Advocacy Forum Recap: Michael J. Hicks, PhD, Ball State University

Advocacy Forum Recap
Speaker: Michael J. Hicks, PhD, Ball State University
Date: July 25, 2022

Throughout the year, the Chamber strives to bring thought-provoking and informational speakers to our members via the ongoing Advocacy Forum. Thanks to our sponsor, Brampton Brick and additional support from Union Health, we are able to make these free-of-charge opportunities for our members to hear more about local, state and national issues. Special thanks to Sara Smith, Advocacy Co-Chair, for helping to pull together the recap from this event.

Last week, the Chamber hosted renowned state economist, Michael J. Hicks, PhD, Ball State University, during an Advocacy Forum event. As is usual with events where you hear from economists, the information shared falls squarely in the category of thought-provoking. Although I can’t say that I agree with all of the information he shared, it certainly did cause me, along with others in the audience, to stop and think about the way we are approaching certain problems, like how are we going to grow our population and revitalize our community? Below are a few notes from the discussion:

If you are focusing on bringing more jobs to your community, you are not taking the right approach. Jobs are following population trends. If you have the population, companies will move to your area to take advantage of the workforce.

Some interesting tax statistics, the national average of taxes paid by manufacturers is 5% and the state of Indiana average is 2%. Hicks proclaims that we need to take a hard look at tax incentives, especially those that do not bring large numbers of employment opportunities.

Education was also a major focus of his discussion, concentrating his comments around manufacturing jobs and how the college-going rate, which has decreased dramatically in recent years, impacts the entire state, but especially communities like ours with four major institutions of higher learning. People with college degrees may accept a lower salary to live in a more desirable area. Our community will have to pay much higher salaries to keep those people living here.

Vigo county needs to work on quality of life measures to spark interest in moving here. Schools and education are the number one issue that individuals looking to relocate consider, according to Hicks. Restaurants, shopping, parks, activities, safety all factor in as well, but to a far lesser extent.

Housing issue – tear down abandoned homes, but work towards redevelopment of failing neighborhoods. Rebuild and increase property value. Find housing developers to invest in Terre Haute.

Need to relax restrictions on government spending. People tend to not mind paying higher taxes if they feel like they are getting value from the services provided by their local government.

For more thoughts from Hicks, spend a few minutes reading through some of his recent columns available at the Ball State University website. In addition, his Power Point presentation from the Chamber forum is available here.

Our next forum will be on October 11 and will feature Secretary of Commerce for the state of Indiana, Brad Chambers. In this role, he also serves as CEO of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. This event will begin at 11:30am and be held at the Vigo County Historical Museum. The event is free for Chamber members and will include lunch, courtesy of Thrive West Central. For more information or to register, visit