Tech Talk: Innovation Policy Takes Center Stage

Fact: Indiana is enjoying success in attracting and growing technology and innovation businesses.

Next step: What public policies can help continue that momentum?

Find out during the Indiana Technology and Innovation Policy Summit on December 1 at the Conrad Indianapolis.

tech summit

Influential industry, government and legislative leaders will highlight policy priorities during morning sessions. Micah Vincent, director of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget, will deliver the luncheon keynote.

This year’s summit builds on the successful 2017 legislative session when a number of key issues supported by the Indiana Chamber became law.

Among the legislative priorities to be featured during this year’s summit:

  • Autonomous Vehicles – Find out about the opportunity for Indiana to engage in and capitalize on the growing interest and work done in autonomous vehicle research and programs. State Rep. Ed Soliday will lead the discussion.
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and tax implications – Indiana ranks second in software job growth. It’s important to clarify the tax situation for SaaS companies so Indiana remains competitive with other states.
  • Data Centers – With the economy increasingly dependent on data, hosting data centers is an economic growth opportunity for Indiana. Rich Carlton, president and COO of Data Realty in South Bend, will talk about fundamental changes the state needs to make to attract data center facilities.

Fisher Mayor Scott Fadness will discuss Smart Cities, Smart State initiatives and the future of certified technology parks will be analyzed. Ted Baker of the Muncie Innovation Center and Karl LaPan of the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center are presenting.

Registration and a continental breakfast start at 8 a.m. The summit begins at 8:30 a.m. and concludes at 1:30 p.m. View the complete agenda.

Registration is $95 for Indiana Chamber members and $125 for non-members. For more information, visit the event page.

Event sponsors are Smithville, the Digital Policy Institute and Purdue University. Additional sponsorship opportunities are available by contacting Jim Wagner.

Check Your Vocabulary for These Toxic Words in the Workplace

Words have power

All words carry weight. And we must carefully choose the words that we use to represent us, particularly in the workplace.

Though it’s standard for professional work environments not to condone certain words – curse words (you know, the ones for which your grandmother would threaten to rinse out your mouth with soap), insulting or demeaning words and language, among others – there are other, seemingly innocent words to watch for in your vocabulary.

Crystal Barnett, senior human resource specialist with human resources consulting company Insperity, offers these seven words (and phrases) to watch out for at work:

  • “Honestly.” The word “honestly” is by no means an offensive word. However, the thoughts that come afterwards should be carefully considered before being spoken. Telling a trusted boss how one truly feels is expected and encouraged at many companies. However, in some organizations, giving an unvarnished assessment can be dangerous if done without careful consideration beforehand. For example, attempts to be honest while criticizing another team member’s work in a public setting can not only damage relationships, but it can also create the impression that a worker is willing to promote his or her own efforts by attacking others.   
  • “That’s not fair.” The concept of fairness is taught to most children. However, in the workplace, as in life, things are not always fair. While raising issues of fairness are acceptable in many work settings, the time, place and audience should be carefully considered beforehand.
  • “I.” While giving credit where credit is due, employees should reinforce teamwork and try not to highlight personal efforts over the work of others.
  • “This is the way we’ve always done it here.” Newer employees proposing alternative approaches for solving workplace problems have likely heard this phrase before. While all new ideas are not good ideas, failing to consider alternative approaches may mean the company is missing out on new opportunities for improvement.
  • “Yeah, but…” This phrase often follows an instruction or request from a supervisor or manager. Asking clarifying questions or proactively identifying issues is not a bad thing. However, doing so in a negative sounding way suggests an unwillingness to follow instruction or worse yet, a challenge to a leader’s authority. Often, simply avoiding “Yeah but…” is a better way to go.
  • “Just.” “Just” can be a loaded word in some contexts. For example, if a manager says to an employee “I just want you to finish those reports before the end of the week,” the comment often sounds highly negative on the receiving end. It can also convey the impression that the listener is being difficult or combative. A better approach might be to say “Be sure to get me those reports by the end of the week.”
  •  “Yes.” In many scenarios, saying yes is a good thing. But not always. Some top performing workers have problems saying no and therefore always say yes when asked to perform additional work.  This may result in a lower quality product, simply because the employee in question is stretched too thin. In addition, the dangers of burnout should be considered. In companies where the hardest working employees are “rewarded” with the greatest amount of work, saying “yes” at all times can have negative impacts and end up hiring the employee in the end.

Tennessee to Offer Skills ‘Warranty’

Tennessee has drawn its share of higher education attention with its Promise program gaining national recognition. A new initiative seeks to further address workforce skills challenges.

The Times Free Press in Chattanooga has the details.

Beginning next fall, new graduates of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) or similar technical programs offering certificates and degrees from state community colleges will come with an eye-catching “warranty” for prospective employers.

If companies can demonstrate the graduates they hire aren’t up to snuff, “we’ll take them back and train them for free,” Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora Tydings told Gov. Bill Haslam.

Replied Haslam: “I love the idea. … That’s accountability at its finest.”

“It’s exactly what it sounds like,” Tydings told reporters. “If you do not have the skill set for which we say we have trained you, we’ll take you back and retrain you for free – if an employer documents that you do not have those skill sets within a year of graduation.”

Tydings said she doesn’t expect community colleges and TCAT to have to do much graduate retraining because of the job the institutions do.

promise

House and Senate Get Started on Tax Reform; Where Does Donnelly Stand?

Late last week, the House Ways and Means Committee concluded its markup of the GOP tax reform bill (the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) and voted along party lines to move the measure, 24-16. The core of the House bill reduces the number of individual tax rates, slashes the corporate tax rate and eliminates many deductions and credits.

The bill now will be taken up by the full House of Representatives for debate and vote – likely before the Thanksgiving recess. What are some sensitive issues being discussed in the tax reform bill? Pass-throughs, adoption tax credits, deductibility of state and local taxes (SALT), excise tax and more.

The GOP can only lose 22 votes in the House and whip counts are being held very close to the vest – only five or six Republicans have publicly stated that they are against the bill in the current form (all due to SALT).

Meanwhile, the Senate decided on Thursday to release its own tax reform plan. From the business perspective, the differences largely are about adjusting the dollar dials and creating negotiation items. In other words, politics. The Senate option does delay some positive economic effects, but if that’s what it takes to get a permanent tax reduction in the books so be it! We do want to point out that there are some notable differences between the two versions, particularly on the individual side – including with the estate tax and mortgage deduction, which, again, serve to set up further negotiations.

Senator Todd Young welcomed the effort from the Senate Finance Committee.

“I’m encouraged by the Senate’s proposal to create a tax code that is simpler, fairer and allows hardworking Hoosiers to keep more of what they earn. I’m also glad that this proposal maintains the adoption tax credit that is important to so many Indiana families. As we continue to debate a final tax relief package, I will keep working to ensure Hoosier voices are heard.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Donnelly, didn’t give away his stance: “As I have said, tax reform should create jobs, protect jobs, invest in American workers and benefit middle class families. I will carefully review the Senate proposal and continue to engage with my colleagues and the White House on behalf of Hoosiers as the Senate works on tax reform.”

Donnelly also met on Thursday with the White House Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn to discuss his tax reform priorities. Earlier last week, Donnelly participated in another such meeting with White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short and Cohn. President Donald Trump called in for a portion of the event. In that meeting, Donnelly discussed his tax reform priorities and shared a letter that he also sent to Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday emphasizing that the tax policies should align with the interests of American workers and support companies that invest in the U.S.

Donnelly’s priorities are consistent with his End Outsourcing Act, which would support companies that invest in American workers and penalize companies that ship American jobs to foreign countries.

The Hill reported late last week that “Blue Dog Democrats are lining up in firm opposition to the Republicans’ tax code overhaul, hoping that Tuesday’s election results (particularly in Virginia) will force GOP leaders to reach across the aisle for a bipartisan alternative.”

Donnelly, a Blue Dog Democrat, has not said anything of the kind publicly and has been heavily courted by the Trump administration for his vote.

Happy 25th Anniversary, Kevin!

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has had just seven executive leaders throughout its nearly 100-year-existence (the Chamber was officially formed in 1922) in our drive to fulfill our mission to “cultivate a world-class environment which provides economic opportunity and prosperity for the people of Indiana and their enterprises.”

President and CEO Kevin Brinegar, in the role for 15 years and celebrating his 25th anniversary with the Chamber yesterday, has been part of major policy and legislative accomplishments during his time at the helm of the organization. A few to mention include: observance of Daylight Saving Time, Right to Work, a preschool pilot program, numerous tax reforms, and most recently, needed investment that will ensure adequate transportation infrastructure funding for the next two decades.

Brinegar’s anniversary comes just two days after our 28th Annual Awards Dinner, where he was presented with a Sagamore of the Wabash by Gov. Eric Holcomb. The award for distinguished service is his second; the first was presented in 1992 by then-Gov. Evan Bayh.

During an Indiana Chamber staff meeting, Brinegar received a commemorative photo collage signed by the Chamber’s staff. We also celebrated with cake!

Kevin Brinegar

Brinegar discussed being presented with the Sagamore of the Wabash and said all current and past staff members of the Indiana Chamber made the award possible and have worked tirelessly to move public policy forward in Indiana and make it a top tier state and a leader across the nation.

Thank you for your hard work on behalf of our staff and the state of Indiana, Kevin. Congratulations on 25 years!

And the Winners Are…

28th Annual Awards Dinner

With a day to absorb and reflect on the events of Tuesday evening’s 28th Annual Awards Dinner, we’ve concluded it was one of the best yet – and the largest audience by far with over 2,000 business, government and community leaders in attendance from all over the state.

Gov. Holcomb, Kevin Brinegar

Highlights of the event included the revealing of recipients of our four annual honors: Tom Easterday, Business Leader of the Year; Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso), Government Leader of the Year; the City of Goshen, Lifeline Data Centers Community of the Year Goshen; and Scott McCorkle, Indiana Vision 2025 Dynamic Leader of the Year.

Additionally, Gov. Eric Holcomb touted Indiana’s economic development success to the crowd and presented Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar with a Sagamore of the Wabash (his second award for distinguished service; the first was presented in 1992 by then-Gov. Evan Bayh).

Videos of the award winners are available here, along with the press release and more photos.

Our 2017 Volunteer of the Year luncheon, fall board of directors and annual membership meetings also took place earlier in the day. During the meeting, outgoing board chair Ron Christian passed the chairmanship to Chuck Baldwin, managing director at Ogletree Deakins law firm and based in Indianapolis.

Chuck Baldwin

Incoming Indiana Chamber Board of Directors Chair Chuck Baldwin (left) receives the gavel from outgoing Chair Ron Christian.

The November-December edition of BizVoice magazine is now live as well. Read in-depth stories about all our award winners, along with the sixth and final story in a series on Fishers-based Recovery Force. Other content includes our 50-year honor roll of Indiana Chamber member companies, a look back at two companies celebrating 100 years in business this year, and where we’re heading with Indiana Vision 2025, the Chamber’s long-range economic development plan for the state.

The 28th Annual Awards Dinner will be remembered for years to come, not only because of the people and communities honored, but because it caps off a year of business and legislative success in Indiana. Thank you to all who attended and made the evening memorable.

Be sure to mark your calendars for next year’s event on November 13, 2018.

28th Annual Awards Dinner crowd

EchoChamber: Behind the Scenes for 20 Years of Award Dinners

EchoChamber

The Indiana Chamber’s 28th Annual Awards Dinner takes place this evening. The EchoChamber team has been around for 20 of the outstanding events – helping tell the stories of award winners through video and print, as well as interacting with a tremendous lineup of keynote presenters. This is your opportunity to hear some thus-far untold anecdotes. Listen now.

EchoChamber is the Indiana Chamber podcast featuring conversations with business, education, political and technology leaders. It’s your opportunity to listen in on your terms.

Visit www.indianachamber.com/echochamber or subscribe at iTunes, GooglePlay or wherever you get your podcasts. Please rate and review us on Apple podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe so you will always be informed about the latest conversation.

And keep an eye on our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts for updates from the 28th Annual Awards Dinner tonight.

Federal Tax Plan = Meaningful Cuts More Than Comprehensive Reform

The “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (H.R. 1) has finally arrived! The long-awaited details – over 400 pages worth – are now out there for all to debate. This is a debate that will play out before the House Republican Ways and Means Committee this week. Much of the public discourse will focus on how it impacts individuals, but for the business community it is the taxation of businesses, large and small, that is of the most significance.

The plan includes a reduction of the corporate rate from 35% to 20%, an important and meaningful step. It also caps the taxation of income derived from pass-throughs (S corporations, LLCs, partnerships and sole proprietorships) at 25%. Key provisions are outlined below. And if you are truly into tax law, the full bill is also available, as is a section-by-section summary.

Now you may note that this legislation is labeled a tax cut, not tax reform. And while many will call it that, it is probably better characterized as a tax cut bill. Cuts are good, and these measures will certainly be the impetus for some level of economic growth. But the trillion dollar questions remain: How much will it spur in gross domestic product (GDP) growth? And, can that realistically be enough to offset the projected reductions in tax collections?

Nobody can really know the answers to these politically-charged questions. But as you read the “scoring” of this legislation (to be published by the Congressional Budget Office after passage out of the House Ways and Means Committee), you may consider these items for context: the GDP growth rate in the United States averaged 3.22% from 1947 until 2017; GDP has pleasantly surprised people by breaking the 3% mark the last couple quarters; and the GDP will probably need to go a good bit higher to prevent the bill from adding substantially to the already staggering federal deficit. So listen for what growth rates are assumed in the projections that will be discussed and debated – and draw your own conclusions.

Key provisions affecting businesses

  • Reduces the corporate tax rate: The rate will drop to 20% from the current 35% and is designed to be permanent.
  • Establishes a repatriation tax rate: The repatriation rate on overseas assets for U.S. companies would be as high as 12%. The bill also may include a mandatory repatriation of all foreign assets. Illiquid assets would be taxed at a lower rate, spread out over a longer period than liquid assets like cash.
  • Creates a 25% rate for pass-through businesses: Instead of getting taxed at an individual rate for business profits, people who own their own business would pay at the so-called pass-through rate. (There will be some guardrails on what kinds of businesses can claim this rate to avoid individuals abusing the lower tax.)

Key provisions affecting individuals

  • Creates new individual income brackets:
    • 12% for income up to $45,000 for individuals and $90,000 for a married couple
    • 25% up to $200,000 individual/$260,000 couples
    • 35% up to $500,000 individual/$1 million couples
    • 6% over $500,000 individual/$1million couples
  • Caps state and local property tax deduction at $10,000, but does NOT cap income or sales tax deductions.
  • Eliminates the estate tax: The threshold for the tax, which applies only to estates with greater than $5.6 million in assets during 2018, would double to over $10 million; the plan then phases out the tax after six years.
  • Does NOT change taxation of 401(k) plans.
  • Increases the child tax credit to $1,600 from $1,000. The bill would also add a credit of $300 for each non-child dependent or parent for five years, after which that provision would expire.
  • Limits home mortgage interest deduction: On new-home purchases, interest on loans up to $500,000 would be deductible. (The current limit is $1 million.)
  • Nearly doubles the standard deduction: To avoid raising taxes on those currently in the 10% tax bracket, the standard deduction for all taxes would increase to $12,000 for individuals (up from $6,350) and $24,000 for married couples (up from $12,700).
  • Eliminates most personal itemized deductions and many credits. The only deductions preserved explicitly in the plan are for charitable gifts and edited home-mortgage interest.
  • Repeals the alternative minimum tax (AMT). The tax, which forces people who qualify because of an outsized number of deductions, would be eliminated under the legislation.

Full policy highlights of the bill can be found here.

Keep in mind this is the House’s plan and it will be subject to a different form of scrutiny in the Senate. So regardless all the prior coordination among those working together on this effort for months, some (perhaps many) things will change – they always do!

As for the timeline, it’s hard to say. But we do know that the House Ways and Means Committee will begin hearing amendments this week, and the process could take several days. A vote on the bill by the full House, as it is passed out of Ways and Means, is anticipated to come as early as November 13. From there it goes to the Senate Finance Committee, then full Senate. Optimists hope for something to pass before the end of the year. However, don’t be surprised if the debate isn’t carried over into the beginning of 2018.

Indiana’s delegation members are also weighing in with their views on the new tax bill. Chief among them is Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02), a member of the pivotal House Ways and Means Committee: “Hoosiers deserve every opportunity to achieve success and live the American Dream, and that’s what tax reform is all about. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will help American businesses expand, invest and hire more workers, and it will let middle-class families keep more of the money they earn. It’s time to fix our broken tax code and level the playing field for hardworking Americans by once again making America the best place in the world to do business.”

Resource: Bill Waltz at (317) 264-6887 or email: bwaltz@indianachamber.com 

Tech Talk: Be Part of the Talent Solution

You don’t need anyone to tell you about the workforce/talent challenges that companies across the state are facing. The tech and innovation sectors, of course, are not alone in dealing with this dilemma.

Solutions must be both short and long term. Think coding schools and other training opportunities as more immediate; reaching deeper into the K-12 system to introduce potential careers at an earlier age as being on the other end of the spectrum.

But a message we’ve shared, no matter the business or industry, is to be part of that solution. Don’t just point out the problems. Don’t blame others unless you’re willing to help produce answers.

One way that everyone can contribute is to Share Your Road. It’s not just a phrase, but a coordinated initiative to introduce young people to the possibilities and what they can and should be doing to help reach those career destinations.

The Indiana Chamber Foundation and Indiana INTERNnet are among the Share Your Road partners, part of the Roadtrip Indiana initiative that sent three students on the road earlier this year. A public television series in 2018 will highlight what they learned.

See some of those who have helped pave the way thus far and take the time to inspire others at https://indiana.shareyourroad.com.

Share Your Road

ChamberCare Business Resources (PEO) Now Available

Who can predict the future of health insurance renewals? From major shake-ups in Washington to adjustments at the state level, the volatility of the insurance markets is leaving human resource and business professionals unsure of the path forward.

As part of the Indiana Chamber’s ChamberCare Solutions, we’re now offering the ChamberCare Business Resources (PEO). This unique program can help Hoosier companies with two or more employees manage their human resources, including compliance and reporting assistance and securing stable and affordable benefits.

ChamberCare

Indiana Chamber Senior Manager of Membership Strategy Brett Hulse notes the value of the PEO to small businesses.

“This Professional Employer Organization (PEO) program is a great option for small businesses that are looking for savings and long-term stability with regard to their health insurance, while also providing access to HR and compliance resources that you would find at a large company,” Hulse notes.

Is your company the right fit for participation? If you answer “Yes” to any of the questions below, this program might be a good match for your business:

  • Would better benefits improve your ability to attract or retain employees?
  • Do issues with employment law compliance (e.g. employee classification, ADA, FMLA, etc.) concern you?
  • Do you have a 401(k) program for your employees? Would you like to reduce the cost and eliminate the fiduciary liability associated with this benefit?
  • Have you had any employee/labor issues for which you had to hire an attorney?
  • Is your handbook up to date and functional for your business?

“The Indiana Chamber has helped thousands of small businesses save money while offering competitive benefits to their employees for nearly 15 years. We’re excited to partner with Human Capital Concepts (HCC),” Hulse adds.

For additional details, or to learn more about how a PEO might be a great option for your business, contact Human Capital Concepts; to learn more about Indiana Chamber membership, contact Brett Hulse.