Try This On for Size

iStock_000062439902_Large - Copy“Mirror, mirror on the wall. This lighting doesn’t work for me at all.”

My amusing poem is a fitting way to describe how shoppers are using “smart mirrors” to enhance their experiences.

Where have you been all of my life?

Let’s take a look at how the technology, which can be found in dressing rooms at places such as Ralph Lauren’s flagship store, works:

Equipped with radio-frequency identification technology that tracks items via their tags, the room identifies every item that enters and reflects it back on the mirror that doubles as a touchscreen. Shoppers can interact with the mirror, which functions like a giant tablet, to control the lighting, request alternate items or style advice from a sales associate.

“There’s this narrative that ecommerce collects better data – but online, it’s black and white. The physical world contains all these shades of grey that are truly interesting,” says Healey Cypher, who has built his career around twin concepts, namely that brick-and-mortar shopping isn’t going anywhere and the experience is in desperate need of a technological upgrade.

He’s working on it. Cypher is the CEO and co-founder of Oak Labs Interactive, the company behind the interactive mirrors, which just announced it has raised $4.1 million in a seed round led by Wing Venture Capital to bring refine the technology and bring it to more retailers. …

For retailers, the key draw is the wealth of collected data. By tracking each item that enters a dressing room, Ralph Lauren can determine how shoppers are interacting with its clothes. Is a jacket frequently being tried on, but isn’t selling? This likely indicates the look is popular, but the fit isn’t. Equally valuable: how customers interact with the touchscreen. Are they buying recommended items? How are they interacting with sales associates? Oak Labs analyzes the data and distills it into digestible and actionable insights.

This idea isn’t a new one – Nordstrom has experimented with interactive mirrors in its fitting rooms, and designer Rebecca Minkoff’s flagship store in New York City has employed nearly identical technology for about a year, to huge results. Since its installation, the store reportedly tripled its clothing sales.

Read the full Entrepreneur story.

Colorado Court Decision May Impact Indiana’s ‘Lawsuit Lending’ Battle

10044552As the 2016 legislative session nears, an interesting development occurred in Colorado over an issue that the Indiana Chamber has been working on for the last several years. This week, the Colorado Supreme Court determined that the practice of litigation finance, or more commonly referred to as “lawsuit lending”, was determined to be a loan and subject to Colorado’s Uniform Consumer Credit Code (UCCC).

Lawsuit lending is the practice of advancing money to a plaintiff/someone involved in an accident in anticipation of winning a lawsuit in court. If the plaintiff is awarded a settlement, the advance must be repaid at considerably high interest rates. If the plaintiff loses the suit, there is no obligation to repay the loan.

Proponents of the industry have claimed that the advance is not a loan because there is no recourse if the suit is lost. Opponents (including the Indiana Chamber) believe that this process interjects a third party into the civil justice system and prolongs the settlement process.

The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision puts lower interest rate limits on the advance of these loans. Two companies doing business in Colorado stopped operating in 2010 after the state office that regulates Colorado’s UCCC determined that the state law applies to their businesses. After the two companies filed suit to overturn the regulatory opinion, the state attorney general’s office countersued. The companies were accused of unlicensed lending and charging “exorbitant” interest rates to plaintiffs.

In conclusion, the Colorado Supreme Court wrote: “We hold that litigation finance companies that agree to advance money to tort plaintiffs in exchange for future litigation proceeds are making ‘loans’ subject to Colorado’s UCCC even if the plaintiffs do not have an obligation to repay any deficiency if the litigation proceeds are ultimately less than the amount due. These transactions create a debt or an obligation to repay that grows with the passage of time. We agree with the court of appeals that these transactions are ‘loans’
under the code…”

Attempts to regulate the practice have been unsuccessful in Indiana. Hoosier proponents of the practice have indicated that subjecting finance companies to the UCCC in Indiana or subjecting them to an interest rate of less than 45% will put them out of business, so there has not been language that could bring about a compromise. The Indiana House of Representatives has passed a bill for several years that the Chamber has supported. However, the Senate has sided with the lenders and stifled the Chamber’s attempts to forward our position.

Still, the Colorado Supreme Court decision might be a game-changer in Indiana. It would not be surprising to see legislation introduced that will mirror what happened in Colorado. Last session, a similar measure was inserted as an amendment into a bill that came over from the House. The language was removed on the Senate floor before a vote was taken. Legislation this session that would be tied to Indiana’s UCCC should be assigned to the House Financial Institutions Committee, where it will find support.

Likewise, any bill tied to the UCCC should be sent to the Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions, chaired by Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle), where it would most likely find support. However, the issue historically has not been tied to the UCCC and has been assigned to the Civil Law Committee, where Sen. Joe Zakas (R-Granger) is chair. Senator Zakas has not been supportive of the Chamber’s lawsuit lending position.

The Chamber anticipates further debate on this issue as the new legislative session unfolds.

VIDEO: Dustin Sapp is No Stranger to Start-Ups, Accolades

Dustin Sapp is now CEO of TinderBox. But he cut his entrepreneurial teeth while at Rose-Hulman, and built executive experience while at Vontoo. He’s now a leader in Central Indiana’s start-up scene, a mentor and devoted family man. See why he earned the Indiana Chamber’s first ever Indiana Vision 2025 Dynamic Leader of the Year Award.

VIDEO: Oklahoma Native Packnett More Than “OK” for Northeast Indiana

Mike Packnett of Parkview Health (Fort Wayne) was honored as the Indiana Chamber’s 2015 Business Leader of the Year on Nov. 4. Packnett not only leads a successful hospital system, but works to enhance economic development in northeast Indiana.

Indiana Chamber Unveils Our Top Six Legislative Priorities for 2016

statehouse picTransportation infrastructure funding, reverse credit transfer to the state’s accredited two-year colleges and expansion of the state’s civil rights law are among the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s top priorities for the 2016 session.

These objectives were announced at the organization’s annual Central Indiana Legislative Preview in Indianapolis today.

The Indiana Chamber proposes an array of strategies to establish a sustainable funding stream for the state’s roads, highways and bridges. These include dedicating more of the state’s sales tax on fuel purchases to infrastructure, increasing and indexing fuel excise taxes and implementing fees on alternative fuel vehicles.

“Indiana benefited greatly from the Major Moves program that accelerated our timeline and funded $4 billion worth of projects over the last decade. But those dollars are spent or allocated. It’s time to move forward with the next generation of resources to drive our economy by moving people and products throughout our state and beyond,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

“Legislative action is needed in the coming session to address glaring needs and begin implementing long-term strategies to allow our state to live up to its ‘Crossroads of America’ designation.”

Brinegar concludes that the good news is that legislative leaders, the Governor and others are on the same page about the need; the challenge will be how to get there.

Higher education is also a focal point for the Indiana Chamber. One specific proposal the organization will be pushing for is a method to allow for more students to turn their existing college credits into a two-year degree. This would be accomplished by allowing specific credits earned at state-supported colleges and universities to be transferrable to Indiana’s accredited two-year schools, such as Ivy Tech and Vincennes. Credit is already generally transferrable from the two-year schools to their four-year counterparts.

“This would give students more opportunity for post-secondary attainment and then obviously help with employment,” Brinegar offers. “Specifically, it would help fill the gap for those individuals who first went to a four-year school but for whatever reason couldn’t continue. This would be a viable path for them to turn their efforts into a two-year degree and become more attractive to employers.”

Earlier this month, the Indiana Chamber announced its support for expanding the state’s civil rights law to include protection for sexual orientation and gender identity, with Brinegar noting:

“The time has come for Indiana to expand protections against potential discrimination. This action will increase the state’s future business competitiveness in the recruitment, attraction and retention of talent, as well as enhance respect for all employers and employees. We encourage our state leaders to work together to take this next critical step.”

Another initiative the organization will again pursue is a work sharing program, which will allow employers to maintain a skilled stable workforce during temporary downturns and enable employees to keep their jobs but with reduced hours and salary (which is partially offset by unemployment insurance). This program has enjoyed support on both sides of the aisle the last few years, but has yet to cross the finish line.

“There is no negative impact on the state’s unemployment insurance fund. Instead of paying full benefits to a smaller group of recipients, a larger group of employees will receive limited benefits – but most importantly remain on the job,” Brinegar explains. “There is no reason not to enact a work share program to help meet future employee and employer needs. They deserve that option.”

The other two legislative priorities for the Indiana Chamber are maintaining a fair and equitable system for the state’s commercial property assessment and appeal procedures (in the face of recent “big box” retail stores’ appeals and reaction to that); and expanding publicly-funded preschool from the pilot program to statewide so more children are prepared to enter kindergarten.

A complete rundown of the Indiana Chamber’s 2016 key legislative initiatives (top priorities and additional areas of focus) is available at

Also at the legislative preview event, four state legislators were honored as Indiana Chamber Small Business Champions “for their hard work and dedication to improving Indiana’s small business climate.” This award is based on voting and advocacy during the 2015 legislative session.

The 2015 Small Business Champions are: Sen. Rodric Bray from Martinsville, District #37; Sen. Carlin Yoder from Middlebury, District #12; Rep. David Ober from Albion, District #82; and Rep. John Price from Greenwood, District #47.

Recap of the Indiana Chamber’s Top 6 legislative priorities:

  • Support an array of strategies to establish a sustainable funding stream for the state’s roads, highways and bridges
  • Support specific credit transfer from Indiana’s four-year, state-supported institutions to the state’s accredited two-year colleges
  • Support expanding the state’s civil rights law to include protection for sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Support a work sharing program that will allow employers to maintain a skilled stable workforce during temporary downturns
  • Support maintaining a fair and equitable system for the state’s commercial property assessment and appeal procedures
  • Support the development of publicly-funded preschool initiatives statewide

Internships Increasingly Important in Post-Graduation Job Search

bA new report from Grace College found that unemployment has fallen about 7% for 20- to 24-year-olds. There are many reasons for upcoming college graduates to be optimistic about their job searches, but there are also noteworthy trends that should keep expectations in check and even inspire extra effort. Internships and other work-and-learn opportunities continue to be a step toward work readiness and, in many cases, job offers.

The Class of 2015 has planned ahead for the future. According to Dan Kadlec of Time, 82% of current seniors considered the availability of jobs in their field before choosing a major – a 7% increase from 2014. The Accenture Strategy 2015 U.S. College Graduate Employment Study backs this up: 63% of 2015 grads were encouraged to pursue a STEM degree (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), compared to 52% of grads from 2013 and 2014. Jobs in STEM fields are often high-wage and high-demand, and STEM was the most popular major this year.

However, current job market realities are not all inviting for recent grads. Accenture found that 85% of the Class of 2015 expects to earn more than $25,000 per year out of the gate. But right now, 41% of the Classes of 2013 and 2014 earns $25,000 or less per year and nearly half of that group considers themselves underemployed.

Despite these trends, internships are one of the greatest reasons the Class of 2015 should feel confident as they begin their careers. Along with online and offline networking opportunities, internships can help graduates maximize their chances of landing a job. According to Accenture, 72% of current seniors participated in an internship during college. The reason for optimism? Nearly half of prior-year graduates found a job as a result of an internship, apprenticeship or co-op.

Internships have become less of a “bonus” on young professionals’ résumés and more of a necessity. Real-world work experience coupled with network building make experiential learning opportunities critical for students. That’s why it is so important for Indiana employers to offer structured, experiential opportunities and strong mentorship for tomorrow’s workforce.

Indiana INTERNnet exists to help increase the number and quality of internships throughout the state and connect employers with prospective interns. With all the statistics in mind, this work is key not only for each individual’s professional growth, but for strengthening Indiana’s future workforce, business climate and economy.

Check out this small sampling of stories about internships that led to full-time jobs on Indiana INTERNnet’s blog: Paige Prather; Lucas Hill; Chris Jones; Casey Spivey, and yours truly

Indiana INTERNnet is the catalyst for expanding the creation and use of experiential learning opportunities as a key strategy in retaining Indiana’s top talent. The online resource,, provides valuable information and tools to assist Indiana employers with their internship programs. Its searchable database links employers with thousands of individuals seeking internships. Register for your free account, post your internships and begin connecting with potential candidates today.

Pace Dairy of Indiana: Maximizing Its Chamber Membership Through Employee Training

Sarver_ShirleyShirley Sarver keeps a special reminder of her experience at the 2015 Indiana Safety and Health Conference & Expo with her every day.

“There was a saying that I absolutely loved,” comments Sarver, a production lead at Pace Dairy of Indiana in Crawfordsville (an Indiana Chamber member since 1998). “I don’t have Internet access at work, so I had my (IT) person send it to me (via) email so I could keep it with me.

“It says, ‘When people understand you, you get their attention. When people trust you, you earn their loyalty. When people know you really care, you catch their hearts.’ ”

One of the presenters shared the quote during a session on leadership.

“The class was very, very informative,” she asserts. “Since I’m a lead, I loved how he talked about being in the leadership role.”

Twenty years ago, a desire to help people attracted Sarver to Pace Dairy, a cheese plant operated by Kroger. It has two locations: Crawfordsville and Rochester, Minnesota. Each site has approximately 280 employees.

“I go out on calls. If they’re (workers) having problems on a line, I help troubleshoot,” she explains. “If I can fix it, I fix it. If I can’t, I get ahold of maintenance and help out where needed.”

Sarver, who has attended several of the Chamber’s annual safety conferences, values gaining knowledge that she can apply directly to her job.

“I think it’s very beneficial for the team because it gives us new ideas on what we can bring back here to the plant,” she reflects. “I would highly recommend the expo. You get to be one-on-one (learning about different products and services) instead of looking in a book.”

Chamber Applauds Early Payoff of the Federal UI Trust Fund Loan

Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar comments on Gov. Mike Pence’s approval of an early payoff for the state’s federal unemployment insurance (UI) trust fund loan. This is to be accomplished by temporarily borrowing from Indiana’s reserve funds during the next eight months. The funds will be paid back by employers through their regular state UI payments:

“This allows Hoosier employers to save $126 per employee or an additional $327 million in total federal penalties for 2016. That’s very significant for the business community. That money now can be reinvested by growing companies and adding more jobs.

“In the last few weeks alone, we’ve heard from several hundred businesses all across the state about how important this early payoff is to them. They appreciate the efforts of lawmakers to place this option in the state budget and the State Budget Committee and Gov. Pence for their actions to make it happen.”

Carter: Biopharmaceutical Industry Supports Tens of Thousands of High Pay, High Skill Jobs for Hoosiers

Our VP Cam Carter recently spoke with We Work for Health (WWFH) about the importance of Indiana’s biopharmaceutical sector. WWFH is a grassroots initiative that shows how biopharmaceutical research and medical innovation work together to create a strong, vibrant economy and a healthier America.

Maple Leaf Farms: Maximizing Chamber Investment Through Wellness

Christy_BobWhen Maple Leaf Farms’ facility took over the space occupied by an old elementary school in the small town of Leesburg, the building was nearly entirely gutted and changed, but one room remained the same: the gymnasium.

With the on-site gym and fitness center already in place and remodeled, Bob Christy, benefits manager, began to set forth a competitive wellness plan with a little help from the Indiana Chamber.

Chuck Gillespie, executive director of the Wellness Council of Indiana, provided a wellness consultation to Maple Lead Farms to help the company determine how to move forward with its wellness program and answered questions from employees.

“I would highly recommend the consultation,” Christy asserts. “I think it should be a requirement. You need to do it once a year and have somebody (from the Council) talk to your whole group.”

For the past year and a half, Christy says Maple Leaf Farms has done “everything from poker walks to health challenges to biometric screenings.” The business’ efforts have earned it a Three-Star AchieveWELL certification from the Wellness Council of Indiana.

“When I started, (it took about the first year) to get most of the health programs set up,” Christy says. “Before that, the wellness program was kind of nonexistent. I spoke at the first annual meeting on portions … and that’s when I really got started.”

A wellness program that once was “nonexistent” now even has its own jackets – emblazoned with the words “Wellness Protection Program” and a picture of a duck, a very important symbol for the company.

Maple Leaf Farms is a family-owned business that raises and processes ducks; today it boasts 17 locations. The wellness plan now extends to all employees, regardless of their whereabouts, and each year, Christy spends two weeks on the road encouraging employees to complete biometric screenings and the Anthem health assessment.

Because Maple Leaf Farms leads the nation in the duck market, it often works with a lot of celebrity chefs and cooking initiatives. With its large kitchen and focus on healthy eating, Christy saw an opportunity to promote healthy eating through lunch-and-learns or quick dinners, meal prep demonstrations, vending machines with nutritious options and the upcoming fresh fruits on Fridays.

“We’re trying to do ‘Fruitful Friday,’” Christy explains. “We eat so much food here because there are always things going on in the kitchen.”

The wellness program continues to grow, with presentations from nutritionists and dieticians, new partnerships with the Warsaw YMCA and the potential of on-site chair massages. Maple Leaf Farm’s partnership with the Chamber and its attendance at Chamber conferences has improved its offerings for employees.

“The biggest thing with this (Chamber) membership is the resources that they have,” Christy says. “It’s some of the best you can get. It’s in Indiana, and it’s about Indiana. These people all work here just like us, and we deal with the same laws, the same tax codes, the same everything. It is about Indiana.