Keeping the Skies Open for Drones

droneWill drone technology “transform the way we live and work” or prove to be an intrusive, security-filled hurdle to overcome? The Competitive Enterprise Institute is betting on the former, with its new report warning of federal regulations that could get in the way of substantial progress.

Also see Rebecca Patrick’s APEX Award-winning 2014 BizVoice article on drones and their potential business impact.

Political Talk Here, There and Everywhere

American politics

This column by Indiana Chamber Director of Publications and Social Media Matt Ottinger originally appeared in the Inside INdiana Business newsletter, Inside Edge

At a recent event I attended, the conversation among my tablemates turned to politics – namely the late September Republican presidential debate on CNN. Most of my fellow attendees casually mentioned their disdain for the spectacle. When it was my turn to comment, I simply stated, “I love it. I’m not proud of that, but I do.”

Whether it’s Donald Trump’s bombast and “Mean Girls”-style insults, Chris Christie’s bluster and scolding or Rand Paul’s visible contempt for having to be part of the charade, I can’t get enough. For me, it’s like I’m swimming in a barrel of Tropical Skittles next to a keg of Mr. Pibb during a binge watching session of “House of Cards” – an overdose of disgusting, shameful goodness, and I’m simply helpless to its siren song.

It’s been intriguing watching our Midwestern neighbor and former Congressional budget hawk John Kasich strike the moderate chord, while projected frontrunner Jeb Bush struggles to meet lofty expectations. And then there’s Scott Walker. Poor, poor Scott Walker, who disappeared from the race faster than a cheese curd at a mouse convention in Milwaukee.

Granted, politics can devolve into a game at times, but it mustn’t be forgotten that the political world greatly impacts the business community. That’s why our political action committee, Indiana Business for Responsive Government, always has boots on the ground impacting statewide races. It’s also why the Indiana Chamber takes an increasing number of business leaders to Washington, D.C. annually during our D.C. Fly-in. We’re grateful to Indiana’s Congressional delegation for meeting with our members and guests to discuss the issues critical to their businesses and economic growth in our state.

Furthermore, due to my personal affinity for the craft, it was quite a pleasure speaking with famed politicos James Carville and Karl Rove for our most recent edition of BizVoice magazine. The Q&A serves as a preview to the duo’s upcoming appearance as keynote speakers at the Indiana Chamber’s 26th Annual Awards Dinner on Nov. 4.

During the conversations (which took place in mid-July), I asked their perspectives about the opposition’s outlook on the 2016 presidential race:

Rove on if Sen. Bernie Sanders actually has a chance to win the Democratic Party’s nomination: “There’s substance, but the problem is that while you have a very liberal turnout in the Iowa caucuses, and New Hampshire is a more liberal state, there aren’t a lot of Burlingtons and Benningtons and Berkeleys and San Franciscos. There are a lot more Indianapolises and Evansvilles. While he runs well with the hard left, if you’re not very liberal, he’s not your cup of tea. (Clinton) will be the nominee, but it won’t be as easy as people think.”

Carville on if the attention to Trump’s bellicosity is a danger to the Republican brand (at the time of the interview, Trump had recently made statements about Mexicans crossing the border and raping women): “Yes I do. The reason is there are a considerable number of Republicans who agree with him. It’s exposing there are people out there who believe that. That’s a part of that party that is not going to go away with time. When he goes away, somebody will pick it up again.”

Trump, however, still leads national polling, so he continues to resonate with a portion of the country, although prognosticators are predicting his impending demise.

If pressed to make a prediction this early (and it’s so early I’ll likely regret it), I’d forecast a Marco Rubio vs. Hillary Clinton showdown next fall.

In early November, Carville and Rove will offer their expert opinions on the presidential race and politics. A few tickets still remain for the event and can be purchased online.

It will be a great evening of banter, insights and celebration of the business community; we hope to see you there!

VIDEO: Ikelite Making a Splash in Indy

David Combs, general manager of Ikelite, spoke with BizVoice about the intriguing history of the Indianapolis company and why it’s so successful. Some may find it odd that a company so loved by SCUBA divers would be based in Indiana, but hey, it’s been working since the 1960s!

Read the Indiana Ingenuity feature on this exceptional business in BizVoice.

Eleven Offering Soccer, Business Combo

08-19-15vTBR_Networking-Night (720)I love to tackle (no pun intended) stories that fall under the Business of Sports banner, combining business elements with the games we love to watch and play. Our team did some excellent work in BizVoice from Nov-Dec 2013 through Sept-Oct 2014, with a summary available here.

The Indy Eleven, in a rare Wednesday night game on August 19, is mixing soccer action with a “Networking Night” featuring business leaders representing a variety of industries.

A pre-game reception, open forum with the business representatives, dinner, two drink vouchers and exciting professional soccer (7:30 p.m. against the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Carroll Stadium) are all included for just $25. Tickets are now available.

No Easy Answers: Charting the Future of Higher Ed

higher edFor a century, Hoosiers didn’t need a college degree to make a good living. But with the manufacturing-based economy changing dramatically and giving way, in part, to the knowledge-based economy, you can’t make that case anymore.

Amid the backdrop of an increased emphasis on postsecondary education, we turn to three recognized leaders in the higher education community to discuss the current climate and what needs to happen next:

A quick survey of the college landscape reveals some obvious challenges: rising tuition, student debt and getting more students to complete their degree. The latter is the focal point for Jones and his organization.

“We know that completion rates at most colleges in the country don’t exceed 50%. So the freshman class looks very good in terms of numbers and in terms of diversity, but in the graduating class we only have about half of those students there – and we’ve lost a lot of the diversity that we set out to accomplish. So that’s a huge challenge,” he offers.

Read the rest of the BizVoice magazine article. And be sure to check out the NEW July/August edition at

Ag Strength – By the Numbers

agThere’s no doubting the continued strength of Indiana’s agricultural industry (see the state fact sheet). We’ve told the stories often in BizVoice magazine – and will do so in the upcoming July-August issue (with a look at the prominence of ag businesses in Kosciusko County).

But according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, Indiana did not rank in the top three exporters by state of various products. There are some interesting states and dollar figures included (selected examples):

  • Soybeans: Illinois ($3.1 billion), Iowa ($2.7 billion) and Minnesota ($1.8 billion)
  • Corn: The same three states as soybeans, with Iowa leading the way at $1.1 billion
  • Wheat: Kansas ($1.5 billion), North Dakota and Montana
  • Pork: Iowa ($2 billion), North Carolina and Minnesota
  • Beef: Nebraska ($946 million), Texas and Kansas
  • Dairy; California ($1.2 billion), Wisconsin and New York
  • Poultry: Georgia, North Carolina and Arkansas
  • Fresh fruit: California ($2.5 billion), Florida ($3.2 billion) and Washington

BizVoice Adds New Awards to Trophy Case

droneThe BizVoice® magazine team doesn’t spend a great deal of time or resources entering competitions each year. Validation comes via feedback from regular readers and others interested in the publication. But it is good every once in a while to see how some of your best work matches up against other professionals.

For work completed in 2014, two contests were entered and six awards were earned – two in the national APEX program and four from the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists. That brings the total to 75 awards in 16 years.

• Rebecca Patrick: Feature Writing, Award of Excellence, Poised to Benefit: Drones Expected to Produce Major Indiana Impact, July-August 2014
• Tony Spataro: Design & Illustrations – Best Redesigns, Award of Excellence, BizVoice® (new look debuted in January-February 2014)

Patrick, Charlee Beasor and Tom Schuman earned writing honors from Indiana SPJ for topics ranging from education and sports to business and politics. Full details are on the BizVoice web site

As BizVoice editor, I have the privilege of working with a talented team. I congratulate them on their continued outstanding efforts and encourage readers to check out the past work online and in future issues of the magazine.

Work Ethic Signal: Schools, Business Create PRIDE Indicator


The skills gap, the difference between what employers need from an employee and the abilities the workers have to offer, is multi-faceted. Not only is there often a lack of abilities in hard skills (computer programming, mathematics and more), but also soft skills such as communication, working in teams and strong personal character.

Of the more than 530 Indiana companies responding to the 2014 Indiana Chamber Employer Survey, over 54% stated that a lack of work ethic is the most pressing issue in their hiring process, followed by communication and attendance.

“Employers are teaming with schools to better relate academic concepts to workforce needs,” says Amy Marsh, former Indiana Chamber director of college and career readiness initiatives. “Businesses are looking for employees that are ready to work on day one.”

According to the survey, more than 39% of businesses had vacancies related to underqualified applicants. To make matters more difficult for employers, more than half of businesses indicated plans to expand their workforce in the next year.

“This is not a sustainable model for moving Indiana forward,” Marsh states. “Ultimately, we want workers across the employment spectrum to be able to have a long, sustainable career that contributes to the strength of the Indiana labor force.”

Read my full story in BizVoice.