By DAN SPALDING
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Gov. Mitch Daniels helped kick off a weekend dealer show at the RV/MH Hall of Fame on a high note Friday, proclaiming the industry was helping lead Indiana in its economic recovery.
Daniels met with executives of the recreational vehicle industry privately Friday morning before meeting with the media and touring the Hall of Fame.
He credited the RV industry for having a desire to rise from the economic downturn “sooner and stronger than others.”
Indiana’s RV industry has increased market share to the point where five out of every six recreational vehicles are manufactured in the state. In recent months, local RV manufacturers have committed to hiring upward of 800 people over two years.
The improved standing, Daniels said, was due to some of the best companies in he industry being able to work in one of the best business environments in the nation.
“It’s been a big part of Indiana’s recovery, but that’s reasonably consistent with manufacturing in general,” Daniels said.
“I just wish that every other part of the state and so many places elsewhere had a comeback story half as strong as the one that is going on here,” Daniels said.
Yet, for the second time in two recent visits, the governor expressed concern over reports from the RV industry about a lack of an apparent strong work ethic among some workers and prospective workers.
He mentioned the same concern during a visit a few months ago in Goshen.
That concern comes at the same time more training grants have been made available and local campuses such as Ivy Tech have seen an “explosion” of enrollment.
“Resources into adult education and retraining is maybe the best thing we can do,” Daniels said.
“But you sure hope work ethics have not eroded along the way and I heard a little bit of that this morning and that got my attention because I don’t know if we can teach that at Ivy Tech.”
He declined to speculate on the reason why.
He also expressed concern about the mystifying mismatch between joblessness and the fact employers continue to struggle to find suitable candidates.
At the state level, Daniels reported that manufacturing production is close to pre-recession levels.
He also trumpeted the state’s standing in business rankings that make it one of the most attractive areas to locate business and industry.
While the state needs to continue looking at ways to improve the business climate, he said state officials are now focusing more time on marketing the state in hopes of attracting more jobs.
“We believe we’ve built (the) best sand box we could. Now we need to bring it to the attention of more people,” he said.
Nationally, he’s not so optimistic about the recovery.
“I think it’s very fragile,” Daniels said. “There remain as many clouds as rays of hope and sunshine.”
He said business leaders remain hesitant about investing in part because of a “National policy (that) could hardly be more anti-growth than it has been.”
Daniels, whose name was bandied about as a presidential candidate last year and is now viewed as a possible vice presidential candidate for Mitt Romney, appears to enjoy near rock star status among some.
He was asked if he’s received any recent calls from the apparent Republican nominee. The answer was a playful “No.”
“I turned the phone off so I could talk to these guys,” Daniels quipped. “I may leave it off.”
He also spent time afterward talking with executives and signed several copies of his book, “Keeping the Republic.”
One of those autograph seekers was Doug Gaeddert, a general manager for Forest River who oversees 14 operating divisions for the company. He said he likes the book because of the political outlook Daniels espouses.
“He’s an awesome guy,” Gaeddert said.
“We have entities in Michigan, Oregon, Texas, California, Georgia and around the country and there is no state that is more favorable and more business friendly than the Hoosier state.”