Indiana's per capita personal income is a measuring stick with which former Gov. Mitch Daniels wanted to evaluate his administration's effectiveness. Yet even Daniels, the fiscal reformer, was unable to reverse the dismal trend in which Indiana's personal income lags the nation.
Indiana ranked 42nd nationally in 2010. Daniels was right to pursue improvement on this measure.
Boosting personal income is a key aspect of improving the quality of life in Indiana. It is a key metric by which economic development should be measured.
The Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation recently ranked Indiana 10th nationally in business tax climate. That has helped to drive Illinois businesses across the border into Indiana.
But it's not enough to create jobs; those jobs must pay well for Indiana's personal incomes to get a boost.
There are many moving parts in the machinery that generates higher personal incomes.
Educational attainment is a key component. There is a strong correlation between higher levels of education and higher wages, and the news isn't good for Indiana.
Indiana ranked 43rd for educational attainment in 2011.
Improving Indiana's average educational attainment levels would make the state more attractive to companies that required a skilled workforce.
Not everyone needs to be a rocket scientist, of course. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is pushing a career track for Hoosiers that includes technical education for jobs in advanced manufacturing and the like. But many of those require at least a two-year degree, which many Hoosiers lack.
Strategic decisions about what types of industries to pursue makes a difference, too.
Indiana has become internationally known for its life sciences industry. In the Warsaw area, a number of companies specialize in making replacement joints and other medical equipment. That's in addition to the presence of Eli Lilly & Co., one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies.
Clusters of innovation tend to breed more innovation, as evidenced in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.
What Indiana needs is a clear strategy to address this issue, involving everything from dramatic steps to boost educational attainment levels to a focus on which industries to develop in Indiana's various regions.
Indiana's new regional works councils have begun to develop plans. Build on that effort.
Gov. Mike Pence should make this a major push for his administration, just as his predecessor did.
Indiana state government is in good financial shape now. Get Hoosiers in good financial shape, too.