ELKHART — Elkhart County’s rebound over the last few years is an amazing story, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence told a group gathered Wednesday, Oct. 2, at the Lerner Crystal Ballroom for lunch.
“It is so exciting to be here with so many people who made this community such an amazing story,” Pence said.
“Elkhart is a miracle again. Congratulations,” he said.
“It’s something this community should be excited about. It’s something that this region ought to be excited about. It’s benefitting this region and the state of Indiana. Let me also just say that every Hoosier is grateful for the resilience and the character and the strength of the people of the greater Elkhart area who captured national attention, now more than four years ago, because of heartache. But because of faith, because of hard work, because of resilience and because of character, Elkhart is back and you’re inspiring the people of this state,” Pence said to roughly 200 community leaders gathered at a luncheon put on by the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce and AT&T.
Not only is Elkhart an inspiration, Pence said local teen Sarah Crane is an inspiration as she battles cancer. “Sarah has our prayers. But let me also say with this courageous Elkhart Memorial young lady, I think she personifies everything that is great about this community. Facing hardship, she has stepped forward to lead with resilience and faith and courage. Let me just say, your governor also is Sarah Strong,” he said, lifting up a purple “Sarah Strong” shirt.
Pence said that he and area mayors know that beyond government jobs, “we don’t create jobs.” What they do, he said, is “we just create conditions where men and women are willing to take the risk, willing to put it on the line.”
While Indiana has made significant strides in putting the state on a strong footing while also making it a business-friendly place, “we’ve got work to do. Despite the progress that we’ve made here in Elkhart County, the truth of the matter is there’s still a lot of Hoosiers who are hurting. A quarter-million Hoosiers are out of work. Unemployment is stubbornly at 8 percent. I want to assure you as your governor that my focus” in the strategies he outlined “is really to see how we can seize this moment in the life of our state and redouble our effort to attract investment and job creation,” he said.
Pence outlined four strategies to keep Indiana in a leading role:
Fiscal strength. “Fiscal integrity is the foundation of our prosperity,” he said. “Indiana’s showing record surpluses” at a time when other states are struggling, he said.
Tax and regulatory relief. Pence said he’s working on reducing the 11,000 pages of regulations in the state, and touted this year’s tax cuts which represent the biggest in the state’s history, he said. When those are all enacted, “Indiana will be the lowest-taxed state in the Midwest, I’m probably going to put that on every Welcome to Indiana’ sign facing outward, so Michigan to Ohio, Kentucky to Illinois to Illinois to Illinois to Illinois and to Illinois,” Pence joked.
Road improvements. “Roads mean jobs,” he said. Not only will he be cutting the ribbon this fall on the Kokomo bypass, he pointed out $800 million for roads and bridges in the most recent state budget, including $200 million for local governments, the first new money for local roads in a decade.
Education innovation. “Indiana has some of the best teachers in the world,” said Pence, the husband of a teacher, and education has seen significant improvements in the last years. But he wants to see educational focus change from being only directed at college. While Pence said he’s committed to college being available and affordable for any student who wants it, schools need to prepare students to be able to step straight into the workforce, if they desire. “If we can’t succeed in the classroom, we’re not going to succeed in the marketplace,” he said. There are many successful businesses in the state that were started by people who didn’t go to college, Pence said, and he wants today’s students to be able to replicate that. “They’re going to build our future if they can pursue their dreams right out of high school.”
As he closed his remarks, Pence said, “I’m absolutely convinced this is no ordinary time in the life of our state,” and he urged those gathered to call or write to people they know outside the state and tell the story of what a good state Indiana is for business. “I am absolutely convinced that even in these difficult and frustrating times, if we’ll all do all we can, the best days are to come for our state,” he said. “I believe Indiana, with all my heart, can be a beacon of hope for the whole country and we can help lead the rest of this nation back, by our example, to everything that always made America strong before and will make America strong again.”