the way the city is going now is because consultants are beholden to many masters, as in clients. Clients who pay the most for services would understandably expect the most out of consultants for their money and would likely reap the best fruits of their labors. Using local revenue to enhance economic development efforts through the existing Logansport-Cass County Economic Development Foundation puts more fuel in the tank of an organization that is responsible to only one community — ours.

3. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation. One of the real reasons this type of local expenditure is questionable is that the state of Indiana is already expected to provide this kind of service for Logansport, Cass County and other Indiana communities. The corporation that was known previously as the Indiana Department of Commerce has launched trade missions to other countries, some of which have involved our own local officials. If the state can’t showcase shovel-ready industrial sites in strategic locations like Logansport, then state officials can’t pose for all those groundbreaking ceremonies in glossy campaign mailings we usually receive in even-numbered years.

4. What we have to show for our money. Realistically, what we may have to show for this $130,000 appropriation in 10 years is — pause for swallowing hard — nothing, zilch, natta, empty set, zero.

Meanwhile, if $130,000 could be invested in local infrastructure, property acquisition to expand the industrial park, funding to support entrepreneurs or an incubator building to facilitate businesses growing from garages to warehouses, we would at least generate tangible assets that are permanent investments we can build upon over the next decade.

5. Our fair share. There’s plenty of talk in Congress about the naughty word “earmarks” because that word connotes special favors for favorite contributors or communities. But the fact of the matter is that Indiana ranks 22nd in per capita return of federal tax revenue. Directing William-Lynn-James to use its Washington lobbying connections to secure what Logansport and Cass County have coming could yield a substantial return.

Per capita, every American represents an average of $8,520 in federal tax revenue, but in Indiana, the per capita average is only $6,724. In other words, if Logansport had its actual fair share of federal tax revenue, it would have $36 million more to work with than it has today. Add in rural portions of Cass County and that’s more than $70 million more for a community that is starved for funds to pay for basic public safety and community development.

Just one year of $70 million would likely demolish every condemned property in the county that’s not on the tax rolls and build a home, office or factory in its place, creating a more stable tax base for the city and county.

Are city officials doing the economic development equivalent of paying a rainmaker? In essence, the answer is yes.

We have to hope for rain and maybe even pray for it. But do we really have to pay for it?

• Dave Kitchell is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached through the newspaper at


Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • MARCUS: The higher education funding mess Public higher education financing is unsustainable as currently configured. This conclusion was reached by two important groups over the past two years. The National Association of State Budget Officers and the State Higher Education Executive Office

    July 29, 2014

  • VILLAGE IDIOT: The state of the reunion “Katy! It’s been so long! How’ve you been?”My God, she’s gained so much weight I didn’t recognize her. It’s a good thing we’re all wearing nametags. I thought it was some distant cousin past due with triplets.“Bob! Long time, no see.”No hair, either.

    July 29, 2014

  • COATS: What to do next with Putin, Ukraine The tragic death of 298 people on board Malaysian Airlines flight 17 in a wheat field in eastern Ukraine marks a moment when words of disapproval and expressions of grief are not enough. This is a moment when action must follow the outrage and rhetor

    July 28, 2014

  • LYONS: The most powerful men in the world? Search the phrase “the most powerful man in the world” and what comes up are photos of grotesquely over-developed weightlifters; also Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin. Awfully ironic under present circumstances. It’s a cant term TV news anchors use to

    July 28, 2014

  • CEPEDA: What are students to eat now Remember last year’s hysteria over school lunches? Administrators, cafeteria workers, students and parents across the country freaked out when — gasp! — school lunches were made healthier.News reports throughout the 2012-13 school year — when lunch s

    July 27, 2014

  • HOWEY: Rising up to meet Putin’s thuggery Any illusions I had about the progressive nature of Vladimir Putin’s Russian regime quickly dissipated when I returned to my Moscow Grand Marriott room in August 2007. Upon opening the door, I was greeted with the spectacle of my papers and note pads

    July 27, 2014

  • HAYDEN: Congress scolded for its failures Retired Congressman Lee Hamilton has warned of the perils of political ideology, calling the body where he spent 34 years “noxiously partisan.” Now, he worries the divide is downright dangerous. A co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, Hamilton and fell

    July 27, 2014

  • DORAN: How to handle the pool problem By Terry DoranGuest columnistAs a longtime board member of the parks board and having grown up nearby, it troubles me to read of the decision to close the city pool at Tower Park. This is obviously not a new discussion. I sat in on many meetings with

    July 27, 2014

  • WOLFSIE: A trip to end all trips My wife is planning a very exciting vacation to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. This was a big surprise to me. Not the vacation part, but the 35 years. I thought it was 34. Right now she is on the back porch, the patio table stacked high with

    July 25, 2014

  • FREY: Hero pilot still on a mission to save lives Ordinary people who live their lives, do something spectacular one day, and then embrace a great cause after retirement are tops in my book.Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III is such an individual. He is the pilot who safely landed a US Airways airplan

    July 25, 2014

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide

Should grocery and convenience stores be allowed to sell cold beer?

     View Results
Featured Ads
AP Video
Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.