Gov. Mike Pence challenged members of the Kiwanis Club of Indianapolis to encourage out-of-state entrepreneurs to consider building their businesses in Indiana.
Pence told the club at its Friday meeting that Indiana is seeing faster job growth than 42 other states. He also said the state’s last economic forecast showed continued job growth, a decrease in unemployment and growth in the overall economic output over the next several years.
“These are the economic revenue forecasts upon which we built the fiscal integrity that our state currently enjoys,” Pence said. “They are cautious, they are careful, but they are optimistic.”
Pence said Site Selection Magazine ranked Indiana as the most competitive state for business in the Midwest and the second best state for business in the country. Similarly, Chief Executive Magazine ranked Indiana as the fifth best state in the country for business and the best in the Midwest.
But despite Indiana’s positive economic outlook, Pence said the state still has work to do to lower unemployment.
“There’s a great sense of optimism, there’s reason to be encouraged as Hoosiers, but this is a difficult time for too many in our state,” Pence said.
The governor’s speech came just two hours after Pence announced the creation of the Center for Education and Career Innovation, a new agency meant to coordinate the education and workforce development efforts of a number of other boards and departments.
Pence said earlier in the day that the new center would help the state focus on employment and training efforts to try to boost the state’s economy.
Indiana’s unemployment has remained around 8.4 percent over the last year, Pence said, and 250,000 Hoosiers are currently out of work. Pence proposed four strategies to the club that he said he believes will help the state improve its employment levels.
Pence said fiscal stability is the first step to growing the Hoosier economy.
“An honestly balanced budget and fiscal integrity is the foundation of our future prosperity,” Pence said.
He said he thinks the biennial budget the state General Assembly passed in the spring, which keeps spending increases at 2.5 percent each year and includes a surplus of more than $100 million over the next two years, is the basis of Indiana’s fiscal responsibility.
“While most states are broke and struggling with budget deficits, we enjoy a surplus – but it’s not by accident,” Pence said. “It is by the practice of the common sense principles of living within your means.”
Pence said businesses around the country want to talk to him about Indiana’s fiscal integrity because they are impressed by the state’s financial position.
Taxes and regulatory policies are also part of Pence’s plan to improve the Hoosier economy. Lawmakers voted to the individual income tax rate by 5 percent annually, and the state inheritance tax was eliminated in January.
“When (tax cuts) are fully implemented, it’ll be official: Indiana will be the lowest taxed state in the Midwest,” Pence said.
Pence signed a moratorium on new regulations in Indiana except those mandated by the federal government, a move Pence said was meant to give his administration the opportunity to reduce excessive regulatory policies.
“I really do believe that lowering taxes in a fiscally responsible way and cutting red tape is and must remain a centerpiece of our strategy for a growing economy,” Pence said.
Roughly $800 million in additional funding for roads was included in the state budget. Pence said the money will be used to improve existing roads, to finish projects like I-69 and to improve the state’s overall infrastructure.
“I believe, very simply, that roads mean jobs,” Pence said. “If you’re going to be the Crossroads of America, you better have the roads to back it up.”
Pence said he thinks by training students for technical and manufacturing jobs, more jobs will be filled throughout the state, thus lowering unemployment. Pence also said Indiana has ranked number first in the nation for manufacturing job growth for the last three months.
Many employers in manufacturing and technical businesses have jobs available, Pence said, but are struggling to find employees who have the necessary skills to fill the jobs. But, the governor said he believes by putting a greater emphasis on career, technical and vocational training in high schools, more Hoosier students will be prepared to fill available manufacturing jobs after they graduate.
“This isn’t just about doing what’s right for the economy…this is right for our kids,” Pence said.