INDIANAPOLIS — LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo will resign her post early next month to become Indiana's secretary of career connections and talent.
Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Thursday that he selected the two-term Republican mayor for the newly created state cabinet position based on her record of attracting some $260 million in business investment and 1,100 jobs to LaPorte.
"Blair is uniquely qualified for this exact position," Holcomb said. "She and I have talked about this exact topic for not months, but years."
Milo admitted that it will be hard to leave what she's built in LaPorte since being elected mayor in 2011 at age 28.
But she sees her new job as a chance to focus on a critical issue that affects every Indiana municipality and the state as a whole.
"It's a great opportunity to be able to make a difference," she said.
Milo's duties will include collaborating with companies, industries, trade groups, universities and public entities to identify employment needs and training opportunities for Indiana workers to secure high-demand, high-wage positions.
She'll also oversee the State Personnel Department and coordinate efforts across state agencies to connect Hoosiers with programs and services that can lead them to satisfying and successful careers, not just jobs.
"Having those kinds of opportunities then unleashes a whole new realm of opportunity for growth for our state and, I think, for our nation," Milo said. "Because when you see a better engaged workforce you see GDP (gross domestic product) growth as well."
Holcomb insisted that Indiana's 3-percent unemployment rate demands new ways of thinking about how to fill the estimated 1 million Hoosier job openings expected over the next 10 years.
"This new position will provide the urgent and focused attention required to position Indiana well long-term and ensure our state’s workforce is keeping pace with our economy as it grows and becomes more diverse," Holcomb said.
The Republican chief executive shrugged off the suggestion that the private sector — not the state — should be responsible for meeting its labor needs.
"I don't say this to be cynical: We're the state government and we're here to help," Holcomb said.
Milo's appointment attracted praise from both Republicans and Democrats across the state.
Indiana GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer declared Milo "perfectly suited for this role."
"She has proven herself to be an outstanding leader with a vision and a passion for creating opportunity," Hupfer said. "I know she will excel in this new assignment and, as a result, Indiana will continue to excel, too."
Democratic Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, Jr., deemed Holcomb's selection of Milo an "excellent choice."
"Mayor Milo is an excellent public servant, smart and creative," McDermott said. "This is definitely a loss for LaPorte and Northwest Indiana in general."
Milo is scheduled to begin working at her new job Aug. 14.