In an interview with reporters on Wednesday, Daniels noted that the state had made 154 transactions for new jobs in 2009, and that 19,343 are on the way. Both figures are nearly identical to the administration’s top year of 2008. The difference, he said, is that the amount of investment is significantly down. Of the 150 transactions, 48 were companies consolidating operations, accounting for 5,100 jobs. “Instead of growing and investing, companies are contracting,” Daniels said. “They are choosing Indiana over Michigan, Indiana over Pennsylvania. Overwhelmingly, they come here due to the tax climate and expansion of the transportation system.”
Daniels said he has yet to see a “robust recovery” for 2010, but that could change if auto sales begin to increase the same way the recreational vehicle industry is. “I’m very guarded about the national economy,” Daniels said. “But if auto sales pick up moderately the recovery could begin.”
And he was optimistic that new emerging clusters – electric cars and wind industries – are poised for a dramatic takeoff in the state.
I asked Gov. Daniels if there is a parallel between now and 1909 when Hoosier wagon and bicycle makers began converting to manufacturing the horseless carriage. “I think we’re on our way,” Daniels said of fledgling companies like Electric Motor Corp. in Wakarusa, EnerDel in Indianapolis, Bright Automotive in Anderson and perhaps Carbon Motors in Connersville. “The electric car will get here more quickly than I thought it would. We’re off to a fast start. Maybe we’ll be the leading place in electric cars.”
He added that the three windmill related companies locating in Indiana, like Brevini in Muncie, are spreading the word to related companies, potentially forging a new industrial cluster.
The governor addressed a number of other topics:
Kernan-Shepard reforms: Daniels said “we don’t want to take a holiday from reform” and suggested two steps that could be passed in the 2010 Indiana General Assembly. They include revamping township boards and “getting rid of conflicts of interests” with city employees serving on city, county and town councils and boards.
Tax caps: Daniels is optimistic the caps will pass, particularly in light of the 21-3 vote in the House Ways & Means Committee earlier this week. He noted that the caps could set off more mergers, citing completed or pending mergers in Zionsville and Greenwood with surrounding townships. Daniels said there are a couple of school corporations looking at merger options. Enough signatures have been gathered to kick off an Evansville/Vanderburgh County merger referendum this week. Daniels said the tax caps have a “salutary effect” on other local units.
Education reform: He expects no major legislation during the 2010 General Assembly. He said the reforms will be carried out by the State Board of Education and will be a “real revolution” in paving the way for “emphasis on content mastery.”
FSSA: As for the “hybrid” revamp for Families Social Services Administration announced by Commissioner Anne Murphy earlier this week, Daniels acknowledged, “Where we want to be is a long way from here.” He reemphasized that FSSA will “keep the parts that work,” particularly with regard to fraud, “and we press on” with reforms that will increase face-to-face contact with those applying for benefits.
2012 presidential bid: Sitting in a room where Gov. Robert D. Orr offered him a U.S. Senate seat vacated by Vice President Dan Quayle in 1989, Daniels deflected talk of a looming presidential bid. “I’ve got my head down on the business. I’m completely absorbed in what we’re doing now.” Asked why he turned down the U.S. Senate seat that Gov. Orr finally offered Dan Coats, Daniels said he and his family had recently returned to Indiana after working for the Reagan White House. His daughters were ages 2, 4, 6 and 8. Had he accepted the seat, he would have had to run in 1990 to finish the Quayle term and again in 1992. “It wasn’t right for us,” he said.
2010 Battle for the House: Daniels acknowledged he took a big role in recruiting Republican House challengers. “I encouraged a lot these folks to run,” he said. “I’ll do anything I’m asked to do.” He said his recruitment was an effort to “reshape the Republican Party” and to bring “new generation of reform-minded Republicans who will help us forge the next set of reforms.” He added, “We need to have more women.”
His successor: Asked if he has in mind a successor for the 2012 Republican gubernatorial nomination, Daniels responded, “No, I don’t,” but added that he will weigh in “when the time comes.” He added that he has conveyed to potential contenders to “keep their ambitions in check. Let’s get in one good season of reform” before the 2012 race begins.