Indiana Climbing in the Rankings

Yesterday’s post highlighted some very promising jobs numbers in Indiana. It’s no coincidence that others are recognizing the state’s continually improving business climate.

The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council released its Small Business Tax Index 2014, rating states on 21 measures. Indiana placed 11th. And with personal income tax rates (positively impacting capital gains and dividends) and corporate income taxes decreasing further, the ranking just might improve.

Even more promising, the American Legislative Exchange Council unveiled its annual Rich States, Poor States report. Fifteen state policy variables are used to forecast economic outlook. The theory: states that spend less and tax less (particularly on productive activities such as working or investing) experience higher growth rates than states that spend and tax more. Indiana ranks third (14th in 2013 and 24th a year earlier), behind Utah and South Dakota.

We’ll take the good news, but won’t rest on any laurels or allow others to do the same. There are still too many challenges and too many goals to be reached in our Indiana Vision 2025 plan. But it’s nice to be moving in the right direction.

On the Right Jobs Track

Indiana’s employment picture has brightened considerably in recent months. Some numbers behind the numbers, according to the Department of Workforce Development:

  • There are over 30,000 more Hoosiers in the labor force than in March of 2000, the employment peak in the state
  • Indiana’s labor force has grown at six times the national rate over the past year
  • The number of unemployed Hoosiers (196,272) is less than 200,000 for the first since August 2008
  • Since July 2009, the low point in recent employment numbers, Indiana has added 214,600 private sector jobs (10th in the nation) at a rate of 9.2% (seventh in the nation)
  • In the manufacturing world, the state ranks third in jobs added over the past year (behind Michigan and Ohio), second (behind Michigan) in jobs added since July 2009 and ninth in growth rate over the past year

Putting Veterans to Work for Your Company

Hiring Our Heroes job fairs, a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, continue to make a difference in local communities. The mission is to help veterans and spouses earn meaningful private sector employment.

There are two upcoming events in Indiana:

In addition, the Chamber’s May 2 Policy Issue Conference Call will focus on the same topic with national and state guests discussing this important topic and providing practical guidance for employers. All Indiana Chamber members are eligible to participate.

Single Computer Screen Better than Double

I’ve written in this space before about workplace distractions, as in trying to have fewer of them. In thinking that most people would agree with that plan, I was a bit mystified as dual computer monitors became a quickly growing trend.

The research showed that productivity could be enhanced with two monitors. But that was if, and only if, you can avoid the interruptions — which can come twice as fast in the two-monitor world.

Farhad Manjoo, a personal tech columnist for The New York Times, summed it up in a recent column. He eloquently states:

In a switch that amounts to heresy among some techies, I’ve become a two-screen skeptic. Two months ago, about five years after becoming an ardent proselytizer for the Church of the Second Display, I turned off the extra screen on my desktop computer.

At first, the smaller workspace felt punishingly cramped. But after a few days of adjusting to the new setup, an unusual serenity invaded my normally harried workday. With a single screen that couldn’t accommodate too many simultaneous stimuli, a screen just large enough for a single word processor or browser window, I found something increasingly elusive in our multiscreen world: focus.

The column also noted that it can take workers as long as 25 minutes to regain focus after being interrupted. And constant interruptions create a stressful workplace.

Gloria Mark, a professor who studies workplace distractions (how does one get a job like that?) at the University of California advises that people turn off email notifications, and answer and write email in batches once or twice a day rather than every few minutes. She notes that taking up such habits requires both personal discipline and buy-in from your bosses and co-workers.

Manjoo concludes:

That gets to the blessing of one monitor. With a single screen, I was forced to fight my distractions. I had to actively prevent myself from falling into email and Twitter, from ever losing focus on my main window. It took some time for me to exercise that willpower. But by finding methods of sticking to my task rather than coping with my distractions, my single-screen machine ultimately improved how I work. It can for you, too — if only you resist the pull of two displays.

 

Going the Mega-Region Route for Economic Development

Richard Florida — he of The Rise of the Creative Class fame — is writing about economic development in a recent post at The Atlantic Cities. But we’re not talking about counties teaming up for business attraction and retention purposes.

Florida says satellite images of the globe at night were used to identify the world’s 40 “mega regions,” defined as a contiguous lighted area with more than one major city or metropolitan area that produced more than $100 billion in economic output.

In North America, this means 12 mega regions that account for 243 metropolitan areas in the U.S. and Canada. The combined population is 230 million people (215 million from the U.S., which account for 70% of our population).

The Chi-Pitts region, which includes Indianapolis, has a $2.3 trillion economic output that would make it the world’s seventh largest.

Here is a quick rundown on the 12 creatively-named regions, from largest to smallest:

•Bos-Wash stretches from Boston through New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore to Washington, D.C., a total of 500 miles. It is home to 18 percent of the U.S. population – 56.5 million people. The region generates $3.75 trillion in economic output, meaning that, if Bos-Wash were a separate country, it would be the fourth largest economy in the world, behind only the U.S., China, and Japan and ahead of Germany.

•Chi-Pitts extends north and west from Pittsburgh through Cleveland, Detroit, Indianapolis, Chicago, and Minneapolis, taking in more than 50 metros in all. Home to 41.8 million individuals, this mega-region’s economy is just a bit smaller than the United Kingdom’s, about the same size as Brazil’s and bigger than all of Russia’s.

•Char-lanta, which is home to 22 million people, takes in 45 metros, including Atlanta, Georgia; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Birmingham, Alabama. With more than a trillion in economic output, its economy is bigger that South Korea’s, placing it among the world’s 15 largest economies.

•So-Cal runs from L.A. through San Diego and spills into Tijuana, Mexico, accounting for 21.8 million people and more than one trillion in economic output.

•So-Flo includes Miami, Orlando and Tampa and is home to 15 million people. It produces more than $750 billion in economic output, making it about the same size as the Netherlands or Turkey.

•Nor-Cal includes San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and 14 other metros surrounding San Francisco Bay. It has a population of 13 million people and produces more than $900 billion in output, roughly the same as Indonesia and more than Turkey.

•Tor-Buff-Chester stretches north from Buffalo and Rochester, taking in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal in Canada. It has an estimated population of more than 16 million (several smaller Canadian metros are not included in this tally). It generates output of nearly $600 billion, more than Sweden.

•Dal-Austin encompasses Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio, Texas. Its population is just under 12 million. It produces more than $700 billion in economic output, more than Sweden or oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

•Hou-Orleans, the great energy-producing belt that stretches from Houston through Mobile, Alabama to New Orleans, is home to more than 10 million people. It produces more than $750 billion in economic output, about the same as the Netherlands.  (Some researchers have suggested combining Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth and Austin into a single “Texas Triangle.” This mega would include 20 million people, and its $1.5 trillion economy would be comparable to Australia’s and just a bit smaller than India’s or Canada’s.)

•The Cascadia mega-region, which stretches up from Portland, Oregon through Seattle and into Vancouver, Canada, is home to nearly 10 million people. It generates economic output of about $600 billion, comparable to Switzerland

•Phoenix-Tucson is home to more than 5 million people and generates economic output of more than $250 billion, just slightly less than Hong Kong.

•Denver-Boulder has 4.2 million people and $256 billion in economic output, more than Finland, Greece or Ireland. If it were a nation, it would  rank among the world’s 50 largest economies.

Feds Raid Township Trustee Office

The reason the Indiana Chamber continues to push for local government reform is the opportunity to provide more effective services with more efficient use of taxpayer money.

The fact that some township trustees continue to draw the scrutiny and action of authorities only adds to the logic of modernizing Indiana’s local government system. A portion of the latest from Lake County (the Northwest Indiana Times has the full story):

FBI and IRS agents raided the Calumet Township Trustee’s office and removed boxes full of documents and at least one computer shortly after noon Thursday as part of a federal investigation of the office.

Bob Ramsey, the supervisory agent for the FBI office in Merrillville, said his office, the Internal Revenue Service in Merrillville and state police are taking part in a joint operation.

Calumet Township Trustee Mary Elgin, who operates one of the largest township government units in the state, couldn’t be reached for comment. She has been under official scrutiny for her office’s spending on assistance to Gary’s low income residents and the use of take-home cars.

The state has been threatening to take over the finances of her office if she doesn’t reduce administrative costs. Elgin is suing Gov. Mike Pence to stop enforcement of a 2013 law that would significantly reduce her control over more than $5 million in annual spending.

The law requires Elgin to reduce the property tax rate supporting her township assistance program to less than 12 times the average of the state’s 1,008 townships. Calumet Township’s tax rate has been as much as 22.6 times the state average. Elgin said her tax rate is much lower when the impact of state-mandated property tax cuts are calculated.

A Times investigation found her office spent almost as much on employees’ salaries and benefits and business vendors, as it did on direct assistance for  emergency shelter, utilities, health care and food. Elgin puts her administrative costs at 37 percent of her budget.

 

 

 

Indy Still Miles Behind on Mass Transit Compared to Other Cities

While mass transit in Central Indiana finally received a somewhat-limiting go-ahead from the Indiana General Assembly in the recently completed session, others with long-established systems are moving forward.

A recent Governing article noted:

  • Boston plans to extend weekend transit service until 3 a.m. Young professionals gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up to the longer hours for subways, light rail, streetcars and buses.

And here, it took three years to get state permission to have a local referendum to approve a system that would likely only include some faster buses (light rail not allowed). Just saying that despite Indiana being a great place to live, we’re way, way behind on this amenity.

  • London plans 24-hour weekend service on some subway lines in 2015. Chicago, New York and Philadelphia already do the same.

Why is this so important? The article notes: “As young professionals, many of whom are car-free, seek out vibrant cities in which to live and work, this is seen as a way to attract them. … Transit at all times ensures that mobility is available to everyone.”

Charisma: Here’s How They Do It

A recent Inc. magazine posting explored the difference between a person who is likable and one who has great charisma. It offers the following top 5 behaviors to expand on if you prefer to be in the latter category:

  1. Charismatic people exude joy. The first thing you notice about charismatic people is the spark of life. Whether they are saviors or troublemakers, they have a strong passion that triggers powerful emotions in those around them. Even in anger, they make people feel happy to join a cause. They show obvious pleasure in experiences, and they invite others to share in the experience they are having. Enhance your charisma by sharing your passions with those around you and helping their passions flourish.
  2. Charismatic people inspire confidence. It seems that charismatic people have the world in their control. Their personal self-worth and confidence appear strong, even when they’re not. They have faith in their abilities, their knowledge, and their worth. They also know the line between confidence and narcissism. They don’t disparage or dismiss the people around them. Enhance your charisma by dampening your insecurities in favor of celebrating your strengths. Share your confidence with others so they feel stronger in your presence.
  3. Charismatic people share conviction. The times that charismatic people stand out the most is when they are driving a movement. Charismatic people believe in something powerfully and share that belief with others. Their conviction and consistent actions influence others to follow. Dedicated followers add exponentially to the energy that oozes from a charismatic leader. Apathy will kill charisma and momentum. Enhance your charisma by being diligent and committed. Inspire others by helping them engage in a common cause.
  4. Charismatic people are great storytellers. People don’t follow someone simply because they are told to do so. Moving someone to action requires context and motivation. Stories are the most effective way to get to the emotional core to break inertia. Charismatic people have a talent for spinning a yarn that connects deeply and relates directly to the action that needs to occur. Their voice, inflection, and manner are easy to listen to and pleasant. They have the ability to express drama and intrigue so people want to hear more. Enhance your charisma by learning to craft and tell meaningful, emotional stories. Practice the arts of humor, metaphor, and symbolism so you can entertain while you inform.
  5. Charismatic people connect empathetically. It has been said that when Bill Clinton speaks to you, he makes you feel that you are the only person on the planet. This is a talent of charismatic people. They genuinely and instinctively focus their eyes, ears, and soul on your being, not theirs. They make you laugh, they make you feel heard, they make you feel special or fascinated or safe or interesting. It isn’t the same feeling in every case. But people connect and stay, because they are having strong, positive emotions in the presence of someone truly charismatic. Enhance your charisma by focusing all of your energy and attention on the person in front of you. Shut down your inner voice and connect so you can see, hear, and feel the energy and information he or she is sharing.

‘How It’s Made’ Looking for Indiana Stories

The Discovery Channel television show “How It’s Made” is seen by an international audience (180-plus countries) of more than 100 million viewers per week. The producers of the long-running show (it started in 1999) are looking for some truly unique Indiana production processes.

A word of caution: After all those years, the show has “covered a lot of processes.” What they are seeking are “cool processes to show how things are made.” Here is some additional guidance:

  • Items should have enough process to fill a segment that lasts four-and-a-half minutes
  • No visuals air without the consent of the participating company
  • There is no financial contribution or direct reward for appearing on the show
  • Check out a segment to better determine if your process might work in the show’s format

To discuss the possibility of being featured on “How It’s Made,” contact Tom Bauer at (514) 288-3388 (ext. 229) or tbauer@productionsmaj.com.

If Only I Had Done It This Way …

SCORE is in business to help small businesses start, grow and achieve success. A recent posting on its site from the president of RoadMap Marketing shared regrets — or I wish I had done this differently — of several entrepreneurs.

Do any of these apply to you or sound familiar?

  1. “I wish I had not been so cheap. I should have invested in strong infrastructure like having my accounting set up properly and a decent website. I wasted too much time trying to cobble it together myself. And the result? My image did not look professional and my books had to be completely cleaned up later.”
  2. “I was unclear on my unique value proposition.  By being ‘all things to all people’, how could I communicate value? That meant my marketing was wishy-washy and ineffective. And without being clear on who was my best customer, I picked up many poorly defined projects where I lost money.”
  3. “I should have focused first on my sales pipeline. It took me too long to realize that the only way to meet my revenue goals was to work the numbers – number of clients, means 5 times as many proposals which means 10 times as many touches with potential prospects each month. When I finally focused on these raw facts, I started making money.”
  4. “My prices were too low. I tried to compete against more established players on price which just undercut my brand and service value. I failed to track my time – much less account for it in my profit calculations. When I finally looked at profitability by product, service and even customer, I was able to focus on areas where I could grow.”
  5. “I wish I had sought out a mentor.  I could have greatly benefited from someone with experience and some success – especially in my industry. An early mentor could have focused my efforts and held me accountable.”