Monday, July 17, 2006

a hoosier by any other name

when i went off to college in missouri, i was surprised to discover that in st louis slang, the word "hoosier" is a synonym for words like "redneck" and "hillbilly". i found this to be rather odd, since the official definition is "a person from indiana", and indiana is a four-hour drive from missouri. furthermore, many who used the term didn't even know its original definition.

every state probably has a neighbor state that residents crack jokes about. in indiana, people make kentucky jokes. in missouri, they make jokes about arkansas and the missouri bootheel. (a common joke is that if you moved the missouri bootheel into arkansas, it would raise the average IQ of both states by two points.) so in my time in missouri, it wasn't uncommon to hear people denigrate the people of arkansas by calling them "hoosiers". it was weird, but i didn't take it personally.

cut forward to 2004. mitch daniels was running for governor, and one of his major campaign planks was that the current administration was giving too many contracts to out-of-state companies. mitch insisted that he would award way more contracts to hoosier businesses (meaning "indiana businesses", not "redneck businneses").

in a way, mitch has kept this promise. but as tdw has pointed out on numerous occasions, he did it by changing the definition of hoosier. now the AP has started to catch on. take this story, which appeared in this morning's indy star:

More than 80 percent of the money spent on state purchases went to in-state vendors, according to a state database -- but a newspaper analysis found that not all of those companies were based in Indiana.

A recent "Buy Indiana" report tracking state expenditures on goods and services from July 1, 2005, to June 19, 2006, classified the University of Cincinnati and the University of Utah as in-state vendors, The Journal Gazette found.

the university of cincinnati is bad enough, but at least it's only 40 miles or so beyond the indiana border. on the other hand: utah?

But the state has changed the definition of what constitutes an Indiana business.

Formerly, the classification meant a company's principal place of business, and a majority of its payroll and work force were in Indiana, said Carrie Henderson, commissioner of the Department of Administration.

But last year, Daniels and the Republican-controlled General Assembly expanded the definition to include any business that makes significant capital investments in Indiana or has a substantial positive economic effect in the state.

"The category was expanded a little bit to include larger employers that weren't necessarily headquartered here but who had really meaningful investment in this state and employed a lot of people and ... contributed to the economy in ways that were important," said Henderson, who believes the figures are accurate.

Such companies must have a minimum $5 million capital investment in Indiana or be among the top 500 companies in terms of number of employees or taxes paid in the state.

That includes companies such as Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, Philadelphia-based Aramark Correctional Services and Cincinnati-based General Revenue Corp.

As part of the Buy Indiana program, they receive a price preference on bidding on state contracts or other procurement procedures.

according to the mitch daniels administration, wal-mart is an indiana business. not only that, but wal-mart gets special incentives for being "hoosier".

the weirdest thing about this new policy is that it would seem a company can purchase "indiana business" status: buy one factory in the state and the rest are discounted. honda is building a much-touted new plant in the state. surely honda will invest more than $5 million in the construction of the new factory. so is honda now an indiana business? what about cintra and macquarie? surely the $3+ billion they hunked down to buy lease buy the indiana toll road qualifies them as indiana businesses, too.

1 comment:

torporindy said...

I had never heard that st louis people used the term "hoosier" until a year or two ago.

The Lou is a strange place.