DONNELLY MAKES MADISON VISIT: Laser operator Rick Hart explains his job to U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly during Donnelly’s tour of Vehicle Service Group in Madison on Monday. Donnelly is visiting 18 Indiana communities this week. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
DONNELLY MAKES MADISON VISIT: Laser operator Rick Hart explains his job to U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly during Donnelly’s tour of Vehicle Service Group in Madison on Monday. Donnelly is visiting 18 Indiana communities this week. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
In his first visit to Madison since winning election, Sen. Joe Donnelly toured Vehicle Service Group to talk with management and workers about issues they and other Hoosiers face.

"You are the heart and soul of America's economy," Donnelly said to workers after his tour of the facility. "This is where jobs are created, and I've always said the best social program is when mom or dad has a job."

Madison was one stop on Donnelly's "I Work for You" tour. He will visit 18 Indiana communities in four days.

"One of his aides called the Chamber and Economic Development office and said they were looking for a company to tour so he could learn what he can do to assist in bringing jobs to Indiana," Kathy Huffman, Jefferson County EcO15 coordinator, said. "So, with that, as well as his interest in connecting companies and community colleges and educating the workforce, it was my pleasure to line up VSG."

One of the main issues facing Vehicle Service Group, according to Donna Faris - chief financial officer for North and South America - is the cost of providing health care for employees.

Donnelly said over the last two years that a lot of companies have moved toward wellness programs that encourage healthier living habits.

"I think a lot more of it is going toward prevention," Donnelly said. "And hopefully that will reduce that cost as we move forward. Health care costs are an extraordinary challenge," he said.

Donnelly visited Columbus, Lawrenceburg, New Albany and Evansville on Monday. Today he will visit Anderson, Muncie, Fort Wayne and Warsaw. He will also travel to South Bend, Valparaiso, Hammond and West Lafayette.

Donnelly also was updated on the Economic Opportunities through Education by 2015 (EcO15) initiative which focuses on education and careers in advanced manufacturing, health care, hospitality and tourism.

"I think the more connections that Madison has on the state and national level, the better it is for all of us," Huffman said. "Especially when he's interested in education and what it takes to make the company successful."