Brinegar: RFRA Law is Unnecessary, but Indiana Remains Open for Business

16891298Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar comments on SB 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration bill, becoming law today and the reaction to that:

“In our eyes, the law is entirely unnecessary. The reactions to it are not unexpected or unpredicted; passing the law was always going to bring the state unwanted attention.

“Yet we are optimistic that the public overall will continue to look to Indiana as a place to come to do business, attend a convention or enjoy a sporting event. Indiana has shown time and time again – whether it’s hosting the Super Bowl or working with companies to bring new jobs to the state – that it’s full of individuals and businesses who are truly welcoming and hospitable.

“Businesses are open for business and want to continue to serve customers in Indiana and throughout the country. That’s the message we are hearing from our members and want to communicate.”

Engineering and Business: Collaboration in Education

Brooks G 3047_head_shotThis post from Earl D. Brooks II, Ph.D., president of Trine University and member of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce board of directors, originally appeared in Inside INdiana Business.

The rapidly changing economic environment illustrates the importance of universities to provide both engineering and business programs with innovative curriculum. Such programs are essential because these students will be responsible for engineering, technology and business initiatives in the 21st century.

With that in mind, Trine University has created the College of Engineering and Business to focus on fast-changing economic needs while harnessing opportunities that exist and providing broader educational options.

It is imperative universities respond to circumstances within the contemporary climate of education. More high school graduates are entering college with college credits already earned, requiring universities to develop nontraditional options. While this can reduce student debt, we think universities should also strive to offer creative and unique curriculum to provide an even broader education. At Trine, students bringing credits can earn a bachelor degree in just three years, or opt to earn a bachelor degree and a master degree in four years in the 3 + 1 program.

Trine created three-year bachelor programs and went a step further to offer a one-year master’s degree program for both engineering and business students who choose to enter the 3 + 1 program. These students may earn a bachelor degree in any engineering major in three years and earn a Master of Science in Engineering Management (MSEM) in one year. Business concepts are the nucleus of the MSEM curriculum.

In comparison, students may earn a bachelor degree in any business major in three years and a Master of Business Administration in one year. The MBA curriculum includes engineering fundamentals. Both programs promote the cross-education model of preparing business and engineering students to collaborate and understand each other’s responsibilities for the success of the companies they serve.

Employers tell us there is a gap in the educations of engineering and business students entering the workforce. By responding to this concern, universities can better prepare their students for successful careers.

Engineers are excellent at developing devices and creating technology to advance their employers’ products and/or services, but often they are not equally adept at understanding business processes. Changes in the economic environment demand engineers possess business skills too. Engineering professionals of tomorrow must be self-sufficient business units, regardless of their position. The blending of engineering and business studies should foster this vision.

Traditionally, universities teach engineering knowledge and skills around manufacturing, technology support and product design. In Trine’s College of Engineering and Business, we teach these methods with the additional curriculum to build entrepreneurial skills crucial to develop economically relevant opportunities for business and technology. For example, engineering students of all disciplines can minor in business, preparing them for roles in engineering management, cost accounting, resource acquisition and leveraging, and financial risk management.

Similarly, business students must understand how engineering operations work and how successful engineering and technology companies operate. The curriculum for business students is enhanced by engineering-based courses on innovation, technology planning, development processes and patents. They must also understand the engineers’ perspective along with their problem-solving process and technical limitations they encounter. Businesses cannot sell goods engineers cannot produce and engineers should not produce goods businesses cannot sell.

Universities with a business school model that embraces the entrepreneurial spirit can promote initiatives and experiences to benefit business and engineering students. In Trine’s case, the Rhoads Center for Entrepreneurship along with Innovation One, an innovative service delivery framework within Trine, give business and engineering students the ability to work and learn together. Students team in a collaborative, hands-on environment to develop ideas and concepts along with business plans and more through private-sector projects secured by Innovation One.

Forging relationships between higher education and business and industry benefits students and employers. Such partnerships pave the way for internships, cooperative education and full-time employment. These opportunities enhance experiential learning, raise awareness of employers’ needs and expectations, and expand employment options for graduates.

Keeping pace with today’s fast-moving technologies and economy is the primary motivator in combining engineering and business studies. It is the educator’s responsibility to use a holistic approach to prepare students to be career-ready so they can make an immediate impact.

Show Them the Money

Recently, we asked your reaction to President Obama’s proposal for “free” community college. The results:

  • 43%: Who will pay the $60 billion price tag?
  • 20%: Sign me up
  • 14%: Won’t help if more students don’t graduate
  • 12%: Not for me but a step in the right direction

Our current poll asks a question that could not have been offered a year ago when no Indiana schools were represented in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Vote (top right) on your home state favorite for March Madness.

Engaging Employees is Critical to a Thriving Business

45379113Some companies have a very difficult time getting engagement and “buy in” from their employees. Ragan lists some of the reasons your employees may be feeling disillusioned. (Read the full article for elaboration.)

  1. Employees don’t know what game they’re in, how it’s played, and what the stakes are.
  2. Employees don’t know exactly how to make the biggest contribution.
  3. You don’t give employees a reason to care about contributing.
  4. Managers don’t know how to create an environment that fosters passion, courage and a desire for excellence.
  5. Employees are set up for the “Agony of Defeat” rather than the “Thrill of Victory.”
  6. Bad behavior and poor performance go unchallenged.
  7. Employees feel unappreciated.

Fortunately, many Indiana companies are making those valuable connections with their team members — and 100 were recently recognized by earning a spot on the Best Places to Work in Indiana list. The rankings will be announced at the 10th Annual BPTW in Indiana Awards Dinner on May 7. Get your tickets now.

 

Wick’s Pies: Maximizing Its Chamber Investment Through Compliance Resources

foodserviceLife is sweet at Wick’s Pies

The family-owned business, which opened in 1944 and has been an Indiana Chamber member since 1984, has a tight-knit team that whips up flavors such as pecan, pumpkin, sugar crème (the state pie), coconut crème, German chocolate and more. During an eight-hour production shift, the associates can bake as many as 12,000 pies. In addition, they can make 40 shells per minute in a seven-hour period.

Wick’s has spawned Wick’s Foods (which makes pie glaze for Wick’s Pies) and a restaurant – all located within a block of one another in Winchester.

Human resources specialist Tonya Fouse notes that prior to joining Wick’s Pies in 2006, “I worked in the automotive industry and was a purchasing manager. I had strong managerial skills, but I didn’t know a thing about HR.

“It was baptism by fire and our tool to teach me was the Indiana Chamber – the seminars I went to, all the reading material I could get my hands on (citing publications that cover topics such as unemployment law, worker’s compensation and labor relations), and the (helpline) resources I could call.”

Fouse proudly shares that she earned the Chamber’s Human Resources Specialist Certificate in 2012 after attending a variety of training events. In addition, she routinely utilizes the Chamber’s HR Helpline, a free, confidential resource exclusively available to members.

“We’ve just about hit every topic there is. With FMLA (for instance), it seems there’s always something that evolves. I totally trust in that resource, and it’s wonderful for me to be able to shoot an email (to director of human resources Michelle Kavanaugh) and a response comes back within the hour. It’s been a lifesaving tool for me.

“(The Chamber) kind of formed me and molded me into the HR specialist I am today.”

Postsecondary Pathways Events Draw Attention to Regional Skill Needs

16012978Educators, employers and community members gathered at the Ivy Tech Muncie campus last week to discuss career and training opportunities in manufacturing and construction at the Postsecondary Pathways event, sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co., and co-hosted by the Indiana Youth Institute, CELL, Indiana Department of Workforce Development and the Indiana Chamber.

Rick Barnett, VP Engineering at Indiana Marujun, LLC, summed up the need for the convening in the first panel discussion:

“Students are starting to see the value of manufacturing and seeing it as a viable career opportunity,” said Barnett. “But we’re still not where we need to be.”

Barnett went on to add that Indiana Marujun has not been fully staffed in the maintenance department as long as he can remember. Current employees are putting in great amounts of overtime to keep up with demand.

Drew Dubois with DuPont Pioneer also said they struggle to find maintenance workers, as well as computer and technical skills. He said their biggest challenge, however, is finding employees with soft skills (accountability, creativity and passion).

Indiana Marujun recently developed an apprenticeship program to develop their future talent. The U.S. Department of Labor runs Registered Apprenticeship, a system that provides the opportunity for workers seeking high-skilled, high-paying jobs and for employers seeking to build a qualified workforce. Each state has an apprenticeship office; for more information, visit the web site.

Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann gave the opening keynote, encouraging employers to offer more work-and-learn opportunities, such as internships, and for educators to share multiple “Plan A’s” with their students. Included in the event was a tour of Magna Powertrain, a supplier for the global automotive industry with focus in powertrain design, development, testing and manufacturing, that employs hundreds of associates at two locations in Muncie.

Other Postsecondary Pathways events were held in Lafayette, Odon and Batesville. Additional events are planned for the fall. Visit the Indiana Youth Institute’s web site to find dates and registration information for these future opportunities.

Learn more about the participating businesses at the Region 6 Postsecondary Pathways event:

IndianaSkills.com aims to bridge the gap between the types of training and credentials people are pursuing in Indiana and the skills being requested by our state’s employers. The site provides information on employer demand for specific jobs, skills and certifications compared to the supply of graduates completing short-term training (two years or less beyond high school) related to these jobs, skills and certifications.

Carney Out, Gregory In for Our March 11 Legislative Dinner

GregoryDavidScheduled speaker Jay Carney had to back out of keynoting our March 11 Legislative Dinner in Indianapolis. While unfortunate, we’re happy to announce former “Meet the Press” host David Gregory will be joining us.

David Gregory knows the political scene at the highest level. He was the White House correspondent for NBC during the George W. Bush presidency. More recently, he was host of Meet the Press for six years (2008-2014).

Gregory brings his insights to Indiana on March 11 as the keynote speaker at the Indiana Chamber’s 2015 Legislative Dinner. Opening remarks will be presented by Gov. Mike Pence. The Indiana Roof Ballroom in downtown Indianapolis is the location for the event.

Networking with legislators and others will also be front and center. The Legislative Dinner annually brings together more than 400 of Indiana’s top business leaders as well as many of the state’s elected officials and agency heads.

The Legislative Dinner offers an opportunity for “the business community to come together with lawmakers and policymakers and let them know about the important issues that impact their organizations every day,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

Presented by Ice Miller LLP, the Legislative Dinner reception will begin at 6 p.m. and the dinner will follow at 7 p.m. Tickets are $149 each or may be purchased as a table of 10 for $1,399; they are available at www.indianachamber.com/specialevents, or by calling or (800) 824-6885.

NIPSCO and St. Vincent are event gold sponsors. Silver sponsors are: Alcoa; AT&T Indiana; Bose Public Affairs Group LLC; Comcast Business; Delta Dental of Indiana; Eli Lilly and Company; French Lick Resort; Harman International Industries, Inc; The Kroger Co.; Majestic Star Casino & Hotel; Pfizer, Inc.; Roche Diagnostics Corporation; Smithville Communications, Inc; and Vectren.

Additional sponsorship opportunities are available by contacting Jim Wagner at (317) 264-6876 or jwagner@indianachamber.com.

Dan Evans: Early Childhood Education a Key to a Healthy Indiana

Dan Evans, President and CEO of Indiana University Health, explains why early childhood education and expanding preschool opportunities for families of all income levels is so critical to the health of our state.

Common Construction Wage Repeal Now in the Mix at the Statehouse

statehouse picIt was a welcome surprise last week when the Indiana Chamber learned that the Common Construction Wage Bill (HB 1019) was going to receive a committee hearing. The Chamber testified it was in strong favor of repealing the CCW statute, noting this has been the organization’s position for many decades.

The Chamber told the committee that CCW prevents open and fair bidding competition for public construction projects. It establishes a government-sanctioned advantage for one set of contractors and workers over all others. It requires taxpayers to pay significantly above market wages, and therefore excessive taxes, on public construction projects. And it requires the setting of a government-mandated price to be paid for construction labor that is excessive and completely unnecessary; we don’t set minimum prices to be paid on other forms of labor, construction materials or equipment.

At the core of the issue for the Chamber: CCW costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in excess and unnecessary tax burdens. Chamber members – over 80% of which are small businesses – and the rest of the business community pay over half of the excess taxes caused by CCW. The remainder is paid by farmers and residential property owners, including elderly homeowners on fixed incomes.

In testimony, Chamber President Kevin Brinegar relayed the unfortunate situation that occurred nearly a decade ago when three massive public construction projects were going on in Indianapolis at the same time: Lucas Oil Stadium, the new Indianapolis Airport and the expansion of the Indiana Convention Center.

The wage committees on those projects chose union scale. And they further chose union-only project labor agreements which effectively excluded the non-union contractors from participating. At the height of the construction of those projects, there was not enough union labor to work on all three simultaneously. And rather than go to skilled, trained Hoosiers who didn’t happen to hold a union card to fill those needs, they went to union halls in Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois. That meant literally thousands of out-of-state workers – approximately 4,000 – came to work on our projects funded by our tax dollars instead of using qualified Indiana workers. The wages paid to those individuals went back to Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky to be used in their economies, not in ours. The Chamber views this as unfair and inappropriate.

Brinegar also told the group he served on approximately 40 wage-setting committees during his 12 years on the Noblesville School Board. In a property tax-capped environment, cash-strapped local units of government, like schools, cannot afford to pay inflated costs for their construction projects.

The Chamber closed its argument by calling CCW an unnecessary and wasteful interference by government into the free enterprise system and a relic of the 1930s – a costly one that is far past time to be repealed.

Many others testified in favor of the repeal. The Anderson Economic Group said it had conducted a study in Illinois and Michigan on how much CCW added to overall costs. The Fort Wayne City Council president testified to the many projects that will be coming to Fort Wayne that could save millions of dollars if CCW is repealed. He further testified that the CCW committee process is predetermined. The former mayor of Terre Haute added that cities have been beaten up over the property tax caps; repeal of CCW would alleviate some of that problem. The Associated Builders and Contractors stated that government should not be in the business of mandating wages.

House Bill 1019 is expected to receive a final floor debate on Monday. Organized labor is mounting stiff opposition to the measure in an effort, much like in the fight over right-to-work, to protect a special, government-created privilege at the expense of taxpayers and the free market. The Chamber will be diligently working with like-minded organizations to secure passage of HB 1019.

Call to Action: Please send a brief message to your state representative in support of HB 1019 and repealing the common construction wage law. It’s quick and easy via our grassroots program!