No easy problems for state, Holcomb says
Gov. Eric Holcomb visited Fort Wayne on Friday to outline his legislative agenda for the coming General Assembly session.
The stop at Fort Wayne Metals Research Products Corp. is one of several he’s making across the state to spread his message and court supporters.
The state’s top executive outlined his priorities in a conference room crowded with about 75 state and local government and political officials, regional business leaders and local media members.
Holcomb’s talking points mirrored what he shared in Indianapolis on Wednesday.
Broadly speaking, Holcomb’s priorities are training workers, investing in infrastructure and addressing the opioid epidemic.
“It’s tough stuff,” he said. “We’re not left with easy problems to solve.”
Even so, Holcomb described himself as an optimist and his legislative agenda as a to-do list.
Among the problems he plans to tackle is Indiana’s stagnant population growth. Currently 92,000 jobs are unfilled in the state, and the birth rate isn’t high enough to address employers’ current and future needs, Holcomb said.
The governor is marketing the state as a great place to live to residents of other states : and to people living in other countries.
After his formal remarks, Holcomb described how his efforts work within the sometimes fraught framework of immigration policy.
“People of the world are welcome here,” he said. “We need talent.”
That includes the “industrious, innovative, creative minds” of students at Purdue, Indiana, Notre Dame and other universities and colleges in the state, Holcomb said. He’d like for more of those graduates to settle in Indiana, launch companies and hire Hoosiers.
“Absolutely, we have to make sure this is done in a safe and orderly manner,” Holcomb added. “I wake up every day trying to export Indiana to the world and bring the world back here.”
During his presentation, Holcomb bragged about the state’s solid financial footing, mentioning at least twice that Indiana was named the No. 1 state government by U.S. News & World Report earlier this year.
When health care, education, economy, infrastructure, and crime and corrections categories were factored in, however, the Hoosier State was ranked 22nd overall by the magazine.
But the governor focused on financial matters.
“You have absolute certainty that the state is going to complete projects,” he said, referring to infrastructure spending and $150 million promised to local communities. “The money is in the bank.”
Scott Glaze, Fort Wayne Metals’ CEO, hosted the event and vouched for the state’s business-friendly environment.
“Indiana is a wonderful place to do business,” Glaze said, adding that his manufacturing company has hired more than 400 workers over the past five years to put the workforce at more than 1,000.
The company, which is privately owned, makes precision wire for the medical industry. Expansion plans call for Fort Wayne Metals to create 337 additional jobs by 2021.
Glaze introduced Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch. She, in turn, introduced Holcomb by saying the state’s 2017 legislative session was the most collaborative and civil she’d ever experienced.
Crouch gave Holcomb credit for setting the tone.
“He doesn’t care who gets the credit as long as we get things done,” she said.
The governor’s Fort Wayne visit included some special flourishes not present at the more formal presentation in Indianapolis, such as what can best be described as a casual Friday ensemble.
Holcomb wore a blue blazer, denim shirt, tan slacks and tan ostrich leather boots. No necktie. Asked about his wardrobe, Holcomb said simply: “This is me.”