Indiana governor Mike Pence likes to refer to his state as the heart of the heartland. He says that this is why Indiana is attractive for investment both at home and abroad.
It is also a state with a balanced budget – $2bn in reserves, an AAA credit rating – and one that has increased investments in infrastructure and education. “We also just passed the largest state tax cut in Indiana history,” says Mr Pence.
That cut lowers taxes on individuals, businesses and financial institutions. Combined with property tax caps, Indiana receives high kudos from a number of business publications that rank Indiana as a top place to locate in both the midwest and the US.
“We receive this recognition because our pro-business environment begins with a strong fiscal foundation,” says Mr Pence. “That’s what captures the interest and imagination of investors around the world. The fact that Indiana became a right-to-work state just a few years ago makes it an attractive place for FDI.”
A particularly attractive trait, he emphasises, is the warm and welcoming hospitality of Hoosiers, as natives of Indiana are called. He recounts how 30 years ago business leaders in his boyhood home of Columbus, Indiana, reached out in earnest with the state government to Japanese investors.
“Today there are 250 Japanese business facilities that employ some 44,000 associates in Indiana,” he says. “We’ve been proving our strong relationship with Japanese companies for more than a generation.”
One of the early successes came in 1987 when Japanese automaker Subaru-Isuzu announced that it was building a new production facility in Lafayette, Indiana. “That gave rise to a broad range of investments, including first-tier suppliers,” says Mr Pence. Now Subaru of Indiana Automotive plans to invest $400m in the state in additional production as part of its goal to increase US sales to an annual 500,000 units.
While FDI in the automotive sector is highly competitive, Mr Pence surmises: “Quite frankly, we compete in a global economy.”
He adds that Indiana is the best place in the midwest to start a business, grow a business or get a job. In fact, last year Indiana businesses created 40,500 jobs. Since Mr Pence was elected governor in 2012, unemployment has dropped from 8.6% to 7.3%.
Besides being pro-business and making sure appropriate incentives are offered to give Indiana the opportunity to compete with other states, he emphasises that it begins with a balanced budget. “Fiscal integrity is the foundation of our prosperity, along with low taxes and our commitment to economic freedom in the workplace,” he says.
Mr Pence also advocates a fresh approach to education. He’s committed to career and vocational education at the high-school level and, with bipartisan support, is engaging businesses on a regional basis – including foreign companies – to design a high-school curriculum that helps young people obtain industry-recognised certifications or associates degrees before they graduate. “That way they have the background and training to go to work,” he says.
After all, career and vocation education is capturing the imagination of businesses around the country and the world, and he wants Indiana on everyone’s radar screen.