5 Questions with Blair Milo
Get to Know Indiana Leaders
Blair Milo serves as the State of Indiana’s first Secretary for Career Connections and Talent. Appointed by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb into the position created by Executive Order in August of 2017, Secretary Milo serves as the state’s Chief Talent Officer as Indiana works to fill an estimated one million job openings over the next ten years. She also serves on the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet, a body dedicated to shaping education and workforce training for a 21st Century workforce.
Prior to her appointment to Governor Holcomb’s Cabinet, Secretary Milo served as Mayor of La Porte, Indiana after being first elected in 2011 and reelected in 2015. During her time in office, Mayor Milo focused her administration on building the most conducive climate for economic development growth, providing for sustainable infrastructure needs and fostering a community dedication toward positive lifestyle choices. During her time as Mayor, 1,100 new jobs and over $260 million in new investment were created. Major projects contributing to this were the 137-acre expansion with dual rail service to the Thomas Rose Industrial Park; the commercial redevelopment of NewPorte Landing, a brownfield in the center of the city; and the largest single jobs expansion project in La Porte’s history: the addition of a second plant at Alcoa Howmet. The new Alcoa (now called Arconic) plant makes La Porte home to the most advanced aeronautical manufacturing facility in the world. In early 2012 Mayor Milo formed a partnership with the City, La Porte County YMCA and IU Health La Porte Hospital to create “Fitness Fridays,” a community fitness program that included a weekly 5k walk/run with the Mayor. In 2014 Mayor Milo initiated “Step Up Saturdays” where she traveled to a city or town in all 92 counties across Indiana to initiate a similar free 5k walk/run program to help improve Indiana’s overall health. As a result, over 25 percent of participating communities intended to continue the concept and in early 2017 Mayor Milo was named “Elected Official of the Year” by the Indiana Parks and Recreation Association.
During her time as Mayor, Secretary Milo was appointed by then-Indiana Governor Mike Pence to the State Workforce Innovation Council where she chaired the Career Counseling Task Force. In April 2017 she testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Republican Policy Committee on the challenges and opportunities before the American Worker. She was a member of Governing Magazine’s 2017 Women in Government Leadership Series made up of 25 elected women from across the country. Secretary Milo serves on the Indiana Advisory Alliance for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition and the Board of Governors for the Richard G. Lugar Excellence in Public Service Series.
Prior to her roles in public service, Secretary Milo served as a Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy. She first served as the Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer then as Electrical Officer in USS Mason (DDG 87) from January 2005 until May 2007, completing two Persian Gulf deployments. She then transferred to the Destroyer Squadron 50 staff based in Manama, Bahrain and served as the Assistant Operations Officer, daily scheduler for the Northern Arabian Gulf battle space, Public Affairs Officer and as Tactical Watch Officer for the Commander. After serving in Bahrain and Iraq, Milo transferred to the Chief of Naval Operations staff at the Pentagon where she worked on the Navy’s newest stealth destroyer ship class, DDG-1000, in addition to serving as the Admiral’s Aide and Special Assistant to the Director of Surface Warfare. In July 2010, Milo transitioned from active to reserve duty where she first served as a Surface Warfare subject matter expert at the Office of Naval Intelligence before transferring to the NATO Warfare Development Group in Great Lakes, IL. She was awarded the 2017 American Legion Military Person of the Year (Reserve Category) for the State of Indiana. Blair Milo was born and raised in La Porte, Indiana and graduated from La Porte High School. She attended Purdue University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a commission as an Ensign in the United States Navy in 2004. In 2010, she earned a Master’s Degree in Legislative Affairs from the George Washington University.
1. Tell us about your role as Secretary of Indiana’s Office of Career Connections and Talent? What makes this position exciting for you?
As Secretary of Career Connections and Talent, I have the opportunity to work with great team members across all of our state agencies as well as visionary employers, teachers, superintendents, mayors, non-profit directors, volunteers and many other leaders who are helping attract, develop, connect and retain Hoosier talent. I love learning about innovative solutions and thinking about how we best support the great work we see happening across the state, how we share best practices and how we dig into any persistent barriers to create pathways to opportunity for individuals looking for a career (or a better career) and for employers seeking talented individuals.
2. Why is talent such a critical focus area for Indiana?
Indiana continues to break records for new jobs coming forward, with commitments for more than 100,000 new jobs since Governor Holcomb took office. Last year alone, businesses committed to investing more than $8.44 billion in Indiana operations and creating up to 27,137 new Hoosier jobs with average wages of $28.60 per hour, marking the highest annual records for capital investment and average wages since the IEDC was established in 2005. Indiana also anticipates that by 2025, nearly 60 percent of all jobs will require some sort of credential beyond high school, and that 85 percent of the jobs students in kindergarten today will take when they enter the workforce do not yet exist. This high volume of new career opportunities and rapid pace of change within the type of work people are doing and employers are hiring for when wages are up almost 23 percent means we have to better connect all the parts of the talent system. This connection is critical to ensuring students and adults are aware of what opportunities exist and that they have access to a path to gain the skills necessary to take advantage of great careers. Apprenticeships, career fairs, internships, work-based learning, etc. are all part of connecting talent to employment opportunities while working to develop a commitment to lifelong learning as the pace of change continues to increase.
3. What is the most unique piece of advice you’ve embraced as a leader?
“People aren’t afraid of change; people are afraid of loss.” When a friend of mine shared this perspective with me, it shifted how I approach conversations about change. I try to be more mindful of what potential or perceived losses might be feared in advance of what could be a positive opportunity resulting from change.
4. What makes Indiana unique for visiting, living and doing business?
There are a million different reasons Indiana is a unique place for visiting, living and doing business, many of which immediately come to mind. Indiana is a place where world-class universities are leading the nation in patents of new ideas, where students don’t have to go into debt to receive an outstanding education. It’s a place where you can save anywhere from 17 to 105 hours per year not being stuck in traffic and have the same - if not greater - career advancement opportunities while being able to share dinnertime with your family. Indiana is a place where you can enjoy the serenity of the shores of Lake Michigan at a fraction of the price and crowd of the Hamptons. Indiana is a place where you can arrive at an international airport and get from the parking lot to the gate in roughly 15 minutes without feeling rushed. It’s a place where you can lead the world in cutting-edge research, technology and industries like specialty insurance, and still have the time and energy to attend high school basketball games in your community on Friday nights.
5. Tell us a story where you were proud to be a Hoosier.
In 2011, I was in Belgrade, Serbia at a NATO summit serving on a Navy reserve assignment. One evening during the summit, I was having dinner with around 25 other people from various countries and only one other American. I was asked by the other guests about my civilian occupation since I was a Reservist, so I shared with them that I was a defense consultant and also running for mayor of La Porte, Indiana. The one other American who was at the opposite end of the long dinner table then asked, “La Porte, Indiana?! Does La Porte have a huge Fourth of July parade?” I confirmed that we are, in fact, the capital of Indiana for the day due to our festivities. He then shared that in his days as an F-14 fighter pilot, he did a flyover for the La Porte parade, then flew to Grissom Air Reserve Base where he and another pilot (also a La Porte native) were met by police escorts to drive them to La Porte to ride as dignitaries in the parade. He was so amazed by the professional coordination and the joy and patriotism he felt from everyone he met in Indiana that the memory was still fresh in his mind, even after a career of countless flyovers and almost 20 years since that La Porte parade. This prompted a fascinating discussion from the group about how and why Americans celebrate Independence Day. At the end of the discussion, I asked the pilot if he rode in a red Pontiac Firebird convertible during the parade, to which he enthusiastically responded, “Yes, that’s it!” When I returned to Indiana from Serbia, I dug up the photo that I have of nine-year-old Blair standing next to my mother’s red Pontiac Firebird convertible after we’d driven the flyover pilots in the La Porte Fourth of July Parade. The pilot on my left I had just (re-)met in Serbia 19 years later, prompting a discussion amongst NATO members of how patriotic Hoosiers are. This story is one of many reasons that led me to call La Porte, Indiana the “Hub of Awesome!”