Gov. Holcomb launches jobs plan in Elkhart; comments on Trump/Charlottesville

NOW: Gov. Holcomb launches jobs plan in Elkhart; comments on Trump/Charlottesville

ELKHART, Ind. -- It’s a new jobs initiative, but one that could miss the mark when it comes to helping a growing worker shortage and housing problem in Elkhart County.

“We’ve got 500 positions and we can’t find enough people to fill those positions,” said Jason Lippert, CEO of Lippert Components in Elkhart.

If you stop in Lippert’s Plant 58 on Mishawaka Road in Elkhart, you’ll find an endless amount of work being done by a seemingly endless amount of workers.

But down the road at another plant on Thursday morning, Governor Holcomb continued his rollout of his latest plan to address the state’s worker shortage, the “Next Level Jobs Initiative.”

“This is going to position not just the state to win, not just the business individually to win, but those individual Hoosiers,” Holcomb said.

According to Lippert, there are about 35,000 jobs available in Elkhart County right now.

Because the RV industry, among other local industries, is doing so well, he said that number is expected to grow to 45,000 by next year.

The Next Level Jobs Initiative focuses on two grant opportunities.

There’s an ‘Employer Training Grant’ that reimburses businesses, like Lippert Components, $2,500 for each new person that is trained, hired and retained for six months.

And then there’s the ‘Workforce Ready Grant,’ which provides free training and certification for those looking to work jobs in the advanced manufacturing, building and construction, health and life sciences, IT and business services, and transportation and logistics industries.

“We can say to Hoosiers: If you do the work to come back and get one of these certificates, we will pay for the training,” said Teresa Lubbers, commissioner of Indiana’s Commission for Higher Education.

Lippert said Next Level is a good start, but there’s a much bigger problem facing Elkhart County businesses like his.

“We have a housing issue here,” he said. “We just don’t have people flocking to our community in Elkhart County, where we need the jobs, so getting people here is the tough thing.”

Holcomb brought along former La Porte Mayor Blair Milo, who’s now working for the state to influence job growth long-term.

Lippert said more ideas are necessary if the state wants businesses like his to stay put in Indiana.

“We’ve got all this new business, which is great,” he said. “We just need to attack the problem and get the people here to help build the product.”

Holcomb’s team said Indiana currently has about 95,000 jobs that are unfilled; 35,000 of them are in Elkhart County.

If you’re interested in applying for a Next Level grant, you can click here.

After the press conference, Holcomb was asked what he thinks of President Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville last weekend, as well as Vice President Pence’s decision to stand by the president’s words.

The exchange with ABC57’s Taylor Popielarz went like this:

Q: “In the world of politics, what have you made about President Trump’s reaction to Charlottesville and Vice President Pence’s reaction in standing by the president?”

Holcomb: “As you can tell, I am 100 percent focused on Indiana. And that’s where my focus will remain.”

Q: “With these groups, these white nationalist groups – some as close to here as Warsaw – what’s your message to people who, they know you support the vice president and the president in many ways, what’s your message –?”

Holcomb: “We’re making a lot of progress. And my only message is the only supreme thing about these white supremacists is their stupidity. And they have no place in this country. It’s counter to our ideals.”

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