FCC’s Official Net Neutrality Decision Coming This Week

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will decide whether to overturn the Obama-era net neutrality regulations that currently govern the internet. It is highly anticipated they will decide to return to the pre-2015 regulations.

Net neutrality implies an open internet environment that internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or web sites.

The 2015 net neutrality laws reclassified high-speed broadband as a public utility under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act rather than the 1996 Telecom Act. These regulations applied to both mobile and fixed broadband networks. The reclassification changed how government treats broadband service and gave the FCC increased controls over internet service providers.

The office of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently issued this Myth vs. Fact statement on returning to the pre-2015 regulations. One issue the public is concerned with is if internet providers would block or “throttle back” certain content to the public. Another is if content developers would pay internet providers for accelerated data transfer. The bigger issue is whether internet providers can operate their businesses as businesses rather than as a public utility. Data show that private investment in internet services has slowed under the post-2015 regulations.

The Indiana Chamber supports free-market competition in the delivery of advanced communications services. The competition in a free-market environment among industry service providers is consistent with providing choice to consumers and an adequate service of last resort in extended service areas.

The Chamber opposes any attempt to impose new regulations on broadband and other next-generation telecommunications services by the FCC, especially through the unilateral reclassification of such services under Title II of the Federal Communications Act.  The Indiana Chamber supports the U.S. Congress examining and deciding issues such as net neutrality. We believe that advanced communications and digital infrastructure are critical to long-term economic development. Since 2006, private companies have invested more than $1.5 billion in new broadband capacity in the state, expanding service to more than 100 Hoosier communities and creating 2,100 new jobs within the industry.

If the FCC rules to return to the pre-2015 regulations, it is expected that Congress will entertain legislation to promote some of the concepts of net neutrality and limit the ability to stifle content.

Tech Talk: Moving Ahead on the Policy Front

2017 Tech Policy Summit

The discussions at the second Indiana Technology & Innovation Policy Summit last Friday were so plentiful and rich with content that three stages were utilized during the five-hour event. Seven sessions and a keynote address were part of the mix.

We’ll hit a few highlights below, but an overall takeaway: Our state has momentum, there is more work to do to continue that positive pace and one way for tech and innovation business leaders to get involved and help ensure success is communicating with your legislators. It’s a critical component.

In the words of the presenters:

  • Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness: Indiana can largely check the box on enhancing its tax and business climate; today is about the innovation climate and building bridges between traditional industries and technology companies. And he says the IoT lab coming to Fishers will send a powerful message about aggregating talent.
  • Software-as-a-Service: The legislative mission is to provide “certainty and predictability to the tech community” about SaaS and tax treatment. Three states (Washington, Tennessee and Pennsylvania) have put up red lights on software development by taxing SaaS. Indiana seeks to join a similar number with a green light encouraging investment. Christopher Day of DemandJump: “It’s not just about SaaS. What it’s about is growing our wealth as a state. It’s time to transition the Crossroads of America to the Nation’s Nucleus.” SaaS panel
  • Certified Technology Parks: Fifteen of 23 tech parks in the state have met the $5 million funding cap. The proposal is to allow those parks that meet certification requirements to be eligible for additional funds to continue to provide technical assistance to companies within the facilities.
  • Larry Gigerich, Ginovus, on expanding investment capital: Twenty states have tax credits that are transferable, sellable or bondable with eight or nine more set to consider such action. Indiana is missing from that equation, its 20% tax credit is no longer competitive against many other states and the state’s cap is “middle of the pack.” Although the Next Level Fund approved in 2017 will be helpful, Gigerich gives preference to a stronger tax credit system.
  • Autonomous vehicles (AV): State Rep. Ed Soliday presented extensive data. Again, Indiana is looking to join other states (21 with legislation, five with executive orders) with some form of policy. Indiana’s goals: ensure public safety and encourage innovation/AV research and development in our state. Soliday says much work needs to be done to convince the public about the benefits.
  • Data centers: Rich Carlton of Data Realty didn’t argue with the general assertion that data centers themselves don’t create large numbers of jobs, but cited the related development and job creation that has taken place in South Bend. Tax treatment is preventing Indiana from being a participant in the national data center boom. A $2 million data center building with an additional $23 million in equipment would be taxed at the first figure in many states, but at $25 million in Indiana. Carlton: “Do we want to have part of something or all of nothing?”

Jeff Brantley, Indiana Chamber vice president of political affairs, connected the dots on legislative victories resulting from both political and policy involvement from the business community.

Micah Vincent, director of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget, shared that we can expect to see the initial Next Level Fund investments in the first quarter of 2018. And he projected that the 2018 Indiana General Assembly may very well end up being the “workforce session.”

Check out the two-page summary of how the legislative positions of the Chamber’s Tech Policy Committee can impact the state’s economic future. Look for continued coverage of these important issues through various Chamber communications.

BizVoice: Takeaways on Building a Business

The November-December edition of BizVoice® wrapped up a yearlong series with Fishers-based Recovery Force. The promising start-up develops wearable medical technology devices intended to increase circulation among other benefits.

BizVoice has followed the company’s progress over the last year, from early inception and beginning work to grow the organization to now, as the company is seeking advanced funding rounds and products are heading to market in 2018.

The first story highlights the Recovery Force beginnings, including the unique approach to solving an everyday medical challenge. Team building is featured in the series’ second story, and the third takes a look at the federal regulatory and grant environment.

Company advisors, from business experts to a former Indianapolis Colts player, discuss their roles with Recovery Force in the fourth story. And the fifth story puts fundraising front and center.

Recently, Recovery Force co-founder, president and CEO Matt Wyatt joined BizVoice editor Tom Schuman on Inside INdiana Business to discuss what’s next for the company in 2018. Watch the video below:

Find all of the Recovery Force stories and more from the November-December edition of BizVoice at www.bizvoicemagazine.com.

Tech Talk: Innovation Policy Takes Center Stage

Fact: Indiana is enjoying success in attracting and growing technology and innovation businesses.

Next step: What public policies can help continue that momentum?

Find out during the Indiana Technology and Innovation Policy Summit on December 1 at the Conrad Indianapolis.

tech summit

Influential industry, government and legislative leaders will highlight policy priorities during morning sessions. Micah Vincent, director of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget, will deliver the luncheon keynote.

This year’s summit builds on the successful 2017 legislative session when a number of key issues supported by the Indiana Chamber became law.

Among the legislative priorities to be featured during this year’s summit:

  • Autonomous Vehicles – Find out about the opportunity for Indiana to engage in and capitalize on the growing interest and work done in autonomous vehicle research and programs. State Rep. Ed Soliday will lead the discussion.
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and tax implications – Indiana ranks second in software job growth. It’s important to clarify the tax situation for SaaS companies so Indiana remains competitive with other states.
  • Data Centers – With the economy increasingly dependent on data, hosting data centers is an economic growth opportunity for Indiana. Rich Carlton, president and COO of Data Realty in South Bend, will talk about fundamental changes the state needs to make to attract data center facilities.

Fisher Mayor Scott Fadness will discuss Smart Cities, Smart State initiatives and the future of certified technology parks will be analyzed. Ted Baker of the Muncie Innovation Center and Karl LaPan of the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center are presenting.

Registration and a continental breakfast start at 8 a.m. The summit begins at 8:30 a.m. and concludes at 1:30 p.m. View the complete agenda.

Registration is $95 for Indiana Chamber members and $125 for non-members. For more information, visit the event page.

Event sponsors are Smithville, the Digital Policy Institute and Purdue University. Additional sponsorship opportunities are available by contacting Jim Wagner.

Tech Talk: Guidance, Insights From the ‘Rise’ Experts

Last week’s Rise of the Rest tour stop in Indianapolis was a powerful testament to the continued emergence of central Indiana’s tech and innovation prowess. Before sharing some of the panel insights and a few observations, a little dose of reality must be included.

This was the 31st stop in recent years for AOL co-founder Steve Case and his traveling team. That means a lot of other cities and regions are also upping their games. In other words, we must keep advancing. Plenty in the Midwest and beyond are also pulling out all the stops to attract innovators, entrepreneurs and the jobs that come with their ideas.

Union 525A daylong series of events included a fireside chat at The Union 525 (recall our BizVoice® story earlier this year on the then emerging venue). Case, author/investor J.D. Vance, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai and former U.S. chief technology officer Megan Smith shared these gems, among others:

  • Case referred to ExactTarget as the “type of breakout iconic success that puts cities on the map.” He added that Indianapolis should be proud of what has been accomplished “but the next five to 10 years is the time to really accelerate.”
  • Calling the internet the “great equalizer,” Pai contends: “To me, no issue for the FCC is greater than closing the digital divide.”
  • Giving the example of doctors serving in the surgeon general role, Smith reminds that it’s important to “make sure entrepreneurs are in the room when determining entrepreneurship policy.” (A dictionary entry on that might point to Indiana and the 2017 legislative session).
  • Vance, speaking of the “downstream effects of the start-up economy” and the need for additional talent: “How do we take that person who has been out of the labor force and bridge the gap – marshal the resources that are on the sidelines.”

Case wrote The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future. He notes the first wave was a decade-long effort (with 300 partners) in going from 3% of Americans online an average of one hour a week in 1985 to truly getting America online. The second wave was building out software services with a focus on apps, not partnerships.

“The third wave is integrating the internet in a much more pervasive way. It’s not about software but getting people and companies to integrate. Companies that think they can go it alone will fail. It’s the old proverb: If you want to go quickly, you can go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Asked about lessons they were taking away from their day in Indianapolis, several agreed on the strong culture and passion in the community. Vance added, “Entrepreneurs who had success are reinvesting in the ecosystem. It absolutely makes a difference. It’s not just the money, but the mentoring and the relationships.”

A student in the audience sought their advice for a young entrepreneur …:

Vance: “Don’t think you have to be the person with the idea. Being the fourth, fifth, 12th person in a high-growth company is a good thing.” (Stay tuned for a similar local sentiment in the coming weeks).

Pai: “Seek out people who fascinate you. People are happy to talk with you and share ideas.” (That is certainly the case in Indiana).

Case: “Pick a battle worth fighting. Don’t pick an easy problem. You only live once.” He recalls this comment from Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it happens.”

Technology Policy Summit, Other Events on Tap

One sign of the continued growth of Indiana’s technology and innovation sectors is the plethora of meetings, conferences, summits and other events that fill the calendar.

Leading the way is the Indiana Chamber’s second Technology Policy Summit. After a successful year advocating on innovation and entrepreneurship issues at the Statehouse in 2017, the organization’s tech policy committee has identified priorities for the year ahead. Look for summit sessions on data center strategies; autonomous vehicles; Smart Cities, Smart State initiatives and more.

The December 1 event (8:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m.) will take place at the Conrad in downtown Indianapolis. We’ll share a more in-depth preview in this space in the coming weeks. Learn more and register at https://www.indianachamber.com/event/technology-policy-summit/.

Among the many other programs coming up:

  • Indy IoT 2017: The New Crossroads of IoT features a focus on making things, moving things and growing things. ClearObject is the organizer of the luncheon program on October 25 at 502 East Event Centre in Carmel.
  • The CIS-IEEE EnCon Engineering Conference highlights the cutting edge of technical innovation. The Cyberinfrastructure Building and the Innovation Center on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington will host the November 10-11 sessions.
  • Innovation, entrepreneurs and more will come together for the 2017 Indiana AgbioSciences Innovation Summit. AgriNovus Indiana presents the daylong program on November 29 at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

Again, these are just a few of the many programs focused on advancing technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in Indiana. We encourage you and your team members to take advantage of the opportunities, get involved and benefit from the collective learning.

Tech Talk: Assessing Tech-Based Growth Strategies

High tech job growth

What can state governments do to best facilitate technology-based economic development? New research published in the Journal of Social Science Research suggests it’s the continuity of support more than making the “big splash.” In other words, the steady pace just might win the race.

Kevin Leicht, a University of Illinois professor and study author, says: “You don’t have to necessarily put a huge amount of money into these investments, and most states don’t. But you have to just keep doing it and plugging along and allow for a lot of failure, and in most cases, you’ll get something for it.”

The State Science & Technology Institute offers this summary of the research findings:

For “State Investments in High-Technology Job Growth”, authors Leicht and J. Craig Jenkins of Ohio State University assess two policy frameworks advanced by proponents of technology-based economic development.

A “technopole strategy” seeks to plan and support the growth of high-tech industries in specific locations. The authors suggest that elements of this centralized strategy include high-technology business incubators that provide subsidized R&D space; research parks; subsidized space for high-tech businesses (including seed accelerators); and technology development programs at universities and/or government industry research consortia.

The less centralized “entrepreneurial strategy” seeks to decrease barriers to starting a small business by supporting the development of local networks, entrepreneurs and partnerships. The authors include the following in this framework: public venture capital programs, small business innovation research programs, technology grant and loan programs, and tech transfer efforts.

The authors found Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio exhibited the longest record of accomplishment in supporting high-tech policies. Ultimately, they concluded that entrepreneurial policies promote high-technology job growth in regional contexts where there is considerable high-tech employment already, while two policies – SBIR and technology deployment policies – had direct, additive effects on high-tech job growth regardless of agglomeration and location factors.

Although precise annual expenditure data would give a more exact measure of job creation in cost/benefit terms, the authors estimate that one additional year of commitment to technology deployment policies yields about 1,300 additional high-tech jobs and one additional year of SBIR commitment yielded 1,976 additional jobs.

The findings suggest that entrepreneurial programs tend to work best for rural (low population density) states, where those policies may help states play “catch up.” Conversely, the authors find limited evidence that technopole strategies support high-technology job growth net of other factors, though these policies can be effective when coupled with existing high-technology advantages.

The conclusions generally support this commonly heard refrain: It is oftentimes the small and incremental steps, not the massive recruitment/relocation deals, which spark transformative economic development.

Tech Talk: Getting the Most From Your Marketing Firm

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jim Walton is CEO of Brand Acceleration, Inc., which focuses on economic development marketing. Jim’s tips, however, can apply to all company-marketing partnerships. Learn more at www.brandaccel.com.

After working in the advertising and marketing industry for several decades, I can tell you that there remains a lot of confusion about what a marketing firm or ad agency does. For many, the notion is that such firms are made up of purple-haired, bearded designer types with tattoos and flip-flops. Admittedly, there are some of those, but today’s successful marketing firms offer much more than just design.

So, how do you select a marketing firm? What skills and characteristics do you look for? Once selected, how do you make the partnership work? Here are a few pointers:

It’s a partnership
The first thing the client (economic developer) needs to remember is that it’s a partnership relationship. Great marketing firms work as part of your marketing team, not just as a vendor who is there to take orders and design stuff. They assume an ownership role in you and your community. They’re in it for the long haul.

Think big picture
Great organizations, including economic development organizations (EDO), have a well-thought-out set of goals, setting forth their vision for the community’s future. From the first day, the EDO should get the new marketing firm involved with the visioning, making them part of the team, and sharing the vision. This is not the time to hold back or to be secretive.

The marketing firm should provide depth and counsel
Have you ever hired a designer to create a new brochure or website, just to find that you spend much of your time teaching him or her about economic development? Maybe you even have to do all the copywriting because the designer doesn’t write.

A great marketing firm should know your industry and your audiences as well, or better, than you. Do they know any site selectors or real estate professionals? Have they ever visited c-suite offices or interviewed corporate executives about their expectations of marketing tools? To save yourself a lot of aggravation, seek out a marketing firm that knows your audiences. They should also demonstrate a deep knowledge of marketing principles. From start-to-finish, the marketing firm should know and be able to communicate your story.

Get them involved early and often
Let’s say your organization wants to target the food industry, and you’re considering ways to reach out to people in that industry. From that very moment, that’s when you should get your marketing firm involved. Rather than simply cranking out a food industry brochure, the marketing firm, working as your partner, will help flesh out important considerations and provide ideas for ways to successfully reach the audience with the right message.

Be open to new ideas
Coming off point number four, you should always be open to new and different ideas. A marketing firm with broad experiences may bring you a suggestion that you never considered. They will also offer suggestions that are more in tune with the big picture (point number two).

Cheaper isn’t necessarily better
We are often asked what our hourly rate is, as if a lower rate means a cheaper final product. It doesn’t. If a vendor has a low hourly rate, there’s probably a good reason for that. Instead, you should look for a firm, fixed price that won’t change unless the scope of work changes. That way, you’ll know how much to budget.

What services do they provide, and which ones do you need?
Some agencies offer a very narrow line of services, like web design. Others offer a much broader list, such as media planning and buying, public relations, video production, workforce attraction marketing, event planning and management, etc. It’s unwise to limit yourself by selecting a firm that is unable to grow with your needs.

Be responsive
Working with a marketing firm does not mean that all the burden is on their shoulders. They’re going to need your input to get work done, especially if the work is on a deadline. You’ll be asked to proofread work and answer numerous questions to be sure it meets your expectations. It’s important to respond right away.

By making your marketing firm a trusted partner in your community economic development marketing effort, you’ll have a much greater likelihood of success. Hire the best, and you’ll experience truly positive results.

Tech Talk: Breaking Down the H-1B Visa Numbers

U.S. employers planned to pay high-skilled foreign workers with H-1B visas a median salary of $80,000 a year in fiscal year 2016, up from about $69,000 a decade earlier, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data. This is the first time the U.S. government has made salary information about H-1B applicants publicly available.

The 2016 median salary reported for H-1B visa applicants was higher than the median salary paid to some U.S. workers in similar high-skill occupations. For example, U.S. workers in computer and mathematical occupations had a median salary of $75,036 in fiscal 2016, a slight increase from 2007, when the median salary was $73,979 (adjusted to 2016 dollars), according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on all U.S. workers. The majority (60%) of all H-1B applicants from fiscal 2007 to 2016 were seeking employment in computer and mathematical occupations.

Several bills have been proposed in Congress this year to change the H-1B program, and the Trump administration has said it backs a plan that would reverse decades of U.S. immigration policy by admitting more high-skilled immigrants and fewer low-skilled immigrants.

The USCIS data show that overall demand for H-1B visas has increased sharply over the past decade. The number of total H-1B visa applications filed by employers on behalf of foreign workers increased from 246,126 in fiscal 2009 to 399,349 in 2016, and is on pace to reach a new high in 2017. Overall, U.S. employers filed more than 3.4 million H-1B visa applications from fiscal 2007 through the end of June 2017 (the first nine months of fiscal 2017).

The U.S. government also released H-1B visa salaries that individual employers plan to pay foreign workers, as indicated on applications approved by USCIS (and still subject to State Department review).

The biggest names in technology planned to pay the highest average salary to H-1B visa holders in fiscal 2016. But they also expected to hire fewer workers than other companies, according to data on applications approved by USCIS. Facebook planned to pay an average salary of $140,758 on 1,107 H-1B visa applications (a total that includes both first-time and renewal applications), the highest average salary paid among the 30 companies with the most visa approvals. Apple planned to pay a $138,563 average salary on 1,992 applications, while Google paid a $131,882 average salary on 2,517 applications.

The top prospective employers of foreign workers on H-1B visas provide information technology and other business services. Cognizant Tech Solutions, an IT consulting company based in New Jersey, had 21,459 applications approved in fiscal 2016, the most of any company. The next two top H-1B employers are companies based in India with offices in the U.S.: Infosys (12,780 applications approved) and Tata Consultancy (11,295).

Tech Talk: Federal Tech Team Still in Place

The following is excerpted from NextGov:

An Obama-era technology troubleshooting team has continued under President Donald Trump, maintaining projects some experts suspected would be shuttered in the new administration.

The U.S. Digital Service, a task force of professionals recruited from the private sector, was established to tackle some of the federal government’s highest profile and highest risk technology challenges. Today, it has satellite operations in seven federal agencies, including Defense, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services.

The team reports to the Office of Management and Budget and is now part of the American Technology Council, a group of business leaders that President Trump taps for advice on federal problems. The Digital Service (USDS) also works with the White House Office of American Innovation, which is led by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and is aiming to modernize government technology.

Among the recent USDS priorities, according to its report to Congress:

  • A variety of projects for Veterans Affairs – building and deploying a system to process claims for disability compensation; piloting a tool to allow lawyers and judges to review evidence from those claims; and launching Vets.gov, an online portal consolidating thousands of federal benefit sites for veterans.
  • Collaborating with U.S. Citizenship and Innovation Services to digitize the immigration paperwork processing system.
  • Shoring up the federal purchasing process, including an education program to train contracting officers on buying digital IT services.

The USDS web site notes that in support of its goals, “We recruit top technologists for term-limited tours of duty with the federal government. We hope to encourage a tradition of public service in the technology industry that will support the ongoing improvement of government digital services.”

Bottom line: There’s no doubt that there are plenty of opportunities for improvement when it comes to government and technology. Let’s hope USDS can play a positive role in that mission.