• Illinois exodus means Indiana customers

    If you’ve seen any Chicago media (and if you live in Northwest Indiana and have a TV, you likely have), you probably noticed that Illinois has had a difficult time over the last several years. The state has massive debt. Income, corporate and property taxes are high. Half of the state’s residents wish they could move to another state.

    And many are. Some relocate to other parts of the country entirely, for better business climates or industry hubs. However, some who are just looking for a more affordable dwelling come to Indiana.

    As a whole, population trends aren’t exactly skyrocketing (Lake County’s total population has actually dropped since 2010, while Porter County has remained roughly the same). Individual towns, however, have seen a steady rise in their populations since the turn of this century. For some towns—St. John and Crown Point, to name a few—U.S. Census Bureau data shows a small spike in 2010, the year Illinois signed all its high taxes into law. Correlation isn’t always causation. But it’s hard not to make a connection, especially with new housing developments going up in seemingly every empty piece of land.

    But Indiana isn’t stopping with just attracting new residents. If you’ve driven on I-94 near the stateline, you might have also seen billboards or other ads trying to lure local businesses across the state line (“Illinoyed” is one of the higher profile campaigns). The state is especially touting its much lower corporate tax rate.

    Businesses certainly are leaving Illinois in its current climate, but it’s hard to say how effective Indiana’s efforts have been. Many have moved out of the Midwest altogether. Most of what Indiana has successfully drawn have been smaller local businesses seeking a lower operating cost just across the state line, while not straying far from their Illinois customer base.

    That arguably puts Indiana entrepreneurs at an advantage. If the business climate is as good as the State claims, good enough that businesses should move here, then surely a homegrown one can get off the ground. And all those Illinois expatriates coming to live here just means more customers.

  • Why are people leaving Indiana?

    I and many others have written about residents leaving Illinois. Not as many people are talking about the same thing happening here in Indiana. But it’s happening.

    Since 2005, more residents have left Indiana than have moved here. The state’s total population has remained overall steady, increasing slightly each year. About half the counties in the state, including Lake County, have seen small decreases each year, however.

    I have a few ideas why this might be:

    • Wages: Incomes in Northwest Indiana fell by about an average of $3000 last year…thoughworkers here are still paid better than the rest of the state. Indiana’s median household income lags behind the national average, as well as those of 30 other states and Washington D.C. And as I’ve said before, our minimum wage still lingers at the federal level.
    •  State services: People always complain about their tax dollars funding state services, but they always use them when they’re available. Indiana lags behind a lot of states in this department, from education to public transit. A big issue in the future could be health care, as more and more people come around to the Affordable Care Act. Currently, Indiana doesn’t run its own insurance exchange and is still kicking the idea of Medicaid expansion around. This could tilt our state out of favor for employment-seekers deciding between similar-paying jobs in Indiana or in another state that does have those things.
    • Greener, and warmer, pastures: I’d imagine those moving out of Indiana do so more for monetary reasons than weather-related ones. Still, warmer climates are no doubt more attractive than the bitter cold winters in the Midwest, the Region’s being even worse because of the Lake. Another factor more in our control, though, is our state’s environmental record. While we rank higher than some Midwest states, our air quality is still pretty bad. As someone who suffers from allergies and is thus sensitive to airborne particles, I can say from experience that the difference between Indiana and Washington (one of the most environmentally-conscious states in the country) is like the difference between inhaling secondhand smoke and simply clear air.