DOUG ROSS: Salesman-in-chief fires up vast sales staff

2014-03-28T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: Salesman-in-chief fires up vast sales staffBy Doug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence calls himself not just the state's commander-in-chief, but also "salesman-in-chief."

So how many people are on his sales team? You'd better be sitting down for this one.

If Pence gets his way, he's got about 6,571,000 people working for him. In other words, he wants every Hoosier selling the state.

I've sat through any number of speeches by Indiana leaders extolling Indiana's virtues. What set Pence apart Thursday at Valparaiso University was his aggressiveness toward closing the deal.

Pence's stop in Valparaiso was brief — long enough to wolf down a slice of carrot cake, speak for about a half hour, sign major legislation regarding transportation funding, then out the door on a sales call to Chicago, at the Reinventing America Summit.

"I love going to Illinois," he told the Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce members. "It's what we call low-hanging fruit."

That brought lots of laughs — in Indiana — followed by his next sales pitch:

"I know that on my best day, I will not have with someone with whom you do business with outside the state of Indiana, someone you went to college with outside the state of Indiana, maybe a Hoosier expatriate who moved to another part of the country with his business — on my best day, I won't have a fraction of the credibility that you will have talking about the Hoosier state.

"So I'm going to ask you to go a little outside your comfort zone, OK. And before the end of this week, and I know it's Thursday — I think — I want you to reach outside the state of Indiana to someone who knows you, who respects you, who trusts you, who respects you for who you are or the enterprise you're in, and I want you to ask them this question:

"Would you ever be willing to talk to somebody about putting all or part of your business in Valparaiso or Porter County?"

It's one thing for governors and their economic development aides to make pitches like this, but when private citizens do it, to people they know, Indiana might be able to bring more jobs here.

That's not to say Indiana isn't having some success. Just this week, GE Aviation announced plans to build a $100 million jet engine plant in Lafayette with promises to create 200 jobs. And last week, Pratt Industries broke ground for a $260 million expansion that is expected to bring 137 jobs by 2018.

In fact, Pence pointed out, Indiana is the No. 3 job-creating state, behind Texas and California. Indiana created 50,000 jobs last year, he said.

There has been much discussion about Indiana creating a business-friendly climate, including tweaks made in the legislative session concluded just two weeks ago.

Now it's time to close some deals, and Pence wants his vast sales force to start dialing for dollars.

Who will you call?

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

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