Ag Strength – By the Numbers

agThere’s no doubting the continued strength of Indiana’s agricultural industry (see the state fact sheet). We’ve told the stories often in BizVoice magazine – and will do so in the upcoming July-August issue (with a look at the prominence of ag businesses in Kosciusko County).

But according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, Indiana did not rank in the top three exporters by state of various products. There are some interesting states and dollar figures included (selected examples):

  • Soybeans: Illinois ($3.1 billion), Iowa ($2.7 billion) and Minnesota ($1.8 billion)
  • Corn: The same three states as soybeans, with Iowa leading the way at $1.1 billion
  • Wheat: Kansas ($1.5 billion), North Dakota and Montana
  • Pork: Iowa ($2 billion), North Carolina and Minnesota
  • Beef: Nebraska ($946 million), Texas and Kansas
  • Dairy; California ($1.2 billion), Wisconsin and New York
  • Poultry: Georgia, North Carolina and Arkansas
  • Fresh fruit: California ($2.5 billion), Florida ($3.2 billion) and Washington

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.

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 or (317) 264-6898.

Organizations Earn IOED Grants for Energy Conservation Efforts

fThe Indiana Office of Energy Development (OED) recently announced seven grantees that will share almost $600,000 to help support their unique, Hoosier-based community energy conservation projects.

Recipients of the 2015 Community Conservation Challenge (CCC) grants are:

Bethany Christian Schools – $100,000
Bethany Christian Schools will utilize its CCC grant dollars to install solar panels on its school roof. It will also install a wind turbine, which will be accomplished through other partnerships the school has established. Bethany Christian Schools will incorporate energy projects and conservation considerations into its student curriculum and community events.

Center for Sustainable Living – $99,989
Five congregations of different faith traditions will install solar panels to reduce their energy costs. These congregations cover a large portion of the state and include the communities of Bloomington, Indianapolis, Jeffersonville, Merrillville and Gary. The Center will share this project’s successes and promote energy conservation with other congregations and faith traditions around the state.

City of Bloomington – $59,381
Five facilities in Bloomington and Ellettsville – including two schools, one park, a fire station and a parking garage – will receive LED lighting upgrades and motion sensors through the CCC grant. The City of Bloomington and Monroe County will reach out to residents through all forms of traditional and social media to teach them how to become more energy efficient.

Evansville Park Foundation – $100,000
The Park Foundation will use its CCC grant dollars to install off-grid, stand-alone solar powered LED lighting with battery backups at Jacobsville Park and the Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage. Neither of these locations has any form of lighting currently. These lights will not only be more energy efficient than traditional forms of lighting, but they will also help to extend park hours and provide enhanced public safety. The Parks Foundation will also reach out to residents about energy efficiency through this project. Vectren Corporation, the local electric utility, has selected this project for further study with the intent to develop an educational outreach plan for consumers.

Indiana Municipal Power Agency (IMPA) – $38,579
LED streetlights will be installed in Dublin (Wayne County) and Williamsport (Warren County) using CCC grant dollars. These LED lights will replace less efficient mercury vapor lamps. IMPA will share project successes and promote energy efficiency with its other 59 member communities and their customers.

Lake Shore Foods Corporation – $100,000
The Karwich and Franklin stores of Al’s Supermarkets in Michigan City will retrofit their lighting to LEDs. This energy efficiency project will be shared with their customers and local residents through “Al’s Good Neighbor Program” which promotes Food, Exercise and Sustainability.

Loftus Robinson – $100,000
Loftus Robinson will install a combined heat and power (CHP) project at The Switch, a mixed-used commercial facility in downtown Fishers. CHP is an integrated and highly efficient energy system that captures the “waste heat” produced by electricity generation. This waste heat is recycled and can be used for additional energy needs like heating or hot water. This system will also provide standby power for emergency lighting and elevator systems. The City of Fishers will partner with Loftus Robinson to educate the public on the project and its benefits for the community.

“We were very pleased with the response to this year’s CCC grant program,” said Tristan Vance, Director of the Indiana Office of Energy Development (OED) and Chief Energy Officer for the State. “This competitive grant program recognizes and encourages collaborative conservation efforts. Perhaps most importantly, the ability to incorporate an educational component into each community project helps tell important energy conservation stories in clear and tangible ways.”

Chamber-Supported Water Bills Pass Out of Committee

The Chamber supports two bills that recently unanimously passed out of the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee.

SB 473 requires the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to establish a program under which volunteers may monitor the water resources, which includes both ground water and surface water. This data will be provided to IDNR. Provides that the department shall: (1) train the volunteers participating in the program in the proper collection and transmission of data; (2) determine the location and ensure the adequacy of the monitoring wells used in the program; and (3) conduct water resource monitoring independent of the program to verify the quality of the data derived from the program.

In testimony, the Chamber supported the development of a comprehensive water resources plan. An essential element of that plan will be adequate and reliable data. Senate Bill 473 creates a mechanism that will allow the voluntary collection of data from diverse sources which is then managed by state and federal agencies. This data will fill a current void in the depleted monitoring network with minimal cost and effort by the state.

SB 474 requires the Indiana Finance Authority to prepare an analysis of the planning and long-range needs of: (1) the water utilities serving the 15 most populous cities in Indiana; and (2) five other water utilities selected by the authority, each of which serves fewer than 10,000 customers.

The Chamber testified that an integral part of a water resources plan is the ability of the state’s water utilities to create and execute long-range plans. Senate Bill 474 uses the ongoing efforts of the Indiana Finance Authority to analyze a sampling of the state’s water utilities to assess their ability to construct and implement long-range plans.

Energy Projects Could Earn State Funding

Creative and unique energy conservation programs could earn some funding support from the state. Applications are now open for the 2015 Community Conservation Challenge (CCC) grant program.

Below are a few of the particulars with full details online from the Indiana Office of Energy Development.

  • Available funding: $700,000
  • Application deadline: February 20

CCC projects must be located in Indiana and must use commercially-available technologies. The project must be visible to the public and have at least one community partner, demonstrate measurable improvements in energy efficiency or the use of renewable energy, result in a reduction in energy demand or fuel consumption, or involve the implementation of an energy recycling process.

Eligible Indiana applicants include local units of government, school corporations, businesses, universities, and nonprofits. Applicants may apply for either an Energy Efficiency/Renewable Energy grant or an Alternative Fuel Vehicles grant.

Winners from the 2012 CCC Program included Ozinga Indiana, RMC, which converted six diesel ready-mix trucks to compressed natural gas (CNG); Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light for a solar energy project; the Linton-Stockton School Corporation for a new HVAC system, new roof and boilers; and CNG truck conversions for Bestway.

Legislative Testimony: Supporting Energy Efficiency

The Indiana Chamber’s Vince Griffin testified today in support of Senate Bill 412 – Demand Side Management, authored by Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis).

The Indiana Chamber supports a diverse energy supply. Energy efficiency is an essential element in that diverse portfolio. It is in the best interest of both the industry and utility to promote energy efficiency.

The industry benefits by lowering its utility bill and the power provider benefits by not building additional and very expensive generating facilities.

Promise Initiative is Indeed Promising

I went to Wabash (the city, not the college) recently. At one point (1985-88), I was in Wabash full time as sports editor of the local newspaper. Among the highlights during that time: a still celebrated 1986 state baseball championship.

But I digress. The reason for this visit to Wabash was for an upcoming BizVoice magazine story on the Wabash County Promise. And if young, energetic leaders have their way — and there is no reason to doubt them — the program to drive postsecondary educational attainment will one day be the Indiana Promise.

The Promise begins with opening 529 college savings accounts for young students (kindergarten through third grade). It continues with touch points that engage students and parents. It includes a Walk Into My Future day that brings thousands of young people to a college campus.

The initial success is laudable. The local leaders I spoke with know they must continue the work.  One, Parker Beauchamp, told me about speaking on campus (with the words really applying to the entire program): “It was about pumping those kids up, having them be part of something positive and letting them have a say in their future.”

The full story will be the in March-April BizVoice, which will include more articles on business-education connections and the possibilities that emerge through strong partnerships.


An Energy/Environmental Issue Primer for the Start of Session

The 2015 legislative session began Tuesday and will adjourn no later than April 29. This “long session” will include the state’s $30 billion biennial budget and likely see more than 1,000 bills filed. Bill filing deadlines are January 13 and 14 for the House and Senate, respectively. You can count on the environmental and energy area to add its fair share of legislative ideas to the mix. In the environmental arena, we expect to see the following:

  • The Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s perennial laundry list of technical “clean-up” items
  • Rep. David Wolkins’ “No More Stringent Than” annual initiative
  • Something related to “brownfields” and clean-up efforts
  • Anti-harvesting of Indiana’s hardwoods
  • Above-ground storage tanks controls

In the “water resources” area, we expect to see the following:

  • Legislation to direct the Indiana Finance Authority to survey/examine the larger – and a few smaller – water supply utilities in the state
  • Establish an Indiana Water Resources Institute
  • Create incentives to promote water utilities to invest in infrastructure improvements

And it is likely that the electric power/energy area will really heat up (sorry) as multiple issues rise:

  • Legislation related to the Governor’s energy plan
  • Energy efficiency measures
  • Allowance to purchase electric power outside the current provider
  • Install a requirement that any new electric power generation be allowed competitive bids/procurement
  • Establish a rate case schedule for electric power utilities of XX (to be determined number of) years
  • Address the rural vs. municipal territorial/compensation dispute

Not all of these issues are ones that the Indiana Chamber will necessarily oppose or support – they will be part of the discussion but some may never get a hearing. This is like your friendly weather forecaster trying to tell you if it will rain, snow or be sunny in one month.