Flying Car? Now We’re Talking

Well, it’s about time. Ladies & gentlemen, I give you… the flying car. ("It’s your kids, Marty! Something has got to be done about your kids!"; that’s the second "Back to the Future" reference and counting on the blog this week, btw. Didn’t plan it that way, these things just happen, like density … I mean, destiny.) (Third reference!)

The Transition was designed as a "light sport" aircraft, the smallest kind of private aeroplane under FAA classification, with a maximum weight of 1,320lb. But the manufacturers found it impossible to fit the safety features – airbags, crumple zones and roll cage, for instance – that are required for road vehicles into that weight.

Uniquely, however, the FAA has granted the Transition an exemption – allowing it to be classified as a light sport aircraft despite being 120lb over the limit.

Light sport aircraft licences require just 20 hours’ flying time, making them much easier to obtain than full private licences.

The two-seater Transition can use its front-wheel drive on roads at ordinary highway speeds, with wings folded, at a respectable 30 miles per gallon. Once it has arrived at a suitable take-off spot – an airport, or adequately sized piece of flat private land – it can fold down the wings, engage its rear-facing propellor, and take off. The folding wings are electrically powered.

Its cruising speed in the air is 115mph, it has a range of 460 miles, and it can carry 450lb. It requires a 1,700-foot (one-third of a mile) runway to take off and can fit in a standard garage.

Terrafugia says that one of the major advantages of the Transition over ordinary light aircraft is safety – in the event of inclement weather, it can simply drive home instead of either being grounded or flying in unsafe conditions.

The company says that 70 people have ordered the car, leaving a $10,000 (£6,650) deposit each. The car is expected to retail at $194,000 (£129,000). Deposits are held in escrow, meaning that should the company go bankrupt before delivery, the money will be refunded.

Ball State Students Not Enthused About Mobile Marketing

A release from eMarketer.com contends that Ball State University students who received ads on their mobile phones were not very enthusiastic about it. (I say if you want people to get jazzed about marketing again — especially on their personal communication devices — then it’s time to bring back The Noid.)

A Ball State University study of a primarily female group of college students found that a majority of them had seen ads on their phones, including 51.2% of smartphone or touchscreen phone users and 61.3% of feature-phone users. Text ads were most prevalent.

Their reactions to ads were highly negative. More than 40% were annoyed to get an ad, compared with just 1.2% who were pleased and 17.6% who were neutral. Even more dramatic, nearly three in 10 said they were less likely to purchase a product after seeing a mobile ad for it. Slightly fewer reported their purchase intent was unchanged, but only a small number said mobile ads encouraged them to purchase.

A substantial minority of respondents (44.3%) would not be induced to receive mobile ads under any circumstances, but 37% were willing to accept them for something free in return. Free ringtones and music were the most popular exchange. In addition, almost two-thirds of all respondents said ads would be OK if they got paid to see them, and the largest segment of that group wanted at least $1 in return for each ad viewed.

References Remain Critical in Hiring Practices

OfficeTeam released a statement touting the results of an employer survey that illustrates how references impact the hiring of candidates. See if this coincides with your own company’s practices. (Sometimes, as a joke, when my colleagues and friends use me for a reference, when their potential employers call, I like to answer with, "How did you get this number?," in a really accusatory and put-off tone. Screaming "Who dis is?!?!?" is also a lot of fun.)

A strong resume and interview may place job seekers in the running for a position, but a new survey from OfficeTeam finds the results of a reference check can be the real deal maker — or breaker. Managers interviewed said they remove more than one in five (21 percent) candidates from consideration after speaking to their professional contacts. When it comes to what hiring managers are looking for when speaking to references, more than a third (36 percent) said they are most interested in getting input on an applicant’s past job duties and experience. Learning about the individual’s strengths and weaknesses came in second, with 31 percent of the response.

The survey was developed by OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of highly skilled administrative professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on telephone interviews with more than 1,000 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees. 

Managers were asked, “Approximately what percentage of job candidates do you remove from consideration for a position with your company after checking their references?” The average response was 21 percent. 

Managers also were asked, “When speaking to an applicant’s job references, what is the most important information you hope to receive?” Their responses:

  • Description of past job duties and experience - 36%
  • A view into the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses - 31%
  • Confirmation of job title and dates of employment – 11%
  • Description of workplace accomplishments – 8%
  • A sense of the applicant’s preferred work culture – 7%
  • Other/don’t know - 7%

“When hiring managers narrow the field to a few potential candidates, the reference check often becomes the deciding factor,” said OfficeTeam executive director Robert Hosking. “To distinguish themselves from the competition, job seekers should assemble a solid list of contacts who can persuasively communicate their qualifications and professional attributes.”

More Campuses Just Saying No to Smokers

In 2007, about 60 colleges and universities had enacted a smoke-free policy. That number has grown to nearly 400.

There has been some external push. Clean air laws in Illinois, New Jersey and Wisconsin require smoke-free university housing. Smoking is prohibited on all public campuses in Arkansas and at every school (public and private) in Iowa. A couple of big players soon join the list, with no smoking at the University of Florida this fall or at any of the three University of Michigan campuses starting in 2011.

For those that still allow lighting up, more have policies that restrict the number of areas and move smokers away from building entrances. What have student reactions been? According to a CongressDaily story:

A Student Tobacco-Free Task Force was created when the University of Denver went smoke-free in January. Similar associations have been created at other colleges to help enforce the policy and support the change.

However, students who oppose the ban on smoking cigarettes outdoors have not remained silent. Groups of students held daily "smoke-ins" in protest when the University of Pennsylvania attempted to ban smoking at all 14 of its campuses in 2008.

The University of Denver found that about two-thirds of the student population was in favor of banning tobacco. "Interestingly, these divisions were not necessarily based on one’s personal use of tobacco," said Katie Dunker, the assistant director of health promotions at the school. "We had students who use tobacco who were for it and students who didn’t who were against it."

A list from the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation puts campuses of 15 Indiana colleges and universities in the total smoke-free category. There are another nine Hoosier campuses rated smoke-free with the exception of some remote outdoor areas.

California License Plates for $ale

California lawmakers are considering a move that would allow the state to generate revenue by allowing advertising on their license plates. No doubt, some will say this is an ideal merging of the public and private sectors, while others may get the creeps about such a partnership. While the funding source may be unique, the concept really isn’t. Advertising on vehicles is nothing new. Think of the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile, or those Red Bull cars we see in downtown Indy … or that van promoting the re-election of Hill Valley Mayor Goldie Wilson.

Popsci reports:

Like an early, static version of Twitter, license plates have long allowed drivers to stamp a statement right onto their bumpers, as long as that statement is of extremely limited length. But lawmakers in California are deliberating a bill that would allow electronic license plates that would display advertisements and other messages when cars are not in motion, turning every car on the road into a moving billboard.

When cars are moving, the electronic registration would display the usual numbered and lettered identifier. But when parked or stopped for more than four seconds in traffic or at a red light, the plate would display anything from advertising messages to emergency information or Amber Alerts.

For the highly insolvent state of California, such ad-bearing devices could generate a good deal of revenue. For drivers, they could generate a whole new source of distraction on our already media-saturated roadways. But in heavily gridlocked places like California, it could provide a fast means to disseminate important information quickly and even provide emergency instructions to drivers who regularly deal with natural disasters like mudslides, wildfires, and earthquakes. And don’t worry, Los Angelenos: You’ll still be able to advertise your ride as “SMOKN” in between the paid messages.

Funny, but Shocking Video: Pay Attention to the Little Things

On Twitter, I follow a gentleman named Joe Navarro (@navarrotells), a former FBI agent and leading expert on non-verbal communication. (He’s authored at least one very intriguing poker book on tells, which is how I came to know his work.) He passed along a Tweet containing this video recently, which illustrates just how little we pay attention to our surroundings.

If you can work on improving your observation skills, just think how much of an edge you — and your company — will have in a business setting. And think how much more attentive you could be to your customers. Enjoy this eye-opening piece. (If it won’t allow you to view the embedded version, just click "Watch on YouTube.")

[youtube]vBPG_OBgTWg&feature[/youtube]

Membership Offers Statewide Visibility

With nearly 5,000 members and 26,000 customers, the Chamber’s web page generates a significant amount of traffic. Not the backed-up Interstate-405, watching O.J. Simpson roll by in a white Ford Bronco, pull your hair out, Los Angeles kind of traffic, but about 600 unique visitor hits a day to our home page traffic. Members are encouraged to post their press releases and to submit a Member Spotlight to our site. Both may be done at no charge by being our beloved member.
 
Press release announcements regarding company milestones, new products or services, prominent new hires or community involvement, may be submitted here.
 
Additionally, the Member Spotlight gives you two weeks on our site to tell your company’s story and to promote your products and services.
 
Not a member? Contact Tom James at tjames@indianachamber.com or (317) 264-7539 to learn more about membership benefits.

California Still Not Learning Hard Lessons on Education

Oh, California. You gave us good wine, the Grateful Dead, and Reggie Miller. We should probably be a little kinder to you than we are. But you don’t make it easy. The Heartland Institute asserts the Golden State just isn’t getting it when it comes to education, throwing money at a failing system instead of letting the system work for the kids. Here’s an excerpt: 

Frustrated by some tough budget years, California public school officials want a court to declare the state’s Byzantine school finance system unconstitutional. The stated goal of the lawsuit is to circumvent lawmakers (and reality) by asking a judge to force billions of dollars in unaffordable education spending increases.

But the system isn’t "unconstitutional" so much as unworkable. The way to achieve an equitable and affordable public school system in the Golden State isn’t more funding to prop up a bloated bureaucracy. The answer is to fund all children equally by letting the funding follow the child. The answer is choice.

This is hardly a radical idea. Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania, for example, offer tax credits to corporations and individuals who finance scholarships for children from low-income families. Even Sweden lets families choose the school they want, public or private, backed by a tax-subsidized scholarship…

The education establishment views the case as a bureaucracy preservation problem, which evades the real problem – the failure of that bureaucracy to educate California’s children. Students only enter the equation as a pretext for propping up the salaries and benefits of public employees.

The fact is, court-ordered school spending has never translated to academic success. A federal court judge ruled in 1985 that school officials in Kansas City, Mo., had to double local property taxes to fund $2 billion aimed at improving performance in low-income and mostly minority schools. In the blizzard of spending that followed over the next two decades, students got state-of-the-art science facilities, Olympic-size swimming pools, small classes – and no measurable improvement in academic outcomes.

Voters’ efforts to boost school funding haven’t translated to success either. Proposition 98, which Californians passed in 1988, locked California into a budget-busting mandate directing at least 40 percent of the state budget toward elementary and secondary education. Since its passage, California has seen negligible gains in academic outcomes and lagged well behind mediocre national trends.

What the California case needs is a second group of plaintiffs to intervene and argue the only workable way to secure the fundamental right to an education in a truly equitable fashion is to fund every child equally. The court certainly could declare the entire system unconstitutional – and then insist that funding follow the child to any school that meets California’s content standards.

Lasting reform requires shifting from the stifling chaos of the current "bureaucracy-based" system to the spontaneous order that will unfold as we fund the child. That’s the only system that comports with the spirit and the letter of the "equal protection" clause in any constitution.

Execs Say Washington is Going Too Far

A couple of interesting observations from Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon Communications and chairman of the Business Roundtable. This group of top executives has been strongly courted by the Obama administration and included in various policy discussions.

Seidenberg, speaking at the Economic Club of Washington earlier this week, however, had the following quotes:

  • He accused the president and Democratic lawmakers of creating an "increasingly hostile environment for investment and job creation."
  • He added that Democrats in Washington are pursuing tax increases, policy changes and regulatory actions that together threaten to dampen economic growth and "harm our ability . . . to grow private-sector jobs in the U.S."
  • "In our judgment, we have reached a point where the negative effects of these policies are simply too significant to ignore. By reaching into virtually every sector of economic life, government is injecting uncertainty into the marketplace and making it harder to raise capital and create new businesses."

And it’s not just Seidenberg. The Washington Post reported that: Seidenberg first expressed his concerns about the direction of Democratic economic policy in a meeting last month with White House budget director Peter Orszag. When Orszag asked for specifics, Seidenberg polled the members of the Business Roundtable and a sister organization, the Business Council. The result was a 54-page document, delivered to Orszag on Monday, chock full of bullet points about actions taken or considered by a wide array of executive agencies, including the White House Middle Class Task Force and the Food and Drug Administration.

"We believe the cumulative effect of these proposals will help defeat the objectives we all share — reducing unemployment, improving the competitiveness of U.S. companies and creating an environment that fosters long-term economic growth," Seidenberg wrote in a cover letter for the document, titled "Policy Burdens Inhibiting Economic Growth."

Here’s Why DISCLOSE is a DISASTER

Two unrelated observations that come together in this case:

  1. Who is in charge of naming legislation that produces such memorable acronyms? The latest is the DISCLOSE Act, short for Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections
  2. Any time you can get 300 organizations to agree on something, it must be at an extreme — in this case the bad end of the spectrum

DISCLOSE is the 2010 version of card check, attempting to penalize business voices at the expense of unions. Card check dealt with union elections; DISCLOSE seeks to circumvent a Supreme Court decision and attack First Amendment rights by limiting the business voice in political elections.

The 300-plus organizations (chambers, economic development groups, associations and more) represent businesses of all types and size across the country. They combined to send a letter to all members of the U.S. House. A couple of excerpts below, and here is the full letter:

The legislation’s sponsors admit that the bill’s purpose is to deter corporations from participating in the political process. Senator Schumer has said the bill will make corporations “think twice” before attempting to influence election outcomes, and that this “deterrent effect should not be underestimated.”

Its provisions include a blanket prohibition on election-related speech by certain government contractors. Thousands of corporations regularly participate in contracts with the federal government; under Schumer – Van Hollen, many of them are categorically barred from making their political views known. The bill imposes no comparable restrictions on labor unions that receive federal grants, negotiate collective bargaining agreements with the government, or have international affiliates, even though unions and their political action committees are the single largest contributor to political campaigns and claim to have spent nearly $450 million in the 2008 presidential race.