By Susan Guyett

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Mike Pence, a six-term Indiana congressman and staunch conservative Republican, officially kicked off his run for governor on Saturday before a group of supporters in his hometown of Columbus.

"I'm running for governor because I love this state and I believe Hoosiers are the best people in America," he said.

Pence said he believed Indiana is "on the verge of an era of growth and opportunity like no other in my lifetime, and we can't go back now," citing the leadership of current Republican Governor Mitch Daniels, who cannot run for a third term.

While calling Indiana the "fiscal envy of the nation" with the fastest growing economy in the country in 2010, Pence noted the state's unemployment is still over 8 percent.

"We gotta keep Indiana growing, but that won't happen without a fight," he said.

A big part of that fight, he said, is against federal regulations, unfunded requirements from the federal government and taxes that Pence says "threaten our freedom and stifle our growth.

"We need to be willing to say 'Yes' to Indiana and 'No' to Washington, D.C." Pence said. Pence said he will fight for citizens "to live, work, run our schools without unnecessary intrusion." He also said he would oppose environmental policies such as the cap-and-trade system to control greenhouse gases, and the healthcare reforms signed into law by President Barack Obama a year ago.

Pence said his vision for Indiana focused on good jobs, great schools, safe streets and strong families."

Dan Parker, the chairman of the Indiana Democrat Party, criticized Pence for spending "the last decade pandering to the extreme wing of his party.

"Our next governor is going to inherit the kind of problems that require complex, thoughtful solutions," Parker said.

"Folks need to carefully consider which candidate will be able to unite our state, work across the aisle and embrace an agenda that puts jobs and the economy first. That candidate is not Mike Pence."

(Editing by James B. Kelleher and Greg McCune)