INDIANAPOLIS | Gov. Mike Pence has a simple explanation for why he's not hanging around the Statehouse while the Indiana General Assembly is in session – it's jobs.
"I said we were going to make job creation job one when I became governor," Pence said. "Let me tell you, jobs are still in the forefront of my mind and we're continuing to work in a creative way to tell Indiana's story more effectively."
Since taking office Jan. 14, Pence said he's met at least weekly with his economic development team, hosted seven business round table meetings and visited 22 of 92 counties to promote job creation.
The Indiana Economic Development Corp. under Pence's watch has made 23 jobs announcements that have the potential to create 2,998 Hoosier jobs and bring to the state $555 million in capital investment.
That includes major expansions at Horizon Financial Management, a Merrillville-based medical billing company; Hearthside Food Solutions, the Michigan City manufacturer of grain-based snack foods and baked goods; and American Licorice Co. in LaPorte.
"I'm encouraged by these results, but make no mistake about it, it's tough out there," Pence told reporters last week. "I'm charging the IEDC and our new secretary of commerce with redoubling our efforts to tell Indiana's story, starting with our neighboring states and most notably to the west."
The Republican governor said his legislative agenda, particularly his proposed income tax cut, reflects his focus on improving the number of jobs available to Hoosiers and the quality of Indiana's workforce to make the state more competitive nationally and internationally.
"Wall Street is obviously doing well, Main Street is still struggling in this economy in the Hoosier State," he said.
Pence is taking on that challenge in two ways – working to reduce state regulations and improve the link between education and employment.
The governor said he supports Senate Bill 520, which requires review of most occupational licenses every five years by a so-called ERASER committee. Licensing would automatically terminate unless the General Assembly passes legislation ordering occupational licensing to continue.
"It's an effort to make sure all the licensing, the regulations and certifications don't kind of pile up," Pence said. "There's been a precipitous increase in those in recent years and we want to make sure we don't add to this barrier to growth."
That proposal was approved by the Republican-controlled Senate, 36-13, on Feb. 19 and is currently awaiting action by a committee in the Republican-controlled House. It is co-sponsored by state Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond.
At the same time, Pence continues to champion his plan for Indiana Works Councils contained in Senate Bill 465, which also is awaiting action by a House committee. It is co-sponsored by state Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary.
The works councils would bring together regional business and education leaders, similar to the READY Northwest Indiana organization, to help set high school curriculum intended to better prepare students for available local jobs.
"When you talk to business folks that's what gets their pulses quickening," Pence said. "Because when they understand that we want to make secondary education relevant to jobs in their community, that's I think the really special and unique part of this."