Daniels encourages Northwest Indiana to seize job opportunities

2011-08-23T17:45:00Z 2011-08-23T19:06:02Z Daniels encourages Northwest Indiana to seize job opportunitiesBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

MUNSTER | Gov. Mitch Daniels told 320 people Tuesday afternoon at a Munster Chamber of Commerce event that "an era of greater opportunity has begun" for Northwest Indiana communities willing to seize it.

"For those communities that align with the pro-jobs, pro-growth, pro-investment economy, especially when this economy turns around, the limit is sky-high," Daniels told the audience at the Center for the Visual and Performing Arts during the address "Report to Taxpayers."

The governor had just arrived from Merrillville, were he announced the Blue Island company Modern Forge will be moving its operations and 240 jobs to a building at 8757 Colorado St. That announcement followed another weeks earlier that Canadian National Railway will move a locomotive repair shop to Gary's Kirk Yard, bringing 250 new jobs and expanding the yard with a $163 million investment.

The governor's comments on Tuesday stood in marked contrast to those he uttered to a crowd at Griffith High School 2 1/2 years ago when he said, "You are entitled to all the lousy, crummy graft-ridden government you are prepared to pay for."

At the time, he linked Northwest Indiana's economic stagnation to the widespread corruption in some local governments.

When asked on Tuesday during a question-and-answer session if corruption in Northwest Indiana still keeps companies from locating here, he answered simply: "Yes."

He then added he doesn't want to beat that theme to death, but there's no doubt there still hasn't been enough improvement in stamping out corruption in the region.

Still, coming fresh off the Modern Forge and Canadian National announcements, and one in June that a solar-inverter maker will locate in Portage with 500 jobs, the governor's tone was noticeably more upbeat when it comes to Northwest Indiana's prospects.

Tuesday's luncheon with the governor was sponsored by the Munster Chamber.

He also ran off a list of top ratings for Indiana's business climate from business and trade publications. And he pointed out Indiana has not had to carry out the draconian cuts to education and other public services other states have during the recession.

At the same time, Indiana's economy has battled the same recessionary currents as other states, with its unemployment rate at 8.5 percent. That compares to the national unemployment rate of 9.1 percent. And it is lower than all its neighbors, including Illinois, where the rate stands at 9.5 percent.

However, Indiana has been losing ground on the job-creation front this year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week Indiana is one of only six states in the nation to see a net decline in jobs between July 2010 and July 2011, with 28,300 net jobs lost during that time.

In his 20-minute "Report to Taxpayers," the governor laid the credit for the Northwest Indiana job catches and others in Indiana to the state's historic property tax reform and the efficiencies attained in state government since 2005. Those reforms have led to state government and local governments across Indiana doing more with less, he said.

In that vein, he also gave a sneak preview of his book due out next month titled, "Keeping the Republic, Saving America by Trusting Americans." He said government should never take a dollar from anyone unless it has a good purpose.

"When we take that dollar from you, we reduce your freedom," Daniels said. "And freedom is the premier American value."

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