DOUG ROSS: International ties boost Hoosier economy

2013-07-12T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: International ties boost Hoosier economyBy Doug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

Isolationists often cite President George Washington's Farewell Address, in which he warns of the dangers of "foreign entanglements." That advice no longer works. Indiana, not just the nation, is already intertwined with the world.

The state is taking a one-year pause on the progressive march toward Common Core education standards that would help Indiana students be compared to the rest of the nation. Why Common Core? Because Hoosier students will compete against the rest of the nation -- and the rest of the world.

That competition most likely will begin in earnest when those students hit college.

Purdue University is ranked second in the nation among U.S. public universities, and fourth overall, for the number of international students (8,563) on the main campus. Indiana University's main campus in Bloomington ranks 11th nationally, with 6,123, according to the Institute of International Education's 2012 Open Doors report.

Think Purdue will open more space for Hoosiers at the expense of foreign students? Ask yourself why Purdue President Mitch Daniels saw the need to go to China last month. It wasn't because he's an isolationist.

The pressure is on in the region, too. Purdue University Calumet had 759 international students, according to the report.

Foreign entanglement is important in the workplace, too.

According to U.S. Census data, Indiana saw more than $34.4 billion in exports and more than $43 billion in imports last year. 

Steel is still king when it comes to Northwest Indiana's economy, of course, and foreign trade matters a lot to those steelmakers. As Times business reporter Joseph S. Pete noted Wednesday, domestic steelmakers exported 1.163 million tons of steel in May. That means jobs.

Speaking of which, a new report on foreign direct investments between 2010 and 2012 said the $4.7 billion pumped into Indiana by foreign companies created about 4,100 new Hoosier jobs a year.

For the manufacturing sector, foreign companies created 74 percent of the state's new jobs. Can't believe it? Think of the billions spent on modernizing the BP Whiting Refinery and the hundreds of millions of dollars ArcelorMittal has been spending on its plants here.

Look also at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor in Portage. It handles 15 percent of the U.S. steel trade with Europe. In fact, according to the port's website, it handles more ocean-going cargo than any other port on the Great Lakes.

The port sees an average of 500,000 trucks, 10,000 rail cars, 400 barges and 100 ships per year.

And there's a study this summer to look at building another port in Gary because the one in Portage is out of vacant land for new development.

There are many more statistics I could cite, but it should be obvious already that those "foreign entanglements" are here to stay, and Indiana benefits as a result.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

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