Job ‘Casualties’ Mount Due to Device Tax

16446238In our most recent Indiana Chamber Policy Call with Congressman Todd Rokita, the subject of the medical device tax came up. No surprise. It’s been a topic in countless conversations ever since the terrible idea was first broached in 2010.

Rokita expressed confidence that repeal will make its way to the President’s desk in 2015. What happens then, of course, can’t be predicted.

A recent Site Selection article notes that concerns have only multiplied. It contains quotes and analysis from Cook Group chairman and long-time Indiana Chamber board member Steve Ferguson, who says five plants (each would have employed up to 300 people) have been “put on hold” because of the tax.

Check out the full article.

Harmonizing Music History with Worker Productivity

19188345Technology improvements are generally associated with getting the same amount of productivity with fewer workers. But something called the “quartet effect” – with links back to the lyrics of the Grateful Dead – instead emphasizes enhancing what people do with their time. Governing reports:

In the foreword to David Dodd’s The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, Robert Hunter, the band’s “lyricist in residence,” wrote that the song “Uncle John’s Band” represented “the first lyric I wrote with the aid of that newfangled gadget, the cassette tape recorder. I taped the band playing the arrangement and was able to score lyrics at leisure rather than scratch away hurriedly at rehearsals, waiting for particular sections to come around again.”

What Hunter was describing, of course, was an improvement in productivity resulting from the application of new technology. Productivity is usually measured in terms of the labor cost per unit of production, and in most cases improvement is achieved by using new technology to reduce head count. For instance, a steel mill that once employed 10,000 workers produces the same tonnage with only a thousand employees, bank tellers are replaced by ATMs and elevator operators become a thing of the past. But in Hunter’s application of new technology, no one’s position was eliminated. It’s an example of what has been called “the quartet effect” at work.

When you reduce the head count of a musical quartet, you have not improved its productivity. If what you wanted was the music of a quartet, you have destroyed the product. The technology Hunter employed is the kind that, rather than eliminating jobs, allows existing staff to make better use of their time and gives them the opportunity to create higher-quality products.

How is this relevant to government? For most local governments, public safety constitutes the largest single category of expenditures, typically accounting for about 60 percent of total costs. For states and for some local governments, education is the dominant cost category. But it’s important to remember that within these areas, personnel costs — the salaries and benefits of police officers, firefighters and school teachers — are the real cost drivers. Personnel costs typically represent 80 percent or more of the total cost of a police department, for example. Few would argue that taking cops off the streets or teachers out of classrooms improves productivity.

AAR, Vincennes Univ. Programs Help Students Get Aviation Careers Airborne

vu 4AAR, an aviation services and products company with 60 global locations — including Indianapolis — and Vincennes University have a partnership that is producing well-trained airline services technicians, mechanics and more.

These organizations held a “Tug and Tour” event at the Vincennes University Aviation Technology Center (ATC) at the Indianapolis International Airport Wednesday. We were able to attend, joined by educators, economic development officials, military veterans and others. The event featured a tour of an aircraft hangar, as well as lunch on a Boeing 737. As Samuel L. Jackson can attest, lunch on a plane is far superior to snakes on a plane (my apologies; I’ll show myself out).

The Programs

The ATC features advanced aviation labs, testing equipment and elaborate maintenance hangars — and class sizes are limited to 25 students.

It was enlightening to learn about the partnership and how well-prepared these students are as they jump from the classroom and hands-on training into well-paying careers. Additionally, AAR offers paid internships to many Vincennes students in the program. VU instructor Ed Briggeman explained the industry is thriving, and that students who complete VU’s Aviation Maintenance program have many opportunities through the school’s myriad partners and connections. Furthermore, the program prepares students for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification and entry-level employment. A certified mechanic can make $50,000 – $55,000 per year, and the program yielded 16 mechanics in July — and by August 15 of them were placed into positions.

Students can also pursue training in aviation flight, which paves the (run)way for careers as pilots and instructors. Unlike most training facilities that can charge $100 per hour, VU doesn’t charge its students to use its flight simulators. And VU’s Indianapolis program features a fleet of well-maintained aircraft (including Cessna 172 and 172RG, as well as multi engine training in a Piper Seminole).

In Indiana, we are blessed to have public and private colleges and universities that rival or exceed those in any other region of the country — and VU is a testament to that. For more on this program or to inquire about viewing the facility, contact Corinna Vonderwell at cvonderwell@vinu.edu.

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Square Wants to Perk Up Morning Commute

cThe mobile payment company Square has reportedly developed technology to help coffee drinkers grab their morning java without that pesky detail of having to wait in line to pay for it. Simply place and pay for the order on the phone, then pick up the next morning.

Thankfully, the Chamber provides coffee for staff in our break room so I’ve saved hundreds of dollars since becoming a coffee drinker a year or two ago, but otherwise this would seem like a convenient solution.

Entrepreneur reports:

The key to this ease in ordering is “arrival prediction.” The feature uses first-to-market tech to alert baristas when a customer who has ordered a drink on the app approaches the coffee shop, allowing them to immediately start preparing the order. Customers then simply pick up their order and are automatically charged as the leave the shop.

Users can also save their coffee preferences and customizations, speeding up transactions on the app. Square has paired up with fellow San Francisco startup Blue Bottle Coffee to debut the new features.

Launched in May, Square Order allows people to pre-order items for pickup at eateries that use the Square payments processing system. The service is only active in San Francisco and New York.

Breaking Bad? Google Chairman Warns That Governments Could Effectively ‘Break Internet’

WIn a recent event hosted by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Google Chairman Eric Schmidt offered an alarming prediction that governments, especially our own, could end up splintering the Internet into pieces. This, he argues, is because countries may prefer to operate their own Internet instead of allowing surveillance organizations, such as the National Security Agency, to collect data on their citizenry.

Wyden added that this would hurt American tech companies — and thus eliminate some American jobs.

Be sure to read the full National Journal article about these remarks, and watch the brief video featuring Schmidt’s comments.

Time to Talk Area Code Changes

FIt must be a sign of advancing age that I fondly recall the days of three area codes that covered the state of Indiana. Today, that number is six with a seventh set to go into effect next month and public field hearings underway now on 317 area code relief.

Indiana had three telephone area codes (219 for the north, 317 for Central Indiana and 812 in the south) from the mid-1950s until the mid-1990s.

Today, the state has six area codes with a seventh to go into effect in October 2014.

Technology brought pagers, fax machines, wirelese phones and more. The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor says efforts to conserve existing number supplies and prolong the life spans of area codes have been successful, but the only way to provide new numbers in the long run has been to introduce new area codes.

The number of area codes throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean has more than doubled since 1995, with Indiana, 38 other states and eight of the 10 Canadian provinces adding new area codes.

The 317 area code was changed in 1996 with the addition of 765. Now, 317 is projected to run out of numbers in 2017. A hearing took place in Indianapolis last Friday. Four more are scheduled in Carmel (October 1), Franklin (October 14), Danville (October 29) and Greenfield (December 1).

An overlay method is being proposed. A similar procedure is being implemented in the current 812 area code with the new 930 coming into play yet this year.

Full details, including additional opportunities to submit comments.

John Green Talks About Authenticity at ExactTarget Connections Conference

Indianapolis resident John Green, most famous for authoring the best-selling book “The Fault in Our Stars” — and a series of notable Crash Course videos about history, among other things — gave the keynote address at ExactTarget’s popular Connections conference yesterday. Other speakers included TV writer/actress Mindy Kaling and rapper/seven-time Grammy winner Will.I.Am.

What’s New With Apple?

8024486It’s time.

The world’s been holding its breath … the iPhone 6 has arrived.

At this point, for me at least, nothing is shocking anymore. Nothing is so new that I cannot contain myself and I MUST own the new iPhone immediately!

According to a recent article in Forbes, this will be Apple’s most challenging launch. Why? Because for once, Apple is actually late to a trend. Last week the rumors of an extra-large iPhone were confirmed when Apple announced the new design for the 6. Apparently, the latest trend in smartphones is to make them “phablet” size. This word was just recently added to my vocabulary, and the best way to define it is as what would happen if a smartphone and a tablet had a baby — a phablet.

This particular smartphone design has proven to be most successful in developing nations because it is small enough to be a phone, yet large enough to function much like a tablet for watching videos and other such activities.

The Forbes article gives some statistics, “Over 70% of Internet users in Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa, 47% in Saudi Arabia and 44% in India use their smartphones to watch online video.”

I understand and appreciate the many benefits of this phablet phenomenon, but for me, I think I’ll stick with my pocket-sized iPhone 5.

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Paige Ferise, a sophomore at Butler University, is interning in the Indiana Chamber communications department this summer.

Commerce Apps Revolutionizing Shopping

A couple of nights ago, as I was idly passing time on my phone, I opened up the App Store and proceeded to download four or five new apps. Three of these were shopping-related. When asked if I wanted to receive notifications, I granted the applications permission. I quickly realized the danger of my decision. Less than 24 hours later, I was beginning to receive alerts, tempting me to view discounted items that would still inevitably accumulate to a steep amount if I made purchases every time I was notified of a sale.

This type of interactive commerce may very well be the future of shopping. An article on ReadWriteShop recently outlined three e-commerce tools that are setting the trend.

  • eBay’s digital shopping windows: large digital screens allowing users to view and purchase products on display
  • Zero Effort Commerce: an app that learns users’ shopping habits and can be programmed for different conveniences, such as making purchases before running out of a certain product or offering customized item suggestion
  • eBay Valet app pilot: an app designed for selling products that transfers much of the work to eBay, such as estimating a price, taking professional photos of the item and sending a shipping box and label

Apps such as these will make shopping and selling more accessible than ever. It will be interesting to see how advances in e-commerce shape purchasing trends—particularly apps that monitor spending habits and offer tailored recommendations. For a shopping-lover such as myself, a new level of self-control will certainly have to be developed, but I believe the benefits will outweigh the setbacks.

Midwest Federal Laboratories Looking for Partnerships

Midwest federal laboratories are exploring the opportunity to build partnerships to accelerate and move innovation to private commercialization. To address important issues and prospects involved in collaborating with federal labs, The Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) for Technology Transfer is hosting an event in Indianapolis August 19-20.

A number of informative sessions will cover industry trends and key technologies. Attendees will also have the chance to network with industry professionals and learn about the various challenges and benefits involved in licensing intellectual property from federal laboratories. An awards luncheon will be held Wednesday, August 20 to recognize the region’s best industry achievements.

Panels consisting of capital, entrepreneurial and technology-based economic development experts will tackle the pros and cons of working with federal labs. Sue Ellspermann, the 50th lieutenant governor of Indiana, will serve as keynote speaker.

The meeting will provide business leaders with a rare chance to learn more about Midwest federal laboratories and the opportunities partnerships could offer.