100th Student Says ‘I Can Go Back’ at WGU Indiana

An initiative from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (CHE) has been making gains in getting more of the 750,000 Hoosiers with some college but no degree to commit to finishing.

The statewide “You Can. Go Back.” effort hit another milestone earlier this month when the 100th student enrolled at WGU Indiana through the CHE initiative.

As we reported in the March-April edition of BizVoice®, those 750,000 Hoosiers make up about 21% of Indiana’s working-age population. And reaching the goal set forth by the CHE (and the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 plan) of Indiana having a 60% postsecondary education attainment rate (the current rate is about 41%) is unlikely without some of those adults with some college and no degree.

A press release from WGU Indiana adds that the nonprofit, online university offered an application fee waiver and a $100 tuition grant certificate for any student applying through the CHE campaign; a $2,000 scholarship has also been renewed for the next school year.
The CHE offers financial aid – including $1,000 grants on a first-come, first-served basis – and a matching web site to connect students with the best institution for their needs. A marketing campaign has also targeted specific demographics that are likely to return to school (in February, over 9,000 potential students targeted through the campaign had re-enrolled and almost 5,000 had been matched with participating schools).

“You Can. Go Back.” also applies to industry certifications and credentials, as well as two- and four-year academic degrees.

Additionally, the CHE partnered with Indiana employers to reach more potential returnees and is seeking more small- and mid-sized companies to sign on and encourage their employees to go back and get their degree.

Employer resources through “You Can. Go Back.” include a toolkit of promotional materials to inform employees, as well as a connection to local campus programs and other companies that offer such degree completion options for employees.

For employers interested in learning more or signing up, visit www.youcangoback.org and click on “Employer Partnership Sign-Up.”

I’m Crowdfunding Nostalgia, and It is Delicious

In the midst of holiday package arrivals at my house, I recently found an unexpected one: a 12-pack of sweetened sparkling water that I had crowdfunded almost two years ago (and nearly forgotten about).

How could I forget, I ask myself? This is no ordinary fizzy drink. This is pure nostalgia in a bottle; a beautiful, light-blue, tear-drop shaped glass bottle containing the sweet nectar of my youth: Clearly Canadian. When I was young and was allowed to pick a drink when we’d stop at the gas station, I always reached for Clearly Canadian (usually the Mountain Blackberry flavor). It was the best.

At some point in the early 2000s, it was gone. (The company launched in 1987, and was also responsible for a wacky space-age drink of the late 1990s: Orbitz, which resembled a lava lamp complete with gelatinous floating blobs, and was only on the market for about a year.)

Alas, I moved on with my life and mostly forgot about the clear soda beverage, until May of 2015, when suddenly, there it was in my Facebook newsfeed: Clearly Canadian was coming back to life! And I could help through crowdfunding!

I had only crowdfunded one other thing (if you’ve seen the Veronica Mars movie, you’re welcome); and it was such a fun experience to see that come to fruition, and to realize I had a teeny, tiny part in making it happen.

Crowdfunding is still a fairly young concept. It has been around since about 2008 and emerged as a response to banks lending less to artists and entertainers in the wake of the economic recession, according to a World Bank report from 2013. It has expanded far past entertainment, however, and the World Bank report notes that by 2025, the potential for crowdfunding investment is $96 billion a year.

And in Indiana, rules passed in 2014 allow Hoosier entrepreneurs to raise up to $2 million, and investors to invest up to $5,000 per company (the JOBS Act of 2012 dealt with federal rules for crowdfunding).

Of course, there are risks associated with crowdfunding. As an investor, sometimes things don’t go smoothly and you risk the company or product not being executed. That was definitely the case for Clearly Canadian. Expected delivery dates (September 2015, then October 2015, then November 2015) came and went. Email updates mostly stopped. Apparently there were problems with vendors and at one point the production facility shut down in the middle of a production run.

Early in 2016 there was an update, but again, nothing happened. I basically thought I’d lost my $30 (the base-line contribution for this campaign was around $30 for a 12-pack). C’est la vie.

Until earlier this week, when I received a shipment on my doorstep. I’m not ashamed to admit there was squealing and dancing on my part. I am slightly ashamed to admit the first thing I did was take a photo of my prized possession and post it on Facebook to make my fellow ’90s friends jealous. It worked, they were jealous (except for the one that also participated in the campaign. We did a virtual “cheers” with our drinks).

Do you crowdsource? Has it all gone smoothly? Share your stories! I’m interested to hear your experiences, too.

Tax Man: Ice Miller’s Mark Richards a 2016 Volunteer of the Year

It’s immediately evident that Mark Richards is passionate about taxes.

As a lawyer for Ice Miller, LLP, specializing in tax law for the past 30 years, he is quick to explain how taxes are essential to the Indiana economy.

Richards points to changes – from a cash to credit economy, and from brick and mortar retail to online over the last few decades – as evidence of how interesting taxes can be.

“I’m using that as an example to show how our entire economic system evolves and the tax laws have to evolve to keep pace.

Some would argue (the laws) haven’t done that very well, but the result is there’s always a new frontier, a new area that’s undeveloped, unexplored, new issues that come up. This is fundamentally important,” he stresses.

Richards has been a member of the Indiana Chamber’s tax policy committee about as long as he’s been a lawyer. He views his role as a source of support and advice to the Chamber. He has been integral to several major tax policy initiatives over the years, including the repeal of the inventory and gross receipts taxes in 2002, and, more recently, the elimination of the throwback rule…

Read the full story in BizVoice.

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‘The Right Way’: Faegre Baker Daniels Attorney Stuart Buttrick a 2016 Volunteer of the Year

Stuart Buttrick believes in the power of community, particularly the Indianapolis community and its citizens working toward a common good.

Buttrick, a labor and employment law attorney at Faegre Baker Daniels, has a long list of civic involvement. And it starts at home, where Buttrick and his wife make volunteering a family affair and emphasize to their young children the importance of giving back.

“Ultimately, I just want (my children) to be happy and kind people. I won’t profess to be a good role model in that regard, but that’s what I’d like for them to be. We emphasize helping others in our house and doing things for others,” he notes.

“It’s good for the community and good for a person to help others. We’re all in this together.”

Buttrick serves as a director on several boards for organizations throughout Central Indiana, including the Indianapolis Zoo, Park Tudor school, the Woodstock Foundation and the Indiana United Methodist Children’s Home in Lebanon…

Read the full story in BizVoice.

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‘Take the Long Way Home’: Todd Miller of Myers Spring a 2016 Chamber Volunteer of the Year

Todd Miller grew up in the small town of Twelve Mile in Cass County. Ironically, it’s about 12 miles from Logansport, where Miller resides and runs his family’s business, Myers Spring Company.

Miller’s journey, however, is anything but a short drive. In fact, at one point, he wasn’t even sure he wanted to be involved with the company that his grandfather started in a garage in 1946.

When Miller attended Purdue University to pursue a degree in engineering, he followed his musical passion and joined the school’s glee club. Traveling throughout the state and country with the group opened Miller’s eyes to the possibility of meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. As manager of the glee club, he met fascinating people and at one event dined with astronauts Gene Cernan and Neil Armstrong.

Those were pivotal moments for Miller. His grandfather passed away in 1985, and Miller’s father took over the company. Miller’s intention was to join the business after he finished school.

Read the full story in BizVoice.

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Logistics, Infrastructure Take Center Stage at Summit

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Hoosiers don’t take lightly the title “Crossroads of America.”

It’s a moniker we’ve earned honestly: The state is in the heart of the Midwest and is one of the top manufacturing states in the country. Going hand-in-hand with manufacturing success are logistics and distribution, and the ability for Hoosier companies to move their goods efficiently and through cost-effective means.

We move products by sea, rail, over the road and through the air to national and global locations. More than 700 million tons of freight is moved annually in Indiana, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation.

As part of the ongoing Beyond the Bicentennial campaign, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce will release an open letter detailing the necessary policy positions for advancing the state’s Superior Infrastructure, as outlined in the Chamber’s long-range economic development plan Indiana Vision 2025. The letter, to be published on Sept. 27, will be the third in a series of four letters addressed to the major party gubernatorial candidates. Each letter details policies impacting the four drivers of Indiana Vision 2025. Additionally, the Indiana Logistics Summit will return to downtown Indianapolis on Nov. 16-17.

Keynote speaker Paul N. Jaenichen, Sr., United States Maritime Administrator, will address attendees on Nov. 17. Jaenichen was appointed to his position by President Obama in 2014 and is a retired career naval officer. He was a nuclear trained Submarine Officer in the U.S. Navy for 30 years, and will be speaking about the National Maritime Transportation Strategy and Marine highway projects.

New to the summit will be a series of educational breakout sessions. These will feature speakers on topics such as: rail, air cargo, barge and trucking industries; going global; innovation; policy; and workforce.

Early discounted registration is open until Sept. 30 (though registration will continue after that date). Visit the web site at www.indianalogistics.com for more information and to register.

Internet of Things Conference Highlights Connections

IndyIoT Event Invite

Did you know one of the first devices to be connected to the Internet was a toaster? In 1990, John Romkey and Simon Hacknett accepted a challenge to connect and control a toaster via the Internet. It was a groundbreaking feat 20 years ago – even though today you can buy a toaster that toasts the day’s weather forecast onto your breakfast.

While the name “Internet of Things” (IoT) was not yet coined in 1990, the Internet Toaster, as it became known, falls plainly under the construct of IoT: allowing connection between devices and the Internet, or between devices and devices, or between people and devices, etc.

The IoT has the potential to automate your house (control your thermostat remotely, or send your health vitals to your doctor just by stepping on the bathroom scale) and even link up entire city systems (correcting water quality or regulating traffic flow, for example).

Recently, John McDonald, CEO of Fishers-based CloudOne, addressed the Indiana Technology and Innovation Council’s inaugural meeting at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and gave an example of the potential for IoT in everyday life: your car radio and picking up on the fact that it is 3 a.m. and you aren’t driving as safely as you had been earlier; there is a 24-hour Starbucks ahead and your payment information can be beamed to the store, with your favorite hot drink ready for you when you drive through.

While the possibilities might sound futuristic, Hoosier companies are already working on these technologies.

To celebrate and acknowledge the possibilities, the IndyIoT conference will take place on September 28 from 1-5 p.m. at Launch Fishers.

The conference brings together IoT innovators, and will highlight innovations through 15-minute burst presentations. Speakers include Michael Wollowski, Ph.D., Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology; Kip Tom, Tom Farms; Michael Coffey, Roche; and Robert Rodenbeck, Delta Faucet Company.

Follow along on Twitter at @IndyIOT or visit the web site at www.indyiot.com.

UK’s State-Sponsored ‘Love Nugget’ Program Aims to Keep Couples Together

Oh boy. The United Kingdom is getting a little touchy-feely with its taxpayer dollars.

A new campaign – sponsored by the Department of Education (who else?) – suggests small pieces of advice, dubbed “love nuggets,” for married and long-term couples looking to keep their relationships from ending in divorce or separation.

The program – which is being led by a charity called OnePlusOne and a few other family-oriented organizations – is sponsored by almost £3 million (current exchange rates puts that at just over $5 million U.S. dollars), according to a number of media reports in British news outlets.

The idea behind the campaign, according to the web site, is that the breakdown of couples and families is expensive and costs the state a whole lot of money. So, in order to help strengthen the bonds of matrimony (and coupledom), the Love Nuggets campaign offers a number of pieces of advice to help couples stay connected. The suggestions come from the public, but they are screened to ensure nothing naughty gets posted. Phew.

Here are a few:

  • “He surprised me by picking out my favourite horror movies and getting lots of munchies for a movie night in together.”
  • “My husband brings me breakfast in bed on a Saturday morning.”
  • “My wife always gives me a big hug when I get in from work.”
  • “We make each other cross words or give each other a book for long journeys.

I’m not making this up. But, I could: Can I get someone to pay me £3 million to write these “brilliant” pieces of advice?

You can see all the “love nuggets” at once, or spin the handy spinner on the home page to get three random suggestions for spicing up your relationship.

While I can appreciate the assistance for keeping your love life healthy and happy (wait, isn’t that what couples’ therapy or Cosmopolitan magazine is for?), this is a bit too far – and too much money – for a government that could be spending that money on actual education.

Anyone that’s been married or in a long-term relationship knows there are times when it can get dull. You’re busy dealing with work, family, children, life and paying attention to your spouse can unfortunately fall pretty far down on the list. But most of the criticism of this government-sponsored web site includes the notion that most people know the small acts of kindness they could show their partners – it’s the tricky, deeper issues such as finances or the pressures of raising children that can have the more devastating effects on a relationship. Pretending these “love nuggets” are a solution to the more serious issues facing couples today is just (as they say in Britain) mental.

Clothing Line Responds to Request for Girls’ Science-Themed T-Shirts

I can already tell that my nearly three-year-old daughter is going to have a proclivity for math and science. She has spatial reasoning for a toddler that I’ve never seen before and loves everything earth and science-based, including digging in the garden with me, learning about astronomy and “dinosnores” as she calls them (quite adorably).

She also loves playing with dolls and Cinderella is one of her favorite movies – sometimes she dresses up as a butterfly or princess and sings and dances around the house. At this age, she’s all about exploring the whole world around her – not just one tiny pink or purple sliver of it.

While a walk down the “girl” toy aisle might tell you differently, there are retailers that are catching on that girls have greater interests than just dolls and cute puppies and sequins. Science, math, Paleontology, sports and realistic-looking animals are not only for boys.

One retailer, Lands’ End, in response to a letter posted to its Facebook page (that went viral very quickly) by a mom concerned that she and her nine-year-old daughter, who loves science and astronomy, could not find science-themed graphic t-shirts in the girls’ section of the Lands’ End catalog – just the boys’ section – has taken steps to rectify the situation.

The company’s new line of science-themed t-shirts for girls launched on July 30. Posted on its Facebook page, the company notes that pre-orders are being taken and based on the response to the shirts, the company will continue to add new styles.

In response, the Lands’ End Facebook community has continued to ask for more gender-breaking apparel.

One Facebook fan writes, “Can we please also get ‘boy’ shirts with some more variety of colors (how about a purple?), and animals other than dangerous animals with teeth? And please take gender labels off of things like backpacks & lunchboxes that don’t have a different fit.”

Another writes, “Do these come in adult size? I’m a female astronomy teacher! I want one!”

This isn’t the first time a clothing retailer has been taken to task for its biased clothing line. Last year, I wrote about a t-shirt featured by The Children’s Place that alluded to young ladies that math was less important than (and they weren’t as good at it as) shopping, music and dancing. That shirt was quickly removed from store shelves and online.

Especially in an age where STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs are plentiful, necessary and well-paying, there is still a disparity in the number of women and minorities employed in those fields – though the gap is smaller than it has been in the past, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project. The program has a number of statistics on its web site that point to the disproportion of women and minorities in the STEM fields.

While the next generation of STEM workers probably doesn’t hinge on a t-shirt design (or lack thereof), it’s important to continue the drumbeat that girls are good at math and science and can get those well-paying STEM jobs that are so necessary for the future success of America.

Evansville: “You Get a Building!”… “You Get a Building!”

Now here’s an interesting idea to get vacant downtown buildings filled – give the buildings away!

Well, don’t just give the buildings away. Try something like the Southwest Indiana Chamber of Commerce is doing: offering a restaurant challenge to anyone looking to open a restaurant in downtown Evansville and then give the building away as the award.

According to local TV station WFIE, the building in question has been empty since 2008 and the city’s Downtown Alliance came up with the idea – the first of its kind in the state, says the news report.

Dubbed the “Main Course Challenge,” the contest’s web site explains that the prize package includes over $250,000 in cash and in-kind services to develop the restaurant. The prize package includes $100,000 in start-up cash, as well as advertising services, inventory, real estate, architectural and construction services.

Interested restaurateurs simply need to apply with a biography of all partners, a prospective menu with pricing, a draft of a business plan and a reason why the pitch should be chosen over all others. The deadline to apply is Oct. 15. Once selected, finalists will provide more detailed information as well as a sampling of the food that would be served at the restaurant.

WFIE reports that the winner will have to move into the building by Sept. 1, 2015.

It’ll be an interesting experiment to see how this contest plays out and if the restaurant will have staying power once the hullabaloo dies down. But, talk about a great way to get a vacant building in your downtown filled, while introducing a new dining experience that might bring in more visitors and tourists.

This program by the Southwest Indiana Chamber of Commerce (an Indiana Chamber member company) is the type of innovative experience that will continue to revitalize older downtown districts. Maybe there are other cities and towns around the state that would benefit from something similar?

Visit www.maincoursechallenge.com to enter the contest.