Ivy Tech Orthopedic and Advanced Manufacturing Training Center Director Tom Till (second from left) explains a piece of equipment Friday to Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann (third from left) as Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer (L) and others look on. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Ivy Tech Orthopedic and Advanced Manufacturing Training Center Director Tom Till (second from left) explains a piece of equipment Friday to Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann (third from left) as Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer (L) and others look on. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Workforce development is vital for Indiana’s economy to grow, said Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann Friday.
She spoke Friday afternoon at the Northern Indiana Mayors’ Roundtable at the Ivy Tech Orthopedic and Advanced Manufacturing Training Center, 955 Executive Drive, Warsaw. Along with Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer, mayors in attendance at the roundtable hailed from Nappanee, New Haven, Mishawaka, Angola, Columbia City, Kendallville, Garrett, Plymouth, Woodburn, Rochester, Auburn and LaPorte.
“You are really, as mayors, the front line to the communities,” Ellspermann told the group. “We are a little buffered down at the Statehouse. You are truly the front line in making sure things happen in Indiana.”
In their roles, Ellspermann said mayors can’t go through a grocery store without someone tagging on their arm, or calling them at night and so on. She said she and the governor appreciated that.
“It really is the governor’s and my goal to be a partner. I just don’t even know how to say that enough, but that really is our goal in the state, that you develop the visions for the communities that you want to build; you work locally but we should be the ones to work with you to make things happen, and so we’ll continue to work in that way and try to get that better every day with all of the projects we work that on together,” she said.
She said coming into the OAMTC, it took no time at all in her role to realize that “if Indiana’s economy was going to grow, it really does depend on workforce development. So facilities like this – and getting it right in communities, that we are training people up right – really, really makes a difference.”
Even at 8 percent unemployment, which is where Indiana was when Ellspermann and Gov. Mike Pence came into office, “you could see employers beginning to struggle, to find that skilled worker. Today, at 4.4 percent unemployment across our state, virtually full employment, it’s much more critical.”
She said communities like Warsaw were blessed with a number of higher education institutions, but it really takes everyone to work on the issue, including K-12 schools.
“Particularly secondary, preparing these young people to grow into the kinds of roles that we need filled, and that they will have great careers in, is so critical," Ellspermann continued.
She then took a moment “to brag on where we are because it has, with all of you doing the work in your communities, we are in a much better place in Indiana than we were 3-1/2 years ago back with that 8 percent. In fact, the one overarching indicator the governor and I gave ourselves 3-1/2 years ago was to get to the high water mark on jobs. Could we get more Hoosiers employed than ever before? And we passed that high water mark in August. We’re thrilled. That’s quite an accomplishment. It’s this year. Just looking at what we did this year – 323 different companies coming in or expanding in Indiana.”
All of that has come, she said, from the state and local communities that made economic development and being “business friendly” a top priority.
“I can speak from the state side that the governor started out with a moratorium on new regulations, and you all know, from the front line, and IDEM appreciates, that we’ve got to have ways that businesses can be successful. We’ve done the largest tax cut in the history of Indiana, including the elimination of the state inheritance tax. That took some doing, but that’s important for every new business, every farm, every small business,” Ellspermann said.
“And we continue to decrease the corporate income tax. All of those things, and let’s not forget ... Right To Work. What all of those right policies have done in Indiana, is put us in a position where companies, both here and outside of our communities, want to be a part of what we have.”
She then listed “some of the ways” Indiana has been noticed. She said the state is rated by Area Development magazine “as No. 1 in the Midwest, top 10 nationally in business development.” Forbes, for the first time, put Indiana in the top 10 nationally, at No. 8, of the best states for business. Pollina Corporate Real Estate lists Indiana as the third most business-friendly state in America.
“All of those are incredibly important, and will be for the times ahead,” Ellspermann said.
She then went into factors that will hold the state back going forward.
“The biggest concern I heard from the 92 counties three years ago, to what I heard just heard being out at Paragon (Medical) in Pierceton today, the challenge  is workforce and everything we can do to make sure we have a work-ready community” that can take on the challenges ahead, she said.
“We have worked really hard with the General Assembly to set up structures in the state that never existed” like the Indiana Career Council, she said, to get everyone at the table – including K-12, higher education, Workforce Development and others – to align everyone to have the right programs, skills and jobs that are needed.
“We know that 65 percent of the jobs that will be created will require some post-secondary (education). That doesn’t mean four year, that means some post-secondary. And a good chunk of those being right where we are in this kind of skills area,” she said.
“Today, we are at, at the latest number from Higher Ed. Commission as of yesterday, we are just under 36 percent of our workforce across the state having some post-secondary skills.” She noted that does not include every credential yet, but even if they are included, the state stands at about 40 percent. Indiana has set a goal of getting to 60 percent by 2025.
“That’s a lot of certifications, two-year degrees and four-year degrees,” she said. “... We have our work cut out before us.”
Career counseling will be an important piece of the puzzle, as well as having “great data” to track jobs over the years. That data will be shared with school counselors and colleges.
“I think for the first time in Indiana’s history, we really do have alignment of purpose, alignment of direction. Now we have to deliver at the local level to make sure that we’re figuring out ways to do that faster, but better and more cost-effectively to get those young people and encumbered workers into the jobs that you need filled. We’re going to continue working on that,” she said, noting that “Indiana is a leader in these areas.”
Ellspermann said it “couldn’t be a more exciting time to be in Indiana.”
After she finished, Ivy Tech OAMTC Director Tom Till, OrthoWorx Executive Director Brad Bishop, Warsaw Community Schools Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert and Ivy Tech Northwest and North Central Chancellor Dr. Thomas Coley gave a presentation on the community collaboration behind the OAMTC and science, technology, engineering and math in local schools.