When I was a teenager, there were a couple of years where my responsibility every night was to fill the pop machine on the porch of my father’s store right before closing. One night, as I was doing so, I heard this awful noise and turned to see what it was. Running in my direction were three teens who had just smashed the windows in a police car a block away and were now hoping to be gone before anyone noticed them. My presence surprised them, but not enough to matter: they hesitated when they saw me, looked at each other, and then ran on.
I didn’t even close the machine up, but ran inside the store and called 911. I thought I could give the details to a dispatcher and then run after them while there was still time – the police joining me in pursuit as we brought justice to the hooligans. Imagine, if you will, my surprise when there was not a dispatcher for me to talk to, a police officer, or even an answering service – just an answering machine that rambled on incessantly about how I needed to leave details after the beep. Not all that surprisingly, the ruffians escaped that day because the time to respond was too great.
It has been said that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste, and I was reminded of this when yet another set of monthly unemployment numbers were released. While the unemployment rate for the United States fell to 7.4 percent, that represents an average: half the country is above it and half is below it. Indiana, which is big in the manufacturing sector that so many reports say is coming back, is above the national average at 8.4 percent. By definition, half of Indiana is doing worse than that state average and Madison County is one of those. With an unemployment rate of 9.9 percent for June, it represents an increase from 9.5 percent in May and 9.6 percent in April. There is a considerable difference between 7.4 percent and 9.9 percent and one need only look at the local businesses that have had to shutter due to lack of customers to see that.
It is easy to dismiss adjacent Hamilton County, with an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent, as an anomaly since those who live there can easily drive to neighboring counties to work, but they are not the only one doing well. Hancock, Henry and Tipton counties are all adjoining Madison and have lower unemployment rates (Grant and Delaware are doing worse). While I mean these other counties no disrespect in the slightest, I find it hard to believe that they have more to offer start-ups than Madison does.
Time is of the essence and I would hate to see nothing good come from the crisis that we are now in because it takes too long to respond. Windows are being broken, and it is time to pick up the phone while there is still a chance to catch up.
Emmett Dulaney’s column appears Tuesdays.