Donald Trump has selected Governor Mike Pence of Indiana as his running mate for the 2016 race to the White House (he let us all know with a tweet this morning). So what’s Mike Pence’s political history when it comes to tech?
During his term, Pence has tried to turn Indiana into an American tech center – he uses the phrase, “Silicon Prairie” – and has had some noticeable success.
His administration has made huge cuts in the state’s corporate tax rates and marketed Indiana as a new tech mecca. In the past month alone, three more California-based companies have left the Golden State and moved to Indianapolis: Brite Systems, Site Strategies, and Determine, Inc.. Pence heralded all three of the moves on his Facebook page. The push for innovation has accompanied a solid few months for Indiana’s economy, particularly a period steady job growth in a state hard hit by the Great Recession. The Trump campaign will point repeatedly to that economic recovery as evidence of Republican economic strategies bringing real change
Pence has announced new initiatives to drive innovation and entrepreneurship as recently as Thursday, discussing plans to invest state pension money in fast-growing local companies and making sure venture capital tax credits are transferable.
Still, some argue that Indiana’s economic recovery is not quite as robust as Pence and his supporters let on, and that the state may be trading away quality of life for a lower cost of business.
In 2015, Pence’s signing of the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which many considered to be anti-LGBT, prompted anger from tech executives like Apple’s Tim Cook and Salesforce’s Marc Benioff. Benioff, in particular, played a large role in the backlash around the bill, threatening to scale back investments in Indiana and even offering relocation packages to Salesforce employees who wanted to move out of the state.
Pence eventually capitulated and amended the language of the bill, adding more protections for LGBT persons.