As a bankruptcy lawyer with one of my four Indiana offices located in the city of Anderson, I’m always alert for news affecting that town. Anderson has been particularly hard hit by the General Motors pullout, which began in the mid-seventies and accelerated in the 90’s, eliminating more than 20,000 jobs. Many downsized workers, some who faced medical illness along with job loss, ended up filing bankruptcy. Retail establishments of all types suffered, because there was little money for customers to spend; the entire area was in economic blight. Some familiar symptoms included increasing numbers of people using expensive debt consolidation services and payday loans.
Today, slowly but surely, Anderson is rebuilding, in large part due to a project called the Flagship Enterprise Center, a collaboration of Anderson University and the City of Anderson. Flagship is a business incubator and accelerator, using engineers and other experts, many once employed at GM plants and research facilities, to help “host” new companies. These companies include automotive firms, but also software, medical equipment, and other product lines. Thirty of these fledgling companies are still housed at the Flagship Center itself, which is off Exit 22 of the I-69 highway.
As a bankruptcy attorney in Indiana, I know how crucially important it is for our state to create new, good-paying jobs. For debtors emerging from bankruptcy, their getting back on track financially will depend in large part on the availability of jobs that can in turn provide steady, decent wages. One of Flagship’s functions is to help companies recruit and train workers in the newer technologies and businesses that are replacing the old manufacturing plants. Increased hiring by these new enterprises in turn will mean more money being spent in local stores, beauty salons, restaurants, movie theatres, and furniture shops. I hope that, over time, employment growth will mean fewer people buying groceries using credit cards or turning to payday loans to tide them over to the end of each month. I expect it will mean fewer foreclosures and more people buying health insurance, opening bank accounts, and investing in IRAs. In Madison County, Indiana, as the Broadway song goes, “This could be the start of something big.”