‘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.

Anti-Bullying App Gets Microloan Boost

The current edition of BizVoice® magazine includes a story about the Madison County Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA), an after-school program for students in grades six to 12 that helps students learn how to brainstorm ideas for companies, present those companies to an investor panel and secure funding for their ideas.

As part of the YEA program, Pendleton Heights High School junior Brandon Boynton created an anti-bullying app called The Bully Box, which is marketed to schools and allows students to report acts of bullying anonymously, while allowing the school district to collect bullying data to help comply with anti-bullying laws and protect students.

Boynton’s app won the local contest held through the Madison County YEA program, as well as the regional contest in Boca Raton, Florida. He placed in the top six of a national competition at America’s Small Business Summit in Washington D.C. in June.

According to a press release from the Flagship Microloan Program, the app has also caught the attention of the microloan organization, which provides small loans of between $1,000 and $5,000 to businesses in a 10-county region of East Central Indiana. The program announced it will make a working capital loan to Most Beastly Studios, which produces The Bully Box app. The Flagship Enterprise Center, a technology incubator in Anderson, is a sponsor of the Madison County YEA program and is a partnership between the City of Anderson and Anderson University.

To raise additional capital for the app, Boynton is running a campaign via crowdfunding site IndieGoGo. His goal is to raise $25,000 by Sept. 24.

Also in Boynton’s toolbox is The Curfew Buddy – keeping parents and children connected quickly about where children are and when they’ll return home.

Kudos to this young Hoosier entrepreneur and the Madison County YEA program for giving Boynton and other enterprising students the experience and opportunity to change the world through their innovative products, services and ideas.

Company Perks — and the Employees They’re Meant For

Sometimes I get a little jealous when my husband comes home and tells me of some of the really impressive perks he gets by working at one of Indianapolis’ top technology companies — eight-time Best Places to Work in Indiana honoree Interactive Intelligence. Like the one day he got to end the workday with a cold beer and a cupcake (right?). Or the day he came into work and there was a blanket fort built above their cubicles (I made him send me a picture of that one). Or basically any of the days he goes into work in a t-shirt and shorts (what?).

I found this article from the Wall Street Journal about which employees some of these perks at technology companies are actually meant to entertain and keep around. It’s not the sales or marketing people, or the support staff – it’s the engineers.

A candid interview with the CEO of a Seattle-based realty and tech firm relays that the company knows what it needs to offer to attract the best talent – and extending those perks to the entire company ensures no bad blood forms. The CEO also notes that company-provided lunches are opportunities for the technology teams and the sales teams to get together and talk – which often means the tech people have a good idea of what types of technology products their co-workers need.

An interesting point the CEO brings up is that employees seem to get used to the perks … to the point of entitlement, even.

Each year, we recognize the state’s top employers through the Best Places to Work in Indiana program (attention: nominations are open for the 2015 program, through November 21). And every year we comb through the results of the employer questionnaires to put together profiles and interesting stories for BizVoice® magazine. There have been some really impressive perks noted along the way.

And while the afore-mentioned CEO brought up the issue of entitlement (which may very well be the case on the West Coast), I’ve spoken with many employees of the Best Places companies throughout the past four years and overall I get the sense of a humble gratitude for their employers providing the benefits and perks that they do. On the flip side, the employers also talk about how they are grateful to be able to provide happy and productive workplaces that are often centered on treating people well and supporting family-friendly environments.

If nothing else, it’s a good reminder not to take for granted any of the perks or benefits your company provides.

Don’t forget to apply for the 2015 Best Places to Work in Indiana program! Visit www.bestplacestoworkin.com for more information.

Indianapolis Zoo to Adopt Dynamic Pricing

Heading to the Indianapolis Zoo on a weekend day during the summer? Be prepared to pay more than if you’d gone in the middle of the week and during the off-peak season (or purchased your tickets in advance).

A new online ticketing system uses “dynamic pricing” for the popular Indy attraction. Prices are adjusted based on the day’s projected attendance – hence, busy weekend days during the summer will cost you more.

The Associated Press is reporting the change was spurred by the brand new Simon Skojdt International Orangutan Center, which opened at the end of May. Zoo officials identified the new pricing model as the best way to control crowd numbers to allow visitors to enjoy their experience, especially as crowd numbers are expected to increase by 24% over last year.

A spokesperson for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums told the Associated Press that the Indianapolis Zoo is the only member of the organization to use the dynamic pricing model.

How does it work? Saturday, June 14, for example, will cost over $26 for adult tickets and over $20 for child tickets. Wednesday, June 18, on the other hand, will cost around $15 for adult tickets and $12 for child tickets.

Purchasing tickets in advance leads to lower prices – heavy attendance days in August (Saturdays, specifically) are just over $22 for adults and $17 for children this far out. The web site also warns that ticket prices are higher at the gate (though it doesn’t say by how much). A color-coded calendar on the zoo’s web site makes it easy to identify the more expensive days.

It seems that the pricing model doesn’t affect membership to the zoo: the basic family membership package (two adults and all children under age 21) is still $136 for the year.

Dynamic pricing isn’t a new concept – sports teams have already been using the pricing model. A story in the January/February 2014 edition of BizVoice® takes a deeper look into the trend.

What’s the lowest ticket pricing for the rest of the year? Wednesday, November 19, when it’s $8.70 for adult and $6.70 for child tickets (if you buy them today).

I appreciate the zoo’s forward-thinking to help control crowds without truly pricing people out. Who wants to pay hard-earned money to stand in a crowd five-feet deep to see the lions and tigers and bears (oh my!)? It will be nice to know which days attendance is expected to be heavier and I anticipate more organizations will be moving toward the dynamic pricing model as it becomes more well-known.

The (Unscientific) Science of a Ceremonial First Pitch

Ah, finally it’s summer. That means that it’s time for pool parties and backyard barbecues and for the always-inevitable experience of people trying to make me watch baseball.

I’m not a baseball fan. I find the sport to be mind-numbingly boring most of the time. (And this is coming from someone who plays golf.) No offense if you’re a fan, I just can’t get into it. I enjoy the atmosphere at a ball park and always have a great time at the Chamber’s annual Indians outing, but actually sitting and paying attention to the game is … not my thing.

But something has caught my interest about baseball. This amazing graph from a Washington Post blog shows (non-scientifically) how well athletes, celebrities, politicians and fictional figures have fared in throwing out first pitches.

This comes on the heels of what many are calling the worst first pitch of all time by rapper 50 Cent. But, by looking at this chart, you can see it’s not just 50 Cent that has a terrible throwing arm: Carly Rae Jepsen (pop singer), T-Rex (apparently the tiny arms aren’t conducive to America’s favorite sport), and even President Barack Obama threw out just awful first pitches that were nowhere near their intended target.

Who has nailed it over the years, you might ask? George W. Bush threw one right down the middle and rapper Snoop Dogg and actor Matthew McConaughey also got theirs pretty close to the middle. Bill Clinton and Sonia Sotomayor ended up in the strike zone.

How did the writers at the blog come up with this interesting little chart? They simply watched videos of all of these first pitches and logged them as close as possible to where they landed. So, no, it’s not the most scientific of data collection, but it makes the odd tradition of a ceremonial first pitch a little more interesting.

As long as you’re not Nolan Ryan. Wasn’t that guy a major league pitcher?