Tax Incentives Lure New York Nonprofit to Indianapolis

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September 22, 2011; Source: Albany Times Union | Here is an odd one. Project Lead the Way (PLTW), based in Clifton Park, New York, is moving to Indiana. PLTW provides curricula in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—the STEM subjects—for middle schools and high schools, addressing one of the acknowledged shortcomings in much of U.S. education.

There’s nothing particularly location-dependent in PLTW’s model, since it provides STEM curricula, according to its website, to some 4,000 schools. But here’s where the story gets interesting:

PLTW is in Clifton Park because it was started by the Charitable Venture Foundation, also located in Clifton Park and chaired by Richard Liebich. The Liebich family fortune, based on a food distribution business, capitalized the foundation, which used to appoint PLTW board members. Kurt Liebich still serves on the PLTW board even though reportedly, the Charitable Venture Foundation stopped funding PLTW some years ago. The Albany Times-Union said that the Kern Family Foundation, based in Wisconsin, was nowadays providing the big money—several seven-figure grants—to PLTW. Kern also has one of its trustees on the PLTW board.

And yet PLTW isn’t moving to Wisconsin, but to Indiana. Why? Apparently, the state of Indiana is luring PLTW with a combination of $240,000 in tax credits and $200,000 in training grants under the guise of job creation to get PLTW to Indianapolis, where it is expected to create 44 jobs by 2015. The current head of PLTW had come to PLTW from a job in Evansville, Indiana. Last week, she told the Times-Union that PLTW was in a growth mode, but at the time she didn’t reveal the intent to pack up and leave for the Hoosier state.

Isn’t it odd to see state officials like Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels putting together incentive packages to lure nonprofit jobs from one state to another? Add another factor to this one. Indianapolis is the home of a very large nonprofit, the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The NCAA is trying to make itself into an educational hub of sorts and Indiana’s economic development efforts are strongly linked to education. One suspects that this package has as much to do with the NCAA as it does with job creation.—Rick Cohen