Larry Gigerich of site selector Ginovus penned an informative column for Inside INdiana Business about Indiana's business climate. While we have come a long way and are currently envied by many states, there is still work to be done. He writes:
A few weeks ago, the Kauffman Foundation and Thumbtack.com released an annual ranking of states for their friendliness to small businesses. Indiana ranked 15th for 2013. The study analyzed several factors including items related to tax climate, work force development and regulatory issues. Eight-thousand small businesses were contacted for feedback regarding the study's criteria. Here is how Indiana ranked in each category.
1. Overall Friendliness: B+
2. Ease of Starting a Business: B+
3. Ease of Hiring: F
4. Regulations: C
5. Health and Safety: D
6. Employment, Labor and Hiring: C-
7. Tax Code: D
8. Licensing: A-
9. Environmental: D
10. Zoning: B-
11. Training and Networking Programs: C-
The grades given to Indiana are not surprising. Work force development and job training have been a focus of Governor Mike Pence and the legislature since the beginning of the year. Indiana's educational achievement, continuing learning for adults in the work force and availability of certification/credential programs have not been where they need to be. While progress has been made, there is still much to be done by government, educational providers, not-for-profits and the private sectors.
Indiana has been recognized as a relatively easy place to start and grow a business. This report points to that in terms of licensing, zoning and other factors affecting the launch of a new business.
The tax code ranking is a bit surprising, but the survey asked small businesses if they were paying too much in taxes for their locations. The elimination of the state inheritance tax, which impacts small and family-owned businesses, could help improve this ranking.
Indiana continues to struggle with rankings where health and environmental issues are considered. In particular, the state's obesity and smoking rates are unacceptably high. These items impact healthcare costs, number of missed days of work and quality of life. In terms of the environment, Indiana's long-term large manufacturing presence has impacted water, air and soil quality. While important steps have been taken in the areas, there is much left to be done.
The top five states for small businesses are (in order): Utah, Alabama, New Hampshire, Idaho and Texas. The bottom five are (in order): Illinois, California, Hawaii, Maine and Rhode Island.
In summary, Indiana's ranking relative to the rest of the country is good. Policymakers in the state should focus on ways to improve our weaknesses in order to move Indiana into the top 10. Due to the fact that Indiana has never been a location for large headquarters for companies, small businesses are and will continue to be the lifeblood of the state's economic growth.
Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center (in Crane, Indiana) has a reputation as "the best kept secret" in Indiana when it comes to innovation and public/private partnerships that are changing what is possible in America. For a full story on how Crane is enhancing the state's entrepreneurship culture, keep an eye out for our July/August edition of BizVoice magazine. Our creative director and I were fortunate to receive a tour of the base and the Westgate @ Crane Technology Park to learn about what's happening there — all that isn't classified, of course. But it appears we aren't the only ones who are impressed. Two of Indiana's most esteemed legislators also have some kind words about the base:
Becky Skillman did admirable work as Indiana's Lt. Gov. during Mitch Daniels' popular administration. After leaving office, she landed back in her home region of Southern Indiana, and is leading Radius Indiana. Additionally, our current Lt. Gov, Sue Ellspermann, also offered remarks on how vital Crane is for Hoosier innovation. See below.
Becky Skillman, President/CEO, Radius Indiana Radius Indiana serves as a catalyst to help support and promote the use of civili military innovation through technology transfer and entrepreneurship. We work with our network of partners, including Westgate @ Crane, the ISBDC (Indiana Small Business Development Center), and many others to help start-up companies connect to resources they need in order to promote entrepreneurial success and economic growth within our 8-county region and beyond. With the low-cost, business-friendly environment that exists in Indiana, we are perfectly positioned and ready for growth within the defense industry.
Sue Ellspermann, Lt. Gov. In the past I have enjoyed working with the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane to increase the capture of intellectual property and the potential tech transfer opportunities available by identifying an external non-military application and potential market.
Our administration’s vision for Indiana includes focusing on economic development within Indiana's defense sector. One of the goals of the Indiana Office of Defense Development is to leverage the incredible assets at Crane and our federal research labs, including identifying high-potential technologies and developing strategies to successfully commercialize them. There is growing interaction and collaboration between the private sector and our major universities to bring technological innovations developed at Crane to market, to bolster the economy and create more high-tech, high-wage jobs in Indiana.
We take great pride in helping to educate our members and customers through our many publications. The latest example is the newest edition of the Indiana Taxation Handbook, a valuable resource for those who deal with Indiana tax issues.
As a result of changes in tax law and policy over the last two legislative sessions, new and revised sections of the Indiana Tax Handbook: 2013-14 Edition include:
Elimination of the Indiana Inheritance Tax
Reduction in the Indiana Corporate Income Tax
New consolidated filing options for Indiana businesses
Overview of the new rolling reassessments for real property in Indiana
Adjustments to the property tax appeals process, and new obstacles that must be overcome in appealing property tax assessments
Impact of the automatic taxpayer refunds, and where Indiana taxpayers will receive savings
This informative publication is authored by attorneys at Ice Miller, LLP and is available for $111.75 for Indiana Chamber members and $149 for non-members. Order your copy today by calling (800) 824-6885 or through our web site.
This issue has been kicked back and forth in the court system in the last couple of years. There finally appears to be some closure, much to the relief of America's business community. The Hill reports:
Industry groups, which quickly challenged the rule after it was issued, cheered the ruling. Jay Timmons, the president and chief executive of the National Association of Manufacturers, pledged to remain vigilant against the “rogue” NLRB.
“The poster rule is a prime example of a government agency that seeks to fundamentally change the way employers and employees communicate,” Timmons said in a statement. “The ultimate result of the NLRB’s intrusion would be to create hostile work environments where none exist.”
Judge A. Raymond Randolph, who wrote the decision for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, suggested the rule was a clear violation of free speech rights because the government “selected the message and ordered its citizens to convey that message.”
Freedom of speech, Randolph wrote, “includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all.”
The court did not rule on whether the union poster regulations were constitutional, deciding only that the NLRB exceeded its legal mandate…
Business groups argue the NLRB has favored unions under President Obama's administration and pointed to the poster rule as one of the most egregious examples.
“Today’s decision is a monumental victory for small-business owners across this country who have been subject to the illegal actions of a labor board that has consistently failed to act as a neutral arbiter, as the law contemplates,” Karen Harned, executive director of National Federation of Independent Business's Small Business Legal Center, said in a statement.
The advocacy group National Right to Work called the NLRB’s poster rule an “outrageous effort to transform itself into a taxpayer-funded arm of union organizing.”
This is the second major court defeat for the NLRB in recent weeks. The same appeals court ruled in January that Obama’s recess appointments to the board were illegal and therefore invalid. The independent agency is tasked with prosecuting unfair labor practices and conducting union elections.
“Stopping the NLRB’s burdensome agenda of placing itself into manufacturers’ day-to-day business operations is essential to preventing further government-inflicted damage to employee relations in the United States,” Timmons said.
Chamber President Kevin Brinegar offers a two-minute wrap-up of the 2013 legislative session. Highlighting his review are thoughts on the new budget, tax relief and critical education and workforce development issues.
Our communications VP Tom Schuman penned this blog back in February about SmartFile's technology bake-off contest. If you dig innovation — and would like to see more of it in Indiana — you'll be on board with this. The winners were announced last week, and congrats to IUPUI students Ani Chan and Manpreet Singh for their honors.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so simultaneously shocked and happy in my life,” said Chan. “Aside from being able to hold one of those ridiculously huge checks like a lottery winner, the best part of the competition was the validation that comes from building something from start to finish. Sometimes as a college student, it’s easy for your projects to go unnoticed, so it’s nice to receive feedback and interest from likeminded people and successful business leaders.”
Indiana college students were challenged to develop an open source application that interacts with the newly released SmartFile API over a period of 50 days. To help teams finish development, SmartFile hosted a 24-hour “Bake-Off-A-Thon” a week prior to submission to help finalize development. Registered students accepted the challenge to showcase their talents, but only nine qualified for the finals. Five of Indianapolis’ top business thinkers listened to five-minute pitches from the finalists before then scoring each “app” electronically in the following five categories: Innovation, Utility, Use of SmartFile Platform, Design and User Experience.
The top four teams re-pitched their applications to the Bake-Off party audience who then voted electronically before “Team Octodog” was crowned champion. Purdue University students, Eric Lovelace and Levi Miller, from team "Winnovation” were awarded second place and received $5,000 for their mobile-app “SmartBox.” Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology students, Erik Sanders and AJ Piergiovanni, from team "Dangling Pointers” were awarded third place and received $2,000 for their web-app “ReciCopy.”
John Hurley, SmartFile’s President and Co-Founder, said the judges were impressed with the caliber of work, which made choosing the winners difficult. “But Team Octodog amazed everyone with an impressive and functional application with the right combination of entrepreneurial spark, innovation, real-world viability and skillful development.”
SmartFile’s Bake-Off was not only created to inspire and facilitate engagement between this next generation of programmers, but also to help develop the ecosystem for SmartFile’s new “platform” initiative. During the ceremony, Hurley announced that “the online file platform” from SmartFile would now be FREE for developers who sign up for a beta account. Offering unlimited transfer and 100GB of storage space allows SmartFile to cater to the underserved development community. An official announcement for the online file platform initiative will be made in the coming week.
Conner Prairie’s Horizon Council (the interactive history park's young professionals group, of which I am a proud member) will host its second annual History on Tap craft beer event on Friday, May 31. Comments from attendees last year were extremely positive, and we're able to grow the event this year, as well. However, tickets will be capped at 500, so you'll want to buy early — and take advantage of the early bird pricing.
History on Tap 2013 will include:
Beer samples from 11 Hoosier breweries
A panel discussion: "Brewer Innovation: A Taste of the Past, Present & Future"
Craft brewing demonstration by Tuxedo Park Brewers, featuring a "Replicale"
An evening adventure through 1836 Prairietown
Food available at an additional cost for general admission tickets, included for VIP tickets
Discounted rate for the 1859 Balloon Voyage (weather permitting)
“We are proud to partner with Conner Prairie and award-winning, local breweries to present this signature event,” explains Robby Slaughter, Horizon Council president. “History on Tap is designed to provide an interactive experience that celebrates the rich heritage of craft beer making in Indiana and to engage a new demographic of visitors by giving them a taste of what Conner Prairie has to offer.”
Indianapolis has seen many changes in the past decade. But as old, beloved structures are torn down to make way for new ones, People for Urban Progress (PUP) believes that material need not be wasted. PUP drew attention from citizens and media alike for reusing the RCA Dome rooftop and fabric from Super Bowl promotions, and is now garnering recognition for repurposing seats from the old Bush Stadium. I sat down with PUP Development Innovator Amy Crook to discuss the non-profit organization — which considers itself a "do-tank" – and how it's working to change the capital city.
Chamber: Tell me about PUP. When and why did it start?
Amy: It was founded by Michael Bricker, our chief innovator, and his business partner in 2008. At the time, there was talk of imploding the RCA Dome and they had a natural curiosity about what would happen to that "white stuff" on the roof. They wondered, "Can it be used for something else?" They learned more about what could be done with it. So they salvaged it, and the plan at the time was to make 1,000 bags out of it and other products – wallets, clutches, messenger bags. They raised $70,000 in selling these goods. Half of that went to designers who made the products, and we partnered with RecycleForce … and then the rest of the money went toward projects. Through that project, we put up two shade structures in the community in partnership with Indianapolis Fabrications and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.
Do any other major cities have similar organizations?
Not that are a not-for-profit model that we’re aware of. … We’re going through a strategic planning process right now, so we are looking at places like Goodwill and TOMS Shoes – and locally, you could say that we have a similar model as Freewheelin', which allows kids to work on repairing bikes, and when they work so many hours, they actually get a bike. The bikes they work on are purchased by the community to raise money for the organization.
How many people work here?
Jessica Bricker, our product designer, is closest to full-time, and she is Michael’s twin sister. Michael works 8-10 months for PUP, but he’s also a production designer for film projects and may be called away for a month or two. I work for PUP three days a week and also do freelance marketing on the side. All of our designers are contracted. There are five of them and they all have full-time jobs.
How are you funded? Do you work with government or via grants?
We’ve been predominantly funded by the sale of products. But this strategic planning is (supported by) the first official grant that we’ve gotten from the Lilly Endowment to help us go through the process. We’ve applied for other grants to help us with material processing. A lot of people are coming to us for these large-scale projects like we’ve already taken on, such as salvaging 13 acres of RCA Dome material, five miles of Super Bowl fabric and 9,000 Bush Stadium seats. There’s this space in the middle that you can’t take to the recycling center, but you can’t put in the landfill either, so we just want to be able to restructure to be able to say “yes” to accepting more materials and trust that we can get them back in the community in a unique way.
Is the city paying you to place some of these Bush Stadium seats at bus stops?
It’s a partnership with IndyGo. IndyGo has a budget per seat amenity, and we’re raising sponsorship dollars for the other half. During the Seat Salvage Phase of the project, we had raised $10,000 from (four) funders to help us get more seats out with the tight deadline: Lumina Foundation, Central Indiana Community Foundation, Eskenazi Health and a private funder.
What’s the greatest challenge facing Indy right now that you’re working to solve, big picture-wise?
Our mission is promoting public transit, environment and design, and based on our research and conversations in the community and with community leaders, urban design and aesthetics have come out of that – an educational effort about what is good design. Michael is also co-chair of the Indy Rezone steering committee.
Transit is also important, of course. Since 2008, we’ve been working on getting a car sharing program started. And then there’s an environmental component – just being good stewards to the earth. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is going to be replacing their seats in June, and this has been the first project where people really think of us and contact us in advance to create a plan. Whereas with the dome and other projects, we found out late and then had to figure it out. But now people are talking with us to come up with plans, so they don’t have to scrap this stuff or throw it in a landfill.
Tell us about this Make 5X5 contest you just held.
The 5X5 Indianapolis arts and innovation came out of the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF). The first one was hosted by Big Car, and we hosted the second one. The next one will be IndyHub. (CICF) came to us and gave us a budget to throw an event based on a theme, and we asked for five organizations to present a five-minute pitch on five slides, and the winner would get $10,000. So our theme was “Making.”
(The winner was the Cool Bus, which will serve as a literary center for children.)
What are some challenges in keeping an organization like this going, in accomplishing your goals?
We’re moving forward and there are some capacity issues, and if we had more people involved or more financial resources, we’d be able to get this stuff out in the community more quickly. But there is progress being made and we’ll be able to have a bigger impact.
Our strategic plan is called “Doing Things.” We took a risk and started this thing and we’re still here and making it happen; let’s take the next steps and create something other people can replicate. We’re keeping an eye on Minneapolis and Atlanta, where they have Teflon-coated fiberglass as their stadium rooftops. We don’t necessarily want to acquire that material, but we know what you can do with it so we want to have a seat at the table and help them find ways to use it in the community and process that material.
You support the mass transit initiative in Indianapolis. Why is that important?
All the articles I’ve been reading now about millenials and Gen Y, we aren’t all going to be homeowners and two-car families. Our salaries aren’t as grand, and our stability in our positions is different. But you’d be surprised, this generation is one of the smartest generations and they are spending within their means. They’re not buying fancy cars; they’d rather cut back and invest in their art, or having children – and invest in that versus things. A strong transit system would help foster that way of living. If you’re having children and you need two cars, and you don’t have a supplemental transit option, you’ll lose people and they’ll go somewhere where they don’t need a car. Our generation travels and experiences other cities, so when you see another city where travel is more efficient, you think about that.
For myself, in my first couple of jobs I was driving 45 minutes to work and back. Now I have a 1.5-mile walk to work. Once you try that, you don’t go back.
You think this type of organization would succeed in any other cities in Indiana?
We were just talking about Bloomington today and its new transit center, wondering how we could get some PUP seats there. While our mission statement is directly for Indianapolis, we’d like to see mini-PUPs, or people can come to us for a resource and we may have experience to help you do something in your community. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a full-time thing. We started with everyone doing this on the side. If there are seats being removed from a stadium or banners that need to be recycled, you can do that and we could consult about how to re-use those materials.
Over 120 members and supporters of Indy Connect Now are pushing Indiana legislators — via a letter – to support the mass transit bill to enhance connectivity in Central Indiana — a sentiment held by many businesses and organizations across the state. The letter reads as follows:
As community leaders in central Indiana, we strongly encourage the Indiana General Assembly to pass substantive transit legislation before it adjourns in order to give our community the ability to make its own decisions about investing in a regional transit system.
The Indianapolis Region will not continue to grow and prosper unless we make strategic investments in our community, including in a robust regional transit system. Study after study has recognized the need for building such a system in our region. Cities all across America have realized the benefits from investing in good transit systems, and our inability to make that investment puts us at a competitive disadvantage.
The issue has been studied long enough. Following the release of the last legislative study report on this issue in December 2008, a Task Force of public and private sector partners proposed a transit system that most effectively meets the needs of our community. For the past four years, that proposal has been refined with input from thousands of residents, advice from the best planning experts in the country, and best practices from cities around the country.
The time has come to let the voters decide whether they want to invest in this proposed system. All we ask is that the General Assembly gives us the same flexibility to use local funds that it previously gave to 15 other counties and to let us present the question to voters, similar to what is now required for school capital projects. With support that is trending upward, it is time to allow voters to determine whether or not our communities will be competitive and meet transportation needs in the next decade and beyond.
If this legislation passes now, it will allow us to have a robust discussion for the next eighteen months about the wisdom of making this investment. Residents will then be able to make an informed decision about funding an expanded regional transit system. It is imperative that the General Assembly act now to provide this opportunity to the residents of central Indiana.