Master Strategy: Fishers Named 2016 Community of the Year

“Fishers could have stayed nothing more than what it was when I moved there in 1995: a nice place to live with lovely vinyl apartments. But it’s not that (today). And that’s not an accident; it got there with a strong plan,” declares John McDonald, CEO of Fishers-based CloudOne.

No matter who you talk to – business leaders, local officials or longtime residents – they all cite adopting the vision in recent years to become a “smart, vibrant, entrepreneurial city” as the turning point for Fishers. They credit Mayor Scott Fadness for instilling that, with the backing of the city council.

What’s followed is quite the transformation.

Major economic announcements are the new norm, not the exception. Innovation is now synonymous with the fast-growing locale.

That speaks to how dominant a player Fishers has become in the last several years in business attraction and expansion. It boasts an impressive entrepreneurial spirit thanks to Launch Fishers, the largest collaborative co-working space in the state (if not the Midwest)…

Read the full story in BizVoice.

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Indiana Chamber Unveils Top Legislative Priorities for 2017

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Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (right) speaks during Monday’s Indiana Chamber Legislative Preview. He was joined during the panel discussion by Senate President Pro Tem David Long, as well as House Speaker Brian Bosma and Minority Leader Scott Pelath. Our VP Caryl Auslander moderated.

Long-term transportation infrastructure funding, expansion of state-funded preschool to children from low-income families and strategies to reduce the state’s smoking rate are among the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s top priorities for the 2017 session.

These objectives were announced at the organization’s annual legislative preview in Indianapolis today. The event sponsor was Ice Miller LLP.

“Based on studies, reports and simply travelling across the state, it’s pretty apparent that what we desperately need is a long-term, sustainable, transportation infrastructure funding plan,” offers Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

He believes whatever strategies are ultimately settled on to fund the state’s road and bridges, two factors must be taken into consideration.

“We need to completely fund both maintenance needs and important new projects, and ensure that every user pays their fair share.”

Specific funding strategies the Indiana Chamber could support include: indexing the fuel excise taxes/fees to inflation; raising fuel excise taxes/fees; charging fees for alternative-fuel vehicles (which aren’t subject to the regular fuel tax); tolling a major interstate; and dedicating all of the sales taxes on fuel to infrastructure (the current model allots a penny with the other six cents going to the state’s general fund).

Brinegar notes that the Indiana Chamber would support replacing any revenue lost to the general fund with another revenue source so that the general fund is left whole.

Education is also high on the organization’s agenda.

“We are encouraged that virtually everyone involved sees the need to increase state-funded preschool,” Brinegar begins. “The Indiana Chamber will be advocating that disadvantaged youngsters take priority for the state’s limited dollars.

“We want to see legislators focus on fiscal responsibility, ensure preschool programs are of high quality and adopt a mixed delivery model that includes public schools, Head Start programs, licensed family and center-based childcare, as well as community-based organizations. All of those things are vitally important.”

The Indiana Chamber is part of the All IN 4 Pre-K coalition.

Separately, the Indiana Chamber is supporting suitable testing for students and accountability measures for all involved in the education process.

“Clearly there have been issues with ISTEP testing and the communication of result expectations based on the state’s new college and career-ready standards,” Brinegar says. “But the fundamental importance of measuring students, teachers and schools remains. That’s how we can predict student progress, rate teacher effectiveness and compare and contrast school performance relative to state and national peers.”

Indiana ranks 44th in the nation for highest percentage of smokers. Brinegar stresses that the increased health care costs associated with this level of smoking has the attention of employers.

“These workers are less healthy, have higher insurance premiums and miss more days on the job – and some are not able to work at all.”

The Indiana Chamber, a member of the new Alliance for a Healthier Indiana, is backing a comprehensive approach to reducing the state’s smoking rate. The proposal includes: raising the price of cigarettes via a tax increase; funding a more robust smoking cessation program; increasing the smoking age from 18 to 21; and repealing special privileges for smokers (that prohibit employers from asking possible new hires if they smoke).

“Right now, Indiana is spending substantially more on smokers with health issues who are on Medicaid than it is taking in via cigarette tax revenues. For every pack sold and taxed at 99.5 cents, the state spends at least $15.90 in related health care costs,” Brinegar states. “Obviously that’s not a sustainable tradeoff and needs the state’s attention.”

In the summer, the Indiana Chamber more closely aligned with the state’s technology industry, forming the Indiana Technology & Innovation Council to facilitate better communication and coordination among interested parties.

According to Brinegar, a key focus is public policy so technology leaders can present a strong, unified voice at the Statehouse. Out of the gate, the goal is to “make technology innovation an integral part of the state’s identity.”

Brinegar says: “Indiana is already fostering an impressive entrepreneurial spirit and becoming a technology hub in the Midwest. But we need to better support our technology successes and build on them. After all, our technology efforts now provide tremendous support to the agriculture, logistics and manufacturing sectors in the state – three of our main cogs.”

The Technology and Innovation Policy Summit on December 15 will unveil all the council’s legislative goals.

A complete rundown of the Indiana Chamber’s 2017 key legislative initiatives (top priorities and additional areas of focus) is available at www.indianachamber.com/priorities.

Also at the legislative preview event, five state legislators were honored as Indiana Chamber Small Business Champions “for their hard work and dedication to improving Indiana’s small business climate.” This award is based on voting and advocacy during the past legislative session.

The 2016 Small Business Champions are: Sen. Travis Holdman from Markle, District #19; Sen. Tim Lanane from Anderson, District #25; Rep. Matt Lehman from Berne, District #79; Rep. Karlee Macer from Indianapolis, District# 92; and Rep. Ed Soliday from Valparaiso, District #4.

Recap of the Indiana Chamber’s Top 8 legislative priorities:

  • Support establishing a long-term sustainable funding stream for the state’s roads, bridges, etc.
  • Support the expansion of publicly-funded preschool initiatives for children from low income families
  • Support suitable testing for students and accountability for all involved in the education process
  • Support comprehensive approach to decreasing the state’s smoking rate
  • Support a statewide water policy to assure future resources and our economic prosperity
  • Support making technology innovation an integral part of the state’s identity
  • Support maintaining and enhancing our attractive tax climate
  • Support a work share program that will allow employers to maintain a skilled stable workforce during temporary downturns

Driving Force: Rep. Dan Leonard Named 2016 Government Leader of the Year

Old habits die hard. And that’s a good thing – for Hoosier businesses and their employees – when linked to Dan Leonard’s propensity to serve others.

He fondly recalls time spent as a child at his parent’s country grocery store. Leonard started ringing up customers as soon as he was tall enough (aided by a trusty bar stool) to reach the cash register.

“I remember the first day we had a $100 day in the grocery store. It was a big deal!” he says with a laugh.

Those early memories sparked a penchant for building relationships and a passion for making a difference – whatever the scale.

Leonard owns South Side Furniture of Huntington, a business he purchased from his father in 1978. Elected to the Indiana House of Representatives in 2002, he serves Huntington County, and portions of Wells and Allen counties. He’s a member of the House Ways and Means Committee (and local government finance subcommittee chair), Judiciary Committee and is the speaker of the House’s appointee to the Native American Indian Affairs Commission…

Read the full story in BizVoice.

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Sponsorship Opportunities Still Available for 2017 Legislative Directory (Including Cover)!

legdirectory17-coverA limited number of sponsorship opportunities remain for the Indiana Chamber’s 2017 Legislative Directory. This annual guide to the Indiana General Assembly is the go-to publication for Statehouse insight. The directory provides biographies, photos, contact information, committee assignments and more for all 150 legislators.
As a sponsor, you have the opportunity to reach the Indiana Chamber’s vast network. CEOs, business owners, government affairs professionals, large employers, universities, associations, legislators and more keep this guide handy as they navigate the Statehouse. Becoming a sponsor gives you the chance to reach this audience.
Sponsorships start as low as $1,000 and include placement in both the print and mobile app versions. The cover sponsorship is still available as well! For a modest investment, you can take your message to key decision makers throughout Indiana.
To reserve your sponsorship or find out more, call Tim Brewer at (317) 496-0704 or email tbrewer@indianachamber.com.

Indiana Chamber Presents Top Honors at 27th Annual Awards Dinner

Don Inmon and Matt Macbeth of pi Lab have taken flight with their creation, Edwin the Duck. The Carmel-based duo was named as the 2016 Indiana Vision 2025 Dynamic Leaders of the Year at last night’s 27th Annual Awards Dinner.

An agriculture titan, a small-business-owning state representative, the two minds behind a groundbreaking children’s tech toy and a bustling entrepreneurial city were awarded the highest honors tonight at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s 27th Annual Awards Dinner.

The winners are:

  • Business Leader of the Year: Sonny Beck, of Beck’s Hybrids in Atlanta
  • Government Leader of the Year: State Rep. Dan Leonard (R-Huntington)
  • Indiana Chamber Foundation’s Indiana Vision 2025 Dynamic Leaders of the Year: pi lab “Edwin the Duck” creators Matt MacBeth and Don Inmon
  • Lifeline Data Centers Community of the Year: Fishers

“Each of the award winners is working to enhance not only their industries or regions, but the entire state of Indiana. They are working to make Indiana a better place to work and live,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “The lasting achievements made by our honorees will impact our state far beyond 2016.”

(Stay tuned on this blog for videos and BizVoice stories about each of the winners.)

The Indiana Chamber’s annual dinner featured Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George F. Will as keynote speaker to the crowd of nearly 1,500 at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis.

The event was presented in partnership with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Lifeline Data Centers is the Community of the Year sponsor. Ivy Tech Community College served as the speaker sponsor, while the opening reception sponsor was Uzelac & Associates. The speaker reception sponsor was Hirons & Company Advertising + Public Relations.

The Indiana Chamber Foundation sponsored the Indiana Vision 2025 Dynamic Leader of the Year honor. Indiana Vision 2025 is the Indiana Chamber’s long-range economic development plan and the award emphasizes entrepreneurship and others facets of the plan’s Dynamic and Creative Culture driver.

The awards dinner followed the Indiana Chamber’s fall board of directors and annual membership meetings. Indiana Chamber Volunteers of the Year Stuart Buttrick (Faegre Baker Daniels, Indianapolis); Todd Miller (Myers Spring Company, Logansport); Mark Richards (Ice Miller, Indianapolis); were announced during a luncheon ceremony.

Ron Christian – executive vice president external affairs, and chief legal officer and corporate secretary at Vectren Corporation in Evansville – was formally elected the Indiana Chamber’s 2017 chair of the board of directors.

Business Leader of the Year: Sonny Beck, Beck’s Hybrids, Atlanta, IN
Stroll through the expansive Beck’s Hybrids operation in northern Hamilton County and one will find no shortage of inspirational messages. Speak to CEO Sonny Beck for any period of time and many of those same sayings seamlessly flow into the conversation.

In other words, the “words” are much more than terms or expressions that are placed on paper and forgotten. They are the driving force behind the largest family-owned seed company in the country – one that has
experienced tremendous growth over the past quarter century.

Beck: “I love the fields, the production side, but I’ve grown to love planning a lot. Your ability to analyze the whole problem and bring life experiences in – that can seem to not diminish. We’re growing fast enough that I keep giving jobs off to other people and my son now keeps giving jobs off to other people. But we keep thinking of new ideas we want to do. I’m always thinking about new projects.”

Government Leader of the Year: State Rep. Dan Leonard (R-Huntington)
Old habits die hard. And that’s a good thing – for Hoosier businesses and their employees – when linked to Dan Leonard’s propensity to serve others.

Leonard owns South Side Furniture of Huntington, a business he purchased from his father in 1978. Elected to the Indiana House of Representatives in 2002, he serves Huntington County, and portions of Wells and Allen counties.

His leadership, determination and common sense approach on unemployment compensation (UI) legislation and other business issues has benefited Indiana companies throughout the state. The savings from UI bills total billions of dollars.

Leonard: “I’m just finishing up 14 years and it’s been a real learning experience. Sometimes you come out on the good end, and sometimes you come out on the bad end. You have to learn how to work with people. That’s a big advantage for me because I’m in retail and I work with people on a regular basis – different people with different views and different thoughts.”

Indiana Vision 2025 Dynamic Leaders of the Year: Matt MacBeth and Don Inmon, pi lab, Carmel
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck … it’s likely a duck – as the idiom conveys.

However, if it syncs with mobile apps, teaches life lessons and takes the Internet of Things to a whole new level, it might be better described as revolutionary in the children’s toy industry.

That was the hope when Matt MacBeth and Don Inmon developed pi lab and its flagship product – Edwin the Duck.

MacBeth: “In Old English, Edwin means ‘faithful friend.’ We wanted a personality, a name and a product that would go through life with you. Edwin shares life from the same angle as you. He’s an aspirational character.”

Inmon: “I had a light bulb moment in Hong Kong. I saw a rubber duck that had a speaker in it that was for sale. It was very poorly done. But it hit me: What if we took something that was nostalgic and put modern day technology in it?”

Community of the Year: Fishers
No matter who you talk to – business leaders, local officials or longtime residents – they all cite adopting the vision in recent years to become a “smart, vibrant, entrepreneurial city” as the turning point for Fishers. They credit Mayor Scott Fadness and the city council.

What’s followed is quite the transformation. Major economic announcements are the new norm, not the exception. Innovation is now synonymous with the fast-growing city.

That speaks to how dominant a player Fishers has become in business attraction and expansion. It boasts an impressive entrepreneurial spirit thanks to Launch Fishers, the largest collaborative co-working space in the state (if not the Midwest). Collaboration and embracing change have been crucial.

Mayor Fadness: “They (residents) recognize for the most part that change is inevitable and if you can articulate to them why that change makes sense, they’re apt to go along with that. That positions us well to move our community forward.”

2016 Annual Dinner corporate sponsors: AT&T; French Lick Resort; Hoosier Park Racing & Casino and Indiana Grand Racing & Casino; NIPSCO; Ogletree Deakins; OneAmerica Financial Partners, Inc.; Tilson; Wellness Council of Indiana; and Zimmer Biomet.
Contributing sponsors: Allison Transmission; City Securities Corporation; Community Health Network; FedEx; Fineline Printing Group; Hunt Construction Group, An AECOM Company; Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick; Indiana Soybean Alliance/Indiana Corn Marketing Council; JPMorgan Chase & Co.; KERAMIDA Inc.; Keystone Realty Group; Markey’s Rental & Staging; Pacers Sports & Entertainment; Roche Diagnostics Corporation; Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc.; The Kroger Co.; Vectren; WFYI Productions; and WGU Indiana.

RECENT INDIANA CHAMBER ANNUAL AWARD WINNERS:

Business Leader of the Year
Mike Packnett, Parkview Health, Fort Wayne – 2015
Mike Kubacki, Lake City Bank, Warsaw – 2014
Steve Ferguson, Cook Group, Inc., Bloomington – 2013
Scott Dorsey, ExactTarget, Indianapolis – 2012
Jean Wojtowicz, Cambridge Capital Management Corp., Indianapolis – 2011
Mike Wells, REI Real Estate Services, Indianapolis – 2010

Government Leader of the Year
State Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek) – 2015
Congresswoman Susan Brooks – 2014
Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar – 2013
Sen. Carlin Yoder and Rep. Jerry Torr – 2012
Speaker of the House Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long – 2011
Tony Bennett, state superintendent of public instruction – 2010

Community of the Year
Carmel – 2015
Bloomington – 2014
Bedford – 2013
Indianapolis – 2012
Kokomo – 2011
Terre Haute – 2010

Indiana Vision 2025 Dynamic Leader of the Year
Dustin Sapp, TinderBox, Indianapolis – 2015

Go Vote! Then Let’s Move from Politics to Policy

Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar comments on the election aftermath:

“We probably have just witnessed the most bizarre and bruising election of our lifetimes. It’s critical to move on quickly from any bitterness of the campaigns or results and come together as a state and nation.

“We need lawmakers to concentrate on the business of governing and moving our economies forward. Let’s focus on producing positive outcomes and Indiana continuing to set an example as a state that gets things done.”

Misclassification of Workers and Cost of Surety Bonds Debated

The second meeting of the Interim Study Committee on Employment and Labor took place recently. Committee members discussed a proposal offered by Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage) that would address some concerns related to the misclassification of workers specific to the construction industry. Her proposal would create a payroll fraud task force that would identify those commercial and industrial construction projects in which payroll fraud or employee misclassification is suspected of occurring.

The task force would assess investigative and enforcement methods. Additionally, the group would supervise and direct an investigator hired by the Department of Labor (DOL) and assigned to the task force to conduct investigations and enforcement activities.

The task force would consist of the commissioners from the DOL, the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and the Department of Revenue (DOR), plus the chair of the Worker’s Comp Board. A task force fund would be created as result of penalties and interest assessed against employers that would be used to administer the investigations. Most of the public did not have access to a copy of the proposal until after the hearing.

The DOL testified that there was already a mechanism for fraud. A web site hosted by the DOL allows for online reporting of any suspected misclassification of workers. The information gets forwarded to the DOR, DWD and the Worker’s Comp board; these agencies then handle each tip accordingly, with all information remaining confidential. It was estimated that there are two to four reports per month. Committee Chair Rep. Doug Gutwein (R-Francesville) did not allow the proposal to be included in the recommendation report of the committee. It is anticipated that Sen. Tallian will draft similar legislation in the upcoming legislative session.

The committee also heard testimony from the Surety & Fidelity Association of America (SFAA) on the pricing of surety bonds on public works projects. As a licensed rating or advisory organization for the states, SFAA develops a manual of rating rules for surety bonds that their members may adopt. Bond companies may either file the rates advised by SFAA or file their own. SFAA serves as the statistical agent in Indiana for reporting premium and loss data to the Department of Insurance. The premium for a bond is based upon the construction contract. The surety’s assessment must take into account the size and scope of the underlying obligation and is designed to prevent defaults on construction projects.

The cost of surety bonds on public work projects is generally between .5% and 3% of the amount of the construction contract. From 2001 to 2014 the surety industry collected $380 million in premiums and assumed a total exposure of about $38 billion. Approximately $85.4 million was incurred in direct losses on those bonds during the same period. Representative Bob Morris (R-Fort Wayne) suggested that Indiana might be able to self-insure on surety bonds and come out financially a little better. No action was taking on his suggestion.

U.S. Senate: Young, Bayh Speak Out in BizVoice

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BizVoice talked to both men separately this summer, asking them the same questions on policies critical to Indiana Chamber member companies and the business community at-large. (NOTE: The Indiana Chamber’s Congressional Affairs Committee has endorsed Rep. Todd Young in this race.) 

BV: What is your view on the federal tax code … are there areas you feel need attention? If so, what reforms do you see as the most important?

YOUNG: “We need to simplify the tax code. Washington needs to stop picking winners and losers through the tax code. We need to stop the double taxation of overseas income so that hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. profit can be repatriated and invested in places like Indiana to create jobs and raise wages.

“We need to lower the corporate tax rate; we have the highest rate in the industrialized world – that clearly undermines our competitiveness and has even been causing our major corporations, with all their jobs, to relocate their operations overseas. And we need to lower the individual tax rate so that families and small businesses can participate actively in the economy.”

BAYH: “We need a tax code that is certainly simpler; it costs way too much to comply with it; it’s way too complicated. One of the areas I think we can get some bipartisan agreement on would be in the area of corporate tax reform – to get the tax rate down to make us globally competitive. Currently we have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world, which leads to a couple of negative consequences. Number one: A lot of businesses that are globally competitive have stranded profits abroad. I think it’s in excess of a trillion dollars. So by making the corporate rate globally competitive, we would allow them to bring those profits home to invest in their U.S. operations.

“Number two: The fact that our tax code is not globally competitive creates an incentive for foreign companies to buy U.S. companies basically as a tax arbitrage (profiting from differences in how income or capital gains are taxed); it also leads to U.S. companies to re-domicile themselves overseas. By getting the tax rate down and making it globally competitive, you do away with that phenomenon.”

Read the full Q&A online.

Chamber to Study Committee: ‘Why Jeopardize Our Tax-Friendly Image?’

The much anticipated study of combined reporting, performed over the summer by the Legislative Services Agency (LSA) Office of Fiscal Management Analysis, was recently outlined to the legislative Interim Committee on Fiscal Policy.

As a refresher: Combined reporting would impact companies here with operations outside of the state. It tasks these businesses with adding together all profits for one report. Indiana’s current system of separate accounting allows for each subsidiary to report independently based on its location.

The study was required by SEA 323, which passed last session. That legislation also directed a study of the related issue of transfer pricing. Both LSA studies were presented to the interim committee and have now been made available to the public.

The combined reporting study, however, was by far the more comprehensive and was the primary subject of discussion at the interim committee meeting. The report includes examples that demonstrate how a switch to mandatory unitary combined reporting would have varying impacts on taxpayers.

Depending on their particular circumstances, some taxpayers would see their tax liability increase while others would see it decrease. The end result being that the overall effect on the tax revenue stream is unpredictable.

Using data from numerous states and applying econometric techniques, the LSA economists estimated that Indiana could see an initial spike in corporate tax revenue but that it would “only be short term and will decline to zero in the long run.” The study also recognized that while the change could be beneficial in addressing some current issues, such as transfer pricing disputes, it would raise a multitude of new administrative burdens and complexities; most notably those associated with the core difficulty, “determination of the unitary group” – exactly which affiliated entities are ultimately to be deemed part of those that must be combined. In other words, going to combined reporting only trades one set of problems for a different challenge of substantial magnitude.

Studying combined reporting is itself a complicated and difficult task. The LSA did a nice job of putting the issues in historical and practical context, identifying the issues and analyzing the potential impacts. What it could not do, because it isn’t really its role, is fully evaluate how a change could disrupt the progress that has been made over the past 15 years in improving our state’s business climate. Governor Robert Orr concluded in 1984 that combined reporting would be “extremely detrimental to Indiana’s economic growth.” In his open letter to all corporate taxpayers, he offered his assurance that Indiana “does not, and will not, require combined reporting.” That position proved significant in attracting the large manufacturing facilities built by multi-national companies that presently employ thousands of Hoosiers across the state.

Why would you want to reverse this course, abandon the certainty that comes with 50 years of tax law and jeopardize our image as the most business-friendly state in the Midwest and among the top in the nation? This was the core of the Indiana Chamber’s testimony to the interim committee. As for those who view a possible change to combined reporting as a means for dealing with what they label a “compliance issue”, the Chamber committed to work with them. We will need to find less drastic ways to address their concerns and identify ways to respond to the situations they believe represent noncompliance.

It should be noted that concerns with transfer pricing issues seem to have served as the impetus for much of the larger discussion of combined reporting. Consequently, focusing on those issues would provide the potential for reaching resolutions, without a major structural conversion to mandatory unitary combined reporting. In fact, Appendix A to the Transfer Pricing study points to several possibilities that deserve further exploration.

View the combined reporting study and transfer pricing study.

Workers’ Comp Rates Being Reduced; Will Save Millions for Indiana Businesses

Earlier this month, Indiana Department of Insurance Commissioner Stephen Robertson announced the approval of a 9.3% reduction for workers’ compensation rates to be effective January 1, 2017. The reduction is the biggest rate decrease Indiana has seen in 25 years.

This reduction will result in savings of approximately $82.7 million dollars for Hoosier businesses.

The Indiana Comprehensive Rating Bureau established this recommended advisory rate by taking a two-year review (2013-2014) and estimating going forward.

Workers’ compensation insurance covers medical costs associated with workplace injuries and provides wage replacement benefits to injured workers for lost work time. The frequency of such claims is down both in the state and nationally. These lower rates are also likely a result of workplaces generally becoming safer.

For many years, the Indiana Chamber has fought for rational, reasonable laws; we are glad to see the Department of Insurance recognize the current climate and take this positive step. The savings are significant and will help encourage additional growth in the business community.