by Mitchell Kirk
---- — WINAMAC — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence left Pulaski residents Tuesday with a challenge to maintain the momentum of the state’s business environment by taking its message to others across the country.
The serving floor of The Fox’s Den in Winamac was packed with more than 50 people Tuesday afternoon, most of them representatives of member companies of the Pulaski Chamber of Commerce who came out for a meet-and-greet with the governor.
After meeting Pence individually, they listened to him list the accomplishments made during his administration that have contributed toward the state’s improving business environment.
Pence credited factors like bipartisanship in the General Assembly, the $800 million going to road funding across the state, increased emphasis on vocational education in high schools and the repealing of the state’s inheritance tax, the mentioning of which received applause from the audience.
Winamac itself has been gaining economic momentum as of late. In August, The Braun Corp., a wheelchair manufacturer, invested $7.5 million to move production operations from its Kalamazoo, Mich., facility to a converted 18,000-square-foot production line at its Winamac headquarters, creating 70 jobs.
“Congratulations on being one of the great and dynamic communities in the state of Indiana,” Pence told attendees.
Communities across the state can benefit the way Pulaski County has, Pence added.
“The state is getting noticed,” he said, citing Chief Executive magazine’s ranking of Indiana as the fifth best state for business in 2013 and “Site Selection” magazine calling it the most competitive state for business in the Midwest and the second-most nationwide.
Pence left attendees with the challenge of helping to maintain and improve the state’s business environment by spreading its message to business owners in other states.
“I think there’s a great story to tell,” Pence said. “That’s how Indiana is going to grow and that’s how Pulaski County is going to grow.”
Jason Potthoff, owner of The Fox’s Den, a local landscaping company, a public accountant and a Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce member, said he will keep the governor’s request in mind.
“I’ll take that to heart,” he said, “whether it’s an old college buddy, I’ll keep that in the back of my mind — doing a better job of selling the state.”
Potthoff said he was impressed by Pence’s views on business, particularly small business, adding “it takes the small guys” in communities like Pulaski County to “keep things rolling.”
“That’s the best thing the state can do — keep the environment moving with low unemployment, quality education and lower taxes than some of our neighbors,” Potthoff said.
Jacki Frain, director of Pulaski County Human Services, said one of the state’s next biggest challenges will be finding a way to continue to support retired people through transportation and other services.
In all, she said she felt the governor’s visit was positive.
“It sounds to me like they have a lot of good things going on that we don’t know about,” Frain said. “We’re very fortunate he comes to small communities.”
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him: @PharosMAK