By Martin Slagter For the Pharos-Tribune
---- — GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE — Gov. Mike Pence’s time at the Grissom Air Reserve Base flew by, but he left impressed with all the base has to offer the state of Indiana and beyond.
That includes Chicago-based Boeing Co., which began soliciting bids last month for a site to build its new 777X passenger jet.
Despite all that Grissom has to offer, Pence was reluctant to get too excited about the prospect of a new $10 billion airplane facility that could employ up to 8,500 workers coming to Indiana.
“I will say that while there are places in Indiana, including here at Grissom, that would certainly represent an attractive opportunity for (Boeing), we do understand with the state of Washington and their Legislature making $8 billion available in incentives for Boeing, this is pretty tough competition,” Pence said. “We don’t mind tough competition in Indiana. We’re constantly telling Indiana’s story to companies small and large.”
During his visit, Pence met to speak with members of the 434th Air Refueling Wing of the air base, wishing local members of the Air Force a happy holiday while getting a closer look at the facility.
After touring the base, Pence remarked that the sheer size of the facility and its amenities are not the only attractive aspect of Grissom.
“I think it’s a whole lot more than the runway length,” he said of the 12,500-foot runway. “It’s about the logistics and potential here and also Indiana’s commitment to infrastructure. Our location in the heart of the heartland and Lake Michigan access and ports are all part of the conversations we’ve had (with Boeing).”
Pence continued to sell Indiana’s recent success in economic development, which has included 261 job announcements and more than 20,000 new committed jobs this year.
Whether the job force continues to grow with the help of Boeing in the future, Pence remained confident the state will continue to compete for new jobs.
“Indiana is the best place in America to start a business and grow a business,” he said. “Some of our recent improvements in this region in infrastructure with the U.S. 31 freeway near Kokomo continue to enhance our ability to attract investment to this area. Whether or not Indiana is successful in any one particular effort, we’re going to continue to take all of the advantages that Indiana has and build on those advantages.”
The afternoon visit also provided members of the Air Force with a chance to meet and speak with Pence while showing him around the massive Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker.
“Any time we can have our elected leaders come out and see what we do, it’s a good thing,” Technical Sgt. Doug Hays said. “It’s a chance to showcase Grissom and the men and women of our unit. I just want to help him learn about us.”