VALPARAISO | Indiana's infrastructure got a financial boost Thursday when Gov. Mike Pence signed legislation designating up to $400 million for road projects during an appearance at the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Valparaiso University.
Introducing Pence, Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas cited recent announcements of Pratt Industries breaking ground on its $260 million expansion and plans by GE Aviation to build a $100 million jet engine plant in Lafayette and added, "Indiana is becoming known as one of the top states in the nation and best places in the world to grow a business."
Pence said infrastructure is part of four-pronged strategy for making the state the best place to start a business.
"Our infrastructure makes Indiana a national transportation hub and a global distribution powerhouse, and it is one of the reasons Indiana continues to be recognized as a great place to do business," Pence said. "The legislation I signed today will put Hoosiers to work now and make sure we remain the crossroads of America."
* The legislation provides $200 million for projects this year and up to another $200 million after December's revenue forecasts and budget committee review. It is estimated it will create 9,800 jobs and expand the state's lane capacity on major highways.
"The financial commitment from legislative leaders and Gov. Pence's support open the door to additional federal funds for Indiana road projects, such as (the widening of) Interstate 65 and developing the Illiana Expressway," said State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso.
"Roads mean jobs," Pence said. "Valparaiso is in the catbird seat in a city that works in a state that works."
He touted the drop in unemployment to the lowest in the Midwest and said Indiana is among the nation's leaders in job creation. Pence said a big reason for that is having a balanced budget and a tax policy that also makes Indiana the lowest in the Midwest.
"I want to put that on our 'Welcome' signs," he joked.
He asked the 200 people attending the luncheon at the Harre Union to help him as "Salesman in chief" of the state by reaching out to business owners they know in other states and asking them if they would consider moving all or a portion of their business to Indiana. If they get a nibble, notify him and the state will go to work, he said.
"This is an opportune time in the state, but we will only get there if we all work together."
*Editor's Note: This story is corrected from an earlier version, which incorrectly reported who sponsored the legislation.