Larry Gigerich of site selector Ginovus penned an informative column for Inside INdiana Business about Indiana's business climate. While we have come a long way and are currently envied by many states, there is still work to be done. He writes:
A few weeks ago, the Kauffman Foundation and Thumbtack.com released an annual ranking of states for their friendliness to small businesses. Indiana ranked 15th for 2013. The study analyzed several factors including items related to tax climate, work force development and regulatory issues. Eight-thousand small businesses were contacted for feedback regarding the study's criteria. Here is how Indiana ranked in each category.
1. Overall Friendliness: B+
2. Ease of Starting a Business: B+
3. Ease of Hiring: F
4. Regulations: C
5. Health and Safety: D
6. Employment, Labor and Hiring: C-
7. Tax Code: D
8. Licensing: A-
9. Environmental: D
10. Zoning: B-
11. Training and Networking Programs: C-
The grades given to Indiana are not surprising. Work force development and job training have been a focus of Governor Mike Pence and the legislature since the beginning of the year. Indiana's educational achievement, continuing learning for adults in the work force and availability of certification/credential programs have not been where they need to be. While progress has been made, there is still much to be done by government, educational providers, not-for-profits and the private sectors.
Indiana has been recognized as a relatively easy place to start and grow a business. This report points to that in terms of licensing, zoning and other factors affecting the launch of a new business.
The tax code ranking is a bit surprising, but the survey asked small businesses if they were paying too much in taxes for their locations. The elimination of the state inheritance tax, which impacts small and family-owned businesses, could help improve this ranking.
Indiana continues to struggle with rankings where health and environmental issues are considered. In particular, the state's obesity and smoking rates are unacceptably high. These items impact healthcare costs, number of missed days of work and quality of life. In terms of the environment, Indiana's long-term large manufacturing presence has impacted water, air and soil quality. While important steps have been taken in the areas, there is much left to be done.
The top five states for small businesses are (in order): Utah, Alabama, New Hampshire, Idaho and Texas. The bottom five are (in order): Illinois, California, Hawaii, Maine and Rhode Island.
In summary, Indiana's ranking relative to the rest of the country is good. Policymakers in the state should focus on ways to improve our weaknesses in order to move Indiana into the top 10. Due to the fact that Indiana has never been a location for large headquarters for companies, small businesses are and will continue to be the lifeblood of the state's economic growth.
Chamber President Kevin Brinegar offers a two-minute wrap-up of the 2013 legislative session. Highlighting his review are thoughts on the new budget, tax relief and critical education and workforce development issues.
Our communications VP Tom Schuman penned this blog back in February about SmartFile's technology bake-off contest. If you dig innovation — and would like to see more of it in Indiana — you'll be on board with this. The winners were announced last week, and congrats to IUPUI students Ani Chan and Manpreet Singh for their honors.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so simultaneously shocked and happy in my life,” said Chan. “Aside from being able to hold one of those ridiculously huge checks like a lottery winner, the best part of the competition was the validation that comes from building something from start to finish. Sometimes as a college student, it’s easy for your projects to go unnoticed, so it’s nice to receive feedback and interest from likeminded people and successful business leaders.”
Indiana college students were challenged to develop an open source application that interacts with the newly released SmartFile API over a period of 50 days. To help teams finish development, SmartFile hosted a 24-hour “Bake-Off-A-Thon” a week prior to submission to help finalize development. Registered students accepted the challenge to showcase their talents, but only nine qualified for the finals. Five of Indianapolis’ top business thinkers listened to five-minute pitches from the finalists before then scoring each “app” electronically in the following five categories: Innovation, Utility, Use of SmartFile Platform, Design and User Experience.
The top four teams re-pitched their applications to the Bake-Off party audience who then voted electronically before “Team Octodog” was crowned champion. Purdue University students, Eric Lovelace and Levi Miller, from team "Winnovation” were awarded second place and received $5,000 for their mobile-app “SmartBox.” Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology students, Erik Sanders and AJ Piergiovanni, from team "Dangling Pointers” were awarded third place and received $2,000 for their web-app “ReciCopy.”
John Hurley, SmartFile’s President and Co-Founder, said the judges were impressed with the caliber of work, which made choosing the winners difficult. “But Team Octodog amazed everyone with an impressive and functional application with the right combination of entrepreneurial spark, innovation, real-world viability and skillful development.”
SmartFile’s Bake-Off was not only created to inspire and facilitate engagement between this next generation of programmers, but also to help develop the ecosystem for SmartFile’s new “platform” initiative. During the ceremony, Hurley announced that “the online file platform” from SmartFile would now be FREE for developers who sign up for a beta account. Offering unlimited transfer and 100GB of storage space allows SmartFile to cater to the underserved development community. An official announcement for the online file platform initiative will be made in the coming week.
House Bill 1427 preserves the state’s Common Core academic standards and allows for continued implementation.
The Indiana General Assembly rejected the attacks on Common Core and allowed the standards, which the State Board of Education adopted in August 2010, to continue to be implemented. (Only the elements of the program not already adopted – such as testing and science standards – would be paused under HB 1427).
In another strong move, the Legislature mandated standards that include Common Core as the foundation and require college and career readiness criteria. By those standards still being based on Common Core, that should assure that Indiana keeps its federal waiver (that removed us from the federal No Child Left Behind program) and Title I funding for our schools.
It was also critically important that the ultimate decision-making on Common Core remain with the State Board of Education (as it does), which has adopted all previous Indiana standards (including Common Core) and doesn’t face the same politically-charged environment that exists at the Statehouse.
While we don’t agree that actual new adoption procedures are necessary, several positives could result from that. Further review of the Common Core standards would hopefully provide the general public with a better understanding of what Common Core does and doesn’t do. Plus it will give the state the opportunity to determine which, if any, additional standards we should adopt. (The Common Core multi-state agreement permits Indiana to add up to 15% of its own standards to the program.)
The Indiana Chamber advocated for the Common Core standards to be left in place, both for the merits of the program and the consistency of the rulemaking process.
Earlier today, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and Indiana Senate President David Long announced a deal had been reached on House Bill 1001, the two-year state budget. Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar reacts to the budget provisions:
"The new state budget has a strong focus on jobs and economic growth, putting additional investments into education and workforce development while also making important tax cuts.
"Trimming the individual income tax rate by 5% will not only benefit working Hoosiers but also many of the state's smallest business owners.
"It was particularly important to see some K-12 funding restored (cut during the last budget process) and more dollars targeted for our highways and infrastructure system.
"Meanwhile, the immediate elimination of the inheritance tax is long overdue and will lift a significant burden off of small, family-owned businesses.
"We commend House and Senate leaders, the governor's office and all those who got the budget to where it is — fiscally sound and including a wide variety of positive provisions for Hoosiers."
Two moms from Indianapolis, a handful of their friends and a couple dozen small but vocal Tea Party groups. That’s the entire Indiana movement that is advocating for a halt to the Common Core State Standards. No educational backgrounds. No track record of supporting education reforms or any other past education issues. And worst of all: A demonstrated willingness to say just about anything, no matter how unsubstantiated or blatantly false, to advocate their cause.
Meanwhile, the policy that they are attacking was implemented by former Gov. Mitch Daniels, then State Superintendent Tony Bennett, the Indiana Education Roundtable and the State Board of Education. To date, 45 other states have also adopted it. Common Core has been supported by superintendents, school boards, Indiana’s Catholic and other private schools, principals, teachers unions, the Indiana PTA, various education reform groups, higher education and more. The business community is actively engaged, including strong support from the Indiana Chamber, Eli Lilly, Cummins, Dow AgroSciences, IU Health and many others.
Given that lineup, to whom would you expect the Legislature to be listening? Amazingly, for many in both the House and Senate Republican caucuses, it’s the former and not the latter. Few legislators know anything about Common Core other than the rhetoric that has been thrown at them. Yet, it appears that a majority of Republican legislators are willing to heed those calls, to ignore the more thorough reviews and judgment of individuals and groups that have led on education issues and to throw out two years of implementation that have been underway at schools throughout the state.
Teach for America has made a significant impact in Indiana and in states across the country. The now nearly 25-year effort to bolster the teaching profession has adapted to changes in the education landscape and earned the support of lawmakers through proven results. Heartland reports:
As shifting employment opportunities and reform movements alter the U.S. education landscape, one organization has received steadily increasing support from lawmakers.
Teach for America (TFA) began as Wendy Kopp’s senior thesis in 1989. A Princeton University undergraduate, Kopp wanted to improve poverty-stricken urban schools by recruiting young, enthusiastic, and persistent college-educated adults into education. In 1990, 500 new college grads joined the first TFA class as teachers who bypassed traditional teacher education.
Kopp started “a Peace Corps for urban education,” said Alan Borsuk, a senior fellow at Marquette University Law School. “There was a much bigger need then for a shot in the arm for urban teaching, a lot of jobs open, and it tapped into a realistic [desire] that college grads had that they wanted to do something to help.”
Now TFA is active in almost half the states, this year supporting more than 10,000 young teachers. Donations provide 70 percent of TFA’s income, with governments picking up the other 30 percent. TFA recruits heavily from Ivy League and top-rated public universities, and was listed as one of Fortune’s top 100 companies to work for in 2013. Corps members commit to a two-year stint in needy public schools.
Teach for America has been controversial, however, because its teachers get good results from students with only a summer of teacher training before their two-year placement.
Studies in Tennessee, Louisiana, and North Carolina have found students with TFA teachers learn as much as or more than those with traditional teachers.
Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar sat down with Inside INdiana Business recently to discuss the most pressing topics in the state legislature as the end of session nears. See the video on IIB:
A bill that would create a tax district to fund upgrades at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway continues to make its way through the legislature. Some lawmakers want to add guarantees that would protect state funds if the facility would be sold. In this week's INside the Statehouse segment, Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar says he's "cautiously optimistic" the legislation will pass.
Our partners at Network Indiana/WIBC report a proposed amendment to the bill calls for the speedway to receive a portion of the money the horse racing industry now receives as a loan, rather than forming a tax district. The chance would also give an additional $5 million to the Indiana Economic Development Corp. for other motorsports industry efforts.
Brinegar says the Indiana House and Senate are not too far apart on a two-year state budget. He believes the final product will look closest to the Senate's proposal, which passed through committee last week. That plan includes a smaller individual income tax cut than the 10 percent proposed by Governor Mike Pence and an increase in K-12 funding by more than $330 million. Pence has called the proposal "a good start."
Differences also remain on education issues. The Senate has passed a bill that would halt the implementation of Common Core standards. House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning (R-91) has refused to hear the bill because he believes the standards should move forward.
Officials say 79.3 percent, or roughly 10,700 city high school graduates, had to relearn the basics of reading, writing and math before they could begin college-level courses. That number is up from 71.4 percent in 2007.