Regional Power: New Initiative to Help Leverage Core Cities for Regional Growth

IGov. Mike Pence recently allocated a total of $84 million in the 2016-17 budgets to help fund the Regional Cities Initiative. Led by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, the plan will take what the organization learned by consulting 11 economically successful cities of varying sizes in the U.S. to help Indiana’s regions develop their own approaches to increasing economic growth.

While the state is helping, each region will be allowed to autonomously craft its own approach — and define what areas each region encompasses, for that matter.

I had the privilege of writing about this innovative concept in our latest BizVoice magazine. State officials hope this will help Indiana’s cities and nearby rural areas thrive by enhancing many factors, most notably “quality of place.”

100th Edition of BizVoice is Now Available!

Our 100th, and most comprehensive edition of BizVoice is now available. You can view the entire magazine online, as we investigate Indiana’s economy — as well as the rural/urban divide and workforce challenges. We appreciate all the positive feedback we’ve already received from readers about this issue.

Purdue’s 4-H Outreach Expanding to City Youth

RI may be a graduate of Indiana University, but the IU/Purdue rivalry stops at the edge of the basketball court for me. That’s likely for two reasons: (1) I have at least a modicum of perspective, and (2) I’ve written about Purdue in BizVoice enough times to be flat-out impressed by the school’s innovative educational efforts and its dedication to giving students a well-rounded experience.

Additionally, the fact that Purdue has an extension presence in all 92 of our counties is quite remarkable to me. While I’ve written about Purdue’s work to reach rural students in the past, I was somewhat surprised to see how it’s helping 4-H make an impact among Indiana’s urban populations.

Because urban areas tend to not have a strong tradition of 4-H, Purdue Extension is creating new programs in heavily urban Lake, Marion and Allen counties to attract more young people there.

They’re not your typical 4-H clubs.

“These clubs meet after school and are heavily focused on engaging young people in science and helping them understand where food comes from as well as career opportunities in agriculture,” said Renee McKee, program leader of 4-H and youth development at Purdue University.

A nationwide expansion of 4-H into urban communities was made possible through a National 4-H Council funding opportunity that originated from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.  In Indiana, the program is funding three start-up 4-H clubs in each of the three counties.

The effort is a strategic initiative of Indiana 4-H, McKee said. Key to making it work is getting community leaders and volunteers involved to help keep the 4-H clubs going once the grant funding is no longer available.

“The idea of creating urban 4-H clubs is to make them part of the fabric of the community, just as 4-H has done in many rural communities across Indiana,” she said.

Lake County in 2011 was the first of three urban counties in Indiana targeted for 4-H clubs funded this way. Funds initially were used to hire three program assistants who helped with establishing the clubs, planned activities and led meetings. They also work to connect parents and others from the community to volunteer with the club so that the community eventually takes responsibility for leading the programs. Urban clubs in places such as East Chicago and Gary now join the “traditional” clubs, such as those in Crown Point and Lowell where 4-H has been active for years.

“The main difference between when we started and now is that volunteers are taking a larger leadership role, and we have more investment from the local community,” said Julie Jones, 4-H youth development Extension educator in Lake County.

Now that the clubs are established in Lake County with about 100 members, including students of elementary and middle school age, older youth such as high school students are being encouraged to join the county’s 4-H Junior Leaders program and participate in the 4-H Round Up, a three-day workshop for middle school students to explore careers at Purdue in the summer.

Allen County began participating with this effort in 2012.

This year, three new urban clubs are starting in Marion County, all of which have a technology focus called Tech Wizards, an after-school, small-group mentoring program developed at Oregon State University. Tech Wizards work on technology-driven projects such as robotics and videos.

The Marion County clubs are being organized in less traditional places in Indianapolis such as the Felege Hiywot Center, which teaches gardening and environmental preservation to urban youth. 4-H also is working with the Immigrant Welcome Center, a resource for the growing number of immigrants in Indianapolis.

“Many of our opportunities to reach young people are in after-school settings, and there so many issues that impact after-school 4-H,” said Jim Becker, 4-H youth development Extension educator in Marion County. “These issues include transportation, single-parent families, the poverty rate and competition from other youth organizations.”

McKee said the urban initiative shows that 4-H can reach a diverse population statewide.

“Because of this Indiana strategic initiative, we have the ability to serve young people in Indiana regardless of where they live,” McKee said.

Job Candidates: Don’t Do These Things in the Interview

87566052CareerBuilder offers some reasonable guidance regarding what may make interviewers put off by some candidates. Read the full post, but it also offers some bizarre things candidates have reportedly done. I personally like: “Applicant acted out a Star Trek role.”

Candidate: “Damn it, Jim! I’m a doctor, not an accountant.”
Interviewer: “Ok, well we’re discussing a CPA position, soooooo…”

Anyway, here’s the strange list:

When asked to share the most outrageous mistakes candidates made during a job interview, employers gave the following real-life examples:

  • Applicant warned the interviewer that she “took too much valium” and didn’t think her interview was indicative of her personality
  • Applicant acted out a Star Trek role
  • Applicant answered a phone call for an interview with a competitor
  • Applicant arrived in a jogging suit because he was going running after the interview
  • Applicant asked for a hug
  • Applicant attempted to secretly record the interview
  • Applicant brought personal photo albums
  • Applicant called himself his own personal hero
  • Applicant checked Facebook during the interview
  • Applicant crashed her car into the building
  • Applicant popped out his teeth when discussing dental benefits
  • Applicant kept her iPod headphones on during the interview
  • Applicant set fire to the interviewer’s newspaper while reading it when the interviewer said “Impress me”
  • Applicant said that he questioned his daughter’s paternity
  • Applicant wanted to know the name and phone number of the receptionist because he really liked her

In the end, know that hiring managers are looking for a new team member and want to find somebody that’s a good fit, and aren’t rooting for you to fail. “Employers want to see confidence and genuine interest in the position. The interview is not only an opportunity to showcase your skills, but also to demonstrate that you’re the type of person people will want to work with,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “Going over common interview questions, researching the company, and practicing with a friend or family member can help you feel more prepared, give you a boost in confidence, and help calm your nerves.”

Kansas Independent Could Be Wild Card in Senate (Or Not, We’ll See)

AAccording to Huffington Post polling, there’s a 79% chance the GOP takes control of the U.S. Senate today (and The Washington Post contends there’s a whopping 98% chance). No surprise it’s likely to happen if you’ve been following along.

But, perhaps most interesting, is that HuffPo also calculates a 9% chance that Greg Orman, an independent in an extremely tight race against Republican three-term Senator Pat Roberts, could determine which party rules based on where he decides to caucus (should he win his race).

Read this Politico piece to find out why Republicans think he’ll actually caucus with Democrats, and what that could mean going forward. (And this may shock you, but Vice President Biden reportedly let the ol’ cat out of the bag on this matter earlier today.)

At any rate, Orman’s campaign is making for interesting theater during this mid-term election season.

AAR, Vincennes Univ. Programs Help Students Get Aviation Careers Airborne

vu 4AAR, an aviation services and products company with 60 global locations — including Indianapolis — and Vincennes University have a partnership that is producing well-trained airline services technicians, mechanics and more.

These organizations held a “Tug and Tour” event at the Vincennes University Aviation Technology Center (ATC) at the Indianapolis International Airport Wednesday. We were able to attend, joined by educators, economic development officials, military veterans and others. The event featured a tour of an aircraft hangar, as well as lunch on a Boeing 737. As Samuel L. Jackson can attest, lunch on a plane is far superior to snakes on a plane (my apologies; I’ll show myself out).

The Programs

The ATC features advanced aviation labs, testing equipment and elaborate maintenance hangars — and class sizes are limited to 25 students.

It was enlightening to learn about the partnership and how well-prepared these students are as they jump from the classroom and hands-on training into well-paying careers. Additionally, AAR offers paid internships to many Vincennes students in the program. VU instructor Ed Briggeman explained the industry is thriving, and that students who complete VU’s Aviation Maintenance program have many opportunities through the school’s myriad partners and connections. Furthermore, the program prepares students for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification and entry-level employment. A certified mechanic can make $50,000 – $55,000 per year, and the program yielded 16 mechanics in July — and by August 15 of them were placed into positions.

Students can also pursue training in aviation flight, which paves the (run)way for careers as pilots and instructors. Unlike most training facilities that can charge $100 per hour, VU doesn’t charge its students to use its flight simulators. And VU’s Indianapolis program features a fleet of well-maintained aircraft (including Cessna 172 and 172RG, as well as multi engine training in a Piper Seminole).

In Indiana, we are blessed to have public and private colleges and universities that rival or exceed those in any other region of the country — and VU is a testament to that. For more on this program or to inquire about viewing the facility, contact Corinna Vonderwell at cvonderwell@vinu.edu.

vu 3
vu 2

Cameron to EU: I’d Like to Dispute This Charge

I find Europe pretty intriguing at times.

It’s apparent based on the recent secession vote — although it didn’t quite pass — that many folks in Scotland are not happy with the United Kingdom. Well, now it seems the UK is not too enthusiastic about the European Union (EU).

The EU recently presented UK Prime Minister David Cameron with a bill for over 1.7 billion Pounds – to be paid by Dec. 1. It’s an additional payment to the 8.6 billion Pounds the UK currently pays. Cameron was rather displeased.

“It is an unacceptable way to treat a country which is one of the biggest contributors to the EU,” he told the BBC. “We are not going suddenly to get out our cheque book and write a cheque for 2bn euros. It is not going to happen.”

Considering Germany’s also been butting heads with its European partners over its commitment to austerity, it seems there’s a lot of friction across the pond.

The Ghoulish Complexities of Halloween in the Workplace

HHalloween is a great holiday. Scary stories. Caramel apples. No obligatory gift-giving.

And the costumes: Zombies. Witches. Monsters.

But in the workplace, it can be tricky. You want to be festive and accommodating to allow workers to blow off some steam. But you also don’t want any “naughty nurse” costumes creating an HR concern. Furthermore, some employees of particular faiths may not take kindly to celebrating the holiday or its Pagan origins.

The Employment & Labor Insider blog delved further into the issue and offers some ideas for your consideration.

Square Wants to Perk Up Morning Commute

cThe mobile payment company Square has reportedly developed technology to help coffee drinkers grab their morning java without that pesky detail of having to wait in line to pay for it. Simply place and pay for the order on the phone, then pick up the next morning.

Thankfully, the Chamber provides coffee for staff in our break room so I’ve saved hundreds of dollars since becoming a coffee drinker a year or two ago, but otherwise this would seem like a convenient solution.

Entrepreneur reports:

The key to this ease in ordering is “arrival prediction.” The feature uses first-to-market tech to alert baristas when a customer who has ordered a drink on the app approaches the coffee shop, allowing them to immediately start preparing the order. Customers then simply pick up their order and are automatically charged as the leave the shop.

Users can also save their coffee preferences and customizations, speeding up transactions on the app. Square has paired up with fellow San Francisco startup Blue Bottle Coffee to debut the new features.

Launched in May, Square Order allows people to pre-order items for pickup at eateries that use the Square payments processing system. The service is only active in San Francisco and New York.

Toll Road Tales: Good News for Taxpayers, Motorists

TReactions were varied recently when the company operating the Indiana Toll Road filed for bankruptcy. A researcher at the Harvard Kennedy School emphasizes the positive aspects of how that deal was structured and focuses on the continually evolving role of each party in such an agreement. Governing reports:

n 2005, two companies came together to form the Indiana Toll Road Concession Co. (ITRCC), which won the right to operate the toll road in exchange for a $3.8 billion up-front payment. The deal limited how much tolls could rise and included a trigger requiring the consortium to expand the roadway if certain congestion benchmarks were reached. The $3.8 billion threw off about $250 million that was used to fund other state transportation priorities.

Like so many other enterprises, ITRCC was done in by the Great Recession. Its financing structure called for large debt payments at the end of the first decade, which proved overwhelming in the face of revenues that didn’t meet projections when the downturn hit and traffic volume fell.

But what’s reassuring is that motorists will see no interruption in service or toll increases as a result of the bankruptcy. The roadway is still subject to the same performance metrics, and there will be no taxpayer bailout. State officials will first try to find a new operator to take on the remainder of the concession deal. If that doesn’t work out, the ITRCC will likely be recapitalized with an altered debt schedule.

In either case, customers will retain the benefits from the $458 million ITRCC has invested since 2006 in road, bridge and pavement improvements and a new electronic tolling system.

While it appears that the Indiana Toll Road deal has succeeded at protecting taxpayers and motorists, that doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons to be learned from the bankruptcy. To maintain a true public-private partnership, governments might want to avoid taking the entire concession payment up front.

Chicago completed a similar deal just before the Indiana Toll Road agreement and couldn’t resist the temptation to use the upfront windfall to plug other holes in the city budget instead of using interest from the concession payment to maintain transportation infrastructure. More recently, public-private partnerships for Virginia’s Pocahontas 895 parkway and Colorado’s Northwest Parkway featured smaller upfront payments but give taxpayers a cut of the ongoing toll revenue.