Tech Talk: Sapp Moving But Not Going Away

By now, many of you have seen the stories and video (Inside INdiana Business interview) about Dustin Sapp. The Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology grad and Indiana tech leader for more than 15 years is moving to Colorado (for health reasons) but has also taken on a new role with Indianapolis-based Formstack.

Sapp was honored as the first Indiana Vision 2025 Dynamic Leader of the Year when the Chamber instituted the award in 2015. It was based on his business creation efforts – NoInk Communications, Vontoo and TinderBox (now Octiv) – and his contributions in giving back and helping grow the tech community.

Here are a few excerpts from our Dynamic Leader of the Year profile in BizVoice® magazine.

  • On founding a business: “Starting a company is a lot harder than people make it out to be. You can go to an event and it’s all about the energy and the excitement, but they don’t talk about the difficulty. Especially when you first begin – you’re the boss and the employee and the one making the coffee and the custodian and the accountant. It’s often a very lonely job.”
  • On priorities and why work should not be No. 1: “When it comes to burnout, a pattern we see is that it’s most often those who are the most career-driven. They pour everything they have into career, and it’s all that exists for them. So a requirement that I have for people is that they have something that’s more important than this business in their lives. For me, it’s straightforward: it’s my God and it’s my family.”
  • On the tech scene in central Indiana: “Indianapolis has always had the right attitude about the ‘rising tide,’ but now as you list the successes, you have a second level of talent investing back into the ecosystem, starting and joining other companies in earlier stages. We’re seeing a magical moment. Now our biggest gap is in getting a number of $20-$30 million companies, not just one or two. We need that middle tier, not just big successes and early stage start-ups.”

Profound words 18 months ago – and today. Dustin, thanks for everything you have done thus far and will continue to do for your team and our state. We wish you nothing but the best.

Nominations close June 16 for the 2017 Dynamic Leader of the Year award. The winner is selected based on success within their own organization, as well as their efforts to grow the state’s technology and innovation communities. Contact Jesse Brothers at jbrothers@indianachamber.com for more information.

A Clearer Path for Indiana’s Innovation Sector

Last summer, the Indiana Chamber formed the Indiana Technology & Innovation Council. A large part of the group’s mission it to protect and advance the public policy interests of related organizations. The Indiana Technology & Innovation Council’s Tech Policy Committee developed an agenda going into the 2017 session with several significant objectives.

We are happy to report – thanks to the work of many – that the group’s first legislative session proved to be highly productive and rewarding, with several key policies to advance innovation, technology and entrepreneurship in Indiana set to become law.

These include enhancing early-stage and scale-up funding for promising Indiana business opportunities, an increased focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, better digital and physical connectivity with other parts of the world, funding for better use of big data and providing funding mechanisms to enhance regional infrastructure projects.

Management and Performance Hub Information Holds Promise
Indiana has been a leader in using government data to improve the delivery of services to its citizens. The Management and Performance Hub (MPH) is an evolving integrated data system that links government agency data and allows for data-driven analytics and research, which can help inform policy and improve the delivery of government services to come from that information. House Bill 1470, Government Data, authored by Rep. David Ober (R-Albion), was the main vehicle to codify the MPH and ensure it has maximum utility for taxpayers, government agencies, the Legislature and other external stakeholders.

The measure started off smoothly, but when it got to the Senate, it was derailed during a hearing before the Senate Commerce and Technology Committee. Based on fear that the information would not be secure or de-identified, the committee amended it to be only a summer study committee issue. Fortunately, the original content was restored by Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek), the bill’s sponsor, on the Senate floor. The Chamber has supported HB 1470 to maximize its utility as a consistent data source and analytical tool for a variety of public issues with multiple stakeholders.

Fortunately, the budget bill, HB 1001, authored by Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) ended up providing good resources to the MPH –$9 million per year for the next two years. This allows MPH the ability to continue to develop to provide timely and accurate information that can help track vital information for the state’s economy, education and a host of other matters where better data can help inform better decisions.

Municipalities Work to Hinder Small Cell Legislation, But It Passes
A bill to more easily move Indiana’s mobile broadband connectivity to the next generation of technology passed the Indiana General Assembly. Senate Bill 213, Wireless Support Structures, authored by Sen. Hershman, focused on streamlining permitting, fees and co-location to increase coverage by current cell towers and facilitate more rapid installation of small cell technology in Indiana communities.

Specifically, an objective was to eliminate excess fees and permitting by local units of government that would hinder installation of small cell antennas. A lot of misinformation was communicated by detractors to say many of the antennas were the size of a refrigerator or Volkswagen, when, in fact, they are much smaller. It is in the providers’ economic interest to co-locate small cell antennas on current towers, light poles or other structures.

This legislation also highlighted an interesting dynamic: Many municipalities who want better broadband in their communities as an economic development tool also want a “say” in the small cell tower locations and to be able to collect fees and issue permits. And those desires are quite strong.

Case in point: There is a provision in the bill that allows Indiana communities to designate local ordinances (and possibly resolutions) to direct where and how those small cell devices can be put in their community by making them an underground or buried utility area. The deadline for seeking this additional protection was May 1. Realizing this, Accelerate Indiana Municipalities (AIM) sent information to its members around the state to quickly pass an ordinance or resolution by that date. Almost 100 locales were considering doing so. But that move may backfire on these same communities whose citizens want
better broadband. What’s more, whether those new ordinances are legal remains to be seen.

The Chamber supports more and better broadband for Indiana and strongly advocated for SB 213 during the process. We appreciate the hard work of Sen. Hershman and Rep. Ober in getting this legislation over the finish line.

Major Tech, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Progress
Several tech innovation issues ended up advancing in the state biennial budget, HB 1001, authored by Rep. Tim Brown.

A Chamber priority was to increase early stage capital in promising Indiana companies. While making the Venture Capital Investment (VCI) Tax Credit transferrable (to attract out-of-state investment to Indiana) didn’t happen, it arguably worked out even better with the creation of the $250 million Next Level Trust Fund. This allows for up to half of the $500 million corpus from the Major Moves highway infrastructure program to be used for investments outside of conservative fixed income investments. It creates a Next Level Indiana Fund investment board with fiduciary responsibility to direct investments in equities or “funds of funds” which could be directed toward promising Indiana businesses.

In addition to the Next Level Trust Fund, legislators adopted options for Indiana public employees and teachers with defined contribution plans to invest up to 20% of their contributions in an Indiana-focused fund.

This summer, the Legislative Services Agency is conducting a deep study of the impact of the VCI. That report is due in October 2017 and based on information that comes from that report, we hope to better advocate for the enhancement of the tax credit during the 2018 session, if warranted. In SB 507, authored by Sen. Randy Head (R-Logansport), the expiration date of the VCI tax credit of 2020 was eliminated so the tax credit now has more certainty for the future.

House Bill 1001 also funded $30 million for the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund. Additionally, $15 million for each of the next two years was allocated for the Business Promotion and Innovation Fund, which combined several requests. It gives authority to the Governor and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) to incentivize direct flights from international and regional airports in Indiana, encourage regional development activities (aka Regional Cities), advance innovation and entrepreneurship education programs through strategic partnerships and support international trade.

The Indiana Biosciences Research Institute was funded for $20 million for year two of the budget. This should pay dividends down the road to further grow Indiana life sciences opportunities.

Better Performance Metrics to Recertify Technology Parks
Certified technology parks (CTPs) around the state will benefit from House Bill 1601, authored by Rep. Todd Huston (R-Fishers). The bill requires IEDC to develop new metrics for performance of CTPs as they are up for recertification.

The IEDC will work with local units of government to develop the metrics. They will include the criteria used to evaluate each category of information by a CTP and a minimum threshold requirement to be recertified in each category.

This is good for both state and local governments to ensure the CTPs are truly being an effective driver of economic activity for that community and region. The bill did not receive any no votes during the legislative process and was supported in a bipartisan fashion. The Chamber backed the bill and appreciates the good work that Rep. Huston and Sen. Hershman, the Senate sponsor, did to ensure its passage.

Road Funding Set for Conference Committee Showdown

The Chamber was pleased to see the Senate pass a long-term road funding bill (34-13). During the floor vote, the Chamber lobbying team worked to get additional votes for what might have been a much closer margin. Five Republican senators voted against the Chamber on HB 1002: John Crane (Avon), Mike Delph (Carmel), Aaron Freeman (Indianapolis), Jean Leising (Oldenburg) and Andy Zay (Huntington). One Democrat, David Niezgodski (South Bend), voted with the Chamber.

There are differences between the House and Senate proposals, however:

  • House version raises just over $1.1 billion per year; the Senate about $672 million a year.
  • House version converts all sales tax collected (well over $300 million) on fuel sales to road funding; the Senate does not.
  • House version has $15 annual registration fee for regular automobiles and $150 for electric cars; the Senate adds $75 fee for hybrids (the Chamber supports this addition).
  • House version has a 10-cent fuel tax increase for both gasoline and diesel fuel, with annual increase based on index from 2019-2024. The Senate phases in the fuel taxes: five cents per year for two years; diesel tax is three cents a year for two years. Both are indexed at no more than one cent a year per gallon from 2019-2014.
  • House version requires the Indiana Department of Transportation to seek a federal tolling waiver; the Senate says it may seek the same waiver but with the approval of the Governor.
  • Senate version contains a $5 per new tire sale use fee in addition to the current 25-cent fee; the House does not.
  • Senate version increases registration fees for trucks in lieu of additional diesel taxes.
  • Senate version adds a 10-cent per gallon aviation fuel excise tax, with revenue from that going to the airport development grant fund.

The “swim lanes” of the bill are now clearly defined. Work will continue during the next two weeks by the Chamber and our coalition partners to reconcile the differences between the two versions. We believe Indiana will finally end up with a long-term sustainable transportation infrastructure funding bill, one of our Indiana Vision 2025 goals.

Call to Action: Please contact your legislators to encourage them to support HB 1002. Let them know today that long-term funding is important to you and your company!

Mixed Bag With Tech, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Priorities in Senate Budget

The long-awaited announcement of the Senate initial version of the budget came late
last week. In it, there are several technology-related issues that were either included or dropped from the bill, as well as some funding amounts also reduced from the House version:

  • Transferability of the Venture Capital Tax Credit was deleted. The Chamber would like to see it included to increase the flow of venture capital funds for promising qualified businesses.
  • Funding of the 21 Fund (21st Century Research and Development Fund) remains at $20 million a year. The Chamber prefers $30 million a year.
  • Funding to backstop the initiation of direct flights to Europe was reinstated, although it is $4 million rather than $10 million over the two years. A good start.
  • Funding for the Management Performance Hub (MPH) was reduced to $6 million for two years, which is less than what the House reduced from the Governor’s original amount.
  • Keeps $20 million for the two years for the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute
  • Removed the Next Level Trust Fund, which would have provided investment guidelines and supervision to direct a portion of the Major Moves Trust Fund to invest in promising Indiana opportunities.
  • It allocates $1 million for the biennium for the Launch Indiana program.

We will work to keep the things we like in the bill and try to restore other items that were reduced or removed as it advances through the Senate and goes to conference committee. The Chamber will continue to educate legislators on these important economic development priorities currently in the bill.

Road Plan Under Construction as Senate Takes Its Turn

The Indiana Chamber was pleased overall to see the Senate response to the House road funding bill. Several aspects of the plan will be determined as this bill goes forward – including how it interfaces with the budget bill’s (HB 1001) evolution.

Some key Senate changes from the House road funding plan are:

  • removal of the sales tax revenue collected on fuel sales that would directly go to roads
  • a Chamber-supported $75 annual registration fee for hybrid vehicle
  • modified distribution of the state/local road funds
  • requirement change from “may” to “shall” for INDOT to seek a waiver to toll interstate highways
  • addition of a $100 annual transportation infrastructure improvement fee that applies to commercial
  • vehicles greater than 26,000 lbs.
  • addition of a $5 fee per new tire sale (currently 25 cents per tire)
  • addition of a 10-cents per gallon aviation fuel excise tax with revenue going to the airport development grant fund

This version of the bill should bring in about $672 million per year. Tolling has the potential of bringing in up to $400 million per year, when implemented. Removing the House proposed sales tax revenue collected on fuel sales that were earmarked for the highway fund reduces the total by over $300 million. As the bill moves forward, the Senate may have other cashflows in mind that can be repurposed to replace that revenue stream. Doing so will help get the road funding bill close to the $1.2 billion a year the extensive Funding Indiana’s Roads for a Stronger, Safer Tomorrow taskforce recommended last year.

The Chamber testified in support of this version of the bill. It keeps the discussion going and presents other ideas and options to be considered for the final version of the bill, which we will work to bring to a good landing at the end of session.

The Chamber will continue to advocate for a strong, user-fee based model to address Indiana’s $1.2 billion per year road funding gap. We encourage members of the business community to contact your state senator to let them know they need to support HB 1002 to address the huge $1.2 million gap in Indiana’s road funding.

Call to Action: Connect with your state senator via our grassroots page. Let them know today that long-term road funding is important to you and your company!

Small Cell Broadband Legislation Has Robust Committee Hearing

The Chamber supports SB 213 to help enhance community broadband capacity and speed with the implementation of small cell towers.

The technology is changing and to get to 5G and increased mobile broadband speeds, the small towers have to be located with coverage in mind. These are not your grandfather’s big cell towers but are smaller and are often disguised and co-located with light poles and other utility poles. There was some concern raised by a couple of communities that wanted the ability to say where the towers should go. Ultimately, it is an engineering solution that must prevail based on the coverage area.

The House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee will consider amendments in the coming week or so, and then hopefully the bill will be voted out for further consideration on the Senate floor.

Bumpy Road for Road Funding in Senate?

The Chamber recently testified in support of HB 1002, citing the need for long-term, sustainable funding to adequately maintain, finish what we have started to build and build out our priority new road projects. We also noted that we do not see where the state can magically find the funds in the present budget to address the need outside of taxes, plus the additional 10 cents a gallon to ensure our road quality is a wise investment.

There were no amendments offered as of yet but it is safe to say the bill will have several committee amendments to change it.

Additionally, there are several major issues to iron out in this bill. One is whether to dedicate all of the sales taxes collected on fuel sales to road funding or keep most of that revenue flowing into the general fund. Another is what the Senate will do with the $1 a pack cigarette tax increase passed by the House. The cigarette tax increase would have replaced much of the revenue in the general fund if the fuel sales tax would have gone to the road fund. Yet another issue is to toll or not to toll major interstate highways. While that is a pure user fee for roads, there is quite a disagreement about if and where such tolls should be considered.

Another aspect is there are legislators who don’t want to be labelled as “raising taxes” and shy away from the fiscal realities of our very important road infrastructure.

Folks, this is an investment in our future that won’t cost that much individually and has the potential to enhance commerce and Indiana’s “Crossroads of America” location advantage.

The Chamber will continue to advocate for a strong, user-fee based model to address Indiana’s $1.2 billion per year road funding gap.

Call to Action: Connect with your state senator via our grassroots page. Let them know today that long-term funding is important to you and your company!

Local Option Transportation Bill Moves Forward

SB 128 was amended on the Senate floor last week and passed third reading yesterday. It was previously determined that HB 1141, with similar language, would not move out of committee and efforts would be focused on the Senate legislation.

These were two bills with similar goals – to allow for communities all around Indiana to supplement road funding to enhance the possibility for a priority regional project – and were introduced in their respective legislative bodies. Both bills would apply to all areas of the state and create a mechanism for local communities to create a regional development authority, which can be used to apply for federal grants, create separate funding for a particular road project, give them the authority to issue bonds and have a referendum to raise property taxes to pay for transportation infrastructure.

The authors of both bills are from Jasper, and they see great economic value in connecting their community and surrounding communities with Interstate 69. They want to create options for communities to step up to provide additional local funds to enhance the possibility of getting a road built sooner.

The Chamber supports the effort as it creates a viable local funding option and it doesn’t require INDOT to elevate the priority. However, if the funding is there, it is more likely to happen. The authors and other supporters will continue to work on moving the Senate bill through the process.

Many Tech, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Priorities Remain in Budget Bill

The House Republicans’ budget priorities were recently announced, as HB 1001 goes from the Governor’s initial budget priorities to more in-depth House consideration. The Chamber was glad to see several technology and innovation priorities in the bill including:

  • Makes the Venture Capital Tax Credit transferrable to people who don’t have Indiana tax liability. It also removes the 2021 expiration date of the tax credit, which helps enhance certainty
  • Several parts of the $1 billion over 10 years for innovation and entrepreneurship plan:
    • It caps the amount of the Next Level Trust Fund that can be invested in Indiana businesses to 50% of that $500 million fund. It still appoints a board of trustees to oversee the investment policy of the fund
    • Has $20 million over the two years for the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute
    • Due to budget pressure, it reduced the 21st Century Research and Development Fund by $10 million per year to $20 million per year
    • It allocates $1 million for the biennium for the Launch Indiana program

We expect many changes in HB 1001 as it advances through the legislature. The Chamber will continue to educate legislators on these important economic development priorities currently in the bill and why they need to remain.

Road Funding Bill Now Travels to Senate

Chamber-supported HB 1002 was amended last week on the House Floor and then passed 61-36 largely along party lines and is now up for consideration by the Senate.

The floor amendment prohibits any new toll road within 75 miles of any other toll road, terminates the gas tax indexing after July 2024 and allows additional time for public comment before a significant road project begins. Earlier, changes were made to the bill to have all sales taxes collected on fuel costs to be designated for roads (currently it’s only a penny of the seven-cent tax) starting in 2018 versus a phase-in of the sales tax to roads over three years through 2021. This creates a potential general fund budget deficit of over $300 million a year that must be addressed, either through budget cuts or other identified revenue sources. Moreover, the Chamber will continue to advocate for a strong, user-fee based model to address Indiana’s $1.2 billion per year road funding gap.

Call to Action: Connect with your state senator via our grassroots page. Let them know today that long-term funding is important to you and your company!