Netflix Vs. Cable TV

Last fall, I studied off-campus in Philadelphia. The first week of the program, they sent us out into the city to find housing and furniture. By the end of that week, I did have roommates and an apartment, but we rented minimal furniture to save money. Our TV ended up being one that we found on the street. We propped it up on a cardboard box that slowly began to sag over the weeks, and often it was a gamble whether or not the picture came through.

Though we paid for cable, I ended up turning to Netflix during those few months. It was much simpler than fiddling with the old, boxy TV, and I liked being able to watch a whole series at my own pace.

This experience has made me curious about Netflix versus cable usage. A recent article on Mashable delved into this topic; specifically, looking into usage during the summer. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the article reveals that cable TV is still dominant.

Roughly 99% of U.S. households (which total about 115 million) have a TV, and 56% of those have cable. Netflix only has about 48 million members worldwide. Additionally, Netflix has not reported increased subscribership during the summer months. Its peak months are January through March and October through December. However, there is about a 30% increase in family and kids content viewing hours during the summer.

Now that I have a properly functioning TV, I am once again a happy cable TV viewer, while still a Netflix subscriber. In fact, when I returned home to Indiana in the winter, I had an entire lineup of TV shows recorded on the DVR to catch up on. So while I went a long period of time without watching cable, I know that I would not completely forgo it, either.

July/August BizVoice Building a Buzz

Today, we’re unveiling our July/August edition of BizVoice magazine.

And the headline is actually a joking nod to our cover story about drones… assuming they make some sort of buzzing sound as they fly. If they don’t, well, let’s just ignore it and move on.

This issue covers a gamut of topics. Here are a few of the top stories (but you can view the full edition via our interactive online version):

Apple Reaches Settlement in E-Book Pricing War

Step into my room at home and you’ll find a row of book-lined shelves, stacked atop one another and overflowing onto my desk. When I was younger, summers meant days filled with devouring books. And yes, I was that kid who brought books to school and read whenever a spare moment presented itself, only occasionally hiding them beneath my teacher’s line of sight so I could read during class (but only if it was a book I absolutely couldn’t put down).

As a book nerd, I’ve kept up a bit with the raging paper versus e-book war. Personally, my loyalty remains with paperback books. I enjoy physically turning the pages and have felt a sort of cold detachment whenever trying to read an e-book. On the other hand, I have nothing against e-books and believe the two forms can co-exist peacefully—someday.

But for that day to come, publishers and booksellers need to straighten out e-book pricing issues. In April 2012, the U.S. government sued Apple and five of the biggest publishers for contracts Apple made with the publishers that raised e-book prices. The agreement in these contracts involved the publishers establishing book prices and Apple receiving 30%. The purpose was to force Amazon, who often sold below cost, to raise e-book prices.

Apple has now reached a settlement in this e-book pricing lawsuit, in which it faced up to $840 million in claims. The terms of the agreement have not been made public.

This is only one example of the controversies e-books have caused in the publishing world, but hopefully this is a step in settling pricing issues.

In the meantime, as a stubborn paperback-enthusiast who has not been personally affected by this problem, my biggest hope is simply for the industry to thrive as a whole, whatever that takes.

Starbucks to Offer Wireless Cell Phone Charging

I’ve been accused of having a slightly-obsessive attachment to my cell phone, and justifiably so. It’s the first item I grab when leaving a room, and it typically sits dutifully by my side wherever I’m at. So when I glimpse the battery icon flashing red, warning of its imminent death, I hope that I’m near an outlet to charge it back to life.

Starbucks understands this dilemma. The world’s largest coffee-shop operator is taking it a step further by offering customers the ability to wirelessly recharge their mobile devices, forgoing the hassle of finding an outlet to plug phone chargers into.

Starbucks is teaming with Duracell Powermat to provide this convenient service. Customers will be able to set their cell phones on Powermat Spots located on the counters and tables to charge their devices. The coffee-selling chain has continuously worked to create an ideal atmosphere for customers to encourage them to prolong their stay. In 2010, Starbucks began offering free Internet and has recently looked into a service allowing customers to order items on their phone ahead of time.

No longer will coffee lovers have to hunt down outlets to save their phones from demise. We cell phone enthusiasts will be able to enjoy our coffee in peace, comforted by the steadily-refilling battery.

A ‘Goliath’ Example of an Exciting Engineering Career

Think engineering jobs are mundane? Think again!

Check out this Chicago Tribune story about Goliath, the new roller coaster at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Ill., set to open this Saturday. It will set three records for wooden roller coasters, and it will be the steepest and fastest wooden coaster in the world.

The road to construction of this roller coaster involved engineering innovation. The article details the work of the engineers, bringing this structure to life.

Go Old School to ‘Game’ the System

I miss the days when game shows dominated the weekday morning TV lineup. Sure The Price is Right still chugs along, and Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy are evening mainstays – but where have all the others gone?

I know what you’re thinking: Symone, have you heard of the Game Show network? Joyfully, I have. Sadly, I no longer have the channel.

I fear the demise of board games. I devoted hours back in the day to my favorites: Sorry, Parcheesi, Chinese Checkers and Uncle Wiggily (I swear it exists, even though no one but me seems to have heard of it). Uncle Wiggily teaches rhyming, reading and counting as players help a friendly rabbit navigate through the woods to a doctor’s appointment.

Video games, don’t take offense. There’s plenty of room for you in my world. I would boot up my old Nintendo in an instant to rediscover Super Mario Brothers 3. But, you’ll always be my second choice.

Want to know a secret? I didn’t like Life and Monopoly one bit. I remember my siblings trying to play – I thought it was a lot more fun to confiscate the money.

At the Risk of being a bit dramatic (see what I did there? My brother loved Risk), playing board games as a child helped shape my personality. Some were challenging. Others were funny. But all bring back cherished memories of loved ones.

So, dust off Scrabble. Dig out Battleship. Let the games begin!

One in Every Five Central Indiana Jobs is in Manufacturing

The manufacturing sector is a key economic driver in Indiana. Ninety-five percent of Indiana’s exports are manufactured goods. Total employment in manufacturing in Central Indiana is 106,877. And $69,320 is the average annual compensation of the manufacturing workforce in Indiana.

The issue: in a 2009 survey conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers and accounting firm Deloitte & Touche found that 32% of surveyed manufacturers couldn’t find enough qualified workers. And more than 1,000 manufacturing jobs are anticipated to become available each year for the next 10 years.

This is great news for Indiana’s workforce! The important step is that we communicate this to students and parents so they understand where the job demand is and understand what the pathways are. The Indiana Chamber Foundation and Ready Indiana are taking a step to help bridge the knowledge gap. The Chamber Foundation has released a study examining the current landscape of school counseling. Fleck Education conducted the study. This will guide The Chamber’s upcoming efforts to connect K-12 education and workforce needs.

See this infographic with Indiana manufacturing facts.

VIDEO: Zappos CEO Speaks with Verge About Community Building

Our friends at Verge caught up with Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh in Las Vegas to discuss a project underway to revitalize its downtown. The effort illustrates how start-ups are now playing a major role in changing the landscape and culture in American cities.

Visit www.downtownproject.com to learn more.

High Electricity Prices are Bad for Everyone

The headline might seem like an obvious one – you’ve most likely seen your energy bills go up over the last several years. But it’s not just families struggling to pay high electric bills. Hoosier companies, particularly those that are energy intensive (such as manufacturing facilities), face exponentially-higher sticker shock when it comes to paying the electricity bill.

And the consequences of companies paying more for electricity is far-reaching: less money for employees, higher prices for consumers, fewer opportunities to expand and lost economic development chances.

Here’s a little history: In the early 2000s, Indiana was fifth lowest in the country, in terms of electricity prices. Today, the state has fallen to the middle of the pack, around 27th lowest.

The State Utility Forecasting Group (SUFG) out of Purdue University puts together electricity forecasts every two years. The current forecast (released at the end of 2013) points to prices increasing by over 30% over the next 20 years, with electricity demand in Indiana staying almost stagnant.

We look at the reasons for the higher prices and the lower demand in the new edition of BizVoice®. I spoke with the director of the SUFG, as well as the president of a small foundry in Rochester and a representative from the Indiana Industrial Energy Consumers, Inc. (which represents some of the state’s largest industrial energy users) for their reactions to the SUFG report.

While I didn’t have the opportunity to include an email interview with Wayne Harman, manager of energy procurement from ArcelorMittal USA, I’m able to share some of it here. Here’s a shortened Q&A:

BizVoice®: What is the consequence of high electricity prices for a large energy-intensive company like ArcelorMittal USA?

Harman: “Higher electricity costs translates to net higher costs for manufacturing finished steel products. Added costs cause inflationary pressure when they can be passed on to customers or squeeze profit margins when a commodity’s market selling price is too low to fully cover the added manufacturing costs. Business investment tends to be reduced until a later period when profit margins are stronger.”

BV: When determining where to build new plants (nationally or abroad), how much of a factor are electricity prices?

Harman: “The cost of power is a key factor in making such a decision, but also the availability and reliability of that power source need to be taken into consideration. Market demand and a company’s supply position to serve that market area need are more important in making such decisions … Above a certain cost point, electricity costs become a deal breaker for such investments.”

BV: Nationally, Indiana used to rank fifth lowest in electricity prices, now we’re somewhere around 27th lowest. What kind of an impact is that making when companies compare states to locate their new or expanding businesses?

Harman: “Clearly the higher cost of electricity in Indiana now as compared to just a few years ago is a disadvantage. Companies must also factor in projections for how the electricity costs will likely increase going forward as compared to other geographical regions, as there is a wide range for current power costs and power generation mix (nuclear, coal, natural gas, etc.) region to region. Indiana is heavily coal-fired generation and as such the costs to deal with tightened EPA emissions from these power plants has translated into higher power prices.”

BV: The SUFG released a recent forecast that predicted that prices will grow by over 30% over the next 20 years, while demand stays relatively flat. If companies have a hard time keeping up with costs now, what is the impact that an extra 30% will have over time?

Harman: “All companies are being forced to reduce the energy intensity of their businesses in order to offset what they can of the future electricity cost increases. Any cost increases that cannot be passed on through higher selling prices cause profit margin compression and reduce the financial health of a company. Companies are sensitive to customer demands that they must first do everything in their power to avoid any increases in costs before they try to seek cost recovery through price increases. …

Since 2006, ArcelorMittal USA has reduced energy costs by more than $163 million through focused improvements and energy management, making us the only steelmaker to be named an Energy Star® partner by the US EPA and participant in the US Department of Energy’s Better Plants Program.”

Read the full story.

Vincennes University Working to Tackle Skills Gap

Our team recently had the opportunity to visit Vincennes University (VU). We spoke with their administration about the work they do to prepare students for today’s high-demand jobs.

We toured their campus, including a visit to the impressive Red Skelton Performing Arts Center. We also walked through the Indiana Center for Applied Technology, which had several labs with technical equipment used by manufacturing companies for students to train. Some of the machines were “welding robots,” and each was given a human name. Vice President Dave Tucker said that, while machines exist to ease human labor (welding in particular is difficult on the body), there is still a need for skilled engineers and mathematicians to program the robots.

We also toured Toyota Motor Manufacturing (TMMI) in Princeton, IN. VU has a partnership with TMMI called the Toyota Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program (AMT). The program includes a two-year degree in Computer Integrated Manufacturing: Robotics that combines cutting-edge curriculum and paid working experience, along with learning highly sought-after business principles and best practices of a world-class manufacturer. Their giant robots were affectionately named “Godzilla!”