Throwback Thursday: Water on the Brain

Many involved in the Indiana environmental community are likely aware of our ongoing work on a survey of Indiana water resources in an effort to gauge future supply and demand.The Chamber actually hired Bloomington-based hydrogeologist Jack Wittman for the effort. In fact, read his recent Q & A with Indy-based NUVO magazine on the issue.

Along these lines, we recently discovered a similar report from June 1953, titled “Water Resources Report to Southern Indiana Inc.” The entire document is nearly 70 pages, but here are a few notes from the general summary:

These points are held to be fundamental guides for conducting future work:

1. Present water conditions – supplies; flood damages
2. Potential long-term supply needs
3. Potential long-term supply opportunities
4. Possible reductions of flood losses
5. General benefits to entire area which may result from improvement projects

The valley-wide approach to the water problem of Southern Indiana is all-important because surface water must be the main source of supply.

It is recognized that there now is a tremendous waste of water resources in Southern Indiana. Much water is lost in flood periods during the heavy rainfall seasons of the spring and early summer while many stream beds are almost dry in late summer and fall months. Equalization of the stream flows, therefore, is taken as the key approach to the problem…

It is impossible to propose a “blanket remedy”  for water problems in Southern Indiana. IN any year, losses from drought may be just as severe as losses from flood, or greater. Any storage of water in small watersheds is of much value to farm operations. The value of farming is on equal status with that of manufacturing and commercial activities in the support of the business system.

Man’s Self-Written Obit Goes Viral

I seem to be writing a lot about death and dying lately (see Confessions of a … Funeral Director?) for no real reason I can determine, except for the fact that I’ll be turning 30 next year and maybe the whole “you’re not so young anymore” thing is starting to get to me.

All that aside – I have to share about a self-penned obituary from a Delaware man. The man’s grandson published the obituary online after his grandfather passed away last week and it’s getting some buzz around the Internet for the humor and matter-of-factness of life and death. I assume, for its length, that it did not go into the newspapers as a paid obituary, as I believe that would cost a small fortune.

The whole thing is witty and interesting, but my favorite part is the end, where George Bruhl, Jr. asks everyone to remember him in their own way, maybe by raising a glass of their favorite drink in his memory. And, in lieu of flowers, Mr. Bruhl requested everyone perform a random act of kindness in his name.

The Daily Mail has a little story about Mr. Bruhl and links to the full obituary, in case you’d like to read it, which I suggest. But, here are a few of my favorite parts:

“Walter George Bruhl Jr of Newark and Dewey Beach DE is a dead person, he is no more, he is bereft of life, he is deceased, he has wrung down the curtain and gone to join the choir invisible, he has expired and gone to meet his maker.”

“Walt was preceded in death by his tonsils and adenoids in 1935; a spinal disc in 1974; a large piece of his thyroid gland in 1988; and his prostate on March 27, 2000.”

And of course, a hint to his wishes about what happens to his body:

“There will be no viewing since his wife refuses to honor his request to have him standing in the corner of the room with a glass of Jack Daniels in his hand so he would appear natural to visitors.”

Cremation will take place at the family’s convenience, and his ashes will be kept in an urn until they get tired of having it around. What’s a Grecian Urn? Oh, about 200 drachmas a week.

If ever there is a cool way to say adieu to the mortal world, it’s something like this.

Sen. Coats Visits Chamber Office, Introduces Bill to Help Businesses

Senator Dan Coats was in the Indiana Chamber of Commerce office today promoting the bill he introduced — the Sound Regulation Act of 2014, to help Hoosier job creators. The bill would require every federal agency to engage in an extensive cost-benefit analysis to determine the actual cost, in dollars, of regulations under each agency’s jurisdiction.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the cost of complying with federal regulations exceeds $1.75 trillion every year, which amounts to more than $10,500 per American worker. Meanwhile, the number of pages in the Code of Federal Regulations has expanded from 71,224 in 1975 to 174,545 in 2012.

The aim of the bill is to reduce over regulation on American businesses — an effort the Chamber supports.

Here’s more on the bill from Sen. Coats’ web site.

Neil Young Hopes to Revolutionize Listening Experience with New Technology

American Songwriter tells the story of Pono — a new technology championed by rock/songwriting legend Neil Young — to give music listeners an experience that more resembles an authentic, live performance. Young’s hope is to “revive the magic that has been squeezed out of digital music.”

Pono applies what Young calls an “underwater listening experience.”

On Tuesday, Neil Young launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for Pono, his long-awaited digital music service and player. Young hopes his new invention will put and end to the inferior sound quality of the common CD and MP3. Fans and investors ponied up $800,000 to aid Young’s cause in a mere ten hours.

A video on his Kickstarter page of famous musicians waxing poetic about the new format undoubtedly helped the cause, and may turn you into an early believer.

Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Sting, Gillian Welch, Dave Grohl, Elvis Costello, Stephen Stills, David Crosby and Eddie Vedder are among the converts who appear to tout the power of Pono.

And here’s more on Pono’s mission:

Pono’s mission is to provide the best possible listening experience of your favorite music. We want to be very clear that PonoMusic is not a new audio file format or standard. PonoMusic is an end-to-end ecosystem for music lovers to get access to and enjoy their favorite music exactly as the artist created it, at the recording resolution they chose in the studio. We offer PonoMusic customers the highest resolution digital music available. PonoMusic is more than just a high-resolution music store and player; it is a grassroots movement to keep the heart of music beating. PonoMusic aims to preserve the feeling, spirit, and emotion that the artists put in their original studio recordings.

Making Sure the ‘Service’ in Customer Service is Fulfilled

Interactive Intelligence is one of Indiana’s true technology success stories, a leader in internship efforts and, by the way, on the Best Places to Work in Indiana list for the eighth time in the nine-year history of the program.

But this post relates to a very interesting customer service experiment from chief marketing officer Joe Staples. I’ll set up the scenario below (in Joe’s own words from his initial blog post). Then check out the two links at the bottom for the very telling information he learned.

The airline in question here is not the focus; it’s customer service, no matter your organization, and what you can and should be doing whether responding to a good or bad customer experience.

In early January I had one of the most challenging travel weeks that I’ve had in a long time. Snow, ice, cold, all contributed to a series of missed flights, reroutes, and lost luggage. Now mind you, I travel enough each year to go around the world around seven times. I’m a million-miler and proudly carry my Diamond Medallion card like a badge of honor. So, I’m no travel wimp!

During my January travel troubles, I thought overall Delta provided great service. That said, over the space of the week I had good experiences and bad experiences. This got me to thinking …

Here’s the two-part experiment I’m going to conduct. Next week, as close together as I can, I’m going to send an email, launch a tweet, initiate a chat, and place a call into the service desk, all as part of my “desire to share my compliments for the great job Delta did” (I’ll cite specific examples). I’ll be sure I label my communications as a “service compliment.” Then three days later I’ll do the same thing. Only this time it will be to “voice my complaint” (again citing a specific example). I’ll label this set of communications as a “service complaint.”

My plan is to document everything: who responded; how long did the response take; what was the action taken; etc. My hope is that my experiment will show some distinctions between the various communications channels, as well as to show the difference in response to a compliment vs. a complaint.

Blog 2: Compliment

Blog 3: Complaint

Throwback Thursday: Before “Parks and Rec” was Born

Back in 2009, I wrote this blog, Is Indiana the New Scranton? NBC Comedy Set in Hoosier State, announcing the launch of “Parks and Rec.”

“Saturday Night Live” star Amy Poehler’s new comedy series will be set in Indiana. Pretty cool. Although, I think I speak for all Hoosiers when I say, “Please don’t make fun of us.”

In the mockumentary-style comedy, Poehler plays a mid-level bureaucrat in an Indiana city parks and recreation department who’s looking to get ahead.

The still-untitled series debuts 8:30 p.m. EST April 9.

Poehler’s portrayal of Hillary Rodham Clinton opposite Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin on “SNL” was a highlight of the show last year.

The new series isn’t intended as a satire on national politics but instead offers a comedic take on how government works in an American town, said Michael Schur, who’s executive producer along with Greg Daniels (of “The Office,” NBC’s other mockumentary-style comedy).

Poehler’s character, Leslie Knope, finds her love of the democratic process tested as she faces defensive government workers, selfish residents and real estate developers.

Bureaucracy? In Indiana? Well, I never…

Thanks to Netflix, I believe I’ve now seen every episode and the show is one of my favorites. It’s been recognized with several Emmy nominations and comedy awards, and the character development and progression has been enjoyable to see. I’ve also gotten a kick out of how they’ve used current events — like the government shutdown — to influence the show.

Additionally, I appreciate how the show’s parody has been more about government — and folks who attend public meetings (its public forums basically devolve into a live Internet comments section) — than about taking jabs at Indiana. Although, the staff making fun of Jerry for vacationing in Muncie was amusing.

The show’s had a good run and is likely now in the backstretch of its existence, but kudos to the writers and actors for making it so pleasurable.

Campaign Assists in Hiring National Guard and Other Veterans

The theme of the Indiana Chamber’s 2013 Annual Awards Dinner was a salute to the military. The video below highlights the impact of military service for some Indiana veterans and their organizations.

We’ve told you before about the American Jobs for America’s Heroes campaign and its efforts to connect employers with veterans and their in-demand skill sets. Here’s the latest:

The National Guard and other military branches are laying off soldiers at all ranks because of downsizing.  The Army National Guard is likely to reduce between 15,000 and 35,000.  The U.S. Army may lose 80,000 or more.   There will be thousands more veterans looking for jobs in addition to those veterans currently looking.

In 2013, almost 50,000 U.S. veterans of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq were homeless or in a federal program to provide housing (three times the number in 2011), according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Hiring National Guard members and other veterans creates real benefits for your company, your community and veterans and their families.  The nonprofit American Jobs for America’s Heroes (AJAH) campaign gives you free, direct access to highly trained National Guard members and other vets who are transitioning to civilian jobs.

The Guard trains in 107 occupational specialties.  Most members have put this training to work in high stress situations ranging from disaster relief to combat situations.  They are disciplined, reliable and drug free.  Guard members are focused on continuous learning and improvement so they excel in advanced job training.

Watch this short video on the success Phillips 66 has had in military hiring:

In the AJAH campaign, your free job postings flow directly to National Guard and other military employment counselors.  These counselors help you understand how military training and experience translates to your civilian requirements.

Visit the web site to learn more register online in five minutes.  A campaign counselor will contact you to set up your posting and answer questions.  All services are free.  More than 1,000 employers are already participating.

 

 

Business Personal Property Tax Elimination a Priority

Right now, state legislators are weighing whether to move forward with key legislation in both the House and Senate to phase out, eliminate and/or exempt a major portion of the business personal property tax. The Indiana Chamber, Gov. Mike Pence and a host of tax experts believe this is an important and wise move to reform a tax that discourages business investment and job creation.

Please take a moment right now to send a message to your state legislators urging them to support a phase-out to elimination of the business personal property tax.

House Bill 1001, authored by Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero), would provide county officials the ability to choose to exempt business personal property taxes on new equipment – effectively a phase-out option. Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek), would eliminate the bottom 50% of filers of this tax – for whom tax receipts make up only 1% of total receipts.

Some background information and facts:
•    The effective property tax rate for commercial and industrial property taxpayers is near the top of the states in every category (big, small, urban or rural), and this is largely due to the state’s tax on business equipment.
•    Taxing the very machinery and equipment that allows companies of all sizes (79% of Indiana manufacturers have fewer than 50 employees) to operate, expand and create jobs makes little sense.
•    Our state is among the five or six states that tax business personal property tax at the highest rates. Most Midwest states don’t have the tax at all. We need to shift away from a tax that discourages business investment and job creation.
•    This is not a $1 billion hit to local governments. No one is advocating an immediate and entire elimination – and certainly not without restructuring for revenue replacements. This is a complicated issue because the tax funds local units of government, but there are a variety of options to replace lost revenues.

There is major support among legislative leaders and the rank-and-file for a phase-out to elimination of the business personal property tax. However, they are being inundated with objections from local government officials who simply don’t want a change. We believe economic growth and job creation should be the priority, not protecting the status quo.

Chamber’s Top Legislative Priorities in 2014

Eliminating business personal property tax, allowing employers to screen prospective hires for tobacco use and establishing a work share program are among the top legislative priorities for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce in 2014.

“In many categories of commercial and industrial property tax, Indiana is among the very highest states in the country. That’s largely due to our taxing of machinery and equipment. It’s a remaining black mark on our tax climate – an area where we simply can’t compete,” declares Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

“All of our surrounding states have done away with the tax except for Kentucky, which taxes personal property at a lower rate than Indiana. It’s past time to remove this burden that can greatly hinder business expansion and innovation.”

On the health care front, the Indiana Chamber is seeking to repeal what is termed the smokers’ bill of rights for prospective employees.

“This is an intrusion into the rights of employers in making hiring decisions. Holding smoking up to the same standards as we hold discrimination based upon race, gender, religion and ethnicity seems arbitrary and without justification,” Brinegar offers.

“There are other behaviors (such as substance abuse and having a criminal record) which are also personal choice and over which employers do have discretion in hiring decisions; this reinforces that the state’s protection for smokers is unnecessary and not well founded.”

One policy the Indiana Chamber believes would benefit employers, employees and the state is a work sharing initiative that would allow employers to maintain skilled, stable workforces during temporary economic downturns.

“Employers would be able to reduce hours without layoffs and provide unemployment compensation to partially compensate workers for their lost hours. Then when circumstances improve, employees could return to full-time work status for the company,” Brinegar explains.

“What’s more, a federal grant is available for three years to pay for the cost of the program. It’s a positive scenario for all parties.”

When it comes to K-12 education, Brinegar says the Indiana Chamber will continue to push for the absolute best academic standards for the state.

“That’s the bottom line. We need to improve student learning, meet the essential college- and career-ready requirement and have an appropriate student assessment system. Those elements all currently exist within the Common Core State Standards program, which we continue to fully support.”

Below are the Indiana Chamber’s top legislative priorities. The complete list is also available on the Indiana Chamber web site (www.indianachamber.com).

CIVIL JUSTICE
Support regulating the practice of lawsuit lending, in which a third party provides a plaintiff a cash advance loan while the legal case is pending. In turn, a plaintiff agrees to repay the advance (which is usually at a high interest rate) from the lawsuit proceeds. This practice complicates the legal process by forcing more cases to go to trial because the plaintiffs can’t afford to settle due to their repayment agreement with the lender. In turn, this causes more and more Indiana businesses to pay expensive legal fees. This lending practice is legal in most states, but regulation and transparency do not exist in Indiana.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Support a voluntary vehicles miles travelled (VMT) pilot program as a potential replacement for existing fuel taxes. With Indiana’s already insufficient fuel tax revenues for roads/transportation trending down and more fuel efficient and electric/hybrid vehicles on the roads, a new funding mechanism for road maintenance needs to be found. Owners of alternative-fuel vehicles, including electrical vehicles, should pay for the roads they use just like other drivers. Voluntary VMT pilots in other states are currently taking place and Indiana cannot afford to ignore this potential road funding alternative.

Support expanding the patent-derived income tax exemption to the pre-patent phase. This incentive change would allow innovative, high-tech businesses that typically pay high wages to qualify during the earlier patent-pending phase of the (often long) patent application process, thus carrying forward any credit. Many emerging businesses would find this helpful in capitalizing their start-ups and expanding hiring. (Current law states you must have had a patent issued by the federal government before you can apply for the exemption.)

EDUCATION
Support maintaining high-achieving academic standards, such as the Common Core, and allowing the State Board of Education (SBOE) to determine student assessments. Indiana needs standards that improve student learning and meet the college- and career-ready requirement. The testing component of the standards can best be determined by the SBOE.
Support a framework for the future development of publicly-funded preschool initiatives for low-income families. There is critical need for improved preschool opportunities, especially for low-income children whose families may not have the means to provide a high-quality preschool experience or to provide needed learning opportunities in the home. The Indiana Chamber supports publicly-funded preschool programs that are: focused on those families in greatest need, limited to initiatives that maintain parental choice, focused on concrete learning outcomes and integrated with reforms at the elementary school level that will maintain and build upon the gains.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT
Support a water policy to stabilize our economic future and effectively compete with other states. A policy/plan is needed in order for the state to effectively manage its significant water resources, as well as to ensure delivery of an adequate, reliable and affordable supply of water.

HEALTH CARE
Support repealing the smokers’ bill of rights for prospective employees from the Indiana Code. The Indiana Chamber believes that all employers should have the right to choose whether or not to screen and/or hire prospective employees who use tobacco products. Since employers are footing most of the bill for health care costs for their employees, they should be able to have some discretion in determining whether new employees use tobacco products or not.

Support reinstating the wellness tax credit. The Indiana Chamber supports this incentive to start a wellness program, which can increase attendance, boost morale and productivity, as well as positively impact health care coverage costs.

LABOR RELATIONS
Support a work sharing program that will allow employers to maintain a skilled stable workforce during temporary downturns. Employers then could reduce hours without layoffs, enabling workers to keep their jobs – which hopefully could be returned to full-time status once economic circumstances improve. Also part of the equation: Unemployment compensation to partially compensate workers for their lost hours.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT    
Support common sense simplification and reforms to local government structures and practices. Creating the option for counties to have a single county commissioner and county councils with legislative and fiscal responsibilities is one that several Indiana counties desire. There should be incentives to reward local government efficiencies and performance in the delivery of services to taxpayers.

TAXATION
Support legislation to reduce the dependence on the taxation of business machinery and equipment. This tax discourages capital investment, places a disproportionate property tax burden on businesses and puts Indiana at a competitive disadvantage with surrounding states that have eliminated it or are moving to do so.