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September 17, 2013

MARCUS: Deficiency is now in question

Derrick Dul-drum made the dismal pronounce-ment.” Dead last,” he said.

“What?” I said, abhorring as I do a sentence without a clear subject.

“Indiana,” he said. “Indiana is dead last among the 50 states in proprietorships. If you take the number of proprietors as a percent of all jobs, Indiana shows up with 18.1 percent — and that ranks us 50th among the states.”

“And from this fragment of a fact you conclude what?” I asked.

“We’re behind the rest of the nation in entrepreneurial spirit. Our people don’t have the zip and zest to undertake independent business. Or, our business environment discourages them from running their own enterprises.”

“And you believe those statements?” I questioned.

“Well,” he paused, “if our entrepreneurial spirit is not deficient, if we do have the same energy and imagination as our countrymen, if our business environment is really OK, then why do we rank last in proprietors?”

“I don’t know,” I answered, “but I think we have to be cautious before we ascribe all sorts of negatives to our fellow Hoosiers.”

“You’re just trying to worm out of an unflattering conclusion about who we are,” Derrick said.

“I’m just suggesting,” I said, “that you be careful drawing conclusions from one number. Let’s look at your data.”

With this, he brought up a spreadsheet on his laptop and we studied the numbers.

We found that the top four states in proprietorships were Montana, Idaho, Vermont and Colorado, all over 25 percent. This suggests states with extensive rural areas might have more proprietorships, more small businesses in their economic environments.

Indiana is known for having major industries that employ dozens, even hundreds of workers. Most of these firms are organized as corporations. They are not proprietorships or partnerships.

Virginia ranks very close to Indiana at the bottom of percent of employment in proprietorships. That makes sense because Virginia has massive federal government employment and none of those workers are proprietors of the agencies they work for.

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