Indianapolis — Lt. Gov. John M. Mutz, who heads Indiana's development thrust, has reasons for optimism. The state has seen 156 new plants or plant expansions within its borders this year, he says, adding an estimated 50,000 new jobs (nearly half of them directly attributable to the state's economic programs).
''We are really inundated with inquiries,'' he said in an interview. But ''the real test of our programs comes now.''
The recovery in the durable-goods sector is only beginning, and as plant capacity goes up, manufacturing companies will begin thinking about expansion and looking to see which states offer their firms the best opportunities.
''Our goal is not to outbid anybody,'' Lieutenant Governor Mutz said. ''All we want to do is be approximately equal. Then we want the businesses to decide.''
So far, the approach of Mutz and Gov. Robert Orr seems to be earning good marks across the state.
''Super,'' says Earl Ford McNaughton, chairman of the board and president of the First National Bank of Fremont, Ind., who has been very involved in development efforts. ''They're businessmen. They're not politicians.''
Mutz says he not only hopes to expand the manufacturing base, but broaden it into such things as advanced materials and communications technology, as well as agrigenetics.
But the attempt to diversify an economy is very difficult, economists say.
''I'm not sure how much of that will take place,'' says Morton J. Marcus, a research economist at Indiana University's business school. ''I think that we will see the Midwest continue to be very strong in manufacturing activity.''
Other Midwestern states, such as Illinois and Wisconsin, which have more diversified economies already, are more likely to go somewhere, adds Bob Resek, director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Illinois.