McKinney Takes Ag Role with IEDC; the Legacy Continues

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Amazing!

There’s no other way to describe my tour of the McKinney family farm in Tipton last spring. The occasion? A feature story on twins Ted and Tom McKinney in the July-August 2014 issue of BizVoice® magazine.

Tom is a seventh-generation Indiana farmer. Ted is director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) following a long career that included stints at animal health company Elanco, Eli Lilly and Company and Dow AgroSciences. The brothers inspired me with their passion for farming, family and the community.

What a legacy! They shared stories about their childhood, which was full of good-old fashioned hard work and play. They recounted the trials, tribulations and triumphs of corn-detasseling (they started managing their own crews at age 16) and wore their affinity for Purdue University on their sleeves – well, on their chests. The third-generation graduates of the College of Agriculture donned Purdue pullovers.

Earlier this month, Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann and Indiana Secretary of Commerce Victor Smith announced that – in addition to his role at the ISDA – Ted will serve as director of agri-business development for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

Congratulations and best of luck! A new chapter begins.

INTERNnet Partnership with enFocus in Northern Indiana to Battle Brain Drain

enfcouseThis column originally appeared in the Inside INdiana Business BigWigs & New Gigs newsletter.

Indiana INTERNnet (IIN) is forging partnerships with regional groups that share equal tenacity for increasing talent retention in the state. Our newest partner, enFocus, is already making a difference in South Bend.

enFocus is a “talent incubator and social innovation engine” whose approach is to cultivate what’s in its own backyard.

Its fellowship program encourages recent graduates from the area to stay and help develop St. Joseph County by giving them the resources to solve real community problems. In addition, a partnership with the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce is creating more internships in the area than ever before.

IIN has teamed up with enFocus to pilot a strategic feedback mechanism for experiential learning program development, expansion and improvement in St. Joseph County, with the goal of expanding it statewide. The comprehensive survey will measure internship success and the impact on talent retention.

Kathleen Ryan, a first-year fellow at enFocus and project lead on the survey pilot, credits an internship as the key to discovering what she truly wanted out of her career.

“It is because of an internship with a community health outreach organization during my senior year of college that I pursued an enFocus internship,” she explains . “At that time, I fully intended to continue on to medical school post-graduation. Through this experiential learning experience, however, I found that I was more drawn to community development.”

This type of career exploration is the cornerstone of enFocus’ mission in St. Joseph County and IIN’s mission statewide. enFocus works to curb the area’s brain drain with a two-pronged system: consulting with local organizations and offering time and resources to its fellows, who work to find solutions for regional industries. Following the program, enFocus works to place fellows in jobs in the area.

Since its inception in 2012, enFocus and its fellows facilitated regional projects like SB150, South Bend’s 150th birthday celebration, and the Regional Cities Initiative.

enFocus also partners with the St. Joseph County Chamber and its internship program, InternSJC.

“Through InternSJC we offer consultative services to local companies, working with them to make internships more valuable, efficient and exciting for company staff and students seeking employment in the area post-graduation,” Ryan describes. “Also through InternSJC, we help facilitate a summer community engagement program for interns in the area, seeking to improve the student experience and perception of our region’s opportunities through social programming, networking events and community service opportunities.”

All of the organization’s facets come together for a common goal: to make St. Joseph County a better place to work and live.

“We expose students and graduates to real-life issues felt by our regional partners and challenge them to alleviate those pain points,” Ryan emphasizes. “This enables them to develop professionally and gain experience while providing invaluable service to the community.

“We realize that Michiana is not the only region in Indiana that could rally around talent and youthful leadership to grow. We want to expand our model across the state to make Indiana an even more preferable place to start a career, business or family.”

IIN and local economic and community development groups are making strides in other regions as well.

For nearly 10 years, IIN has worked with the Northeast Indiana Graduate Retention Program (GRP, now a part of Greater Fort Wayne Inc.). The Greater Fort Wayne Inc. Fellows Program is a 12-month experience that connects high potential college students with Greater Fort Wayne Inc. investors who have a regular need for new talent. The program utilizes dedicated summer internship experiences as admission into the fellowship.

In Northwest Indiana, colleges and universities are joining forces to promote their students under the umbrella of Ready Northwest Indiana, an economic development and education initiative. Ancilla College, Calumet College, Valparaiso University, St. Joseph’s College and the Center of Workforce Innovations, Inc. are teaming with IIN to meet the needs of employers through a common platform to access students prepared for internships.

We look forward to the difference these efforts will make in St. Joseph County and statewide.

To register for our free service, visit www.IndianaINTERN.net, or call (317) 264-6862 to speak with our staff about your internship program.

Janet Boston is executive director of Indiana INTERNnet — an affiliate program of the Indiana Chamber.

A Look Back at the Legislative Session: Some Major Accomplishments and a Few Missed Opportunities

statehouse-picMeaningful long-sought accomplishments mixed with a few missed opportunities and one highly unfortunate detour quickly tell the tale of the 2015 legislative session.

The Key Victories
The state’s common construction wage statute has unnecessarily cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars on public construction projects over many decades. With the repeal finally in place, there will be open and fair bidding among all contractors for these projects.

Also gone: The hassle of filing personal property tax returns – or paying to have them filed – for what amounted to a very small tax liability for many small businesses. This will positively impact over half of all businesses in the state – some 150,000 in total. The throwback rule – really an unfair and inappropriate tax – is eliminated, too. It allowed for Indiana to tax whatever portion of your business income that wasn’t already taxed in Indiana or elsewhere.

Other Good Outcomes
We have a balanced two-year budget that puts as much emphasis as the revenue forecast would allow in prioritizing K-12 education, higher education and expanding funding for career and technical education – all Indiana Chamber priorities.

Another focal point of ours is water resources. The General Assembly took heed of our study last summer and passed two important next-step pieces of legislation that center on getting better data on what water resources exist throughout the state.

The Governor’s Regional Cities initiative recognizes and puts an appropriate focus on the important concept of quality of place. It acknowledges that population within our state and elsewhere is shifting from rural and less populated areas to urban and suburban areas. Similarly, we are in an era where young adults are increasingly choosing the place where they want to live and then looking for employment instead of letting the job dictate their location.

We were also satisfied that a reasonable conclusion was reached regarding the property assessments of “big box” retail stores. As it was initially introduced, it would have been devastating for many businesses by putting far too much specificity into law.

Missed Opportunities and One Detour
Conversely, there are a few decisions that stand out as particularly unfortunate that more or anything wasn’t done.

A work share program that would benefit employers and their workers as well as repealing the smoker’s bill of rights for new hires are still facing resistance from key individuals, which is preventing the issues from even getting a committee hearing. Likewise, regulating the practice called lawsuit lending, which translates to prolonged litigation and more costs for employers, continues to be stymied by two legislators.

An issue we hoped was going to be properly addressed was the dysfunction between the state superintendent and the State Board of Education. The best solution and one we have advocated for the last 30 years would be to let the Governor appoint the state superintendent like he does all other agency heads. But we ended up with something not even a middle ground. Instead, Senate Bill 1 is a rather convoluted piece of legislation that does nothing in the immediate term to remedy the situation in the least.

And then there was the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the historical fallout and the “fix”. We were pleased by the legislative response to specify that in no way could that statute be used to discriminate against individuals or different groups of Hoosiers. We anticipate there will be efforts by legislators to further strengthen that stance next year.

Little Steps Can Lead to Big Energy Savings

Business direction background with two people

This column was also posted on Inside INdiana Business.

Indiana possesses a number of advantages in its business climate. One of those traditional benefits has been energy that is adequate, reliable and affordable.

The inexpensive part of that equation has come into question lately. Industrial energy rates that were once among the five lowest in the country are now around the middle of the pack. Federal regulations – ones that often impact Indiana to a greater degree due to its dependence on coal – lead the way as a major cause for the increase.

All companies, not just heavy energy users, can more closely evaluate their usage and likely lower their costs. That subject is the theme of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Connect and Collaborate series – luncheons around the state this summer for Chamber members.

Here is some of the information being shared in the form of 10 energy-saving tips:

  1. Know your costs: Just as we hopefully do or should be doing at home, examine your electric power bill. You have to realize the source of your largest energy costs to be able to potentially have the opportunity to reduce those charges.
  2. Evaluate your contract: Is your current agreement the best deal you can get? You don’t know what’s possible until you ask.
  3. Lighting can be a hidden cost: Are you aware of what type of lights you use? Are they the most efficient? Are unnecessary lights turned off when not needed? Have you considered motion sensors?
  4. Air recycling: Heat rises, making it important to properly recycle your air. Have a professional examine your system. Efficient ceiling fans (or exhaust fans in warmer weather) could make a major difference.
  5. Avoiding the pressure: Steam and air pressure are common ingredients in many industries. Leaking joints, pipes and systems can be a huge energy drain.
  6. Water equals power: If you use water from a municipal treatment plant (or even your own facility), nearly 20% of that cost is energy. Examine your system to eliminate water leaks. You are paying for your water, as well as the energy it takes to process and move the water.
  7. Check the pumps: Workplace pumps are huge energy users. Assess your pumps – are they needed? Could they be changed out for a more efficient model? Would a variable speed pump make more sense?
  8. Transportation troubles: Another personal priority needs to be carried over to the workplace. Car/truck care in the form of proper tire pressure, tune-ups and other maintenance is essential. Companies with multiple vehicles are often well served by having someone responsible for the fleet.
  9. Proper planning: In addition to the modes of transportation, logistics are critical. Efficiently planning trips and scheduling deliveries will help conserve power and enhance productivity. This applies to organizations of all sizes.
  10. Compressing the fuel: Compressed natural gas continues to gain favor among many companies with heavy delivery schedules. An upfront capital outlay is often rewarded with a very timely return on that investment.

Chamber President Kevin Brinegar, I and a local business leader look forward to sharing this information and talking energy with members at each stop on our Connect and Collaborate tour. Your business could be the beneficiary.

2015 Best Places to Work Rankings Announced

KRH26117Hoosier companies from throughout the state with stellar workplace practices were recognized Thursday at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis. Before a crowd of 1,200, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce unveiled rankings for the 100 companies that made the 2015 Best Places to Work in Indiana list (released in February).

Winners were selected in four categories. Taking top honors:

  • Small companies’ category (between 15 and 74 U.S. employees): E-gineering, a technology consulting firm on the northeast side of Indianapolis
  • Medium companies’ category (between 75 and 249 U.S. employees): Project Lead The Way, Inc., a non-profit education organization headquartered in Indianapolis
  • Large companies’ category (between 250 and 999 U.S. employees): Sikich LLP of Indianapolis, an accounting, advisory, technology and managed services group
  • Major companies’ category (1,000 or more U.S. employees): Edward Jones, an investment firm with 457 branch offices throughout the state

For Sikich this marks the third straight year to finish number one. It’s also a return to the top spot for both Edwards Jones (last time was 2008) and E-gineering (2011).

“These four outstanding companies embody what strong workplaces should look like – they are rooted in respect, teamwork and good communication, and, where possible, promote professional growth,” states Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar.

“All the organizations honored tonight are exemplary employers that foster a positive and productive work environment. They understand that truly valuing employees goes hand-in-hand with the success of the business.”

At the dinner, presented in partnership with Hylant, representatives from all designated companies received Best Places to Work awards of excellence.

Organizations on the 2015 list that have displayed sustained excellence during the program’s 10-year history received additional recognition with Best Places to Work in Indiana Hall of Fame and Pinnacle designations.

Hall of Fame organizations are those that have been named a Best Place to Work in Indiana at least two-thirds of the time in the program’s history; a total of 15 companies on the 2015 list meet that criteria. Two organizations – Edward Jones and Katz, Sapper & Miller – have made the Best Places to Work list every year.

The Pinnacle recognition is reserved for those that have finished first in their category three or more times in a five-year period. The four Pinnacle companies are Microsoft (first in the major employer category in 2013-2014 and in the large category in 2011-2012), Edward Jones (tops in the large employer category from 2006-2008), Sikich LLP (first in the large employer category from 2013-2015) and Hollingsworth & Zivitz (atop the small employer category from 2012-2014).

More information about the Best Places to Work companies is available via a special section of the May/June issue of the Indiana Chamber’s BizVoice® magazine, a statewide publication released tonight and accessible online at www.bizvoicemagazine.com.

Other program partners are Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, the Best Companies Group, Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Indiana State Council of SHRM and the Wellness Council of Indiana.

In addition to Hylant’s presenting sponsorship, Elements Financial is the event’s reception sponsor. Best Places to Work in Indiana is also sponsored by: Moser Consulting, Inc.; Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari; ADVISA; Centier Bank; Comcast; Conner Insurance; DTZ; Eaton Corporation; Goelzer Investment Management; Smithville Communications, Inc.; and Trilogy Health Services, LLC.

The Best Places organizations were determined through employer reports and comprehensive employee surveys. The Best Companies Group, which handled the selection process, oversees similar programs in 26 other states.

All companies that participated in the 2015 Best Places to Work program receive an in-depth evaluation identifying strengths and weaknesses according to their employees. In turn, this report can be used in developing or enhancing employee retention and recruitment programs.

For more information on the Indiana Chamber’s Best Places to Work program, go to www.bestplacestoworkIN.com.

Chamber Offers Triple Crown of Compliance Books

HThe Kentucky Derby is fast approaching, and it will likely be another great event — especially for all those in the Kentuckiana area who love a good time. But if you’re tired of the horse race of trying to keep up with regulations and the myriad issues employers and human resources departments must keep tabs on, you’re not alone.

The Indiana Chamber is offering three new books this spring that can help you pace the field.

Authored by attorneys at Ogletree Deakins, The Immigration Guide for Indiana Employers – Fifth Edition (formerly known as the Indiana Guide to Hiring and Managing Foreign Employees) is currently at the printer and headed toward the finish line. The book covers what employers need to know when hiring foreign workers. Some of the topics updated in this edition include:

  • temporary work visa sections: H-1B professionals and L-1 intracompany transfers;
  • Form I-9 completion and compliance;
  • information about President Obama’s pending executive order on immigration and what it means for employers;
  • Indiana-specific E-Verify requirements for certain employers; and
  • handling site visits from the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services Fraud Detection Unit.

Ogletree has also authored a brand new title: Indiana Guide to Retaliation Claims. This ePub (online publication) features over 40 pages of instruction and case information that will help your company prepare against retaliation and whistleblower claims. Making a small investment in this guide can help prevent your company from becoming the next cautionary tale. This book is scheduled to be released later this month, but you can place your order now.

Additionally, the Performance Appraisal Handbook – Second Edition can help you effectively conduct appraisals on a regular basis. Authored by attorneys from Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, this book is ideal for HR professionals and small business owners who don’t want to take unnecessary chances in evaluating their employees. This book is slated for May publication.

You can order these respective guides via their web pages or by calling (800) 824-6885.

Cheer Earth Day, Not EPA’s Latest Moves

87741351Something to celebrate for Earth Day: Indiana’s air quality has not been as good as it is today in over 60 years! I remember the first Earth Day 45 years ago and for a decade served on the Indiana Earth Day board. I’ve witnessed step by step Indiana’s group effort to make the air cleaner and cleaner.

Today, more than 90% of Hoosiers live in areas that meet ALL air quality standards. In 2005, that number was only 61%. To monitor all the air quality and progress, Indiana operates and maintains more air quality monitoring sites than any other state in the Midwest on a per-person basis. We’re on top of it.

Indiana does have a few remaining air issues in pockets of the state, but those are being addressed. Whether that’s the lead level in Muncie, the ozone standard in LaPorte County or the one-hour sulfur dioxide standard in parts of five counties – all are making progress and should be remedied in a reasonable timeframe.

Still business and industry in Indiana and across the nation continue to be whipped by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with regulations that are grossly unfair and frequently tightened on a whim. All the vast improvements go unnoticed and the goalposts keep moving further and further away. Ironically, as our ozone levels have declined, the incidence of childhood asthma has actually increased.

The impact of EPA’s pending controls is real and will cost every business and person that uses electricity. Yet there is no real environmental benefit that will be realized. Industry in the U.S. and Indiana has spent billions of dollars installing expensive pollution control equipment. The data clearly shows that our emissions have substantially decreased. In other words, we’ve pretty much squeezed everything out of the ozone orange.

Over the many years, Earth Day has helped bring attention to industry practices that needed scrutiny. That was a very good thing. But the EPA is taking its efforts too far. It’s time for all of us to take a deep breath and exhale. And you know what? We can do that outside today because the air is so much cleaner.

Complimentary Chamber Series Features Energy-Saving Tips, Member Benefits

in chamberRising electric bills unfortunately appear on the horizon due to new federal regulations. To help prepare the Hoosier business community, the Indiana Chamber will highlight timely energy-saving tips at its complimentary 2015 Connect and Collaborate series.

“Ten Tips to Manage Your Organization’s Energy Costs” will feature Vince Griffin, vice president of energy and environmental policy at the Indiana Chamber. Griffin is one of the leading voices on all energy topics as a result of his 17-plus years at the Indiana Chamber and previous industry experience.

Griffin will be joined by Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar and a local business/community leader in each of the eight Connect and Collaborate stops throughout the state. They will share guidance that can be applied for organizations of all types. Each session will also include a moderated panel discussion featuring questions and comments from attendees.

What’s more, these events offer a free lunch and introduction for non-Indiana Chamber members about the organization’s benefits, as well as act as a reminder for existing members about how to take full advantage of the membership services.

“Connect and Collaborate luncheons are a great way to gain simple tools to improve your workplace,” remarks Brock Hesler, director of membership with the Indiana Chamber. “This will be an excellent opportunity to learn what others are doing and bring some new ideas back to your office or production floor.

“In addition to inviting all of our members, we encourage those not currently part of the Indiana Chamber to attend and learn more about the organization,” he says.

There is no cost for the luncheons, which take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. local time. The schedule kicks off in Indianapolis on May 11 and wraps up in Muncie on August 25. In between are stops in Fort Wayne (May 19), Lafayette (June 2), Merrillville (June 8), Elkhart (June 9), Evansville (July 28) and Bloomington (August 20).

Details and registration are available online or by contacting Nick Luchtefeld at NLuchtefeld@indianachamber.com or (317) 264-6898.

Child Adult Resource Services: Maximizing Its Investment Through Compliance Resources

Teri King

Knowledge is power – and empowering. Just ask Teri King, HR manager at Child Adult Resource Services (CARS), a Chamber member since 1991 that has around 250 employees. CARS provides Head Start, group homes, employment and other services to people with a variety of needs. Headquartered in Rockville, it covers 40 Indiana counties.

“I count on the Chamber to keep me up-to-date and out of trouble,” she declares.

King shares how an email from the Chamber helped keep CARS in compliance with Indiana’s smoking ban law, which went into effect on July 1, 2012. As part of the law, businesses are required to post signage at public entrances indicating that smoking is prohibited within eight feet.

“I had missed that (component of the) law,” King recalls. “Had it not been for her (the Chamber’s Rhea Langdon, manager of business resource marketing and sales) email telling me there was new signage available, I would have been out of compliance.”

King also is a fan of the Chamber’s ePubs (“I’ve enjoyed the forms and links to different topics,” she remarks) and completed the Chamber’s human resources and safety compliance certificate programs by attending a variety of training events.

“Being a nonprofit, training dollars are very tight. Whenever I’ve submitted a training (request) to go to the Chamber, it’s always approved. Other trainings may not be,” she emphasizes.

“In HR, you get all kinds of sales calls. You get all kinds of flyers from companies that are trying to sell their stuff. I always tell them, ‘I’m getting it from the Chamber. I know I have the right stuff that way.’ ”