The subject was all things business when Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb visited Traders Point Creamery April 18 in Zionsville. Well, the topics were mostly business, anyway, as onion rings and ice cream also were discussed.
Before Holcomb opened his question-and-answer fireside chat with Zionsville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Allyson Gutwein, he told a story of meeting with Israel Foreign Minister Yair Lapid during a recent trade mission to Israel. Lapid asked Holcomb if he could recommend the best place in Indiana to get onion rings.
“I’m not making it up, there are witnesses in the room,” Holcomb said. “I told him it’s a place in Zionsville, and it’s called The Friendly Tavern. He said, ‘You must take me there when I come.’”
Holcomb said he had recently been quoted complaining about the rising price of onion rings.
“So, (Lapid) had done his homework on what I had been saying recently,” he said. “I know my onion rings.”
As part of his visit, Holcomb announced $189 million for 154 broadband infrastructure expansion projects across the state in the third round of the Next Level Connections Broadband Grant Program.
“This record-setting investment in broadband is another game changer for Hoosiers who now, more than ever, need affordable, reliable internet,” Holcomb said. “With this third round, we take giant steps in leveling the playing field for our residents, regardless of where they choose to live, work or go to school.”
The Next Level Broadband Grant Program is the state’s largest single investment in broadband. In total, Rounds 1, 2 and 3 of the program have awarded $268 million for broadband infrastructure to more than 74,800 homes and commercial locations. The third round of funding will provide broadband infrastructure to more than 52,900 homes and commercial locations in 80 counties.
“We are trying to connect everyone in our state,” Holcomb said. “If you are not connected via the internet, you are at a severe disadvantage. This is going to help us expand from urban/suburban to rural areas in our state. We are trying to make sure we are getting to everyone who is unserved first. It’s got to (combine) access, affordability and speed.”
Holcomb addressed a question about what steps Indiana is taking to support employers’ efforts to keep high-paying wages in the state.
“We shifted especially in the last year, from a state perspective,” Holcomb said. “(The Indiana Economic Development Corp. is) getting pickier, if I might use a technical term, when we are trying to attract companies from around the country and around the world. We know what we have to look at is, what is the county’s average wage, the state’s average wage and the nation’s average wage. In a time where we have a 2.2 percent employment rate, we don’t necessarily need just more jobs. In fact, that might be counter-productive if they are lower-wage jobs. It would be more challenging for small companies that are trying to grow their way up and out.”
Holcomb said the state will work with county government officials to see if those jobs are needed.
Holcomb said the state is looking in areas such as life sciences, advanced manufacturing logistics, tech, energy, hospitality and construction.
“We have to be more strategic about it,” Holcomb said.
On affordable housing Holcomb said more is needed.
“This is driven by the old supply and demand, we need a whole lot more supply across the state of Indiana,” Holcomb said. “You have some of the fastest-growing communities in the country. When you think about the recent investment in Whitestown, when you think about multiple investments in Boone County, not just Whitestown. It’s hot, on fire.”