I Guess This Doesn’t Include Indiana

Macleans has identified cities it dubs a “new brain belt.”

These are the places where they think the greatest innovation is happening today. Sometimes they are classic rust-belt cities but mostly they are university or hospital towns in the vicinity: Waterloo, Ont., instead of Windsor.

They identify characteristics of such places: high-tech facilities, quality educational institutions, taxpayer support for research, appealing living conditions and, most important for them, cultures of free thinking, in contrast to the “hierarchical, regimented thinking so prevalent in Asian and MIST [Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea and Turkey] countries.”

Or states like Indiana.

We have had several robust discussions on this blog about my theory of “paradigm shift.” Call it that, or focus on the narrower question (posed by MacLeans) whether your own city or state is “innovative” or “future oriented”–the question is one with which every Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development organization is wrestling: how does my city/ metropolitan area/state continue to compete and thrive in a world that is constantly changing? How do we get from here (wherever that is) to there (wherever that is)?

I was struck by the list of characteristics identified by MacLeans: of the five, four focused on human capital–more precisely, the development of an intellectual culture.

  • High tech facilities are built in places having workforces that can operate and manage them, places where both technical skills and comfort with technical innovation are plentiful.
  • The phrase “quality educational institutions” suggests the sort of yeasty and challenging environment that deals in questions, not answers–the sort of educational environment that produces new ideas and new ways of thinking about the traditional ones. (Quality is not defined by job placement statistics–sorry, Indiana Commission on Higher Education.)
  • “Taxpayer support for research” certainly doesn’t call to mind the penny-pinching, “I’ve got mine, Jack, and I’m holding onto it” attitude that has long characterized my own state of Indiana. It certainly doesn’t describe a state that would constitutionalize a cap on property taxes, lest those taxes somehow get raised and then–horrors!–spent on a common civic good like education. Or a better quality of life.
  • When you think about it, a culture of “free thinking”–the fourth intellectual attribute of forward-looking places–really leads to the only characteristic listed that doesn’t immediately connect to the life of the mind: a good quality of life. I don’t think you can have a good quality of life without such a “free thinking” culture.

People who enjoy engaging with ideas, with the arts, with people unlike themselves–people interested not only in acquiring new skills but in using those skills to improve their communities–are people who understand the organic nature and human importance of those communities, and the importance of their own connections to them.

There are people in my city–and I’d wager in yours–who are working hard to create a community that looks like that.

But at this point, my city– and most definitely my state— have a long way to go.


  1. Just an observation here about two supposed cultural entities here in Indianapolis. While they each started out giving slices of knowledge and beauty freely to the community, both have evolved into big money making, money driven enterprises. I am writing about the Indianapolis Zoo and the Indianapolis Art Museum. The Zoo, which should have been all about learning, has been turned into a high priced amusement park for tourists. The Art Museum has been turned into an exclusive enclave for the sham sophisticates. Both are priced out of reach for the masses they were once intended to serve. You don’t develop an intellectual culture by putting monetary obstacles in the way of the average citizen.

  2. My city, NYC, fits the criteria save on–affordability. We are becoming a city where only mllionaires can afford even a 1-bedroom apartment.

  3. The very location of the Indianapolis Zoo, compounded by its exorbitant price, is a slap in the face of those who live in the neighborhood.

  4. Interesting information.

    Fort Wayne is in the process of creating a district downtown that will bring people there and where people will want to live because of the amenities. They have lost a lot of jobs, but also continue to replace the lost jobs with new ones that have a future.

    The small city near my home has been attempting to create the same thing for the past couple years, but without jobs and good-paying jobs at that, they are only creating a tourist town. This tourist town has small new downtown shop owners that have high hopes, but I really don’t see them being able to acquire a living from their shops. Currently, they are all women who have husbands with excellent jobs that are typically in another nearby city.

    Large cities will continue to gain population from the rural areas because that is where the jobs are created. Rural areas will continue to decline due to the shrinking population and tax base. Like so many others, I am trying to escape this dying area for a better life near a large city that offers cultural experiences.

  5. I grew up in Terre Haute, just moved from Indianapolis to Nashville, TN for jobs and my extended family is from St. Louis where I went to nursing school 20 years ago. In St. Louis the zoo is free. It was free when I was little and it is still free. They could actually charge a fee. The Municipal one of the oldest outdoor running theaters in Forest Park had free seating. Several of the back rows of seats are first come first serve. The tickets to the shows are really reasonable. I bought season tickets back 95 to 97 and they equated to $7 per show. A new musical every week from June through Mid-August. A fair number of the museums had one day a week where you could enter for free. I don’t come from moneyx parents always were one pay check away from financial disaster but we got to go to the zoo, the Municipal, and the museums on free days.

    I now live in Nashville which I have learned is the Healthcare capital for the US with over 300 corporations. It also has many other corporate headquarters and more moving in. I’m struck by the amount of technology that is being used at Vanderbilt Children’s, my family doctors office, my daughter’s pediatrician, her dentist, and her school has facial recognition software. All the schools in Wilson County has this..they have my drivers license picture on file and they take a picture of the parents and enter it into the computer and when you come to the door to enter the school you look into the camera.

    I am astounded by the use of technology. When I left Barnes Hospital in St Louis for Methodist Hospital in Indpls ( I admit that was a dumb move) Barnes had computer charting, drop down, window clicking charting back in 94…Methodist had paper charting and antiquated systems. I thought all hospitals were the same…they are not. When I left Riley in 2010, I worked in psychiatry and we were still paper charting but nobody knows what to do with psychiatry as our notes have to be super secretive but daughter was born with a cleft and so we were there often and while there was a greater use of technology in other parts nowhere near to what I’m experiencing in Nashville.

    Indianapolis and Indiana need to step it up if they want to compete in anything besides sports

  6. Sorry…I really hate autocorrect fill in…It is the Muny not municipal…I’ve changed it several times in my post and auto fill in still changed it.. one element of technology that drives me insane

  7. Teresa Bowers
    “The Art Museum has been turned into an exclusive enclave for the sham sophisticates.”

    The art museum used to sponsor free chamber music recitals drawing crowds of musical arts lovers but sadly these were discontinued after the management change of about 10 years ago.

  8. Theresa; thank you so much for these comments. I haven’t been to the Zoo since shortly after it opened; expense is one reason. My cousin and I went to the Children’s Museum 12-13 years ago; the entry fee for seniors was $12 at that time, can’t remember the higher adult fee. The last time I went to the Museum of Art it was still located in the old Lilly home and you were asked to please make a donation. I went often; alone to tour the museum, the greenhouse and purchase plants and at times took my sketchpad, walked the path through the woods to the seat around a huge tree to overlook the river. 12-13 years ago, my friend was visiting from California and our high school friend drove us to the Museum of Art for lunch at Wolfgang Puck’s; I enjoyed a $12 cheeseburger. They were insulted when I stated I found the modernized Museum of Art building to be ugly. We looked through the gift shop, I didn’t buy anything due to the ridiculous prices. There seems to be nowhere cultural to go in this city that isn’t too expensive for average residents. Tickets to sport events are unbelievable. I was and remain appalled at needing tickets for downtown parades and entry fees to such as the annual Rib Fest. So much for their “free” concerts. We need to rethink complaining about average citizens remaining “average” due to sitting at home in front of a big screen TV; the same goes for complaints about our young people, TV and their electronic gadgets. In today’s economy here; the majority cannot afford the luxury of “bettering themselves through the arts” or the educational value of the Zoo. Costs seem to be geared to the wealthier residents and tourists while our tax dollars pay for the upkeep and maintenance.

  9. Joann, you speak my truth. I would classify my husband and I as middle-class (3 pay checks from financial ruin) Between paying on school loans and him losing 5 jobs in 15 yrs (CPA was internal auditors for the state = low, low pay and got out to do IT internal audits) we were never financially secure and found so many things in Indpls out of our price point. It seemed anything at the fairgrounds required a $10 per person entry fee plus had to pay parking. We adopted our daughter when I was 40 (47 now) usually an age where most have some security but I went back to grad school and so there were no zoo trips unless it was a school field trip…for Christmas is did tell my parents a zoo pass would be nice.. $165 and you can go as often as you want. If I was living in St Louis we could have taken her to the places I was able to go as a kid for free or for a really cheap cost. I didn’t think Indy was all that inexpensive with the exception of housing

  10. The zoo is culture? What Sheila is talking about is setting up an environment where Silicon thinkers congregate, and a 31% evangelical state is not likely to want to pay taxes for such a venture since it might involve new thinking. Can’t have that!

  11. There is no IDEAL popular problem solution in any country or region of Earth, all countries of the UN being equal as are the States as REAL properties, each inhabited for millenia by messengers who works — entire cities — are meaningful to humans more than other social animals. The problem of saturation is no problem at all in a salt solution problem, just add water, enlarge the container, allow evaporation and sell the flakes, etc. It is not like that with people who bid on a job contract, or are required to stay in a county as a signature witness, for example. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bn67wJahDQ8
    The paradigm Ideals are the same still as Shakespeare’s and the Bible, social and psychological schools of thought…for adult learners courses. The synchronized Pascal paradigm developed also but on the mainland without the 1491-92 foundations of the splits among London Christian authors, dealing with guilt and remorse.
    As part of site-based training years ago in Richmond, we even drew the Ideal 2001 schools. One sad school aide drew a Smiley face with no features. Take a look at graphics now. The IDEAL Indiana State Senators, stay in Indiana but can read very widely or listen easily to those who do. Likewise who counts construction workers, reads those bridge plans, takes the core samples for the high-rises, in already declining old trails places? It’s a beautiful day for the real birds.

    Most people have high school educations and thereafter learn on the job as experts on their own experiences as DOB class members and as individuals learning their ways through lives another 50 years or about three times in stately orbital progressions annually, elaborating on their 18 years’ “commencement” work.

  12. Gerald E. Stinson – I have never actually known the percent of evangelicals in our state. Can you tell me where you find this data? If they are only 31% then that gives me hope that the rest of us can find a way to push them back and stop them from forcing their religious beliefs on the rest of us.

  13. When retirement finally came for me, I looked forward to having the time to visit the IMA, the Eiteljorg, Indiana State Museum, to take my grandson to the Children’s Museum, visit
    the Zoo, attend the State Fair, go to concerts in the parks, walk and birdwatch in Eagle Creek Park, attend plays and lots of other interesting and enlightening things. Unfortunately, fees for everything from parking to entry are, for the most part, beyond our budget. Utility rates, medical costs (despite Medicare and an Advanced policy) dental, vision and hearing costs have eaten up any expendable income we had for entertainment and education at supposedly public venues. We cannot afford to attend most sporting events in our taxpayer-built arenas. We watch the donuts county vehicles in great numbers come into and leave the city for all of these events. We used to be at the low end of middle class. Now we are much closer to working class/poor than we have been since right after college.
    When I see that DT and Cruz would defeat HRC in Indiana, it really amazes me. I guess most Hoosier voters see the current status of our state as just fine. The well-to-do get the privilege of access to those venues we all have paid to build but cannot afford to enjoy ourselves. Upkeep and maintenance of those facilities are problematic as most of our parks are in a declining state of disrepair as budgets get cut deeper and deeper while finding ways to build new bike and walking trails that in turn are allowed to deteriorate.
    After working hard for almost 60 years, raising a family, paying for our home and its upkeep, sacrificing to save for retirement, we find ourselves without the means to enjoy the luxury of leisure to enjoy travel and the arts , all increasingly out of our financial reach.
    We worry that the next financial bubble bursting will finally break us for good. We have economized to the bone. There is not more meat to cut away.
    As I have stated before, many of the young families in our neighborhood are planning on leaving the state as soon as the opportunities present themselves. A free-thinking culture is a dream for the future, apparently just not ours.

  14. One of the differences that separates us is that liberals invest ( in the greater good) but conservatives save (on public things so they can spend more on personal stuff by which to distinguish them as personally superior.)

  15. One thing a Museum can do is open the world of knowledge and stimulate minds to people of all ages. We would not want to do that here in Indiana. Billions of tax dollars can and have been spent on Sports Palaces. Our State Museum here in Indianapolis is OK but it is no way comparable to the Field Museum or Museum of Science Industry in Chicago.

  16. I got the 31% evangelical from some television guy who was methodically giving out the evangelical percentage for several states. I cannot vouch for the number, but that’s the one he gave.

  17. Louie and Nancy, re: percentage of Evangelicals in Indiana

    I located numbers, listed in percentages below, that are similar to what Louie posted. Info is from “Religious Affiliation by State in the Midwest”, the Pew Forum, 2015. Can’t vouch for its authenticity.

    Evangelical Protestant 34
    Mainline Protestant 22
    Catholic 18
    Black Protestant 6
    Mormon 1
    Jehovah’s Witnesses 1
    Orthodox 0.5
    Other Christianity 0.5
    Judaism 1
    Buddhism 0.5
    Islam 0.5
    Hinduism 0.5
    Other Faiths 1
    Unaffiliated 16
    Don’t Know/No Answer 0.5

  18. Correct my addressing a post to Louie and Nancy. That should have read Gerald E Stinson and Nancy.

  19. Let’s look at alternative energy emphasis and state support for that. Our antedilluvian governor and legislature fancies themselves as “friends of coal” when the demand for coal is rapidly disappearing and Peabody has filed for bankruptcy. They even want to discourage people from using alternative energies. An organized effort to do that could bring a lot of good things to this state by hooking up with Purdue and encouraging research in that area, but noooo.

  20. Gerald; per my Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary the word “culture” is defined as; 1. the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties esp. by education, 2. acquaintance with and taste in fine arts, humanities and broad aspects as distinguished from vocational and technical skills.

    Visits to the zoo are a way to develop and educate our intellectual faculties; zoology is a known science. Studying the various exotic animals and their living habits can best be done by watching their habits and interactions in a zoo. Petting zoos are very educational for young children especially; they learn that milk doesn’t come from bottles and fish aren’t small, brown, frozen rectangular items to be zapped in the microwave. Culture entails much more than the opera, classical music or viewing the paintings of the old masters…broadening our horizons leads to curiosity leading to further education, education is culture. Do you know that two-headed turtles are not really an oddity? I learned that at a Florida wildlife park and zoo; they had to refuse many two-headed turtles people found in creeks and ponds and brought in wanting to donate. Science in a natural setting is mind expanding – sometimes mind-blowing. IF we could afford to go often enough to see all there is to see; it can’t be done in one visit.

  21. I am in favor of tax caps solely to limit how much public money is shunted to wealthy privateers who refuse to invest their own money because all they have to do is whine about needing hand-outs, training grants, tax abatements, TIFs, and so on and they get our money. If there’s profit, well, they get to keep all of it. Accountability for the public’s money, well, we can’t hamstring them, now can we? I would be in favor of increased taxation if the money were used for the public good, but there’s little to no chance of that happening. Indiana should have the logo “Public Risk–Private Profit” on top of the State Office Building instead of “Indiana–A State That Works”. What politically-connected marketer dreamed up that slogan, and how much did it cost us?

    Sunday’s Star contained a piece about the former Reid Hospital site in Richmond that was purchased by a privateer and then abandoned when he didn’t get his taxpayer handout. Now the site is dangerous to even enter due to asbestos and other contaminants, and the City of Richmond can’t even find the privateer. It will cost a fortune just to rid the City of this eyesore.
    Just one example of many. It’s no accident that so many privateers flock to Indiana, like Blue Indy. Easy money. No accountability. Public risk. Private profit. Yes, tax caps are a good thing.

    The problem is priorities, and education, better roads, the environment and the like are not priorities for the Republican-controlled Legislature and Governor’s Office, beholden to wealthy investors who know best what should be done with taxpayers’ money.

  22. Natasha, I like the label “privateer”. I don’t know if it’s your idea, but it’s a good one.

  23. JoAnn – I am not arguing that zoos and culture are unrelated. I am just writing that I think Sheila intended to have a discussion where we spend public money to foster a Silicon culture where new and different thinking is encouraged. We can have human culture and culture generally simultaneously, and should.

  24. Gerald, I thought she was talking about both…arts culture and technology culture…one is too expensive for most and the other seems under utilized

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