State Rolls Out New Employer Benefit Link Program

Are you a small employer that does not offer health insurance but would like to do so? Are you an employer that offers a health insurance plan to your employees but you may have employees who do not participate because they deem it unaffordable? If so, then you may find the state’s new Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) Employer Benefit Link to be a program of some interest to you.

HIP was expanded to provide health coverage to eligible Hoosiers that are at income levels up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which is $16,436 per year for an individual or $33,865 for a family of four. The HIP Link is a new state program that offers premium assistance for eligible (age 21) participants who choose to enroll in their employers’ sponsored health plan.

The Governor and his staff recently unveiled the program. It is their hope to enroll more Indiana residents in employer sponsored health plans.

The basics: HIP Link employers may be able to enroll more of their employees into their employer-sponsored plans. This may help some employers meet health plan participation requirements. Employers must agree to employ Indiana residents and contribute at least 50% to the premium cost of their employer -ponsored plan.

Plans must meet the federal Affordable Care Act minimum benefit and cost requirements. Who qualifies and for what: Large, small and self-insured businesses with a federal employee identification number (FEIN) that have at least one employee who is an Indiana resident may be eligible. The employer becomes a HIP Link employer by filling out an application online. Employers will need to provide a summary of benefits and coverage. Dental and vision benefits must be included if offered.

How it works: The employer deducts from the employee’s pay the cost or premium charged to the employee for the group health insurance according to the employer’s normal procedures. Each month the state will reimburse the employee directly for the amount of the deduction (minus any employee contribution to the POWER account). Each employee participating in the program will be given a HIP Link personal wellness and responsibility account (POWER) funded with $4,000. This account is used to pay premiums and other medical expenses charged to the employee up to $4,000 per year. The plan promotes personal ownership by requiring participants to contribute a portion of their income (about 2%) to their health coverage. Family members may be eligible under the plan.

Approval process: The application for HIP Link is available at Once the employer is approved, an employer ID will be assigned and employees may then enroll in the program. There are no costs associated with enrollment. On a monthly basis, the HIP Link employer will be prompted to confirm through the portal that employees enrolled in HIP Link are still employed and eligible for health insurance coverage. On an annual basis, employers will confirm benefits or premiums for the new benefit period.

More information is available at

VIDEO: A Look at the Latest Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar discusses the latest Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card, which was just released this month.

The state’s highlights include improved reading and math test scores for fourth and eighth graders, progress toward a long-term water resources plan and promising research and development rankings. Struggles continue with postsecondary credentials and a dearth of entrepreneurial activity.

See the full report card.

Latest Indiana Vision 2025 Reveals State Strengths, Shortcomings

IV-2025-CoverWith a decade remaining in the Indiana Vision 2025 economicdevelopment action plan championed by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and statewide partners, the state is showing some progress toward key goals but also revealing a long way to go on metrics vital to innovation and economic prosperity.

The latest results are included in the 2015 version of the Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card. The plan, introduced in 2012, includes 33 goals in four critical areas: Outstanding Talent, Attractive Business Climate, Superior Infrastructure and Dynamic and Creative Culture. This Report Card follows a 2013 effort that established benchmarks on 59 statistical metrics.

“Keeping score is essential to evaluating the state’s advancement,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “While there are some encouraging signs and more improvements than declines compared to other states, the overall theme is Indiana must do more – especially in the areas of talent and new business creation.”

Of the 59 metrics, Indiana improved its ranking (from the 2013 Report Card) compared to other states on 28; it declined in 19 rankings; and remained the same or there was no updated data available in 12. In terms of raw scores, Indiana improved in 33 metrics, declined in 17 and there was no movement or updates available for nine.
Positive Report Card developments include:

  • Improvements in math and reading NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) test scores for both fourth and eighth graders, with corresponding fourth-grade ranking changes from 17th to fourth in math and 27th to 14th in reading
  • Poverty rate: Indiana’s state ranking, after dropping to 35th in the previous Report Card improved to 12th. This is partially attributable to the state’s heavy reliance on manufacturing and the re-emergence of that industry from the Great Recession
  • A state regulatory climate that continues to stand out, including a top ranking in the Regulatory Freedom Index from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University
  • A drop in the adult smoking rate in 2013 to 21.9% (from 25.6% in 2011 and 27.4% in 2001). The ranking is 39th, but the nearly 4% reduction is significant
  • Research and development funding at both the university and business levels with rankings of 18th and 12th, respectively

“The addition of the I-READ third-grade reading test appears to be paying dividends,” comments Brinegar, referring to the improved reading scores. “Study after study has affirmed the state’s strong business climate, which will be even better with the elimination in 2016 of the business personal property tax for approximately 150,000 small businesses.”

Among the areas of concern:

  • Postsecondary attainment that continues to lag with ranks of 45th in associate degrees and 42nd in bachelor degrees
  • Funded pension liabilities that are below the U.S. average (72%) and decreased from 64% in the previous Report Card to 61% in this edition
  • Broadband connectivity, a particular challenge in rural areas, that slightly improved in the percent of households connected but still dropped in the state rankings from 35th to 40th
  • A lowly 47th-place ranking in the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity. Despite an increasing emphasis in this area, there are simply not enough new businesses being created
  • A significant decline in venture capital invested, one of the factors in new business creation, from 2012 to 2014

“On education attainment, the goal is for 60% of residents with high-quality postsecondary credentials by 2025. Indiana’s 34.7% achievement as of 2013 shows how far the state has to go,” Brinegar shares. “Similarly, technology success stories are multiplying and business acceleration and innovation programs are expanding but Indiana, as a whole, remains far behind others in growing and maintaining a dynamic business culture.”

About Indiana Vision 2025

Mission: “Indiana will be a global leader in innovation and economic opportunity where enterprises and citizens prosper.”

Indiana Vision 2025 was developed by a statewide task force of community, business and education leaders. The plan was released in early 2012. The full Report Card, a summary of Indiana’s rankings and a one-page overview of progress on the 33 goals of Indiana Vision 2025 are available at Statistics utilized are the most recent available from established, credible sources.

The 2015 Report Card and six regional forums (to discuss the results, obtain local analysis and share best practices in the Outstanding Talent area) are sponsored by Duke Energy Foundation, Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, Ivy Tech Community College, NIPSCO and St. Vincent Health.

Indiana Vision 2025 Regional Forums (regional partners)

  • June 22: Fort Wayne (Regional Chamber of Northeast Indiana, Vince Buchanan)
  • June 23: Evansville (Evansville Regional Business Committee, Ed Hafer)
  • June 25: Indianapolis (Mike Wells, REI Real Estate Services)
  • June 29: Merrillville (Northwest Indiana Forum, Heather Ennis)
  • June 30: Elkhart (Elkhart, South Bend and Warsaw chambers of commerce; Kyle Hannon, Jeff Rea and Mark Dobson)
  • July 27: Sellersburg (One Southern Indiana, Wendy Dant Chesser)

Bison Financial Group: Maximizing Its Investment by Boosting Visibility

Vorbeck_DavidNumbers are the name of the game in the financial world. But that’s only part of the equation.

Just ask Dave Vorbeck, president and CEO of Bison Financial Group, which he founded in 1999. He regularly showcases the firm’s MENTOR product by advertising in the Chamber’s award-winning BizVoice® magazine. In addition, Bison has sponsored a variety of events, such as the Wellness Council of Indiana’s regional wellness symposiums, and has been an Indiana Chamber member since 2011.

“People who are on the distribution list of BizVoice (the audience includes 15,000 CEOs, presidents and other decision-makers) want to be on the distribution list of BizVoice and the editorial content is important to them. MENTOR is our business-to-business product and being able to zero-in on those decision-makers in terms of brand development is incredibly valuable to us.

“We don’t need to get in front of 15,000 people. We need to get in front of 15,000 of the right people. BizVoice (readers represent) 15,000 of the right people.”

Based in Lafayette, Bison also has offices in Mishawaka; Terre Haute; Valparaiso; Kalamazoo, Michigan; and Melbourne, Florida. It employs 40 people firmwide and is affiliated with Wells Fargo Advisors.

“I’m looking at new MENTOR clients (and one is) a big coding company in Fort Wayne. The only way they’ve heard of us is through BizVoice because we don’t advertise in Fort Wayne,” Vorbeck stresses. “Advertising in BizVoice is an incredible value for us. For what we’re advertising, it absolutely is perfect.”

D.C. Fly-in is Your Chance to Speak Up

7324001Don’t sit on the sidelines when you could be influencing laws and regulations under discussion in Washington. Make an impact by attending the Indiana Chamber’s D.C. Fly-in on September 16-17!

The event offers business and community leaders an opportunity to speak with Indiana’s congressional delegation and key staff members during a roundtable discussion/dinner on September 16. The second day features a panel of national and state issue experts, followed by numerous group visits to congressional offices.

“It’s ideal to get in front of lawmakers in D.C. so they can go back to their offices and get to work on what you just talked to them about,” emphasizes Cameron Carter, Chamber vice president of economic development and federal relations.

By September, the 2016 presidential campaign will be in full swing with a number of members of Congress running for re-election. Dominant issues in Washington and beyond will include transportation, tax reform, repatriation of overseas funds, Obamacare and immigration.

Dennis Faulkenberg, president and CEO of transportation advising company APPIAN in Indianapolis, has participated in the Fly-in for as long as he can remember. He’s helped coordinate office visits on Capitol Hill the last several years.

“Since I’ve spent some time lobbying in Washington, I know the Hill and how to get from one place to the other,” Faulkenberg comments. “It’s really special to meet with members of the congressional delegation, and voice your concerns and opinions about business in Indiana.”

Cost is $149 per person and group discounts are available. Each attendee is responsible for securing travel arrangements. Discounted hotel rooms are available for Chamber Fly-in guests at The Liaison Capitol Hill.

The D.C. Fly-in is sponsored by Zimmer. The breakfast program is sponsored by Faegre Baker Daniels. Additional opportunities are available by contacting Jim Wagner at or at (317) 264-6876.

Hendricks Power Cooperative: Maximizing Its Chamber Investment Through Compliance Resources

Lenardson_DebLearning the ropes when starting a new job is always challenging. Imagine your position changing soon thereafter to encompass the vast world of human resources.

Nearly a decade after launching her career at Hendricks Power Cooperative (located in Avon, it provides electricity and energy services to 30,000-plus members in west central Indiana), HR director Deb Lenardson credits the Indiana Chamber with helping to ease the transition.

She points to regulatory compliance publications, which cover worker’s compensation, the Family Medical Leave Act and a variety of other employment law topics.

“I wasn’t hired into HR, but after about three months I was hired into (an HR) position, which is kind of why those books became so important,” Lenardson emphasizes. “I was new and learning. They’re great, reliable resources for us.

“When I’m looking for local information about Indiana, that’s where I go because so many of my other resources (offered elsewhere) are more generalized on a national level.”

The Chamber’s free poster subscription service also fuels Lenardson’s compliance efforts. When there is a significant change to any mandatory Indiana or federal employment postings, the Chamber automatically sends subscribers the revised poster set(s) with an invoice for the postings.

“I love that because I don’t have to worry about, ‘Am I going to keep my required posters up-to-date?’ ” she declares. “Anything I can have that helps me just keep things moving along without having to be reactive – I can be proactive with those things. I love that.”

Update on the Way for Indiana Government Book

HereIsYourIndianaGov15Here Is Your Indiana Government: 2015-16 Edition is the most comprehensive guide to governance in the Hoosier state.

Since its development in 1942, this book has been used by the community and hundreds of thousands of students (from sixth grade to college level) to learn about Indiana and how Hoosiers govern themselves. A variety of local government and agency updates will be included in the new edition.

Topics include:

  • Interesting facts about Indiana (demographics, state song, motto, origin of county names, notable natives, etc.)
  • Historical highlights of Indiana government development
  • State government (explanation of its departments/agencies and their functions, updated budget information, contact information including phone numbers and web addresses)
  • County government (origins of the counties, the elective county administrative officials and their function, council function, powers of the counties, services)
  • Cities and towns (creation, city classifications, incorporated towns, municipal government, public works)
  • Township government (divisions, schools, boards)

Large quantity discount pricing is available as follows:

  • 1 to 9 copies: $19.50 each
  • 10 to 25 copies: $12.50 each
  • 26 to 50 copies: $10.00 each
  • 51 to 75 copies: $8.50 each
  • 76 to 100 copies: $7.50 each
  • 101 or more: $7.00 each

To place your order, call (800) 824-6885, order online or email

Employer Survey Results: Companies Anticipate Growth, Lack Workforce Needed

An annual Indiana Chamber of Commerce statewide workforce survey reinforces a common theme: Indiana companies are prepared to grow, but nearly three-quarters of the 526 respondents report that filling their workforce is challenging.

Economic prospects are bright. Fifty-eight percent of respondents expect the size of their workforce to increase in the next 12 to 24 months and another 38% anticipate stable employee counts. These mirror 2014 numbers (57% and 39%, respectively) and reinforce a shift from 2013 when just 36% foresaw growth and 59% looked at no changes in employee numbers.

As far as finding those employees, 74% note the challenge – with 24% reporting that “filling our workforce is our biggest challenge.” These results are a slight increase from 2014 findings of 72% indicating a challenge and 19% labeling it their biggest issue. Forty-three percent report they have left jobs unfilled in Indiana due to under-qualified candidates (a 4% increase over 2014).

“The continued positive outlook from Indiana employers is encouraging,” contends Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “But despite various programs and local examples of strong education-business connections, it’s clear that much more work remains to provide workers with the skills they need for today’s and tomorrow’s jobs.”

The survey, in its eighth year, is provided to Indiana Chamber members and customers throughout the state. The largest respondent groups were organizations with between 50 and 249 employees (40%), 1-49 employees (36%) and manufacturing/advanced manufacturing industries (38%). The 2015 effort was sponsored by WGU Indiana.

“It’s important to hear the voice of Indiana employers – and for educators and workforce development professionals to partner with businesses to help meet their needs,” confirms Dr. Allison Barber, chancellor of WGU Indiana. “Addressing the skills gap and preparing both students and current members of the workforce for the next phase of their careers is an essential role for all involved in this profession.”

Additional key results from the 2015 survey:

  • Critical thinking skills and personal qualities (responsibility, work ethic, willingness to learn) were cited as the most challenging to find among job applicants and new hires at 56% and 55%, respectively.
  • While business-education partnerships have increased, a large gap remains. Of the respondents to a question asking about different types of engagement with local K-12 and postsecondary schools, 99 (28%) organizations indicate they are not involved currently but would like to be.
  • Despite an increasing state and national focus on experiential learning opportunities for students, more than 200 respondents said they do not have an internship program. Lack of time to hire and manage interns (36%) and the need for more information on starting an internship initiative (19%) were the top reasons given.
  • A full 80% (45% definitely and 35% probably) indicated they would value a work ethic certificate issued by high schools that would demonstrate a student’s commitment to attendance, discipline, teamwork and other “soft skills.”
  • More than three-quarters (77%) of those responding say they have no issues with job candidates expressing concerns about Indiana business locations or quality of life issues.

View the survey results at

The Indiana Chamber and its Foundation, focused on providing research and solutions to enhance Indiana’s economic future, have tools to assist employers, job-seekers and students. provides job supply and demand information both statewide and regionally. It utilizes current labor market data to help companies, prospective workers and students understand Indiana’s workforce landscape. Salary data, required skills and certifications, and creation of effective job descriptions are among the featured tools.

Indiana INTERNnet has been connecting students and employers for internship opportunities for nearly 15 years. The easy-to-use web site, informative Intern Today, Employee Tomorrow guide and regional partnerships will be supplemented by additional outreach programs.

“These resources are available for everyone throughout the state,” Brinegar says. “The importance of enhancing our workforce and allowing companies the opportunity to succeed at the highest levels cannot be overvalued. Outstanding Talent remains the key driver in the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 economic development plan.”

The Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card update for 2015, measuring Indiana’s progress on metrics related to the 33 goals in the plan, will be released on June 18. Both the Report Card and workforce survey results, along with Outstanding Talent best practices, will be the focus of six regional forums. Five of those sessions take place between June 22 and June 30 with visits to Fort Wayne, Evansville, Indianapolis, Merrillville and Elkhart. The sixth forum will be in July in Sellersburg.

Lugar Leads the Way; Now About that Skills Gap

100_5793Our recent poll question asked you to tab the most influential Indiana senator since 1960. It can’t be too much of a surprise that Richard Lugar (foreign relations, nuclear security, agriculture and other areas of leadership) topped the voting. The results:

  • Lugar: 56%
  • Birch Bayh: 26%
  • Evan Bayh: 9%
  • Dan Quayle and Dan Coats: 4% each

The current poll (top right) seeks your insights on workforce challenges.

On the Road, Or Airways, Or Seas: Travelers Reveal Top Destinations

Heart Tail

The Consumer Travel Survey from the Travel Leaders Group always offers some interesting results. A few of the 2015 highlights from the recent responses of 3,300-plus American travelers:

  • Australia tops the “ultimate dream international destination” list for the fourth consecutive survey. Other top choices are Italy, Ireland, New Zealand and a Mediterranean cruise
  • 67% of vacationers will travel by land, 6% plan cruises and 27% are looking to do both
  • The top responses (multiple answers allowed) to how far people plan to travel are: Within the U.S. and farther than a bordering state, 71%; within home state, 43%; bordering state, 37%; Canada/Mexico/Caribbean, 31%; international, 24%
  • Interest in travel to Cuba: 39% say no way (down from 47.6% a year earlier), 35% will consider it and 23% are ready to go either now or when they believe Cuba is ready for Americans