A hallmark of speeches given during the Mitch Daniels administration in Indiana has been buzzwords like “brain drain”, meaning keeping the state’s best and brightest nearer to home for college and work and “outside investment”, meaning making the state attractive to companies from around the world looking to relocate or expand. On Friday, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett wanted to learn from Krakow Deputy Mayor Kazimierz Bujakowski what the Deputy Mayor’s city had done to go from being depressed and downtrodden in the 1980s to a religious and cultural center of Europe today.
Speaking through an interpreter, Bujakowski said: “Because this is big potential — we want to keep [students] in Krakow. Then we invite companies and investors so that they can provide for other people.”
Yes, Krakow has built some of its prosperity — the city is home to three-quarters of a million people and has an annual budget of about $1.2 billion — by relying on offering cheap outsourcing to large companies. Some of those companies, including Delphi, also have a high profile in Indiana. The city’s average yearly salary is lower than many places — only about $13,000 — a fact leaders actually highlighted when pitching the benefits of Krakow to Mayor Bennett. But what struck the mayor most was the way leaders had drilled down to focusing on a few key strengths of the city — most especially making it attractive to tourists, to companies and to Poles themselves. Bennett acknowledged his city had public relations problems which would also have to be overcome if Terre Haute is to follow Krakow’s model.
“There’s a lot of people that talk about labor issues in our community, they talk about the smell in our community,” Bennett said. “It’s hard to get rid of those stigmas sometimes, and you have to continue get people to think beyond that by making changes that they can see and adapt to. But get people to understand the importance of a positive attitude. They want their people to go and sell the community to others. Their visitors come here, tell their family and friends ‘Great place to visit’. We want people to do the same thing with Terre Haute. We want people to be proud of Terre Haute.”‘
Some people may say Terre Haute smells, but its mayor got a whiff Friday of ways he might be able to change that.