Chamber Members: Be Sure to Join Our Monthly Policy Calls; It’s a Free Benefit

Why should you participate in one or more of the upcoming Policy Issue Conference Calls?

  • It’s easy: Simply register, then dial in from your desk or while away from the office and listen in
  • It’s free: The monthly, one-hour sessions are another benefit of your Indiana Chamber membership
  • Great guests: The lineup is set for the final four months of 2015

From 9 – 10 a.m. (Eastern time) on the following Fridays, the following topics will be tackled. There will be plenty to discuss but, as always, your questions and comments are encouraged. You can register today for any or all of the upcoming calls.

  • September 11: Higher education with chancellors Vicky Carwein (IPFW) and Nasser Paydar (IUPUI)
  • October 16: Economic development with Indiana Secretary of Commerce Victor Smith
  • November 13: Workforce development with Indiana Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Steve Braun
  • December 11: Entrepreneurship with John Wechsler, Launch Indiana, and an entrepreneur to be determined

New High School Diploma Requirements Ready for Next Round of Approvals

????????????????Earlier this summer, the Indiana Career Council met and heard an update on the draft plan for new high school diplomas, which would be set to begin in 2018. In order to simplify the process, the draft plan would change the current four diploma options – general, Core 40, Core 40 honors and technical honors – to three diploma options: college and career ready, honors and workforce ready. A good summary of the differences in the diplomas can be found at Chalkbeat.

The Indiana Chamber provided public comments to the plan earlier this year, which included items that we liked: an overall increase of core curriculum credits with a decreased emphasis on electives – including an increase of math, science and social studies credit requirements, a personal finance graduation requirement and a graduation capstone of a work-based learning experience. The Chamber did have some concerns and questions regarding: further descriptions and rigor of certain mathematics course requirements, and the absence of requirements in computer science/IT as well as a world language.

While the public comment period for the diplomas is now closed, the process to finalize this draft plan is far from over. The Commission for Higher Education passed a measure supporting the diplomas in August and it moved to the State Board of Education this month. It will then move to the General Assembly for debate in early 2016.

Chamber Convenes Infrastructure Leadership to Discuss I-65, Long-Term Solutions

10049160The Indiana Chamber recently brought together a trio of the state’s top leadership on infrastructure issues to discuss Indiana’s current maintenance and funding challenges, including the closure of Interstate 65 near Lafayette due to emergency bridge repairs, and long-term solutions to an estimated $1 billion annual road and bridge maintenance funding gap.

Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) Commissioner Brandye Hendrickson, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Tim Brown M.D. (R-Crawfordsville), and House Roads and Transportation Committee Chairman Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) appeared before the Chamber’s Infrastructure Policy Committee to share their views and hear the viewpoints of the state’s business leadership.

INDOT Commissioner Hendrickson stated that the I-65 closure represented significant logistical and engineering challenges and economic costs, but that the bridge repairs should be completed and the interstate back online by mid-September. She stated that INDOT was doing all it could to expedite the process, but that the bridge failure pointed to the state’s maintenance needs. A statutorily required study of potential funding mechanisms has been underway and will be made public at a legislative interim study committee this fall, most likely in October.

Both Brown and Soliday agreed that the state needs to commit for funding to road and bridge maintenance – and that was the case prior to the I-65 bridge incident. Brown suggested that revenue projections look pretty good for the $200 million appropriated to the 2020 fund to be deployed later this year, but acknowledged that more needed to be done – most likely in 2017, the next budget-writing session of the General Assembly. He also said he was open to using the $500 million in the Next Generation Trust Fund for immediate infrastructure maintenance needs. Brown would like to see a “consistent funding stream on an annual basis for transportation infrastructure” enacted in the future, but left all options on the table pending review of the INDOT study.

Soliday praised the INDOT study and described it as a “tool to look at a number of funding mechanisms and options”; he plans to hold a study committee hearing in October to review the tool and various options. Soliday said that the average Hoosier driving 12,000 miles/year pays about $108/year in taxes for transportation infrastructure and described that as a “bargain” compared to the average monthly cell phone or cable TV bills consumers pay. Both legislators were supportive of public-private partnerships and progress on existing road projects; they expressed frustration that county wheel taxes had not been more fully utilized to address local funding needs for local and county roads.

It was clear from the panel discussion that it is a question of when and how the transportation funding gap will be addressed, not “if” it will be addressed. Most likely, these issues will begin to be discussed in-depth in the 2016 legislative session with some supplemental funding being found, but that a longer-term solution will be waiting until the budget-writing process in 2017.

Yoder: From Software to Students

yoder picMax Yoder and Lesson.ly are rightfully getting a lot of attention (see our BizVoice magazine story). But the budding entrepreneurial star has a second organization he is leading.

Here’s his explanation of The First Fund and what it means:

“We have a ton of work to do with The First Fund, and it is very much an experiment. The experiment revolves around the fact that there are these awesome first-grade teachers out there who have direct relationships with their kids and also direct relationships with the parents. Often those parents don’t come from the financial wherewithal they would like.

“We work with those teachers to identify those kids and parents. We set up a 529 (education savings account) plan for their children and then help the parents add money to those accounts.”

Yoder outlines the principles of mentorship, financial planning and scholarship that are so critical. Then, in a matter of 30 seconds, the 27-year-old showcases both his sense of humor and his passion for others.

“I met a bunch of first-grade kids during a failed relationship to a first-grade teacher. Now I’m madly in love with a second-grade teacher; I’ve upgraded. It’s the kids — the hope on their faces.”

Yoder goes on to talk about the recent serious heart attack and challenging recovery of his friend John (who helped start The First Fund).

“The First Fund has never been more important to me, to make that work. John’s going to pull through, and we’re going to make sure that The First Fund is in the best shape it can be.”

Yoder concludes by describing the difference between his growing software training firm and his non-profit.

“Lesson.ly is this big, high-growth engine. Bigger is better in our world. In The First Fund world, I have to put on a very different hat. It’s not let’s see how fast we can give scholarships to as many kids as possible. It’s let’s see how we can maximize the scholars we already have — making sure we can really, really drive value for the people who are here.”

Good luck, Max. And kudos for the work you are doing.

Internships are Critical to the Education to Employment Transition

boston1This column by Janet Boston, executive director of Indiana INTERNnet, first appeared in Inside INdiana Business

“The No. 1 priority for Indiana must be a re-evaluation and reinvestment in our people, their knowledge and skills.”

This statement from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s June 2015 Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card, along with the data, reinforces the urgency of the state’s workforce development goals. According to the Report Card, while there have been gains over the past several years, there are specific areas of concern in terms of Indiana’s talent pipeline:

  • Postsecondary attainment continues to lag with national ranks of 45th in associate degrees and 42nd in bachelor degrees
  • Nearly 12% of Indiana’s population has less than a high school diploma
  • Only 3.36% of Hoosier workers are employed in STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and math) occupations, confirming the qualitative and anecdotal insights of business leaders who are suffering through a “skills gap”

State workforce development initiatives focusing on college completion, career pathways and skills development are critical. The Indiana Career Council, led by Governor Mike Pence and Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann, released its strategic plan in 2014 to guide state workforce development efforts. The goal is that at least 60% of Indiana’s workforce will have post-secondary skills and credentials by 2025.

Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers presented a plan to achieve the goal at the E2E Convergence in June, hosted by Indiana University in partnership with TechPoint and with support from the Lilly Endowment. To reach 60%, Lubbers told the group of state leaders and stakeholders that the full ecosystem of partners will need to work together. It will take statewide organizations convening the right people to identify problems and solutions. It will take industry sectors defining career pathways and skills demands. It will take regional groups implementing strategies tailored to their specific needs. Finally, it will take local and school partnerships to get students on the track to college and career success.

Objective 4 of the Indiana Career Council’s strategic plan specifically calls for the elevation of the importance of work-and-learn models. State leadership has also set the goal of increasing the number of internships available to Hoosiers by 10,000.

Work-and-learn opportunities serve as significant stepping stones in career paths and allow students to supplement their classroom knowledge with real-world work experience. Indiana INTERNnet is the catalyst for expanding the creation and use of experiential learning as a key strategy in retaining Indiana’s top talent. We are helping the state achieve the goal of 10,000 internships by hosting a web site that matches interns with Indiana employers and offering resources and personal assistance to employers who are building or strengthening their internship programs.

Indiana INTERNnet also works with the Indiana Commission for Higher Education on the Employment Aid Readiness Network (EARN) Indiana program. Employers with an approved internship may receive state matching funds by hiring students, eligible to receive state financial aid, for resume-building, experiential, paid opportunities. Internships are part of the solution for increasing Indiana’s ranks in these important workforce strength indicators and developing the talent demanded by local employers.

A timely industry example: by 2018 Indiana’s growing economy will have demand for 123,000 STEM-related jobs. Yet questions linger as to whether the state can produce enough qualified workers to fill these positions. As a result, an urgent need exists to bridge the gap between higher education experiences and employment opportunities for Indiana to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

Again, internships are a part of the equation.

“What’s great about an internship in the technology industry specifically is a student can develop their skills immensely over just a 12-week period from theories learned in school to application of those in a real-world job setting,” indicates Brittney Baxter, manager of Global Student Programs with Interactive Intelligence. “We see interns who grow so much from hands-on experience. It’s truly invaluable.”

Career-based experience is valued across all industries. Not only are these experiences a necessary component of each individual’s career pathway, but a more skilled workforce is critical for the success of Indiana.

To register for our free service, visit www.IndianaINTERN.net, or call (317) 264-6862 to speak with our staff about your internship program. We are now accepting nominations for the IMPACT Awards in the categories of Intern of the Year, Employer of the Year and Career Development Professional of the Year. Share your internship success story online.

Blinding Music Fans with Science

19188345Silence!

While I’m passionate about music, it’s rare that I don headphones and pop in a CD to inspire me during the workday. Perhaps I should change my tune.

Turns out there’s a melodious connection between music and productivity. Check out this Business Insider story to see – and hear – for yourself.

The story offers several approaches to boosting productivity. One involves choosing songs that feature sounds of nature:

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recently discovered that adding a natural element could boost moods and focus.

Sounds of nature can mask intelligible speech just as well as white noise while also enhancing cognitive functioning, optimizing the ability to concentrate and increasing overall worker satisfaction, the researchers found. The mountain stream sound researchers used in their study also possessed enough randomness that it didn’t distract test subjects.

Other examples include listening to songs you enjoy, songs you don’t really care about (the horror!), songs without lyrics, songs with a specific tempo and songs played at medium volume.

Let’s rock!

VIDEO: Time to Move Forward and Improve Indiana’s Infrastructure

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar discusses the importance of improving Indiana’s infrastructure. 2016 looks to be the “year of infrastructure” at the Statehouse, and Brinegar asserts “Indiana can’t wait for Washington to act.”

This Boilermaker Prefers Copperheads to Rattlesnakes

BrewerThis past year was quite the adventure for me. Last March, I left the Indiana Chamber after 14 years to tackle a new chapter in my life. I could blame the move on the brutal winter that year, but I think the time had arrived for me to explore and to feel like I tried something new. With the exception of a semester abroad in college, I had lived all 37 years in the good ol’ Hoosier state. I didn’t want to look back some day and say, “I should have tried” or “what if?” So, my wife and I packed up our two Subarus, then headed west to Tucson, Arizona with great enthusiasm and a terribly confused dog.

I’ve told many friends that this past year was arguably the year I learned the most about myself. I learned how to avoid multiple rattlesnakes on trails. I learned how to carry 100 ounces of water on a mountain bike ride. I learned how important it was to continue to see new places and grow my need for wanderlust. Most importantly, I had plenty of time to think after climbing to the top of four of the five mountain ranges surrounding Tucson, and it made me realize what was most valuable to me… my mom’s pecan pie. Well, her pecan pie made the most missed list, but being in the same area code with my Montgomery County family and all of my friends in Indianapolis was most important to me.

The direct flight from Indy to Phoenix was fairly easy, but life just wasn’t as fulfilling. I missed seeing my nephew’s first start at defensive end for Rose-Hulman’s football team. I missed seeing Purdue thump IU both times during the basketball season. I missed the community feel of my old, funky Broad Ripple neighborhood. I missed my favorite beer at Thr3e Wise Men. I certainly enjoyed the active outdoors lifestyle in mountainous southern Arizona, and I continued Chamber work with four state chambers, but it just didn’t feel right. After one year, we came running back, and the dog was even more perplexed.

My new role with the Chamber starts this week as the advertisement sales director for BizVoice magazine. I really enjoyed my time at the Chamber in membership and helping members, and I’m blessed to have the opportunity to work with the Indiana business community again.

That’s enough reflection for one day. Time to head to Crawfordsville for a piece of my mom’s pecan pie.

Video Matters Now More Than Ever

rebeccaThis commentary, written by Indiana Chamber VP Rebecca Patrick, originally appeared on Inside INdiana Business.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, exactly what is a video worth? That’s a question more and more organizations have been asking in the last few years.

We’ve all seen something “go viral” on YouTube and make its way around social media and even the traditional news. And the frequency of business emails with video content continues to rise – and with good reason: Consumer surveys reveal those emails are noticeably more effective.

The list goes on and on about the emergence and power of video messaging, whether it’s used for external marketing or rallying the troops inside your company. The population in general – thanks to continued technology advances – is increasingly more visual in how it wants to receive information.

In 2014, the Indiana Chamber opted to devote space in its office to a video studio. We built it with three types of communications in mind: 1) messages to our 17,000 members and investors; 2) public policy advocacy to a broad, public audience and 3) media-ready footage.

The studio was possible for us – and for other businesses our size – because the equipment prices have come down to meet the demands of the masses who want to film videos for webcasts and more. So a suitable video camera, lighting equipment, teleprompter and accessories for our studio were quite affordable.

But before we made that leap, we did our homework. We talked to member companies in the communications/marketing field and to videographers to make sure our studio would be capable of doing what we wanted.

Over the last 18 months, the Indiana Chamber has produced more than 50 videos – ranging from legislative calls to action and television commentaries to event promotions and membership testimonials.

Tom Easterday, our current chairman of the board of directors who is executive vice president at Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. in Lafayette, believes video messaging is “effective for communicating with a lot of different generations; it can be used as part of social media, as part of your web site and direct communication.”

At Subaru, Easterday films various videos – many for internal use.

“Frequently we will have messages we will need to get out to our associates before it breaks in the press or before the rumor mill starts. We’ve found that having our own in-house closed-circuit television system and utilizing video allows us to get the same message out to all of our associates at the same time. It’s a very valuable communications tool in that regard,” he explains.

“It helps us be more effective in getting associates to understand what is happening, and gets their buy-in and cooperation regarding whatever the next move is we need to make as a company… It’s a very clear message instead of hearing it second or third hand, or via written communication, which may or may not be read.”

Subaru has also used video to maximize the time of its dealers and suppliers. The company produced a five-minute video introduction on the plant when dealers from across the United States were arriving with limited time on their hands. A virtual tour of the facility is also available on the company web site.

Easterday says videos are a welcome option for material that is “very difficult to put into print or would be tedious to read on a web site.”

He also encourages companies to not dismiss video production out of concern over price.

“There are a lot of companies out there that do them so you can shop around, or we have our own internal videographer. That can definitely cut the cost down,” Easterday shares. “But if you shop around and ask the communications companies to provide you samples of their work, they will do that.”

Small Business Administration Makes Disaster Loans Available in Indiana

In case your company was impacted by the excessive rains in Indiana this summer, there may be some relief available. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has issued the release below.

Note: Disaster relief is only available for selected counties, which are mentioned:

The SBA announced today that federal Economic Injury Disaster Loans are available to small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and private nonprofit organizations located in Indiana as a result of excessive rain and flooding beginning on June 1, 2015.

The disaster declaration includes the following counties: Benton, Gibson, Knox, Lake, Newton, Posey, Sullivan, Vermillion, Vigo and Warren in Indiana.

“These counties are eligible because they are contiguous to one or more primary counties in Illinois. The Small Business Administration recognizes that disasters do not usually stop at county or state lines. For that reason, counties adjacent to primary counties named in the declaration are included,” said Frank Skaggs, director of SBA’s Field Operations Center East in Atlanta.

Under this declaration, the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is available to eligible farm-related and nonfarm-related entities that suffered financial losses as a direct result of this disaster. With the exception of aquaculture enterprises, SBA cannot provide disaster loans to agricultural producers, farmers, or ranchers.

The loan amount can be up to $2 million with interest rates of 2.625 percent for private nonprofit organizations and 4 percent for small businesses, with terms up to 30 years. The SBA determines eligibility based on the size of the applicant, type of activity and its financial resources. Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition. These working capital loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that could have been paid had the disaster not occurred. The loans are not intended to replace lost sales or profits.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website.

Disaster loan information and application forms may also be obtained by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by sending an email to disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. Loan applications can be downloaded from the SBA’s website at www.sba.gov/disaster. Completed applications should be mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

Completed loan applications must be returned to SBA no later than April 12, 2016.