A budget surplus. A balanced budget. A AAA bond rating. One of the top five states in the country for doing business. More people working than at any time in its history. Record new investment. Low unemployment. A national leader for economic growth. Indiana has a lot to be proud of and has become the envy of its peers in the Midwest and across the country.
The State’s Chief Executive, Governor Eric Holcomb was recently in Washington, DC earlier this year to share some of Indiana’s successes with Governors from across the Country. Recently, he came to South Bend to share with business leaders from across the region.
But what the Governor shared was less about Indiana’s past accomplishments and instead more about what the State needs to do moving forward to maintain its competitive edge. It’s a message Holcomb has championed back to his election in November and continued during his State of the State address in January.
In that address, Holcomb reminded Hoosiers of the words of Apollo Mission Director Gene Krantz: “Complacency is not an option.” Leadership is all about continually moving forward, relentlessly looking for ways to improve. We know the world will not stand still, and those who don’t keep up will be left behind.”
Holcomb wants to make sure Indiana is not left behind and in January revealed his "Five Pillars of Indiana’s 2017 Next Level Legislative Agenda." They included cultivate a strong and diverse economy by growing Indiana as a magnet for jobs; create a 20-year plan to fund roads and bridges; develop a 21st Century skilled and ready workforce; attack the drug epidemic; and deliver great government service.
In South Bend, the Governor dove deeper into each of the five areas and talked about the steps necessary to achieve those goals. He encouraged the group to play a role and do their part. The General Assembly is currently debating many of those priorities.
Holcomb’s message resonated with like-minded business leaders. Business people understand the need for continuous improvement and the need to stay ahead of the competition. Business leaders understand living within their means and at the same time the need to innovate and enhance their offerings to their customers.
On the campaign trail last year and during his short time in office, Holcomb has traveled the State and visited those innovative companies and those progressive communities that are well positioned for future growth. The South Bend-Elkhart Region has caught his attention. The Governor championed the regional efforts of this region as well as those in other parts of the State that will help the State win the battle for attracting talent.
But competition is fierce with every State and locality seeking to attract and retain young people. With 700,000 baby boomers planning to retire and 300,000 new jobs that will be created, the job can be a big one. The Governor knows to fill this need Indiana can’t rest on its laurels and instead must move forward on those items he mentioned in his five pillars.
In the State of the State, the Governor reminded us of what another great Hoosier, Abraham Lincoln, once said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” In South Bend, the Governor challenged and encouraged leaders to help create it and to not be afraid to think big, be bold, and act with courage.
Jeff Rea is chief executive officer of the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce.