Let's say that you'd like to start a small food and drink business, or even a taproom. Having heard that Southern Indiana (specifically, what used to be called the Falls Cities) is a good place for this sort of thing, you hit Google and search, using the term "economic incentives."
You begin with New Albany.
Not much to work with there, except references to the regional industrial park authority. Maybe Jeffersonville?
That's better. Clicking through ...
The introduction sets the requisite tone; we understand, and we can help:
"The City of Jeffersonville understands how difficult it can be to start and run a small business. To encourage the entrepreneurial spirit and help drive new businesses in the area we offer a number of incentives aimed at small businesses, new restaurants, and improved building facades. For questions about incentives contact our office at (812) 285-6406."
But you really want to give the city of New Albany a chance, and so after a few minutes refining search terms -- omitting "incentives" and using "economic development" -- you land here:
Okay, good enough start, although the prelude lacks the warmth of Jeffersonville's intro:
"The City of New Albany’s Economic Development Department is committed to serving the community by aggressively pursuing new job opportunities and quality of life amenities for our citizens. We will accomplish this goal through both increased economic development and community development projects. Our department focuses on providing necessary leadership to our existing business community to ensure a vibrant business environment in all economic climates, while aggressively seeking new companies for our community."
It;s MBA-standard bureaucratese, but that's not uncommon, and as we scroll down, looking for some meat ...
It's probably a safe bet to doubt whether prospective small business owners have appreciable interest in CDBG rules of engagement, but even if they do, a quick glance at the calendar shows that we're arrived at 2014, not 2012.
Yes, it may be the case that the city of New Albany expects such inquiries to be directed to Develop New Albany, but even in the most charitable interpretation imaginable, how would one not already in the know glean from the city's website that prospective small business operators should check with a non-profit not directly connected to the city, and largely unfunded by it?
And if they did, what and whom among the volunteers at DNA would be helping them? Is it DNA that should be devising the incentives, and if so, with what? Confetti?
I've been pointing to this strange, perennial detachment for quite some time, and quite frankly, I'm angrier today than ever. At least Jeffersonville knows what a small business entrepreneur would like to hear, which is that the city is engaged in its prospects and ready to help. One simply cannot view New Albany's bumbling, non-informational outreach without concluding that the city doesn't really get it at all, and until a change occurs, faith in something better only reminds me of the old revolutionary slogan: Men can't eat constitutions.
Currently, the truth is this: Jeffersonville is lapping, and we're napping.