I hear this phrase a lot around here from all different kinds of folks. I hear this from musicians, bartenders, doctors, attorneys, cooks, secretaries and all kinds of other folks from all walks of life. It’s one of several versions of what I like to call “automatic responses” to certain keywords that when a person hears the keyword or phrase being spoken by another, it will automatically spit out this answer.
In the case of “Yeah, But it’s a Nice Place to Raise a Family” I believe this is code for “this place really sucks and I feel I am drowning.” It is the response usually programmed for any sort of complaints about the social conservative culture that permeates life in Indianapolis. If you say “There’s no nightlife or good live music in Indiana” someone will say “Yeah, but it’s a nice place to raise a family.” If you say “I wish there were a decent theater or poetry reading scene in Indy” your best friend from work will say “Yeah, but its a nice place to raise a family.”
You see, there is a Brain Drain in Indiana that gets much discussion in this state, but that is all. The primary reason for the drain is that when our college graduates are faced with the choice of taking a job here or taking one elsewhere, especially if they have any sort of creativity involved in their work or social life, they usually opt for the far away out of state job over the local Hoosier job.
Creativity is valued immensely in economic development circles because where there are creative communities that are thriving, there are more college graduates there to enjoy the cultural amenities that a city has to offer. Educated populations enjoy art, music, theater and other creative pursuits more than lesser educated populations. A few years ago I knew a young attorney graduating from IU School of Law – Indianapolis that I met because he was also a fantastic guitarist in a local band I worked with. He actually took a much lower paying job in Austin, TX over a firm here in town just so he could go be a part of the Austin music scene.
Take a look around you if you live here in Indianapolis. Of all the people you know, of the ones who do have college degrees, ask yourself a couple of questions. 1) Are they originally from here or married to someone from here, and 2) are they raising a family and is their primary motivation for living here the cost of living and school choices for their children? I bet your entire list of college degreed friends answer yes to both of these questions.
Indy is not a city you move to by choice. It’s a second or third choice city. It’s a place you move to because you have to for work reasons or family reasons or both. Every dissatisfied resident of this city I meet moved here for a job and found a cultural wasteland that bores people to tears. Our sports heroes publicly lament this all the time. The reason Jermaine O’Neal opened the Seven nightclub in Broad Ripple was so he could bring a real NYC/LA/London style nightclub for him and his friends on the Pacers to hang out in during the offseason.
So when idiots like Senator Brandt Hershman give the Hoosier Brain Drain a boost by sicing the fundies on the gay people and trying to ban same sex marriage and even benefits for unmarried heterosexuals via the Indiana Constitution, you have to wonder why the Mayor and Governor continue to blather on about Indy being a World Class city.
It’s real simple folks, you run off the gays, you run off their creative collaborators who are straight, this runs off the college educated fans of their works and your economy starts to stumble badly. This is why we are becoming a state full of married redneck truck drivers and their wives because we have had to resort to the “logistics industry” for economic development.
If you want scientists to work in a biotech economy here you’re gonna need to have some good local bands to divert their attention in the off hours. There’s a wicked guitar player at Purdue who is a biotech major who is shopping his resume in California and Texas right now. You want to lose him? Too late, he and his domestic partner are probably moving to San Jose or Houston next June.