December 19, 2020
When I left the business I built in my hometown to serve Indiana in the U.S. Senate, I promised to visit every one of Indiana’s 92 counties every year to meet with Hoosiers up and down the state and discuss the issues that are most important to you.
Though the coronavirus pandemic presented a unique challenge for traveling the state this year, I am proud to have still been able to visit all 92 counties — in a safe and responsible way.
Across the state — in communities large and small — I visited local businesses, farms, manufacturing plants, restaurants, and school districts to talk with workers and small business owners to hear how they are reopening safely and what they need to get our Main Street economy back to boom times.
Staying in contact with entrepreneurs, educators, local elected officials, and families across the state showed me firsthand how so many Hoosiers innovated, re-tooled and re-purposed to survive unprecedented times.
I wanted to share a few highlights from my travels around Indiana’s 92 counties this year.
In Brown County, I visited Hard Truth Hills, a distillery and destination venue that adapted part of their production facility over to making hand sanitizer which they provided to local first responders, nursing homes and anyone who requested it — all at no charge.
I enjoyed signing a barrel of bourbon and seeing how this Hoosier distillery was continuing production and tours in a safe way.
In Delphi, I visited Indiana Packers. In the early stages of the pandemic, there was much concern about the stability of our food supply chains, and this large meat-packing facility had to deal with outbreaks in the industry while keeping food production moving forward.
The team put together a safety plan and were able to allow local farmers a market to sell their livestock, keep their workforce safe, and continue feeding Hoosiers and Americans.
In Brazil, I visited PDF Supply, Inc., a local business that pivoted during the early phases of the pandemic to distribute innovative sanitizing wipes to their clients rather than nuts and bolts, ultimately growing their client base.
Entrepreneurship and grit kept this business going during the coronavirus shutdowns, and it was great to hear their story.
In Whitestown, I sat down with local business leaders at Moontown Brewing to listen to the challenges that Boone County small businesses and restaurants were facing and the strategies they were using to open their doors safely and effectively.
Local elected officials and business owners shared stories of navigating the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan process and finding ways to keep their doors open.
In Fayette County, I sat down with local restaurant owners to hear how the coronavirus has affected their businesses, how PPP loans may have helped, and what we can do going forward to help them reopen and get back in business while keeping workers and customers safe.
Because the Hoosier restaurant industry was hit so hard by the coronavirus and restrictions, I made similar stops to talk with local restaurant owners and workers in Switzerland, Parke, Ripley and Vermillion counties as well.
In southwest Indiana, I saw an exciting new program at Princeton Community High School. 4T Academy is a career-based curriculum offered for students in North, East and South Gibson school corporations in partnership with Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana.
Manufacturing is the foundation of the Hoosier economy, and programs like these that provide students hands-on skills training are so important to maintaining our workforce. As student debt rises across the country, programs like 4T Academy show high schoolers that great-paying jobs are available now without a four-year degree.
I served on a school board for 10 years in my hometown, and I believe educating our kids is an essential business. This August I sat down with the administrative teams and teachers from schools in Batesville, West Lebanon and South Spencer schools to discuss their plan to safely reopen to students and how important it is for students to be able to learn in the classroom.
In Rensselaer, I was able to take questions from Hoosier corn and soybean farmers on the state of Hoosier agriculture during the coronavirus pandemic as part of Indiana Corn and Soy ShopTalk 2020.
Every time I can speak with Hoosier farmers about the work they do to keep our country moving helps me represent them on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
In Ohio County, I had the honor of touring the Rising Sun Veterans Museum and meeting with some Hoosier heroes to discuss educating the next generation about the sacrifices veterans and active duty service members have made to secure our freedom.
At the end of November, I stopped in Randolph County in east-central Indiana to meet with local community leaders in Winchester. We met at Wick’s Pies to discuss COVID stimulus negotiations, and I was glad to have the opportunity to answer their questions about my Fair Care Act: an overhaul of our healthcare system that ensures every American knows what they have to pay before they pay it so they can shop around, and brings down healthcare costs through competition.
I left with a much better understanding of the Randolph County economy and one of the best cherry pies I’ve ever had.
Hoosiers are resilient. Wherever I went in Indiana, I saw strength and ingenuity meeting the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and government lockdowns. In communities large and small, urban and rural, the issues we discussed remained the same: bringing down healthcare costs, getting our economy working again, doing what we can to help small businesses that have been ravaged by government lockdowns and the pandemic.
What I learned from speaking with Hoosiers in all 92 counties will help me weigh in to the issues you care about as I represent Hoosiers in the U.S. Senate, and I hope to speak to you next time I’m on the road.