Indiana government leaders are not shy about touting economic successes. With a stable manufacturing base and 3.2% unemployment rate that’s below the national 3.5% rate, there are good reasons for politicians to express satisfaction.

It is said that if you want a job in Indiana, it won’t be hard to find one.

It’s important, however, for state leaders not to let this positive jobs climate mask Indiana’s trouble spots. Most counties are projected to lose population in coming years.

Personal income lags that of many other states. And the workforce is made up of many people who don’t possess the skills to advance.

Economic development in Indiana has long been equated with jobs creation and retention. But it’s so much more. While a robust employment climate is essential, the formula for a thriving economy must include excellent public education, strong personal income growth, equal access to infrastructure such as broadband internet and transportation services, and quality-of-life initiatives.

The Legislature, which begins its session work this month, should focus on items such as these and pledge to pursue them vigorously while making sure all regions of the state are part of the strategy. Doing so will allow the state to move beyond its attention to creating an attractive business environment.

Indiana needs to be more than a good place to find work. It needs to become a great place to live.

One place to start is targeting more funding for public schools. Increased teacher compensation should be part of the conversation. A clear path toward greater educational attainment and a more skilled workforce will be forged by motivated and adequately rewarded educators. Likewise, specialized proven programming such as universal pre-K must be part of the strategy.

Government leaders have a duty to serve all constituencies. That should be their guiding purpose when making laws that affect future growth and progress.

Never lose sight of the people and their quality of life.

Good economic development is human development.
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