Chamber Talks Policy at D.C. Fly-in

congressWe are fresh from our return from the Chamber’s D.C. fly-in last week. The group had a policy briefing, dinner with the Indiana delegation and successful meetings on Capitol Hill the following day.

To kick things off, the Chamber’s policy briefing covered trade, transportation funding and tax reform.

U.S. Assistant Trade Representative Ashley Jones of the White House Office of Trade briefed our group on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Per the Chamber’s federal position on the matter, we support the establishment of free trade agreements that create free and fair trade for the U.S. – including TPP. We support free trade initiatives because international trade touches all Indiana businesses – large and small – at some level. With Indiana being ranked in the top tiers in manufacturing, life sciences, agriculture, etc., trade is imperative to Hoosier businesses. Selling more manufactured Indiana goods and services around the world is a great way to create, maintain and grow Indiana jobs, help the business community and keep Indiana and the United States ahead of global competitors.

We know and understand that our entire membership is not 100% on board with TPP – and neither are the two major party presidential candidates or some in the Indiana delegation – but we are hopeful that some negotiations will allow for TPP to receive a congressional vote after the November election.

Dennis Faulkenburg, president of APPIAN (a transportation consulting and governmental affairs firm in Indianapolis) and chairman of the Chamber’s Infrastructure Committee, spoke to the group on transportation funding. He explained that it was important to thank the delegation for their support of the federal FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation), which passed last December. However, while the FAST Act provides funding through 2020, Congress did not enact a stable, long-term way to pay for highway infrastructure, instead transferring $70 billion from the General Fund to pay for the bill. As the Chamber has advocated before at the state level, it is imperative to have long-term sustainable funding for Indiana infrastructure. It is our hope that the next Congress will make this a priority.

Chamber President Kevin Brinegar gave the group an update on reforming the federal tax code. Kevin reminded everyone that a major overhaul is long overdue – as it has been nearly 30 years since the last major reform. Since that time, the code has been loaded up with hundreds – if not thousands – of new provisions. Overall, the current code is overly complex, unfair, anti-competitive and stifles both economic growth and job creation. Such a reform should include a lowering of the corporate tax rate from 35% (the highest in the world today) to 25% or lower; a lowering of the top personal income tax rate to 25% while reducing the number of brackets; elimination of the alternative minimum tax (AMT) and estate tax; and adoption of a territorial system in which income earned overseas is not taxed twice. Kevin stressed the importance of letting our delegation know that we need to curb federal spending.

The group then enjoyed a dinner while meeting with and hearing from both Sen. Dan Coats and Sen. Joe Donnelly as well as most of our House members. Many spoke about the policies we highlighted earlier in the evening and about the 2016 election year and how historic it has become.

Thursday morning’s political briefing featured Jeff Brantley and Rob Engstrom, political experts from the Indiana Chamber and U.S. Chamber respectively. Both felt that in Indiana Republicans will likely keep their super majorities in the House and Senate. At the national level, Engstrom spoke about polling in the U.S. Senate race and in the 9th Congressional District and how he sees the momentum swinging to the Republicans, albeit noting still a tough road ahead.

The group then moved to meetings on Capitol Hill with the entire delegation or their staff representatives.

A special thank you to this year’s D.C. fly-in sponsors:

  • Zimmer Biomet – dinner sponsor
  • Allegion – breakfast sponsor
  • Build Indiana Council – hospitality sponsor
  • The Boeing Company, Duke Energy, Hartman Global IP Law, the Kroger Company, Old National Bank and Wabash Valley Power – event sponsors

“Zimmer Biomet is proud to be a longtime member of the Indiana Chamber and we were pleased to be a sponsor of this event, as we have been since 2012. … The event was an excellent opportunity for Zimmer Biomet and other Indiana businesses to tell our representatives and senators directly what we need to succeed.” – Stuart Kleopfer, Zimmer Biomet President, Americas

ChamberCare Solutions Program Provides Health Care Answers

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More than six years after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, it’s still not an easy process for companies to determine the best health care choices. Important assistance and options are now available through the ChamberCare Solutions program.

The Indiana Chamber has partnered with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield since 2004 on ChamberCare – an insurance discount offering for businesses with between two and 99 employees. More than 25,000 employee lives (and 50,000 lives when spouses and dependents are included) were covered through ChamberCare.

Now, ChamberCare Solutions takes that partnership to an even higher level with a suite of solutions to help meet insurance needs.

“The Indiana Chamber-Anthem partnership has been an excellent one for our member companies, as well as their employees and families,” says Jennifer Elkin, Chamber senior vice president of marketing. “There have been more questions than answers since the Affordable Care Act was signed. We’ve been listening, discussing and searching for the right tools and products – and we’ve found them in this evolution to ChamberCare Solutions.”

The ChamberCare Solutions options include:

  • ChamberCare Savings: This is the previous ChamberCare discount program – now available for companies with between 51 and 99 employees. This was made possible by the late 2015 signing of the PACE Act (Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees), which returned the definition of a small business back to one with fewer than 100 employees.
  • ChamberCare Exchange: For companies with fewer than 50 employees and a potentially unhealthy, higher-risk population, the exchange might be the best alternative. Important guidance and navigation is available through Anthem.
  • ChamberCare Business Resources or a PEO (Professional Employer Organization): This is an attractive option for companies that, in addition to a competitive health care product, are looking to outsource some of their human resources functions. The multiple employers in the PEO allow the advantage of using a company’s experience rating compared to the generally more volatile community rating.

The Indiana Chamber and Anthem are teaming with Indianapolis-based Human Capital Concepts (HCC) on the PEO. Harlan Schafir, CEO of HCC, started the state’s first PEO in the early 1990s; he and his team have more than 125 years of experience in the industry.

“We are in the midst of an unprecedented talent war,” Schafir explains. “A PEO allows companies to attract and retain talent by improving employee benefit offerings and helps these organizations mold an attractive culture. Working with a PEO allows companies to focus on their core mission. The PEO takes care of compliance with ever-complex laws and regulations; company leaders focus on running their business.”

  • ChamberCare Shared Savings: This is a future offering under development by Anthem. It is expected to allow for self-funding for employers with as few as 25 employees. To date, such plans have only been available for organizations with at least 100 employees.

“The Indiana Chamber has advocated and educated on health care issues for many years. We’re pleased to add this in-depth navigation benefit,” Elkin adds. “Being able to offer these choices – with more to come – will save members money and allow to further invest in their people and businesses.”

Learn more or contact Nick Luchtefeld at (800) 824-6885.

A Look at Pre-K Expansion and New Coalition

GIt is now late summer, and that means that we’ve reached back-to-school time in Indiana. It is a big year in the Auslander household as my youngest embarks on her first year of pre-K. However, there are thousands of less-fortunate Hoosier 4-year olds that will not have that opportunity to join her.

The Indiana Chamber has been supportive of pre-K in our legislative priorities for years and was a champion in promoting the passage of the state-funded pilot program “On My Way Pre-K” in five counties (Allen, Lake, Marion, Jackson and Vanderburgh), as the business community strongly believes that children who receive a quality start to their education will succeed better and need less remediation moving forward in their schooling.

There have been many recent announcements on pre-K during this busy campaign season. The Chamber has chosen to endorse and help lead the efforts with the All IN 4 Pre-K initiative recently rolled out across the state.

This plan focuses on several key non-negotiable points:

  • Expansion of the pilot program to include more Hoosier children from low-income families
  • Pre-K programs included must be of high-quality – level 3 or 4 of Paths to Quality (Family and Social Services Administration quality rankings)
  • Pre-K programs should include a mixed-delivery system of providers: centers, schools (public and private), ministries and family homes
  • Work with the Legislature to find an appropriate budget amount to fund the expansion, within the constraints of the budget and revenue forecasts
  • Continue reporting requirements put into place with the existing pilot program
    According to the Indiana Department of Education, our state spends nearly $32 million a year on kindergarten remediation. The expansion of a state-funded pre-K program could significantly mitigate those costs.

My daughter will succeed in her schooling because my husband and I can afford to send her to a quality program. Other Hoosier students are not nearly as fortunate. The Indiana Chamber is ready to once again make this a priority for the upcoming legislative session.

Sen. Donnelly’s Visit Highlights an Active Month for Our Congressional Affairs Committee

donnellyWhile the presidential election may be the talk of D.C. and the media, this is also a busy time of the year for federal policy conversations for the Indiana Chamber.

In mid-August alone, Sen. Joe Donnelly, Senate candidate Evan Bayh and state Sen. Jim Banks, the Republican candidate for congressional District 3, met with our congressional affairs committee members to discuss issues important to Indiana. And Congresswoman Susan Brooks (District 5) was the keynote speaker for our Indiana Conference on Energy Management, advocating for the need for both sustainable and affordable energy.

While we may never agree on all matters with our congressional members, their overall willingness to engage, listen and act – by and large – in the best interest of the Hoosier business community and residents is a longstanding hallmark of Indiana’s delegation. And we are very appreciative for that.

Donnelly, who is not up for re-election, shared his thoughts on a variety of issues during his nearly hour-long visit. For one, he contends the gridlock in Congress is overblown: “What you see on TV bears no reflection to what is reality.” He stressed that 80% of the time the group works together, but the 20% – which often features high profile issues – is what drives the media reports. And “time after time, the Indiana delegation works together.”

Whether that’s Brooks with Donnelly on the law to combat opioid abuse, signed by the President last month, or Indiana’s senior senator, Dan Coats, and Donnelly – joined by District 9 Congressman and Senate candidate Todd Young – leading the charge to suspend the medical device tax for two years. And these are just two of the many examples.

Incidentally, these are among the efforts that led to Donnelly being presented with the U.S. Chamber’s “Spirit of Enterprise” award at our office last week; the honor is for his continued commitment to job creation and economic growth.

Immigration Matters Continue to Be Debated in Summer Study

The Senate Select Committee on Immigration Issues met recently for its fourth meeting. An interesting presentation was provided to legislators by the former director of the statistics division of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

National undocumented immigrant information was provided to the committee along with more specific information for Indiana. Of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., 106,300 reside in Indiana. That number represents 1.6% of Indiana’s total population.

Marion County, primarily in Wayne and Decatur townships, had the largest population of undocumented immigrants with 12,200; Elkhart and Lake counties came in second and third with 9,400 and 6,100 undocumented immigrants, respectively. Approximately 71,000 overall are in the labor force with 21,500 working as operators, fabricators and laborers, with another 19,100 working in services positions. Sixty percent or 64,200 have lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years and 77,600 (73%) are between the working ages of 18 and 44. Information on origin of birth was also provided with 67,700 (61%) coming from Mexico.

The committee also heard testimony from Goshen College about unauthorized immigrant students. It was reported that since July 1, 2011, Indiana has prohibited resident tuition rates and state financial aid for undocumented students. Eighteen states, Illinois being one, allow in-state tuition for undocumented students.

Goshen College has provided scholarship aid for undocumented students for the past eight years. During the 2015-2016 academic year, Goshen provided $123,000 in aid for these students. The next hearing is scheduled for September 21. It is uncertain as to what the committee will decide to do with the information garnered from the four previous hearings and the three yet to be held. The Indiana Chamber will continue to be involved in these discussions.

Beyond the Bicentennial: Chamber Outlines Policy Recommendations for 2016 Candidates

Indiana has many advantages as a leading location to operate a business, raise a family or enjoy a high quality of life. But still more needs to be done to improve that climate and to keep pace with other cities and states, says the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

The organization unveiled today its six-week Beyond the Bicentennial campaign (going beyond the state’s first 200 years). It focuses on the “most potentially impactful public policies” and is directed foremost at the major party gubernatorial candidates, John Gregg and Eric Holcomb.

The Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 plan, first introduced in 2012, serves as the campaign blueprint. “The Indiana Vision 2025 economic drivers present a great opportunity to highlight initiatives that will benefit Indiana now and in the years ahead,” offers Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

The first of the four letters, also released today, emphasizes the Outstanding Talent driver. Recommendations focus on critical improvements at the K-12, postsecondary and workforce levels. In an annual survey earlier this year, 45% of responding employers indicated they had left jobs unfilled in the past year due to under-qualified applicants.

“Outstanding Talent is both the greatest challenge for our state and the area of most importance,” Brinegar states. “While businesses are rightfully concerned about their current and future workforces, for individuals we’re talking about the difference between happy, productive lives and what can amount to an economic death sentence if proper education and training are not received.”

The education/workforce needs range from greatly expanding the state’s pre-K pilot program to more students from low-income families, to assisting the more than 700,000 Hoosiers with some college but no credential or degree to gain the skills needed for a rapidly-evolving economy.

Concludes Brinegar, “We hope the recommendations and guidance in these letters will help the gubernatorial candidates and all lawmakers focus on what public policies could be the most impactful for Hoosiers.”

Additional Beyond the Bicentennial letters and accompanying videos will be made available on September 13 (Attractive Business Climate), September 27 (Superior Infrastructure) and October 11 (Dynamic & Creative Culture).

The Outstanding Talent releases are available now at www.indianachamber.com/letters.

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WGU Indiana Chancellor Allison Barber spoke at our press event this morning: “We want to encourage employers to set the standard that talent matters.”

About Indiana Vision 2025
In 2012, the Indiana Chamber published Indiana Vision 2025, a comprehensive, multi-year initiative to provide leadership and a long-range economic development action plan for Indiana. The mission statement: “Indiana will be a global leader in innovation and economic opportunity where enterprises and citizens prosper.”

A 24-person statewide task force of business and organization leaders developed the original plan. Many from that group, with some additions, worked for four months earlier this year to review progress, update goals and metrics, and identify potential new research to enhance future Report Cards (progress on each of the now 36 goals under the four drivers is assessed every other year).

The Indiana Chamber thanks Duke Energy, NIPSCO, Old National Bank, Vectren and all the investors in Indiana Vision 2025.

Learn more about Indiana Vision 2025 at www.indianachamber.com/2025.

 

Indiana Chamber Reaffirms Endorsement of Todd Young for U.S. Senate

youngAt a series of press conferences Aug. 29, the Indiana Chamber reaffirmed its endorsement of Congressman Todd Young (R-IN, 9th District) for the U.S. Senate. The announcement was first made at the Associated Builders and Contractors training facility on the east side of Indianapolis, followed by stops in South Bend and Fort Wayne.

The organization previously had endorsed Young in the primary before Evan Bayh, former U.S. senator and Indiana governor, emerged as the Democrat candidate.

Once Bayh entered the race, our congressional affairs committee thought the appropriate action was to take another look at this race and talk with him about policies important to the business community.

We were able to do that recently and appreciate Sen. Bayh’s willingness to have that discussion. At the end of the day, however, our committee overwhelmingly decided to keep our endorsement with Congressman Young.

His military, business and government experience have him prepared to take this next step of leadership. Young is also an economic-minded individual who has repeatedly demonstrated prudent decision-making on issues that are vital to jobs and economic growth.

Additionally, Young’s engagement with the business community and his focus on economic, fiscal and regulatory issues were key factors. After he was appointed to the Ways and Means Committee, the congressman sought substantial feedback on potential federal tax reforms and what would have the most impact on Hoosier companies and their employees. He listened to our members – through personal conversations and a survey – using their insights to help form his pro-economy agenda.

The Indiana Chamber frequently hears from its members about burdensome federal regulations. They bring uncertainty and put a stranglehold on job creation. Congressman Young understands these frustrations and has sought to remedy that. In each session, he has introduced legislation (the REINS Act) that would require members of Congress to vote on major rules before they go into effect.

At both the state and federal levels, Indiana Chamber endorsements are driven by vote scores on pro-jobs, pro-economy issues. For state endorsements, the Indiana Chamber relies on its Legislative Vote Analysis report.

Congressional endorsements are based on a combination of the U.S. Chamber’s own vote scores and an analysis of votes on Indiana Chamber federal policy positions. The U.S. Chamber’s lifetime congressional voting record for Bayh is 55%; Young is at 91%.

The Indiana Chamber’s congressional affairs committee, which determined Young’s endorsement, is a nonpartisan group comprised of volunteer business leaders from around the state.

Representatives of the U.S. Chamber, which also is supporting Young’s general election campaign, joined the Indiana Chamber for the press event.

Internet of Things Conference Highlights Connections

IndyIoT Event Invite

Did you know one of the first devices to be connected to the Internet was a toaster? In 1990, John Romkey and Simon Hacknett accepted a challenge to connect and control a toaster via the Internet. It was a groundbreaking feat 20 years ago – even though today you can buy a toaster that toasts the day’s weather forecast onto your breakfast.

While the name “Internet of Things” (IoT) was not yet coined in 1990, the Internet Toaster, as it became known, falls plainly under the construct of IoT: allowing connection between devices and the Internet, or between devices and devices, or between people and devices, etc.

The IoT has the potential to automate your house (control your thermostat remotely, or send your health vitals to your doctor just by stepping on the bathroom scale) and even link up entire city systems (correcting water quality or regulating traffic flow, for example).

Recently, John McDonald, CEO of Fishers-based CloudOne, addressed the Indiana Technology and Innovation Council’s inaugural meeting at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and gave an example of the potential for IoT in everyday life: your car radio and picking up on the fact that it is 3 a.m. and you aren’t driving as safely as you had been earlier; there is a 24-hour Starbucks ahead and your payment information can be beamed to the store, with your favorite hot drink ready for you when you drive through.

While the possibilities might sound futuristic, Hoosier companies are already working on these technologies.

To celebrate and acknowledge the possibilities, the IndyIoT conference will take place on September 28 from 1-5 p.m. at Launch Fishers.

The conference brings together IoT innovators, and will highlight innovations through 15-minute burst presentations. Speakers include Michael Wollowski, Ph.D., Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology; Kip Tom, Tom Farms; Michael Coffey, Roche; and Robert Rodenbeck, Delta Faucet Company.

Follow along on Twitter at @IndyIOT or visit the web site at www.indyiot.com.

Connect, Make an Impact at D.C. Fly-In

congressIndiana Chamber members go to Washington each September to discuss key policy issues with the Indiana congressional delegation. In 2016, a little politics might be worked into those conversations. Either way, it’s your opportunity to make an impact.

The event is the annual D.C. Fly-In on September 14-15. It features a roundtable discussion with Indiana’s congressional delegation on the opening night. Day two includes a panel of national and state issue experts, followed by group visits to congressional offices.

Expect to learn more and advocate on key issues such as transportation, trade, immigration and the Every Student Succeeds Act.

“It’s a very interesting time in Washington,” remarks Caryl Auslander, Chamber vice president of federal affairs. She points to a few (of many) reasons why: “Indiana will have a new member of Congress with Sen. Coats retiring. And with the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice nominee on the line, the potential for a change in power in the Senate and the Presidential race is extremely important.”

Register today for the D.C. Fly-In online or by calling customer service at (800) 824-6885. Cost is $149 per person, with group discounts available. Each attendee is responsible for securing travel arrangements. Discounted hotel rooms are available for Chamber Fly-in guests at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.

Zimmer Biomet is the dinner sponsor. The breakfast program sponsor is Allegion PLC. The hospitality sponsor is Build Indiana Council.

Event sponsors: The Boeing Company, Duke Energy, Hartman Global IP Law, The Kroger Co., Old National Bank and Wabash Valley Power.

Additional sponsorship opportunities are available by contacting Jim Wagner at (317) 264-6876.

“The entire Indiana congressional delegation is typically involved in some way in this event,” Auslander comments. “To bring everyone together in the same room is pretty amazing and an incredible benefit for our members.”

TECH THURSDAY: First Technology & Innovation Council Meeting a Success

Over 100 Hoosier innovators and leaders joined us for the first ever meeting of the Indiana Technology & Innovation Council Tuesday. Here are some pictures from the gathering, held in the Indiana Chamber Conference Center in Indianapolis, along with a summary and next steps:

pic4Indiana Chamber of Commerce VP Mark Lawrance is leading the Chamber’s efforts in bringing the council together to help Indiana’s tech ecosystem move forward in a unified manner.


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Bill Soards of AT&T addressed the crowd, relaying lessons he learned about entrepreneurship and the tech sector while working in Colorado.


pic3John McDonald of CloudOne led the discussion about policy priorities, sharing captivating stories from his experiences and gaining valuable feedback from those in attendance.


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John Wechsler of Launch Fishers has become one of the state’s go-to mentors and leaders for entrepreneurship.


pic5 The crowd included representatives from Indiana’s K-12 and college education sectors, including Allison Barber of WGU Indiana.


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Ian Steff of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation also addressed the crowd. We’re grateful for the IEDC’s commitment to helping create more high-paying jobs in the Hoosier State via tech and innovation.


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Indiana Business for Responsive Government’s Jeff Brantley discussed the role legislators can play in helping Indiana’s tech sector thrive.