Rokita On the Road - February 24 - Lawrence Co.

February 24, 2012

In late February, I visited several Bedford-area businesses.  I was joined on this “tour” by former Mayor Dan Terrell of Mitchell and Bedford Federal Savings Bank President Jack Kenworthy.  Each business I visited brought something unique to the national conversation and I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the concerns these job creators shared with me.

Our first stop was the East Gate Business Park, which houses SAIC, Tri-Star and URS.  All three are defense contractors, which is currently in a state of flux.  The defense industry is currently facing automatic budget cuts, a sequestration, triggered by the failure of the “Super Committee” last year.  While these cuts may impact the industry, I was glad to hear that SAIC is still able to offer new job opportunities, as there are many in the area still looking for work.  While SAIC has found many new hires, I find it disconcerting that some job seekers have turned down job offers, so that they can remain on unemployment.

Following our stop at East Gate, we arrived at Whitney Tool, who I had last visited in 2010, just after they had doubled their operations through an acquisition.  As the current manufacturing labor force nears retirement, Whitney’s General Manager, Bob O’Callaghan, expressed a need for a young workforce to replace them as they retire.  Whitney Tool offers a great starting wage with health and retirement benefits, yet they struggle to fill open positions.  The dilemma Bob is facing, as are many manufacturers, is a lack of qualified candidates, with a grasp of even basic trigonometry.  Through my work on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, I am working to make sure more Hoosiers are ready and able to find and hold good jobs like the ones offered by Whitney Tool.  It is important to make education work for the students they serve, be it through training at Ivy Tech State College and Harrison College, or our state institutions like Purdue and Indiana Universities.  All education need not be degree-driven and I will continue working within Indiana to help partner those that need training with those that offer it.

Our final stop was the GM plant in Bedford.  The commitment to the Bedford-Mitchell area that GM has made is noticeable.  Much work has been completed on the plant expansion and remodeling since I last visited in 2010.  I am glad that GM has had such a positive impact on Lawrence County and look forward to seeing the end result of their expansion efforts.