Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said Thursday that he intends to support whoever's chosen as the Republican presidential nominee this summer, provided the candidate is pro-business.
In Northwest Indiana to celebrate the openings of Hoist Liftruck Manufacturing Inc. in East Chicago and Valparaiso-based Pratt industries, Pence touted his record of bringing business to the state during Hoist's ribbon-cutting. He said that since taking office, he's brought 138,000 new jobs in all sectors and $4.7 billion in revenue to the state.
"Indiana needs a partner in bringing business here, and a lot of our growth is in spite of (the current business climate), with businesses pulling up stakes and coming here," Pence said. "I'll be supporting Republican leadership in Congress and for the presidency who're pro-business."
A combination of Indiana's business climate and the state of Illinois' business climate ultimately enticed Hoist's president and CEO Martin Flaska over the border. While Illinois' taxes and worker's compensation practices were maddening to him, he found a not-so-secret benefit to being in East Chicago: the workforce.
"We were having a difficult time recruiting people once the high schools (surrounding the Bedford Park, Ill. plant) started eliminating technical progams, and we need to have welders," Flaska said. "I want to grow my business, and we have IVY Tech right here. So, if I need welders, I know we can get them."
Giving his workers a comfortable living was also paramount to the relocation. When Flaska started the business, Bedford Park was still affordable. Now, the townhouses directly across the street from that plant start at $300,000, he said.
"We have high-paying, middle class jobs, but they can't afford $300,000 in housing costs. And if even if they stretch it to $200,000, they're paying everything they make toward housing," Flaska said. "Our employees are now realizing the money they can save by relocating here (to East Chicago)."
And with Hoist planning to increase its workforce to 500 from 350 employees at the East Chicago plant by 2022, Flaska said he and his sons are thrilled to be here.
East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland said that excitement was palpable to him when he walked in the door.
"As I was mingling, I started encountering neighbors and friends who just a few months ago were unemployed," Copeland said. "Now, I see them walking around, and they're so happy, they're almost levitating. The rises in spirit are contagious, and it has oozed into my pores.
"Sometimes, when you start off, the picture is contained in your head and people don't see that you're trying to improve the quality of life. But now, everyone can see the big picture, and it's a beautiful picture."
Pence also credited the people of Northwest Indiana for the state's luck in bringing businesses to it.
"I really do think it's a testament to Northwest Indiana when a company makes a commitment to 2022," he said. "It's a statement of confidence for which the people here deserve the credit."
As of February, Indiana had a total of 3.1 million non-farm-related jobs, of which 517,000 were in manufacturing jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor and Statistics.
Michelle L. Quinn is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.
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