State Wants to Hear From You on How to Streamline Small Businesses Reporting

Cutting red tape for Indiana’s job creators is key to making our state a better place for small businesses to expand and hire more Hoosier workers. To that end, during the 2017 legislative session, the Indiana Chamber supported House Bill 1157, Small Business Duplicative Reporting, which was authored by Rep. Doug Miller (R-Elkhart). The law is simple, but hopefully effective in generating ideas to make early-stage and small business interactions with state government in Indiana even more business-friendly.

As a result of the successful legislation, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation has set up an online survey to gather feedback from employers and government officials on instances of duplicative reporting.

The Indiana Chamber is encouraging small business owners and local governments to take part in the survey. It only takes about five minutes to complete and asks participants to identify situations where they are required by state law, rule or guideline to submit similar information to at least two state agencies. Duplicative information can include notifications, tax reports, employment information and other statistical data.

By helping to identify these issues, the state can work to streamline reporting processes or even eliminate some – which should save business owners time and money.

Tech Talk: Breaking Down the H-1B Visa Numbers

U.S. employers planned to pay high-skilled foreign workers with H-1B visas a median salary of $80,000 a year in fiscal year 2016, up from about $69,000 a decade earlier, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data. This is the first time the U.S. government has made salary information about H-1B applicants publicly available.

The 2016 median salary reported for H-1B visa applicants was higher than the median salary paid to some U.S. workers in similar high-skill occupations. For example, U.S. workers in computer and mathematical occupations had a median salary of $75,036 in fiscal 2016, a slight increase from 2007, when the median salary was $73,979 (adjusted to 2016 dollars), according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on all U.S. workers. The majority (60%) of all H-1B applicants from fiscal 2007 to 2016 were seeking employment in computer and mathematical occupations.

Several bills have been proposed in Congress this year to change the H-1B program, and the Trump administration has said it backs a plan that would reverse decades of U.S. immigration policy by admitting more high-skilled immigrants and fewer low-skilled immigrants.

The USCIS data show that overall demand for H-1B visas has increased sharply over the past decade. The number of total H-1B visa applications filed by employers on behalf of foreign workers increased from 246,126 in fiscal 2009 to 399,349 in 2016, and is on pace to reach a new high in 2017. Overall, U.S. employers filed more than 3.4 million H-1B visa applications from fiscal 2007 through the end of June 2017 (the first nine months of fiscal 2017).

The U.S. government also released H-1B visa salaries that individual employers plan to pay foreign workers, as indicated on applications approved by USCIS (and still subject to State Department review).

The biggest names in technology planned to pay the highest average salary to H-1B visa holders in fiscal 2016. But they also expected to hire fewer workers than other companies, according to data on applications approved by USCIS. Facebook planned to pay an average salary of $140,758 on 1,107 H-1B visa applications (a total that includes both first-time and renewal applications), the highest average salary paid among the 30 companies with the most visa approvals. Apple planned to pay a $138,563 average salary on 1,992 applications, while Google paid a $131,882 average salary on 2,517 applications.

The top prospective employers of foreign workers on H-1B visas provide information technology and other business services. Cognizant Tech Solutions, an IT consulting company based in New Jersey, had 21,459 applications approved in fiscal 2016, the most of any company. The next two top H-1B employers are companies based in India with offices in the U.S.: Infosys (12,780 applications approved) and Tata Consultancy (11,295).

Economics of an Eclipse: Tourism Boost or Total Bust?

Thanks to astronomy and a little thing known as the internet, you’d have to be hiding under a rock to be unaware of our impending celestial event today: a solar eclipse where the path of totality stretches across the entire United States.

Cities along that path – where the sun will cast a perfect full shadow around the moon – are hoping and planning for a big bump in tourism.

While viewers in Indianapolis will see about 92% coverage of the sun, those in Evansville will see about 99% and Jeffersonville residents will see about 96%, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT).

But Hoosiers interested in seeing the full totality need only travel a few hours south to Hopkinsville, Kentucky, where they can be near the “Greatest Eclipse” point and will be able to see the eclipse last for two minutes and 40 seconds. A number of other Kentucky cities will also be prime eclipse-viewing locations, including Paducah, Bowling Green and Madison.

Cities throughout the country are preparing to cash in on the once-in-a-lifetime event – the most recent coast-to-coast solar eclipse was in 1918 – by building and upgrading infrastructure. A CNBC report on the subject highlights Hopkinsville spending half a million dollars on sidewalk and other improvements, while a Casper, Wyoming, a downtown plaza is costing $8.5 million (which was already planned and needed by the city, but stimulated by the eclipse potential), according to CNBC.

That same report cautions that because the path of totality is relatively accessible and there are numerous highway exits along the route, entities might end up overspending on projects without recouping additional tourism dollars. Additionally, the concern is that too many eclipse tourists could put a strain on things like gas, food and local infrastructure and might backfire in the form of a public relations nightmare if crowds overstress local health care facilities or get stranded without gas or lodging.

The economic benefit (or cost) of the solar eclipse won’t be calculated until after the heavenly bodies have realigned. But if the fervor around scrounging for the last pair of unclaimed eclipse glasses is any indication, it’s possible those cities and towns made a safe bet on a short-term tourism event.

INDOT is also warning travelers in southern Indiana to plan for traffic congestion and reminding Hoosiers that overnight camping at rest areas is prohibited. INDOT is also urging motorists to pay attention to the road during the eclipse, turn on headlights when it gets dark out and don’t stop along the highway to view or take photos.

And remember to take safety precautions when viewing the solar eclipse, from wherever you choose to view it. Wear ISO-certified protective eye glasses or (if you’re like me and didn’t get glasses in time) make a pinhole projection. The American Astrological Society has instructions here on how to construct one.

Happy viewing!

Management Performance Hub Picks Up Speed

The Indiana Chamber has been a key advocate for Indiana’s Management and Performance Hub (MPH) by recently supporting legislation to codify and fund it so it can achieve more.

MPH is a data hub that can link and aggregate state agency datasets with other data to help improve the performance and outcomes on many issues, including education/workforce, the opioid crisis and traffic safety. Think of it as a depot, where data can be assembled and studied to further outcomes and make better data-driven decisions.

Beyond improving state government performance and enhancing transparency, there is the ability to provide useful information to external partners including researchers, the business community and not-for-profit organizations. There will be an external-facing component of MPH to determine protocol on how this information can be utilized for maximum benefit.

The Indiana Chamber is a member of an advisory group to review guidelines and policies being established by MPH. We are also part of the Indiana Open Data Council to provide advice and guidance as MPH evolves; this includes the state and researcher and community advisors to help further MPH’s goals, scale innovation and increase utilization of the MPH.

For more information about the latest with the MPH, read its newsletter.

National Emergency Declared for Opioid Crisis; Donnelly and Walorski Applaud President’s Action

Building upon the recommendations in the interim report from the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, President Trump recently instructed his administration “to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic.”

Both Sen. Joe Donnelly and Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02) issued statements supporting the decision:

“I am pleased that President Trump plans to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency. We know that it will take all of us working together to effectively turn the tide against this public health crisis that has harmed so many families in Indiana and across the country,” Donnelly said. “I hope this declaration will lead to necessary, additional resources for states and local communities to ensure those battling substance use disorders can access treatment.”

Walorski stated: “Opioid abuse is having a devastating impact on our communities, and President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency treats this epidemic with the urgency it requires. I will continue working with my colleagues and the administration to make sure first responders, law enforcement, medical professionals, treatment providers and families in our communities have the tools and resources needed to solve this crisis.”

Congress last year passed into law the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), bipartisan legislation to address the nationwide opioid epidemic.

Congresswoman Walorski served on the conference committee that negotiated the final bill, which included two provisions she authored. One requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to participate in state prescription drug monitoring programs, and the other allows the VA to use FDA-approved medical devices and other non-opioid therapies to treat chronic pain. Donnelly also helped enact CARA, which included several of his provisions. Additionally, Donnelly helped pass the 21st Century Cures Act into law, which includes a $10.9 million federal grant that will support prevention, treatment and recovery services in Indiana.

More recently, in late July, Donnelly introduced a bipartisan package of legislation “aimed at providing the facilities and access to telemedicine needed “to prevent and treat substance use disorder in rural communities.”

Georgetown Drive-In Gets a Four-Star Visit from Traveling Musicians

Aspiring singing duo Lacefield & James has embarked on an enjoyable trip around Indiana, visiting historic Hoosier businesses.

Their latest “Destinations” visit took them southbound to the historic Georgetown Drive-In in Floyd County. See their interview with the owner, who explains why keeping it family-friendly is important and how Batman’s heroics aren’t just limited to fighting crime. They cap it off with a cover of an Amos Lee gem. Enjoy!

Tech Talk: Federal Tech Team Still in Place

The following is excerpted from NextGov:

An Obama-era technology troubleshooting team has continued under President Donald Trump, maintaining projects some experts suspected would be shuttered in the new administration.

The U.S. Digital Service, a task force of professionals recruited from the private sector, was established to tackle some of the federal government’s highest profile and highest risk technology challenges. Today, it has satellite operations in seven federal agencies, including Defense, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services.

The team reports to the Office of Management and Budget and is now part of the American Technology Council, a group of business leaders that President Trump taps for advice on federal problems. The Digital Service (USDS) also works with the White House Office of American Innovation, which is led by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and is aiming to modernize government technology.

Among the recent USDS priorities, according to its report to Congress:

  • A variety of projects for Veterans Affairs – building and deploying a system to process claims for disability compensation; piloting a tool to allow lawyers and judges to review evidence from those claims; and launching Vets.gov, an online portal consolidating thousands of federal benefit sites for veterans.
  • Collaborating with U.S. Citizenship and Innovation Services to digitize the immigration paperwork processing system.
  • Shoring up the federal purchasing process, including an education program to train contracting officers on buying digital IT services.

The USDS web site notes that in support of its goals, “We recruit top technologists for term-limited tours of duty with the federal government. We hope to encourage a tradition of public service in the technology industry that will support the ongoing improvement of government digital services.”

Bottom line: There’s no doubt that there are plenty of opportunities for improvement when it comes to government and technology. Let’s hope USDS can play a positive role in that mission.

Legislation Favorable to Drug, Medical Device Manufacturers Passes Senate, Heads to President

Legislation which passed the Senate Thursday ensures that drug and medical devices can move to the market quicker. Manufacturers of these products would pay higher user fees and the revenue raised would help the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review the items in a more expedited process. The law governing this process was set to expire by September 30, so it was imperative that the Senate act before members left for their August recess.

The legislation passed the Senate 94-1 with both Indiana senators supporting the legislation. The bill was not amended in the Senate and so therefore it now heads to the President for final signature.

The Indiana Chamber advocated for the passage of this bill during the Hoosiers Work for Health summit in July.

The legislation aligns with the Chamber’s legislative policy regarding the FDA: “The FDA has an important responsibility to make sure consumers get expeditious access to safe and effective products. Thus, the Indiana Chamber supports a well-resourced FDA, especially in the area of drugs and medical devices, through appropriated funds and user fees (tied to specific and measurable performance requirements for the FDA).”

IODD Now Accepting Applications for Defense Industry Adjustment Grant Program

The Indiana Office of Defense Development (IODD) is now accepting applications for the Indiana Defense Industry Adjustment grant program. An IODD release has more:

This grant program, funded by the U.S.Department of Defense (DOD) Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA), assists small and mid-sized companies reduce their dependency on DOD procurement activity by helping them to diversify into new markets. By diversifying their revenue streams, potential cuts or changes in federal defense spending will have less detrimental impact on Indiana-based contractors. The grant helps companies withstand reductions, allowing them to increase economic activity and create jobs in the State of Indiana.

“This is a great opportunity for defense firms in Indiana to diversify their revenue streams and strengthen their business as a whole,” said Brandi Hughes, IODD Director of Operations .

Companies are eligible for up to $50,000 of consulting services in the following four areas: strategic planning, strategic communications, lean product development, and quality certifications. There are no cost requirements for participating companies other than time. Companies must meet the following four requirements to apply:(1) have been in operation in Indiana for a minimum of one year prior to application; (2) have at least one full-time employee; (3) be a defense contractor or subcontractor to a defense contractor; and (4) have experienced a loss of revenue due to reduced DoD expenditures.

IODD has engaged kglobal, a strategic communications firm with extensive OEA grant experience in three other states, to spearhead consulting and diversification efforts under the grant program. kglobal is working in collaboration with several other service providers, four of which are Indiana-based companies; Simon Everett, Indiana Strategic Research Group, Maple Hill Engineering, Mary Romeo and Associates, and QAI.

To inquire about the program, contact Randy DeCleene, kglobal Partner, at randy.decleene@kglobal.com or 202-295-7931.

IU Kelley School of Business at IUPUI Seeks Companies to Partner with Student Teams

I-Core students present their semester-long project to Kelley professors and company representatives.

The following is a release from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis:

When digital recording provider Word Systems, Inc. sought to find new ways to use a certain type of software, they enlisted undergraduate students from the Kelley School of Business at IUPUI.

“We wanted to explore other applications for our iRecord software, which is currently used by law enforcement agencies when they conduct interviews during investigations,” explained Christy Walchle, vice president at Word Systems, which distributes and markets the iRecord software. “We’ve never explored other applications for the product before, and we realized these student teams could give us insight we may not have considered.”

Junior-level students enrolled in Kelley’s Integrative Core (I-Core) Program helped the company identify innovative uses for its product and how it could expand to different markets.

“The students brought in a lot of great ideas that we’d never thought of before,” said Walchle. “This experience allowed us to think outside the box. You come to a point in business when you think you know everything about a certain product or application. When the Kelley students and professors ask you questions you may not have asked yourself, you realize what you don’t know. It puts us back in the classroom, as well.”

It was a similar experience for IMMI, a Westfield-based company that designs, tests and manufactures advanced safety systems like seatbelts for school buses.

“As a global company based here in central Indiana, IMMI is thrilled to partner with the Kelley School at IUPUI to grow and develop the region’s next generation of business leaders,” said Julie Cooley, director of corporate marketing and communications at IMMI.

IMMI worked with student teams during the fall 2016 semester, and company representatives have already signed up to participate in I-Core again this fall.

“When we give the students real-world scenarios to work through, not only do we help them, but they also help us,” said Cooley. “I-Core is a tremendous program because it’s mutually beneficial. The Kelley students at IUPUI are extremely engaged and are delightful to work alongside.”

Guiding future business leaders: Sign up today

The Kelley School of Business at IUPUI is again looking for central Indiana businesses to partner with undergraduate student teams for its renowned I-Core Program.

I-Core is a distinguishing component of the Kelley bachelor’s degree program. Junior-level students take a set of four integrated classes—marketing, finance, supply chain management and team dynamics and leadership—during a single semester.

Kelley students say I-Core is one of the most meaningful experiences of their Kelley careers—a rite of passage toward understanding the business world and the value of teamwork.

Company representatives say the program provides insights into future opportunities, and it allows them to think about products and services in ways they may not have before.

Students may consider new goods or services, providing a feasibility study of the new product and market. They will determine if return on investment justifies risk and capital investment.

“I recommend this to any company looking to expand its current market or explore new ways of growing business,” added Walchle. “It was rewarding to give back to these business students and guide them through this process.”

“I was impressed with the level of engagement I had with students,” said Mike Patterson, vice president of strategy at Rook Security. “Throughout the semester, they communicated with me regularly as they considered new ways to market two of our newest products.”

“Students give you a new and modern perspective,” explained Daniel Reyzman, BS’10, MBA’15, senior manager, tax product at First Advantage Tax Consulting Services, LLC. “Participating in this program allowed us to build rapport with future business leaders. I believe if you can contribute to students’ growth and learning, you’re contributing to our future as a business—and the future of our economy here in central Indiana, as well.”

How to get involved

Please request and complete an application if you’d like your business to be involved.

Any for-profit organization can apply. The ideal company for I-Core is an S Corporation, C Corporation or LLC that has been operating for three to five years and has shown an operating profit for at least one year.

Several teams of undergraduate students (directed by a Kelley professor) will meet with company representatives to establish projects that work to benefit the company. Students conduct research, analyze findings and provide a recommendation at the end of the semester. This provides companies with a diversity of ideas and perspectives.

Company representatives are asked to participate in an on-campus meeting to talk about the company’s current business and provide background information to help student analysis.

If you would like more information on this program, or to request an application, contact Teresa Bennett at tkbennet@iupui.edu or at (317) 278-9173.