Water, Water Not Everywhere Any More

TWhen I started writing about water earlier this year as part of the Indiana Chamber’s report on our state’s water resources, I never imagined the topic would be this deep. I’m not drowning, but do feel a little over my head at times on this ever-flowing topic.

The paragraph above makes the point that water puns are almost endless (see, I didn’t say pool, ocean or other aquatic term). But seriously, work is taking place on evolving this year’s study into concrete action steps over the next several years to help ensure Indiana’s resources for the long term.

In Kansas, long term means 50 years. Check out a few of the details (including the last paragraph on why this is so important) from this Topeka Capital-Journal article:

Gov. Sam Brownback opened a water policy conference by unfurling a nearly completed 50-year plan containing dozens of proposals for confronting the state’s obstacles in meeting agricultural irrigation and drinking supply demands.

Salient issues requiring attention involve topsoil pouring into man-made reservoirs in eastern Kansas and depletion of the underground Ogallala Aquifer in western regions of the state. Reservoir dredging and aquifer conservation figure prominently in the blueprint, which also raised the possibility of drawing excess water from the Missouri River to supply Kansas consumers.

Brownback said the water study process initiated one year ago would culminate in strategies specific to regional geography and consumption patterns. Pieces of the solution will be expensive, the governor said, and state laws and regulations must be modified to speed reform.

The document recommends crafting tougher state regulations and enhanced enforcement to hold water-right violators accountable.

“As I look out on the future of Kansas, one of the big things we have to resolve is the issue of water,” he told more than 600 people at the conference. “It’s just one of those key things that we’ve got to address. We’ve got to do it working together.”

A blue-ribbon task force is to be formed to map a “balanced, affordable and sustainable” strategy for paying for water projects financed with local, state and federal funding, the governor said.

An estimated 85 percent of water consumption in Kansas is due to irrigation, officials said.

Jackie McClaskey, secretary of the state Department of Agriculture, said the report would direct state agencies involved in recruiting businesses to focus economic development on entities that value water conservation and reliance on technology that improves water efficiency.

Only the Elephants Might be Upset; No More Peanut Report

7324001You have to start somewhere when it comes to better utilizing taxpayer resources and getting rid of unnecessary government work. But rest assured, there is a long way to go.

Check out this Government Executive recap of some common sense legislation out of Washington:

The House  put the final touches on a widely embraced bill to eliminate or modify 53 useless or outdated agency reports, an effort backed by the White House as a cost-savings measure.

The vote tally of 382-0 was evidence that the only area of disagreement between Republicans and Democrats in both chambers was precisely which reports to target in subjects ranging from the Agriculture Department’s write-up on the number of peanuts planted each year to the Homeland Security Department’s analysis of illegal imports of products made from dog and cat fur.

Though some studies have tagged nearly 300 reports as possibly superfluous, negotiators worked the number down. In June, the Office of Management and Budget identified 74 dubious reports; a Senate bill named 64; and a House bill passed in April listed 79.

“In today’s challenging fiscal environment, Congress must leverage every opportunity to save taxpayer dollars by streamlining or eliminating antiquated reporting requirements that are duplicative, irrelevant or simply ignored,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., a co-sponsor. “While enacting the bipartisan Government Reports Elimination Act may not go as far as we would like, it nevertheless represents precisely the type of pragmatic, good government legislating that a divided Congress should be doing more of.”

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who had introduced a companion version, said, “Hundreds of federal employees spend countless hours producing mountains of these reports each year, and in many cases no one ever reads or even refers to those reports. Surely these agency resources could be targeted to smarter, more productive efforts that will actually provide more direct benefit to customers and taxpayers.”

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., a co-author, cast the final bill as just “a first step toward making government smaller and smarter.” She and Warner introduced another bill that would target another 67 reports.

Harmonizing Music History with Worker Productivity

19188345Technology improvements are generally associated with getting the same amount of productivity with fewer workers. But something called the “quartet effect” – with links back to the lyrics of the Grateful Dead – instead emphasizes enhancing what people do with their time. Governing reports:

In the foreword to David Dodd’s The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, Robert Hunter, the band’s “lyricist in residence,” wrote that the song “Uncle John’s Band” represented “the first lyric I wrote with the aid of that newfangled gadget, the cassette tape recorder. I taped the band playing the arrangement and was able to score lyrics at leisure rather than scratch away hurriedly at rehearsals, waiting for particular sections to come around again.”

What Hunter was describing, of course, was an improvement in productivity resulting from the application of new technology. Productivity is usually measured in terms of the labor cost per unit of production, and in most cases improvement is achieved by using new technology to reduce head count. For instance, a steel mill that once employed 10,000 workers produces the same tonnage with only a thousand employees, bank tellers are replaced by ATMs and elevator operators become a thing of the past. But in Hunter’s application of new technology, no one’s position was eliminated. It’s an example of what has been called “the quartet effect” at work.

When you reduce the head count of a musical quartet, you have not improved its productivity. If what you wanted was the music of a quartet, you have destroyed the product. The technology Hunter employed is the kind that, rather than eliminating jobs, allows existing staff to make better use of their time and gives them the opportunity to create higher-quality products.

How is this relevant to government? For most local governments, public safety constitutes the largest single category of expenditures, typically accounting for about 60 percent of total costs. For states and for some local governments, education is the dominant cost category. But it’s important to remember that within these areas, personnel costs — the salaries and benefits of police officers, firefighters and school teachers — are the real cost drivers. Personnel costs typically represent 80 percent or more of the total cost of a police department, for example. Few would argue that taking cops off the streets or teachers out of classrooms improves productivity.

A New Type of ‘Accidental’ Tourist (Employees Gamble With Some Odd Excuses for Missing Work)

WWe’ve all likely felt that urge at some point in our working careers to just take the day off. But how many have actually called in sick with a fake excuse to do so.

The answer is 28% in the past year, according to a CareerBuilder survey. That’s down from 32% a year earlier. But the entertainment here comes from the reasons employees give for not being able to make it to the office that day.

We couldn’t make these up. When asked to share the most dubious excuses employees have given for calling in sick, employers reported hearing the following real-life examples:

  • Employee just put a casserole in the oven
  • Employee’s plastic surgery for enhancement purposes needed some “tweaking” to get it just right
  • Employee was sitting in the bathroom and her feet and legs fell asleep. When she stood up, she fell and broke her ankle
  • Employee had been at the casino all weekend and still had money left to play with on Monday morning
  • Employee woke up in a good mood and didn’t want to ruin it
  • Employee had a “lucky night” and didn’t know where he was
  • Employee got stuck in the blood pressure machine at the grocery store and couldn’t get out
  • Employee had a gall stone they wanted to heal holistically
  • Employee caught their uniform on fire by putting it in the microwave to dry
  • Employee accidentally got on a plane

A few other interesting tidbits from the survey:

Though the majority of employers give their employees the benefit of the doubt, 31% say they have checked to see if an employee was telling the truth in one way or another.

Nearly one in five employers (18%) say they have fired an employee for calling in sick with a fake excuse.

Some workers have inadvertently busted themselves online. One in four employers (24%) have caught an employee lying about being sick by checking social media.

Perhaps not surprisingly, employee absentee rates seem to peak with flu season. December is the most popular time of year for employees to call in sick, according to 21% of employers, followed by January (17%) and February (14%).

Employees in professional and business services called in sick most often (35%) in the past year, followed closely by sales employees (34%). On the flip side, employees in the IT, retail and leisure and hospitality industries were least likely to call in sick this past year (22%, 21% and 20%, respectively).

Linking Veterans With Jobs and More

sThe Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs will be visiting eight Hoosier communities over the next several weeks, holding Community Outreach events that will offer veterans, active duty members and their dependents opportunities to connect with services and prospective employers.

All events are free. Registration is requested for planning purposes. Each event will be held from 1:00-6:00 p.m. (local time) in the following communities:

  • October 27 – Valparaiso – Porter County Expo Center, 215 E. Division Road, Valparaiso. Register
  • October 28 – South Bend – Ivy Tech Community College, 220 Dean Johnson Blvd, South Bend. Register 
  • October 29 – Ft. Wayne – Ivy Tech Community College, Coliseum Campus, Room 1640, Fort Wayne. Register
  • November 6 – Terre Haute – Ivy Tech Community College Terre Haute Main Campus, The Community Room, 8000 South Education Drive, Terre Haute. Register
  • November 13 – Bloomington – Ivy Tech Community College, 200 Daniels Way, Hoosier Times Student Commons, Bloomington. Register
  • November 20 – Columbus – Ivy Tech Community College, 4475 Central Avenue, Columbus Learning Center, Columbus. Register
  • December 4 – Lafayette – Ivy Tech Community College, Grand Hallway, 3101 S. Creasy Lane, Lafayette. Register
  • December 9 – Kokomo – Indiana Wesleyan, Kokomo Education and Conference Center, 1916 East Markland Avenue, Kokomo. Register

Additional outreach events will be planned for Muncie, New Albany, Bedford and Jasper. Those interested in attending events in these communities can find more information here or call (800) 400-4520.

“Each event will provide information and assistance with VA benefits, claims processing, remission of fees and even what to do if someone wants to enroll or return to college,” said Deanna Pugh, Director of Veterans Employment and Education. “The Indiana State Police, Dish, NiSource, United States Postal Service, Kroger and Lowes will be among the companies and organizations looking to hire employees to work in these communities.

“We will also offer Dale Carnegie sessions to help veterans prepare for interviews. We’re very excited about connecting our resources to our veteran communities and helping link those who have served our country with the many services designed specifically to assist them.”

A new state law that took effect July, 1, 2014, allows for approximately 26,000 post-911 veterans to apply for assistance through the Military Family Relief Fund. This new law eliminates the three-year restriction on access to the fund, which provides grants that may be used for needs such as food, housing, utilities, medical services, transportation and other essential family expenses. The Military Family Relief Fund has a balance of more than $7 million and lifting the cap will ensure those funds are available to support Hoosier veterans and their families.

Since its establishment in 1945, the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) has remained focused on aiding and assisting “Hoosier” veterans, and qualified family members or survivors, who are eligible for benefits or advantages provided by Indiana and the U.S. government.

Breaking Down the Global Giants

95652571The IndustryWeek 1000 annual list of the world’s largest manufacturers always presents a voluminous display of data and growth trends. Among the biggest “news” from the list this time around is China Petroleum and Chemical Corp. ascending to No. 1 in revenues with $471,672 (in U.S. millions).

Royal Dutch Shell comes next at $459,599, followed by top U.S. entrant Exxon Mobil Corp. at $424,328. Other leading U.S. companies are Chevron Corp. (No. 11), Phillips 66 (No. 14), Apple Inc. (No. 15), General Motors (No. 19) and Ford Motor Co. (No. 20).

Below is a breakdown by the top six countries — total number on the list of 1,000, combined revenues of those companies and average annual growth:

  • United States: 333 companies, $7.6 trillion revenues, 3.1% average revenue growth
  • Japan: 172, $2.6 trillion and 8.6%
  • China: 61, $1.5 trillion and 7.0%
  • Germany: 35, $1.3 trillion and 1.5%
  • United Kingdom: 30, $1.2 trillion and 4.9%
  • France: 41, $1 trillion and 3.5%

Indiana Chamber Earns National Honors at ASCP Event in Oklahoma

ascp awardsThe Indiana Chamber earned the prestigious President’s Award for overall excellence at the recent Association of State Chamber Professionals (ASCP) meeting in Oklahoma City. ASCP is comprised of membership and marketing professionals from state chambers of commerce throughout the country. Its annual meeting is in conjunction with a gathering of the Council of State Chambers (presidents and CEOs of the same organizations).

The Indiana Chamber competed against 11 other states in the large Chamber category. In addition to the top honor, three second-place membership awards were also earned: highest market share, highest non-dues growth and highest retention in dollars. None of the 22 states competing in two categories won more than the Indiana Chamber’s four awards.

Chamber membership director Brock Hesler accepted the awards on behalf of the entire staff.

I-69: Time to Take Full Advantage

cropped-another-i69-headerProgress on the construction of Interstate 69 from Evansville to Indianapolis continues to take place. Among the next steps is taking economic advantage of this expansion.

The I-69 Regional Summit…Driving Opportunity is a one-day event for businesses and organizations interested in tourism, defense, economic development, government, trade and logistics, commerce and education.

Hoosier Voices for I-69 and The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce are serving as hosts. The Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center is the location on October 21, with a pre-summit welcome reception on October 20 at Indiana University’s Stadium Club.

Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann will deliver an opening keynote. Also included are an I-69 congressional caucus panel, full corridor perspective from Canada to Mexico and economic development discussion. Breakout sessions include site selection perspectives, local planning, trade/logistics and public private partnerships.

Access full details and registration.

Numbers to Ponder

rThree totally unrelated, but intriguing, numbers courtesy of Governing magazine:

  • 33%: Americans with past-due debt that’s been turned over to a collection agency
  • 15%: Proportion of voting-age residents who cast ballots in the 25 states that held primaries in the first six months of this year. In 15 of those states, turnout was the lowest ever. (Indiana’s primary turnout was slightly below the 15% average)
  • 146: Number of U.S. counties that account for half of the country’s 316 million people. The rest of the population is distributed across the remaining 2,998 counties. Indiana’s largest and smallest counties, respectively, are Marion with 928,281 people (54th largest in the country) and Ohio with 5,994 people (ranked 2,758 nationally)

Time to Talk Area Code Changes

FIt must be a sign of advancing age that I fondly recall the days of three area codes that covered the state of Indiana. Today, that number is six with a seventh set to go into effect next month and public field hearings underway now on 317 area code relief.

Indiana had three telephone area codes (219 for the north, 317 for Central Indiana and 812 in the south) from the mid-1950s until the mid-1990s.

Today, the state has six area codes with a seventh to go into effect in October 2014.

Technology brought pagers, fax machines, wirelese phones and more. The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor says efforts to conserve existing number supplies and prolong the life spans of area codes have been successful, but the only way to provide new numbers in the long run has been to introduce new area codes.

The number of area codes throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean has more than doubled since 1995, with Indiana, 38 other states and eight of the 10 Canadian provinces adding new area codes.

The 317 area code was changed in 1996 with the addition of 765. Now, 317 is projected to run out of numbers in 2017. A hearing took place in Indianapolis last Friday. Four more are scheduled in Carmel (October 1), Franklin (October 14), Danville (October 29) and Greenfield (December 1).

An overlay method is being proposed. A similar procedure is being implemented in the current 812 area code with the new 930 coming into play yet this year.

Full details, including additional opportunities to submit comments.