Earlier today, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and Indiana Senate President David Long announced a deal had been reached on House Bill 1001, the two-year state budget. Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar reacts to the budget provisions:
"The new state budget has a strong focus on jobs and economic growth, putting additional investments into education and workforce development while also making important tax cuts.
"Trimming the individual income tax rate by 5% will not only benefit working Hoosiers but also many of the state's smallest business owners.
"It was particularly important to see some K-12 funding restored (cut during the last budget process) and more dollars targeted for our highways and infrastructure system.
"Meanwhile, the immediate elimination of the inheritance tax is long overdue and will lift a significant burden off of small, family-owned businesses.
"We commend House and Senate leaders, the governor's office and all those who got the budget to where it is — fiscally sound and including a wide variety of positive provisions for Hoosiers."
Indianapolis has seen many changes in the past decade. But as old, beloved structures are torn down to make way for new ones, People for Urban Progress (PUP) believes that material need not be wasted. PUP drew attention from citizens and media alike for reusing the RCA Dome rooftop and fabric from Super Bowl promotions, and is now garnering recognition for repurposing seats from the old Bush Stadium. I sat down with PUP Development Innovator Amy Crook to discuss the non-profit organization — which considers itself a "do-tank" – and how it's working to change the capital city.
Chamber: Tell me about PUP. When and why did it start?
Amy: It was founded by Michael Bricker, our chief innovator, and his business partner in 2008. At the time, there was talk of imploding the RCA Dome and they had a natural curiosity about what would happen to that "white stuff" on the roof. They wondered, "Can it be used for something else?" They learned more about what could be done with it. So they salvaged it, and the plan at the time was to make 1,000 bags out of it and other products – wallets, clutches, messenger bags. They raised $70,000 in selling these goods. Half of that went to designers who made the products, and we partnered with RecycleForce … and then the rest of the money went toward projects. Through that project, we put up two shade structures in the community in partnership with Indianapolis Fabrications and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.
Do any other major cities have similar organizations?
Not that are a not-for-profit model that we’re aware of. … We’re going through a strategic planning process right now, so we are looking at places like Goodwill and TOMS Shoes – and locally, you could say that we have a similar model as Freewheelin', which allows kids to work on repairing bikes, and when they work so many hours, they actually get a bike. The bikes they work on are purchased by the community to raise money for the organization.
How many people work here?
Jessica Bricker, our product designer, is closest to full-time, and she is Michael’s twin sister. Michael works 8-10 months for PUP, but he’s also a production designer for film projects and may be called away for a month or two. I work for PUP three days a week and also do freelance marketing on the side. All of our designers are contracted. There are five of them and they all have full-time jobs.
How are you funded? Do you work with government or via grants?
We’ve been predominantly funded by the sale of products. But this strategic planning is (supported by) the first official grant that we’ve gotten from the Lilly Endowment to help us go through the process. We’ve applied for other grants to help us with material processing. A lot of people are coming to us for these large-scale projects like we’ve already taken on, such as salvaging 13 acres of RCA Dome material, five miles of Super Bowl fabric and 9,000 Bush Stadium seats. There’s this space in the middle that you can’t take to the recycling center, but you can’t put in the landfill either, so we just want to be able to restructure to be able to say “yes” to accepting more materials and trust that we can get them back in the community in a unique way.
Is the city paying you to place some of these Bush Stadium seats at bus stops?
It’s a partnership with IndyGo. IndyGo has a budget per seat amenity, and we’re raising sponsorship dollars for the other half. During the Seat Salvage Phase of the project, we had raised $10,000 from (four) funders to help us get more seats out with the tight deadline: Lumina Foundation, Central Indiana Community Foundation, Eskenazi Health and a private funder.
What’s the greatest challenge facing Indy right now that you’re working to solve, big picture-wise?
Our mission is promoting public transit, environment and design, and based on our research and conversations in the community and with community leaders, urban design and aesthetics have come out of that – an educational effort about what is good design. Michael is also co-chair of the Indy Rezone steering committee.
Transit is also important, of course. Since 2008, we’ve been working on getting a car sharing program started. And then there’s an environmental component – just being good stewards to the earth. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is going to be replacing their seats in June, and this has been the first project where people really think of us and contact us in advance to create a plan. Whereas with the dome and other projects, we found out late and then had to figure it out. But now people are talking with us to come up with plans, so they don’t have to scrap this stuff or throw it in a landfill.
Tell us about this Make 5X5 contest you just held.
The 5X5 Indianapolis arts and innovation came out of the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF). The first one was hosted by Big Car, and we hosted the second one. The next one will be IndyHub. (CICF) came to us and gave us a budget to throw an event based on a theme, and we asked for five organizations to present a five-minute pitch on five slides, and the winner would get $10,000. So our theme was “Making.”
(The winner was the Cool Bus, which will serve as a literary center for children.)
What are some challenges in keeping an organization like this going, in accomplishing your goals?
We’re moving forward and there are some capacity issues, and if we had more people involved or more financial resources, we’d be able to get this stuff out in the community more quickly. But there is progress being made and we’ll be able to have a bigger impact.
Our strategic plan is called “Doing Things.” We took a risk and started this thing and we’re still here and making it happen; let’s take the next steps and create something other people can replicate. We’re keeping an eye on Minneapolis and Atlanta, where they have Teflon-coated fiberglass as their stadium rooftops. We don’t necessarily want to acquire that material, but we know what you can do with it so we want to have a seat at the table and help them find ways to use it in the community and process that material.
You support the mass transit initiative in Indianapolis. Why is that important?
All the articles I’ve been reading now about millenials and Gen Y, we aren’t all going to be homeowners and two-car families. Our salaries aren’t as grand, and our stability in our positions is different. But you’d be surprised, this generation is one of the smartest generations and they are spending within their means. They’re not buying fancy cars; they’d rather cut back and invest in their art, or having children – and invest in that versus things. A strong transit system would help foster that way of living. If you’re having children and you need two cars, and you don’t have a supplemental transit option, you’ll lose people and they’ll go somewhere where they don’t need a car. Our generation travels and experiences other cities, so when you see another city where travel is more efficient, you think about that.
For myself, in my first couple of jobs I was driving 45 minutes to work and back. Now I have a 1.5-mile walk to work. Once you try that, you don’t go back.
You think this type of organization would succeed in any other cities in Indiana?
We were just talking about Bloomington today and its new transit center, wondering how we could get some PUP seats there. While our mission statement is directly for Indianapolis, we’d like to see mini-PUPs, or people can come to us for a resource and we may have experience to help you do something in your community. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a full-time thing. We started with everyone doing this on the side. If there are seats being removed from a stadium or banners that need to be recycled, you can do that and we could consult about how to re-use those materials.
Over 120 members and supporters of Indy Connect Now are pushing Indiana legislators — via a letter – to support the mass transit bill to enhance connectivity in Central Indiana — a sentiment held by many businesses and organizations across the state. The letter reads as follows:
As community leaders in central Indiana, we strongly encourage the Indiana General Assembly to pass substantive transit legislation before it adjourns in order to give our community the ability to make its own decisions about investing in a regional transit system.
The Indianapolis Region will not continue to grow and prosper unless we make strategic investments in our community, including in a robust regional transit system. Study after study has recognized the need for building such a system in our region. Cities all across America have realized the benefits from investing in good transit systems, and our inability to make that investment puts us at a competitive disadvantage.
The issue has been studied long enough. Following the release of the last legislative study report on this issue in December 2008, a Task Force of public and private sector partners proposed a transit system that most effectively meets the needs of our community. For the past four years, that proposal has been refined with input from thousands of residents, advice from the best planning experts in the country, and best practices from cities around the country.
The time has come to let the voters decide whether they want to invest in this proposed system. All we ask is that the General Assembly gives us the same flexibility to use local funds that it previously gave to 15 other counties and to let us present the question to voters, similar to what is now required for school capital projects. With support that is trending upward, it is time to allow voters to determine whether or not our communities will be competitive and meet transportation needs in the next decade and beyond.
If this legislation passes now, it will allow us to have a robust discussion for the next eighteen months about the wisdom of making this investment. Residents will then be able to make an informed decision about funding an expanded regional transit system. It is imperative that the General Assembly act now to provide this opportunity to the residents of central Indiana.
As many of you know, the Indiana Chamber supports Indiana's mass transit bill (HB 1011). Here are some upcoming events that will help educate the public and rally support for the measure. If interested, you should attend:
Properly funding Indiana's highway and road system is critical toward promoting a healthy infrastructure — a vital element of our state's business climate. There are a variety of related bills in the Indiana Legislature this session, though little clarity remains on how to pay for future needs. Advocates will gather at the Statehouse on February 19 to emphasize the importance of the issue . Experts will be on hand to offer talking points, answer questions and lead the effort. Details are as follows:
9:45 a.m. Registration
10:15 a.m. Road Funding Legislative Briefing
11 a.m. Depart for the Statehouse
11 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Legislator Visits
The Road Funding Legislative Briefing will be at the Build Indiana Council office located at One North Capitol Avenue, Suite 1005 in downtown Indianapolis. (This is just across the street from the Indiana Statehouse.)
While registration is not required for participation in Road Funding Day, it would be helpful for planning purposes. Also, if you pre-register, we will be able to notify you should the schedule change for any reason. There is no registration fee. For free online registration, please visit www.roadfundingday.eventbrite.com.
Too much traffic, too long a commute and too many workers losing productivity. The challenge is not new and neither is the potential solution of telecommuting. The leader of one of the nation's leading workplace consulting firms says it's time for change.
“By not expanding the use of telecommuting, employers are negatively impacting the environment, worker productivity, job satisfaction and, most importantly, their bottom lines. And, it is not a lack of technology or other resources that is holding back this expansion. It is simply a lack of vision, a shortage of trust and an irrational adherence to antiquated notions of how and where work should be done,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.
The call for increased telecommuting comes on the heels of a new report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, which revealed that increased traffic congestion is forcing the nation’s workers to build in extra time to their daily commutes to the tune of $121 billion in wasted time and fuel in 2011.
Obviously, there are many occupations that are not conducive to telecommuting. However, the number of jobs that can be done remotely have grown significantly over the last two decades and will continue to expand going forward.
The latest available statistics from the Telework Research Network indicate that 3.1 million people, not including the self-employed or unpaid volunteers, considered home to be their primary place of work in 2011. That is roughly 2.5 percent of U.S. nonfarm payrolls.
Overall, the number of telecommuters increased by 73 percent between 2005 and 2011. However, according to the data, the number of telecommuters remains well below the potential. The Telework Research Network estimates that as many as 64 million U.S. employees (just under 50 percent of the workforce) hold a job that is compatible with telework.
“Companies are embracing the latest portable tablets and laptops, social networking, video conferencing and many of the other technological advancements that make telecommuting increasingly viable. However, in many ways, companies are stuck in the old way of doing business, where people are expected to work from 9 to 5 and are judged more on the amount of ‘face time’ than on the quantity or quality of output."
Companies that have embraced telecommuting have found that their remote workers are just as, if not more productive than traditional office workers. Analyses of Best Buy, British Telecom, Dow Chemical and many other employers have found that teleworkers are 35 percent to 45 percent more productive. American Express found that its teleworkers produced 43 percent more than their office-based counterparts.
In addition, various studies have found that telecommuting employees are happier, more loyal, and have fewer unscheduled absences.
A nice opportunity here from two Indiana Congressmen. Rep. Larry Bucshon's office writes: As many of you know, in the 112th Congress we passed several bills that make it easier for Veterans to obtain a CDL and additional transportation related jobs. We’re hoping to have a large turnout from potential employers and those who are looking for a job in the transportation industry. Here are the details:
When: February 21, 2013, 2 – 6 p.m. EST Where: Ivy Tech Corporate College Illinois Fall Creek Center – 2532 N. Capitol Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46208 Hosted by: U.S. Congressman André Carson (IN-07) & U.S. Congressman Larry Bucshon (IN-08) Please Note: There is no charge for participating in this event.
Employer Setup is noon – 2 p.m. the day of the event.
How to pay for future transportation infrastructure needs and what to do about mass transit options. While these are issues Indiana legislators will soon be debating, the battle in Pennsylvania is slightly different. Mass transit involves alternatives already in place and the question is whether funding for both topics should be considered together or separately. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:
Faced with critical needs in Pennsylvania’s transportation networks, the Republicans controlling both legislative chambers are divided on whether to uncouple the issues of infrastructure and mass transit.
Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, has said he is considering all recommendations of an advisory commission that issued a report in August 2011 about how to fund improvements to the state’s roads, bridges and mass transit.
During an appearance Monday in McCandless, the governor said he expects to lay out a proposal when the new Legislature begins work in mid-January.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, said in an interview at the event that his members want to address transportation infrastructure and separately deal with public transit systems.
"We want it focused on roads and bridges," he said. "So many reforms have to be brought to mass transit that it needs to be disentangled. They need to be separate pieces."
House Republicans want to bring checks and balances to spending on mass transportation, said Steve Miskin, a spokesman for the caucus.
But Erik Arneson, a spokesman for Senate Republicans, said he believed legislation addressing only one component of transportation would have an uncertain path through the chamber.
"Our read of the Senate is that it will be very difficult to move funding for one part of that — either roads and bridges or mass transit — without the other part," Mr. Arneson said. "But whether that is one bill or two bills or three bills, we’re not concerned about that as much as we are the timing."
He said he believed the Senate could pass separate bills if they were moved together.
Asked about disconnecting the components of a transportation plan, Steve Chizmar, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said Mr. Corbett has kept his options open.
"At this point the governor said that everything is on the table," Mr. Chizmar said. "He’s really dedicated to finding a long-term solution that’s going to move through the Legislature."
Democrats, meanwhile, denounced the idea of extracting mass transit from a funding plan. Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, said that while funding plans could be presented in separate bills, lawmakers from cities would not support legislation aimed at roads and bridges without an accompanying proposal for the transit systems serving their communities.