NCAA Hoops: Shooting for Dollars

The Wall Street Journal has an intriguing piece today about the most monetarily valuable NCAA basketball programs (if they could be sold like a professional franchise). Surprisingly, Louisville tops the charts. Not surprisingly, Indiana is No. 3, and Purdue made the top 20 at No. 18.

Oh, and congrats to "that team from the SEC" for winning the championship last night.

While Kansas and Kentucky battle it out Monday night for the national championship, college basketball’s real No. 1 will be sitting back on the sideline, counting its considerable cash.

The Louisville men’s basketball team is far and away the most valuable program in the sport, according to a recent study. Despite not even being the most prestigious team in its own state—that would be Kentucky, which beat the Cardinals on Saturday for a spot in the national-title game—Louisville would be worth an estimated $211.5 million if it could be bought and sold like a professional franchise. Kansas ($146 million) is second, while Kentucky ($73.7 million) stands a distant 16th.
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, right, shakes hands with Kentucky head coach John Calipari before the first half of Saturday’s Final Four game.

Ryan Brewer, an assistant professor of finance at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus, calculated the intrinsic valuations of 100 top Division I programs, including all 74 major-conference ones. Among other factors, the study examined each program’s revenues and expenses and made cash-flow adjustments, risk assessments and growth projections for every school.

Louisville blew away the field in part because of the massive revenues it has been making at the recently built KFC Yum! Center. The Cardinals, who began playing in the 22,000-seat arena in the fall of 2010, reported $40.9 million in revenue in the last fiscal year, according to government data—nearly $12 million more than any other team.

But conference-wise, the Big Ten came out on top. The Big Ten’s 12 schools have an average value of $68.3 million, followed by the Atlantic Coast ($58.2 million) and Big 12 ($50.2 million). The Big East ($40.3 million) is weighed down by its smaller members, while the Pac-12 ($35.0 million) and Southeastern Conferences ($30.7 million) are well behind.

Hat tip to Chamber staffer Ashton Eller for passing along the article.

No Joke! It’s Time to Turn a Healthy Page

I must admit that the irony is not lost on me. I’m a self-proclaimed pastry connoisseur and procurer of sugar-laden snacks, so the fact that I’m writing a blog promoting healthy food choices may surprise people who know me. But the truth is, I want to start eating healthier (did I just hear a pin drop?). That’s why a recent BizVoice® story – one that appeared in our inaugural wellness issue – was particularly fun to write.

The article focused on cultivating connections among local food artisans and producers. One resource I described was Edible Communities, Inc., (ECI) the world’s leading network of magazines dedicated to the local food movement. Hoosiers are represented in three of them: edible LOUISVILLE, edible INDY (debuted in June) and edible MICHIANA (launched this month). Each features profiles of local artisans and producers; colorful photos of mouthwatering cuisine; recipes and more.

Now, I’m no Gordon Ramsey — though a new indulgence of mine is watching old episodes of
Kitchen Nightmares, in which he visits fledgling restaurants to deliver tough love as only he can (mainly, it involves barking orders and moving staff to tears). I am, however, inspired to whip up a (healthy) culinary masterpiece.

Recipe for success… or disaster? Stay tuned!

What’s Wrong With Hoosier Higher Ed Options?

The end goal of helping get more young people to college is an excellent one. The outreach to out-of-state universities is confusing.

Indy Parks and Recreation received a grant from a variety of local sources for the Indy Youth Achievers program. For those who qualify, training in the form of a series of workshops and community service projects precedes the campus tours. A press release states that "nearly 100 youth will check out life at Old Dominion University, Duquesne University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, University of Louisville, Western Kentucky University and Bellarmine University." For the uninitiated, that includes stops, in order, in Norfolk, Virgnia; Pittsburgh; Teaneck, New Jersey and two Kentucky cities — Louisville and Bowling Green.

Good program, good schools, but why such far-flung locations for Indianapolis-area youths? Maybe, or at least I hope, there is a good answer out there. Does anyone know?

New Jersey to Public Workers: You Want Our Money? We Want Your Taxes

It sounds good on paper, but personally I’m not buying it. In this case, "it" is a New Jersey proposal that says if the state is going to give you your paycheck, you have to live within its borders.

With our capital’s geographic presence in the middle of the state, I can’t imagine too many are commuting from Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky or Michigan to Indy. But state workers are not confined to the big city. The New Jersey bill would impact teachers, police officers and firefighters as well as all city and county government employees.

There are strong Indiana connections to Cincinnati, Chicago and Louisville in addition to numerous other areas in the four neighboring locales. I grew up in Dearborn County, a lot closer to Cincy than Indy, and a tri-state ingredient seems to be active in all four corners of the state.

The full New Jersey article is here. Below is a quick summary:

State Sen. Donald Norcross (D., Camden), the sponsor of the bill, said, "It is very simple. If you want a paycheck from New Jersey taxpayers, you should have to live here, pay your taxes here and be part of your community."

Norcross, who also leads the 85,000-member South Jersey AFL-CIO Central Labor Council, said an estimated 10,000 public employees live out of state, costing the state about $22 million in income taxes.

"What really gets me is when I look at the mass exodus every night out of Trenton to Pennsylvania," Senate President Stephen Sweeney said. "If it’s good enough to work for the state, it should be good enough to live in the state of New Jersey," he added.

Public employee unions said that while relatively few of their members work out of state, they strongly oppose the measure for those who do.

"I think it’s a ridiculous proposal," said Bob Master, regional political director for the Communication Workers of America. "It will have no meaningful impact in the long run on the state’s budget problems and it will cause completely unnecessary hardship for our members."

Master said that if New Jersey’s neighboring states were to adopt similar tactics, the results would not be pretty.

Kentuckiana Bridge Project Moving Forward

As southern Indiana continues to work toward enhancing its economy, one critical component is the Ohio River Bridges Project. The governors of Indiana and Kentucky announced Tuesday they are eager to continue the endeavor:

Governor Mitch Daniels, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson today convened the first meeting of the 14-member Indiana-Kentucky Bi-State Authority.

“It’s time to move, and in a way that creates a model on how two states can act together for the good of all,” said Daniels.

The Bi-State Authority was created to spearhead the project to construct two bridges over the Ohio River and to rebuild the Kennedy Interchange, where Interstates 64, 65 and 71 come together in downtown Louisville.

The authority’s mandate includes devising a financial plan for the project. The initial plan set the estimated cost at $4.1 billion. Indiana’s share is 30 percent.

“We’re taking a historic step today,” Gov. Beshear said. “The task before this authority is challenging but critically important. The work done here will benefit both of our states for generations to come.”

“It has taken many years, and lots of hard work, but we are now ready to move this important project forward,” Mayor Abramson said. “This authority will lay the groundwork for a vastly improved transportation system in Louisville and Southern Indiana.”

Beshear proposed the creation of special authorities to oversee development and financing of “mega” projects – those costing more than $500 million – between Kentucky and Indiana. The Kentucky General Assembly enacted the proposal in 2009. It created the statewide Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority, which voted in October 2009 to recommend that Beshear, in cooperation with Daniels, create a bi-state authority for the Ohio River bridges project.

Expansion Now “Front Burner” Issue for Big Ten Conference

How can I justify putting this post on our blog? Hmm, well it’s sort of education-related … and it’s definitely profit-related.

The Big Ten athletic conference is looking seriously at expanding to 12 teams. The last team to join was Penn State in 1990. Schools reported as top candidates to fill the current void include Rutgers, Syracuse, Missouri, Cincinnati and Louisville.

Brian Kelly’s boys in South Bend remain doubtful. The Chicago Tribune explains the rationale behind expansion:

Jim Delany never will be a contestant on "Top Chef," but the Big Ten commissioner frequently has used a cooking analogy when asked about the prospects of Big Ten expansion.

"A back-burner issue," he has called it.

Not anymore. According to a league official, the Big Ten will release a statement Tuesday saying the matter has moved to the front burner.

The first sign of change came from former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez, who told Wisconsin’s athletic board on Friday that Delany "is going to take this year to really be more aggressive about it. I just think everybody feels [expansion] is the direction to go, coaches and administrators."

A league source on Monday cited a "growing groundswell" of support among athletic directors for expansion.

In 1990, the Big Ten became the Bigger 11 by adding Penn State. (The Nittany Lions had to wait until 1993 to vie for their first Rose Bowl.) In 1999, Notre Dame stiff-armed the league’s overtures, and that put the issue on ice.

Why is it being revisited now?

The biggest reason, as always, is the stuff that doesn’t grow on trees: money. If the league expands to 12 teams and two divisions — like the SEC, Big 12 and ACC — it would create a Big Ten title game that could be worth $5 million or more to the league. The Big Ten Network would love to televise it, and the conference has a 51 percent ownership stake in the network.

Personally, I must admit that I love the Big Ten Conference. So much so that even though I’m an Indiana man, I even root for Purdue against "outsiders." And I think the conference embodies the characteristics of many Midwesterners like myself — the competitiveness, the penchant for good sportsmanship, and the plight of being terrible at football.

So I have mixed feelings about this move (should it happen). The money would be nice, but I think mega conferences like the Big East can get so convoluted they lose their identity, so expansion should be treaded lightly. Your thoughts?

Two-Way Streets Profitable for City Merchants

So says Vancouver, Washington, at least.

Governing’s Alan Ehrenhalt has an interesting piece about how the city has used two-way streets to revitalize its downtown area. While many cities, including Indianapolis, have long taken the one-way street approach, he explains how two-ways may be more lucrative for downtown merchants:

Over the past couple of decades, Vancouver, Washington, has spent millions of dollars trying to revitalize its downtown, and especially the area around Main Street that used to be the primary commercial center. Just how much the city has spent isn’t easy to determine. But it’s been an ambitious program. Vancouver has totally refurbished a downtown park, subsidized condos and apartment buildings overlooking it and built a new downtown Hilton hotel.

Some of these investments have been successful, but they did next to nothing for Main Street itself. Through most of this decade, the street remained about as dreary as ever. Then, a year ago, the city council tried a new strategy. Rather than wait for the $14 million more in state and federal money it was planning to spend on projects on and around Main Street, it opted for something much simpler. It painted yellow lines in the middle of the road, took down some signs and put up others, and installed some new traffic lights. In other words, it took a one-way street and opened it up to two-way traffic.

The merchants on Main Street had high hopes for this change. But none of them were prepared for what actually happened following the changeover on November 16, 2008. In the midst of a severe recession, Main Street in Vancouver seemed to come back to life almost overnight.

Within a few weeks, the entire business community was celebrating. “We have twice as many people going by as they did before,” one of the employees at an antique store told a local reporter. The chairman of the Vancouver Downtown Association, Lee Coulthard, sounded more excited than almost anyone else. “It’s like, wow,” he exclaimed, “why did it take us so long to figure this out?”

A year later, the success of the project is even more apparent. Twice as many cars drive down Main Street every day, without traffic jams or serious congestion. The merchants are still happy. “One-way streets should not be allowed in prime downtown retail areas,” says Rebecca Ocken, executive director of Vancouver’s Downtown Association. “We’ve proven that.”

The debate over one-way versus two-way streets has been going on for more than half a century now in American cities, and it is far from resolved even yet. But the evidence seems to suggest that the two-way side is winning. A growing number of cities, including big ones such as Minneapolis, Louisville and Oklahoma City, have converted the traffic flow of major streets to two-way or laid out plans to do so. There has been virtually no movement in the other direction.

Economic Development in Southern Indiana

Jim Plump of the South Central Indiana Economic Development Group discusses ongoing projects and the status of the region with our very own Tom Schuman on Inside INdiana Business:

I also wrote an article on this topic in the latest edition of BizVoice that you might find useful if you’re interested in Southern Indiana, which, in addition to being one of the most beautiful parts of the country — in this observer’s opinion — also may have a very bright economic future.

The Big ‘E’ as in Evansville

Evansville is always an interesting locale. Residents there feel the disconnect from Central Indiana (it’s difficult to have a conversation without the Interstate 69 topic coming up, and I understand to some degree their frustration), but they don’t really have the big out-of-state neighbor (think Chicago, Cincinnati or Louisville) to turn to as an Indiana alternative.

I’ve had the opportunity to report on a number of intriguing stories out of the area known as the Pocket City, River City, Crescent City and probably a few other nicknames. I’m working on one for the next BizVoice magazine that focuses on plans for a new downtown arena and the economic development potential it brings.

Look for a major announcement on that project soon and some analysis in the upcoming BizVoice. Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel, by the way, says that on its own scale this development will be every bit as important to his community as the Lucas Oil Stadiums and Conseco Fieldhouses are to Indianapolis.

We’ve also compiled community feature sections from Fort Wayne, South Bend and Terre Haute in 2009 editions of BizVoice. There is plenty going on in all corners of the state and in many cities and towns in between. We enjoy bringing you the stories, hope you enjoy reading them and welcome your ideas for future topics.

States Seek to Batter(y) Up

The competition to be the leader in advanced battery technology is heating up. Indiana, with its recently announced Indiana Energy Systems Network, figures to be a player. The focus at this point is relying on the people and technology that have served the state well in the past in automotive and related industries.

Others are counting on splashier efforts. Texas is reportedly seeking $1 billion from the federal government to construct a lithium ion battery plant. In addition, two Indiana neighbors are also putting their hats in the battery ring.

Michigan is focused on automotive batteries, with various tax credits and incentives geared toward building four manufacturing facilities. Kentucky has a more broad based approach. The state, the universities of Kentucky and Louisville, and Argonne National Laboratory are developing a national research and development center in Lexington. In addition, the National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Batteries (affectionately known as NATTBatt), plans a research, battery plant and headquarters campus 45 miles south of Louisville.

The large scale manufacturing plants seem to be ahead of their time. While the Indiana plan may seem a little slower and safer from afar, it might well prove best in the long run. Wins along the way, such as the addition of Altairnano and its battery productuion efforts in Anderson, could lead to a major victory down the road.