Gov. Mike Pence restructured Indiana's efforts to help small businesses in a bid to create more jobs and startups by creating a new Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship by executive order Thursday.
The new agency will focus on consulting, specialty programming and integrating universities, private businesses and government agencies, Pence said. A new ombudsman position is designed to cut through government red tape for small businesses and startups.
During the state's last growth period, only 2.5 percent of Indiana's companies — all new, fast-growing small businesses — created jobs, Pence said. Small businesses have fewer than 500 employees.
"New and young companies are the backbone of Indiana's economy and the primary engine of job growth," Pence said in a statement. "Our economic strength as a state relies heavily on startups, other young companies and small businesses."
Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, who will oversee the office, said studies have shown small business and entrepreneurial success grows out of a supportive regulatory climate, access to leading research universities, a talented and mobile workforce and experienced support services.
Indiana scores well on the first three of those resources, and the new agency will seek to improve on the last item, she said.
The agency's first executive director will be Jacob Schpok, who has run Indiana's Small Business Development Center the last two years. The development center will be part of the new agency.