GOSHEN — Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch tried to buy a cup of coffee in downtown Thursday. She went away empty handed and laughed about the experience later.
Crouch used the story during her speech to Goshen Chamber of Commerce members Thursday to illustrate how Goshen’s retail and other economic segments are booming.
Crouch said she and Mayor Jeremy Stutsman went to The Electric Brew coffee shop as they toured the city, only to find themselves at the end of a very long line of customers.
“That speaks to how vibrant the downtown community is,” she said.
She also drew laughs and applause when she said, “I can’t tell you how impressed I am with everything that is going on. If I didn’t live in Evansville I would live in Goshen.”
JOBS, JOBS, JOBS
Crouch then concentrated on Gov. Eric Holcomb’s NextLevel agenda, which has five “pillars.” Those pillars are:
• Cultivate a strong and diverse economy.
• Maintain and build the state’s infrastructure.
• Develop a 21st Century skilled and ready workforce.
• Attack the drug epidemic.
• Deliver great government service.
She noted the workforce needs of the state and Elkhart County, cited the booming economy that has lowered Indiana’s jobless rate to 4.2 percent and left 85,000 jobs unfilled. In Elkhart County unemployment was 2.5 percent in February.
Government can lend a hand to business owners in several ways, she said, especially in the area of attracting more people to live and work in Indiana.
“We all know that finding talented people to accommodate Indiana’s employers remains a significant challenge,” Crouch said.
A recent survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, according to Crouch, found that for the first time since 2006, taxes and regulations weren’t the top concerns of business owners who completed the survey.
“Today, finding qualified workers is the No. 1 concern for small businesses,” she said. “On the state’s part we have doubled our investment in early childhood education to address that long-term need. And in the short term we have provided grants to Hoosier adults who are looking to skill up so they can be in high demand, top-paying jobs of today.”
Also, the General Assembly passed two laws that Crouch said will help with worker training.
One law targets state workforce training programs, giving them the flexibility and funding to work with regional interests to provide specific training needed in local companies.
The second law creates a tax break for technology companies to boost that industry, Crouch said.
“Indiana’s tech center is the second-fastest growing in the country,” she said. “So to help our state remain on the cutting edge of tech development, legislation was passed that will exempt sales tax on software that is sold as a service. “This will attract and retain tech companies to Indiana who offer those services.”
The state economic development efforts resulted in the creation of a record 30,000 jobs in Indiana, Crouch said, and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. is on track to surpass that record by 5,000 jobs this year.
“Our challenge is not creating jobs, our challenge is finding people to fill those jobs.”
She said the solution involves attracting more people to move to the state to live and work. State agencies are now targeting the 150,000 veterans who leave the military each year, she said.
Following her speech, Crouch said the state’s effort to attract former military personnel is being done through a website that matches them with job openings.
“What we are also doing with that is, first-time home buyers get the veteran’s loan,” she said.
And through the state’s housing agency, Crouch said business owners can obtain an incentive for the veterans they hire.
“If you can attract a service man or woman to your company and get them a job, we will give you a $5,000 grant to help pay either the closing cost, the relocation cost, or some cost associated with getting them here to Indiana. For people who are leaving the military we believe that will be a real carrot.”
Roger Schneider can be reached at email@example.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 309. Follow Roger on Facebook and also on Twitter @rschneider_TGN