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Indiana government can't document claimed right-to-work losses

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Friday, December 16, 2011 04:06 pm
The top state economic-development agency can't provide documentation or statistics to back up Gov. Mitch Daniels' assertion that a fourth to half of companies don't give Indiana a shot at new business because it lacks a right-to-work law. Instead, this figure comes from impressions conveyed by site-selection consultants.On Thursday, Daniels announced that he supports enacting a right-to-work law in Indiana. Such a law would prohibit requiring workers from paying union dues as part of their employment in a union-represented business. The number of businesses that refuse to consider non-right-to-work states was at the heart of Daniels' argument for the law.

In a statement announcing his support for right-to-work, Daniels said, “Seven years of experience at our Indiana Economic Development Corp. has confirmed what every economic development expert tells us: Despite our top-ranked business climate, Indiana gets dealt out of hundreds of new job opportunities because we have no right-to-work law. … between a quarter and a half of the time, we don't make the first cut, due to this single handicap.”

On Friday, Katelyn Hancock, a spokeswoman for the IEDC, said that by law, details of the state's negotiations with prospective employers are not public records. She also noted, “A lot of times, a company isn't going to call us up and say, ‘We didn't look at you because you don't have right-to-work.' ”

In a follow-up email, Hancock added, “Based on numerous conversations with site-selection consultants that the IEDC works with directly on a daily basis, we know that Indiana loses new job and investment opportunities between a quarter and a half of the time because we are not a right-to-work state. This is what they consistently tell us.”

Those impressions are not precisely reckoned by site-selection consultants. One site-selection consultant, Katie Culp of Cassidy Turley Real Estate Services, did tell a state study committee that met earlier this year that one-third to half of industrial clients exclude non-right-to-work states from consideration. Other consultants cited by the IEDC were much less specific, saying right-to-work deters some prospects or that Indiana's lack of a right-to-work law has kept it out of the running in some cases.

The IEDC provided only one example of a business that cited right-to-work as a factor that might steer it away from Indiana.

Jay Pittas of Remy Inc. in Pendleton told the study committee in October that his company “is in the process right now of making some site selections for additional manufacturing capacity, specifically to make hybrid traction motors. Right now we are down to four final sites. If we look at the states that are left, Indiana is one of them…and the other three states are Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma. Right to Work does score against Indiana. I heard a question asked, ‘Would a company stand up [and speak to this issue]?' Well, I'm one.”

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