Cummings: Avoiding Grown-Up Doldrums a Constant Challenge

Doesn’t it make sense that we should all feel pretty good about ourselves? After all, we’ve acquired so much of what we’ve always desired:  spouses, kids, careers, friends, homes, cars, education, electronics, shoes galore, and microwave ovens with innards that twirl around and around.     

It’s scary almost, how well we’re doing, even when you factor in economic frazzles and the volatility in so many sectors of our lives. So of course, things aren’t exactly perfect, but we never counted on perfect. We did somehow expect, though, that we’d feel a little better about things. Instead, around midlife (your mileage may vary), almost without fail, burnout sets in. Maybe severely, maybe mildly. The blahs. Stagnation. Just at the point in life when we should feel proud and accomplished and something approaching happy, we begin to feel … flat.

There’s no mystery why the haunting song “Is That All There Is?” was a hit. It oozed ennui, that corrosive disillusionment so many adults experience. We feel it, most of us, but we try to deny it. And our culture offers up lots of ways to tamp it down, things that are quite contrary to Julia Child’s proper binge noted above.  “Improper binges” could include drink, drug, demon chocolate, antidepressants, shopping for more shoes, or buying microwaves that are even fancier in their ability to spin the food around yet still leave cold spots in it.

No, the problem isn’t that things aren’t perfect.The problem is that we’ve lost our ability to be seduced by the world. Children are enthralled by everything, because it’s all new. As adults, though, we believe we’ve been there, been everywhere; done that, done everything; bought the T-shirt, bought the iPod. We’ve become blasé. We’ve started to flatline. And we don’t know how to fix it.

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Ingrid Cummings, founder of Rubicon Communications LLC in Zionsville and author of The Vigorous Mind, is the keynote speaker at the Indiana Chamber’s 46th Annual HR Conference & Expo, May 5-6, 2010. Click here to register or for more info.

Packing a Powerful Agenda for Energy Week

The topic last Friday was energy when the Indiana Chamber conducted its monthly Policy Issue Conference Call. We quickly discovered there was no shortage of topics. It would have been easy to expand the one hour of discussion with our own Vince Griffin, David Pippen of the governor’s office and Brandon Seitz of the Indiana Office of Energy Development.

We’ll recap just a few of my takeaways from that, with several of the subjects from that discussion undoubtedly returning during this Energy Week on the blog. We will feature a daily guest blog or other insight focused on Indiana energy developments. Consider the following:

  • Indiana is home to two of the biggest energy investments you will find anywhere: $4-billion plus being spent by BP in updating its Whiting Refinery to be able to better process heavy crude oil from Canada; and construction of Duke Energy’s $2.3 billion coal gasification plant in Edwardsport. For those who want coal to disappear, it’s not going to happen. This is the next generation of technology being implemented for the first time on a broad scale that will guide the use of abundant coal reserves.
  • There are 616 wind turbines (the number could seemingly change any day) towering in the Indiana skyline. More projects are being proposed and studied — and that’s a good thing. But supporters need to remain realistic as wind will not replace (but supplement) more traditional power sources. After all, if the wind is not blowing, it’s lights out — so to speak.
  • Indiana’s success in wind and ethanol production is due to incentives (both state and federal), not mandates. Other states have opted for the renewable standards that require a certain percentage of power to be generated by various alternative sources. For Hoosiers, the preferred method is innovation — discovering new sources for ethanol, rewarding entrepreneurs, emphasizing efficiency and utlizing technology to make better use of existing resources.

Again, there is so much more that was discussed last week and continues to be part of the energy mix. Bottom line: Indiana makes things, it always will make things and reliable, low-cost energy is needed to make that happen.

And, if you want to supplement information with education, check out the Chamber’s popular Indiana Conference on Energy and Environmental Management. It’s June 15 at the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis. 

Brokaw Among Those Whose College Rejection had Positive Outcome

Building upon higher education week on our blog last week is an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal illustrating how getting rejected from their first college choices served to motivate some who became icons in their fields. Case in point is Tom Brokaw, broadcast journalist and keynote speaker at our 21st Annual Awards Dinner in November:

And broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw, also rejected as a teenager by Harvard, says it was one of a series of setbacks that eventually led him to settle down, stop partying and commit to finishing college and working in broadcast journalism. “The initial stumble was critical in getting me launched,” he says.

Free Training, Quality Programs. Need I Say More?

I don’t care if I’ve just eaten lunch or have pledged not to succumb to temptation, but any time a co-worker sends an e-mail announcing free food in the break room, my computer keyboard falls silent and “Chariots of Fire” begins playing in my head as I rush to the treat awaiting me. Who says nothing in life is free? And most of the time it is pretty darned good!

Indiana Chamber members and customers also can “get something (always of high quality) for nothing,” so to speak, when it comes to employee training. The Chamber is partnering with Ready Indiana to provide scholarships (while funding lasts) to Hoosier businesses with 250 employees or less for several top-quality professional training seminars. Awardees receive a full seminar registration (which includes instruction, course materials, continental breakfast and lunch).

Scholarships are available for the following:

  • Supervising and Managing People
  • 46th Annual Human Resources Conference
  • 2010 Indiana Safety and Health Conference & Expo
  • Time Management and Personal Effectiveness
  • Forklift Safety: Train the Trainer
  • Take advantage of this opportunity to boost your employees’ workplace skills – all without spending a dime.

Contact Lisa Green at (800) 824-6885 with questions. View the application for complete course listings and dates.

Rogers Staying in Energy Game for Next Five Years

Duke Energy’s Jim Rogers has spent 20-plus years as a CEO in the energy industry (starting with PSI Energy in Plainfield in 1988). And despite his wife’s reaction of "what the heck were you thinking?," he acknowledged today at the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Conference on Energy Management that he’s signed up for five more years.

"I love this industry," he told the conference attendees. And while he has seen many changes in his career, he adds, "The next five years are going to be more transformative for our industry than the last 20 have been."

Rogers shared 10 facts about the current and future energy outlook before answering numerous questions. Among his revelations:

  • By 2050, Duke will have to retire or replace virtually every power plant it is operating today
  • The company is the third largest generator of both coal and nuclear energy. It is currently building new coal and natural gas facilities, has two nuclear proposals being reviewed and is also active in various areas of renewables
  • While there will always be skeptics, he says the majority of scientists have spoken in favor of climate change and that he is a believer

Rogers thinks that the cap and trade legislation that passed the House earlier in the summer "will be improved by the Senate to minimize the cost impact to consumers. The transition, however, is not going to be free, not going to be easy and not going to be quick. It will take decades to make the transition, but we have to get to work on it now. Our mission has changed. We have to modernize and decarbonize our fleet to help our communities become the most energy efficient in the world."

Rogers’ take on three other issues:

  • China: "They’re moving fast. The reality is that China gets it. They’re the number one producer of solar panels; number one producer of wind turbines. They have 14 nuclear plants under construction. That’s why we’re partnering with them. We want to move at China time."
  • Industry employment: "Real jobs are going to be created if we rebuild the nuclear industry in the United States. There are no such things as green jobs; every job is a green job. It’s all about improving productivity and becoming more efficient. Let’s quit trying to draw lines."
  • Smart grid and energy efficiency: "I believe this will turn out to be the greatest enabler, and I can’t even envision today what it will enable." He explains that while Duke and other companies are currently focused on generation of power to the meter, the future includes writing software for specific energy uses. "Our energy efficiency will be driven by technology. The same way you throw the switch today and the lights come on, you will throw the switch and it will optimize your use of energy. The boundaries of our business are being fundamentally redrawn."

Jim Rogers Bringing Energy Philosophy Back to Indiana

So what has Jim Rogers, chief executive of Duke Energy, been up to in recent months?

  • Appearing on "60 Minutes" to support cap and trade, while also discussing on the show the necessity of carbon capture and sequestration of coal
  • Talking to the top players in China’s power industry about partnering on clean energy technologies
  • Being named the 2009 Citizen of the Carolinas by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce (some of the past winners: Rev. Billy Graham, Dean Smith, Michael Jordan and Ben Bernanke)

Rogers "comes home" to Indiana on September 2 as the keynote speaker for the Indiana Conference on Energy Management. Rogers came to Plainfield-based PSI Energy in 1988 as chairman, president and CEO. Mergers led to similar roles at Cinergy in Cincinnati and then Duke, one of the nation’s largest energy companies.

“When Jim Rogers arrived at PSI Energy  in the late 1980s, he brought a level of enthusiasm and vision that challenged the historically conservative power industry,” declares Vince Griffin, who worked for Rogers at that time and is now the Indiana Chamber vice president of environmental and energy policy. “This is unquestionably a challenging time for the electric power industry. Jim Rogers will undoubtedly bring his passion and perspective to this energy conference."

Duke Energy is also looking at its Edwardsport, Indiana facility as a pilot project for the future with its investment in a 630-megawatt IGCC (integrated gasification combined cycle) facility.

Duke Energy-Indiana Ties Run Deep

Jim Rogers’ road to the head of Duke Energy and leadership both within his industry and the U.S. business community began, in one sense, in Indiana. 

Who knew in 1988 when he joined Plainfield-based PSI Energy as chairman, president and CEO that PSI would merge with Cinergy (putting Rogers in a similar role out of Cincinnati from 1995-2006) and that the Cinergy-Duke marriage three years ago would elevate him to the leadership position he currently holds.

Rogers made an impact and left an impression in the Hoosier state. He served on the boards of directors of several leading corporations (Indiana National Bank and Duke Realty among them) and earned honorary doctorate degrees from Indiana State University (law) and Marian College (now Marian University) in business administration.

“When Jim Rogers arrived at PSI Energy  in the late 1980s, he brought a level of enthusiasm and vision that challenged the historically conservative power industry,” declares Vince Griffin, who worked for Rogers at that time and is now the Indiana Chamber vice president of environmental and energy policy. “This is unquestionably a challenging time for the electric power industry.”

Duke Energy is also looking at its Edwardsport, Indiana facility as a pilot project for the future with its investment in a 630-megawatt IGCC (integrated gasification combined cycle) facility.

Indiana takes center stage in the energy debate on September 2 with the Indiana Conference on Energy Management. The Duke Energy view, and undoubtedly a heavy dose of Rogers’ philosophy, will be featured in the keynote address from Jim Turner, the company’s second in command and leader of U.S. franchised electric and gas operations.

Energy Leader Ready and Willing to Adapt to New Rules

Companies and business leaders want to know the rules. Take out the controllable surprises (tax rates, energy expenditures and other costs of doing business) and they will find a way to achieve success.

You can count Duke Energy’s Jim Rogers among that crowd. Duke is one of the largest energy companies in the country with four million customers receiving power that is primarily generated by coal. While cap and trade legislation in Congress is seen as devastating to the coal industry, Rogers would rather know what lies ahead (and find a way to deal with it) than be faced with the uncertainty of patchwork regulations or making investments today that could become obsolete in a few years.

Coal will not go away. Rogers told "60 Minutes" earlier this year that carbon capture and sequestration absolutely have to happen. If Democrats in Congress and the Obama administration are successful in putting their blueprint for reducing emissions in place, Rogers and Duke can make more investments like the current groundbreaking project at Edwardsport in southwestern Indiana.

Rogers will undoubtedly share updates on the progress at Edwardsport, his passionate views on federal legislation and more when he keynotes the Indiana Chamber’s September 2 Indiana Conference on Energy Management. A critical Washington perspective will be shared during the luncheon portion of the event from Ross Eisenberg, environment and energy counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

There’s Nothing ‘Free’ in This ‘Choice’

Uninvited guests called on the Chamber this morning – both outside and inside the building. Why? Desperation to preserve union viability through passage of the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

A handful of picketers came together on a downtown street corner for a short time, while the Chamber was conducting its EFCA seminar (for members and customers) in its conference center. The protesters were Central Indiana representatives of Jobs With Justice, a national effort focused on workers’ rights. The piece of paper they were distributing to passers-by claimed that EFCA will not eliminate so-called “secret ballot” elections and that it would “increase penalties for companies who instill fear in employees by harassing and intimidating them against the union.” Those two points are so laughable that they are not even worth addressing, but the picketers did have the right to express their opinions.
 
Inside the Chamber office, two members of the local AFL-CIO maneuvered their way into a portion of the actual seminar before they were asked to leave. They had not registered or paid the fee to attend. They were not eligible to participate – that has been clearly communicated this time and through many years of offering union-related programs. They did not have the right to “invade” an educational conference.
 
The seminar informed representatives of Indiana companies about EFCA and steps they should take if they did not:
  • want to be victim to a “card check” organizing campaign without any prior notice;
  • want their workers to be subject to coercion through card check instead of maintaining the fundamental right to a secret ballot; and
  • want to have independent government arbitrators decide how their business operates (if a union is put in place and no agreement is reached within a short time frame on an initial contract).

EFCA is bad for employers and employees. The only beneficiaries are union leaders.

 
Why has private sector employee involvement in unions declined to less than 8% nationwide? Because employers have provided open and effective communication, listened to their employees and created an atmosphere of trust. When those factors are not in place, employees may pursue union representation. The rules are in place for that to happen. Trying to artificially boost union numbers by taking away worker rights and the ability of employers and employees to negotiate contracts would be a disastrous move in the wrong direction.
 
The Indiana Prosperity Project has the details and offers you the ability to communicate your opposition to EFCA to your representatives in Washington.
 
The Indiana Chamber will host another EFCA seminar with Barnes & Thornburg in late August, featuring the most recent information. E-mail customerservice@indianachamber.com to be added to the list to receive future information about this program. 
 

Taxing Times Continue for Many

For the third year in a row, I filed my family taxes only to then receive a "replacement tax statement package" from my investment company of choice. (Yes, those investment totals continue to shrink, but who isn’t sinking in that boat).

But we’re here to discuss business taxes — with the complications there making my amended 1040 seem rather paltry. The Indiana Chamber continues to offer a variety of resources to assist companies with federal and state needs, while the Indiana Department of Revenue (IDOR) has put in place a new online tool to make it easier to conduct business with the state.

Newcomers first: IDOR’s New and Small Business Education Center provides interactive video assistance and a direct connection to INtax — where needed forms can be obtained and various types of taxes can be paid. IDOR Commissioner John Eckart offers the example of a business that is expanding and hiring new employees being able to find information about state withholding taxes.

Chamber resources come in a trio:

  • The 2009 Indiana Tax Conference on June 2-3. Participants learn the latest federal and state changes from issue experts
  • The Indiana Taxation Handbook, which includes numerous recent updates and provides comprenhensive information in an easy-to-understand manner
  • A free tax helpline (for Chamber members only), manned by Chamber tax and fiscal policy expert Bill Waltz, who can answer your questions and link you to additional resources

Don’t go it alone. Take advantage of the tax help that is available in our state.