Indiana Chamber is Proud to Honor Our Volunteers of the Year Today

Our Indiana Chamber board members gathered in Indianapolis today and honored three volunteers of the year whose efforts have made a tremendous impact on our organization.

Phil Bounsall
Walker (Indianapolis)
A financial background allows Bounsall to not only guide a strong organization but serve the Indiana Chamber as treasurer and leader of the finance and audit committee. A 2013-2014 challenge included a balanced approach in winding down the organization’s defined benefit pension plan.

Bounsall brings leadership and clear communication to the table no matter the issue.

“The more successful the businesses are in the community, the more vibrant the community will be. The more opportunities we have to improve education. The more opportunities we have to provide better health care for people. Everything works better in a community when the business community is vibrant.”

Jill Ritchie
Indiana Beverage (Valparaiso)
Jill Ritchie has called Northwest Indiana home since 2008. Through her work on the Indiana Chamber board and several policy committees, as well as being an Indiana Vision 2025 regional partner, she strives to connect that part of the state with broader goals and initiatives.

The alignment with the Chamber allows her to be an advocate – just as she is each day in her legal and government affairs work.

“Organizations like the Indiana Chamber are really important. The key to businesses’ success is providing family-sustaining jobs and the Chamber creates an environment in which that can occur.”

Heather Wilson
Frost Brown Todd (Indianapolis)
From chairing the Civil Justice Committee to helping expand the annual Human Resources Conference, Wilson has worked to assist Indiana Chamber members over the past eight years.

She brings the same energy she carries in serving her clients to these volunteer efforts.

“I have a passion for helping employers and businesses – that’s what I love to do. I want businesses to understand what their obligations are from a legal standpoint. And then, if there’s something in statute for example that is not fair or is being interpreted in kind of an unfair way, then having the opportunity to make change (is critical).”

IBRG’s Brantley: Election a ‘Mini-Mandate’ in Indiana to Stay on Course

UOur friends at Inside INdiana Business interviewed Jeff Brantley, the Indiana Chamber’s VP of Political Affairs and our PAC, Indiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG), about Tuesday’s election (the link includes an audio clip about the federal elections as well). Here’s the synopsis (edited for accuracy):

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of political affairs believes Hoosier voters in yesterday’s mid-term elections delivered a “mini-mandate” to legislators to continue focusing on job growth and the business community. All Indiana Congressional incumbents won re-election and Republicans swept the contests for secretary of state, state auditor and state treasurer. Jeff Brantley says voter turnout appears to be higher than anticipated and believes results in Indiana General Assembly races demonstrate Hoosiers like the direction policy makers are going.

Only one U.S. Congressional race, the 7th District between Representative Andre Carson and challenger Catherine Ping, was within 15 points. The winners are:

Peter Visclosky (D-1)
Jackie Walorski (R-2)
Marlin Stutzman (R-3)
Todd Rokita (R-4)
Susan Brooks (R-5)
Luke Messer (R-6)
Andre’ Carson (D-7)
Larry Bucshon (R-8)
Todd Young (R-9)

Statewide office winners were Secretary of State Connie Lawson (R), Suzanne Crouch (R) for State Treasurer and Kelly Mitchell (R) for State Auditor.

Jeff Brantley says, with only one exception, all candidates the organization endorsed were victorious.

Some incumbents in the Indiana General Assembly were unseated. They include Sen. Richard Young (D-47), who was beaten by Republican Erin Houchin, and Senator Tim Skinner (D-38), who lost to Republican Jon Ford. Incumbent Reps. Mara Candelaria Reardon (D-12) and Shelli VanDenburgh (D-19) also fell.

Kansas Independent Could Be Wild Card in Senate (Or Not, We’ll See)

AAccording to Huffington Post polling, there’s a 79% chance the GOP takes control of the U.S. Senate today (and The Washington Post contends there’s a whopping 98% chance). No surprise it’s likely to happen if you’ve been following along.

But, perhaps most interesting, is that HuffPo also calculates a 9% chance that Greg Orman, an independent in an extremely tight race against Republican three-term Senator Pat Roberts, could determine which party rules based on where he decides to caucus (should he win his race).

Read this Politico piece to find out why Republicans think he’ll actually caucus with Democrats, and what that could mean going forward. (And this may shock you, but Vice President Biden reportedly let the ol’ cat out of the bag on this matter earlier today.)

At any rate, Orman’s campaign is making for interesting theater during this mid-term election season.

Get Your Scarves and Your UGG Boots; It’s Fall

AFall is upon us.

This means one thing for food and beverage companies all over the nation: it’s pumpkin spice time. The one ingenious, but verging on overused, marketing ploy has taken the country by storm.

It all started back in 2003 when Starbucks created the pumpkin spice latte, which has since taken on a life of its own. Today, you get just about everything pumpkin-flavored, from beer and soda to chips and hummus (this is real, I promise; I couldn’t make that up). Check out People magazine’s list of all the pumpkiny options this year.

Now, I personally have never been a huge fan of the original pumpkin flavored thing – pie. And I am not a coffee drinker so I do not participate in the #PSL madness that ensues from September to November each year, but in the spirit of fall (and out of curiosity) I have vowed to try as many pumpkin-flavored items as I can this season. It has become a joke between my roommates and I when we go to the grocery store.
So, here is the official Paige Ferise review of pumpkin flavored items:

  1. Pumpkin Spice Oreos: I was quite skeptical, but these are actually surprisingly delicious. I would recommend them.
  2. Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts: As a broke student, I pride myself in being somewhat of a Pop Tart connoisseur. The pumpkin Pop Tarts did not quite live up to my expectations. They were okay, but not something I intend on stockpiling before they stop making them.
  3. Pillsbury Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Rolls:  Good, but can’t beat the original.
  4. Pumpkin Spice M&Ms: They literally tasted just like the original M&Ms.
  5. Talenti Pumpkin Gelato: Magnificent. Talenti can do no wrong.

This is all the pumpkin I have experienced so far, but fall is still young, my friends!

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

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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A New Type of ‘Accidental’ Tourist (Employees Gamble With Some Odd Excuses for Missing Work)

WWe’ve all likely felt that urge at some point in our working careers to just take the day off. But how many have actually called in sick with a fake excuse to do so.

The answer is 28% in the past year, according to a CareerBuilder survey. That’s down from 32% a year earlier. But the entertainment here comes from the reasons employees give for not being able to make it to the office that day.

We couldn’t make these up. When asked to share the most dubious excuses employees have given for calling in sick, employers reported hearing the following real-life examples:

  • Employee just put a casserole in the oven
  • Employee’s plastic surgery for enhancement purposes needed some “tweaking” to get it just right
  • Employee was sitting in the bathroom and her feet and legs fell asleep. When she stood up, she fell and broke her ankle
  • Employee had been at the casino all weekend and still had money left to play with on Monday morning
  • Employee woke up in a good mood and didn’t want to ruin it
  • Employee had a “lucky night” and didn’t know where he was
  • Employee got stuck in the blood pressure machine at the grocery store and couldn’t get out
  • Employee had a gall stone they wanted to heal holistically
  • Employee caught their uniform on fire by putting it in the microwave to dry
  • Employee accidentally got on a plane

A few other interesting tidbits from the survey:

Though the majority of employers give their employees the benefit of the doubt, 31% say they have checked to see if an employee was telling the truth in one way or another.

Nearly one in five employers (18%) say they have fired an employee for calling in sick with a fake excuse.

Some workers have inadvertently busted themselves online. One in four employers (24%) have caught an employee lying about being sick by checking social media.

Perhaps not surprisingly, employee absentee rates seem to peak with flu season. December is the most popular time of year for employees to call in sick, according to 21% of employers, followed by January (17%) and February (14%).

Employees in professional and business services called in sick most often (35%) in the past year, followed closely by sales employees (34%). On the flip side, employees in the IT, retail and leisure and hospitality industries were least likely to call in sick this past year (22%, 21% and 20%, respectively).

Cameron to EU: I’d Like to Dispute This Charge

I find Europe pretty intriguing at times.

It’s apparent based on the recent secession vote — although it didn’t quite pass — that many folks in Scotland are not happy with the United Kingdom. Well, now it seems the UK is not too enthusiastic about the European Union (EU).

The EU recently presented UK Prime Minister David Cameron with a bill for over 1.7 billion Pounds – to be paid by Dec. 1. It’s an additional payment to the 8.6 billion Pounds the UK currently pays. Cameron was rather displeased.

“It is an unacceptable way to treat a country which is one of the biggest contributors to the EU,” he told the BBC. “We are not going suddenly to get out our cheque book and write a cheque for 2bn euros. It is not going to happen.”

Considering Germany’s also been butting heads with its European partners over its commitment to austerity, it seems there’s a lot of friction across the pond.

The Ghoulish Complexities of Halloween in the Workplace

HHalloween is a great holiday. Scary stories. Caramel apples. No obligatory gift-giving.

And the costumes: Zombies. Witches. Monsters.

But in the workplace, it can be tricky. You want to be festive and accommodating to allow workers to blow off some steam. But you also don’t want any “naughty nurse” costumes creating an HR concern. Furthermore, some employees of particular faiths may not take kindly to celebrating the holiday or its Pagan origins.

The Employment & Labor Insider blog delved further into the issue and offers some ideas for your consideration.

Governor Passes on Preschool Opportunity

GPreschool education has become a top priority for the Indiana Chamber and for countless members throughout the state. The prospects for making significant improvements to our state’s educational levels will remain challenging as long as large numbers of children are entering kindergarten unprepared for school. Moreover, those challenges are compounded and are impacting all Indiana students as schools are forced to deal with wide gaps in achievement levels.

Those are just two of the reasons for the preschool emphasis. It is critically important that Indiana join the vast majority of other states in providing funding that will help low-income parents to access their choice of preschool programs that are educationally based and accountable for outcomes.

During the 2014 legislative session, Indiana took a small step in addressing this challenge by approving a $10 million pilot program in five Indiana counties. To be certain, it was a good step forward – driven in large part by the leadership of Gov. Pence and House Republicans. But it fell far short of Indiana’s needs.

Fortunately, an opportunity arose shortly after the session to greatly expand those funds through a federal grant program that would provide $20 million per year for four years. Indeed, Indiana was identified as one of just two states that would receive “priority status” in the grant. Accordingly, staff from the governor’s office, the Department of Education and other preschool advocates began working on the application, which was due for completion this month.

Gov. Pence, however, announced last minute – just as the proposal was being completed and readied for submission – that Indiana would not apply for the funds. He cited concerns about federal intrusion and the desire to implement a program that is best for Hoosiers. But to the frustration of advocates and commentators across the state, he has not yet offered specifics on those concerns.

To be certain, this is a politically charged issue. Even the pilot program would not have happened if the Governor had not ignored pleas to the contrary and appeared, in person, to advocate for the program in the Senate. What ultimately did pass was the result of hard negotiating by the Governor and House Republicans with the Senate.

Yet, it remains disappointing that Gov. Pence chose to take a pass on this new opportunity. If Senate leaders were concerned about funding – as seemed clear in the legislative debates – then this was a unique opportunity to expand Indiana’s program with outside funds. If federal strings were a genuine problem (not just the prospect of a problem), then the specifics of that challenge were not made apparent.

Meanwhile, Indiana is proceeding with its pilot program. The Indiana Chamber is hopeful that the “pilot” aspect of the program will focus strictly on administration matters and not be used by opponents to revisit, yet again, whether preschool is needed and effective. Those questions have been answered. Preschool is a key strategy in the Chamber-led Indiana Vision 2025 plan to help achieve the goal of eliminating achievement gaps. The state must  move farther and do it faster to accomplish the goals and the vision to make Indiana a “global leader in innovation and economic opportunity where enterprises and citizens prosper.”

Preschool thus again becomes a priority issue in the upcoming legislative session. It’s disappointing that Indiana’s foray into this important issue will not be bolstered by the outside financial support that was made available – and that any additional investment will fall fully on Indiana taxpayers.

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.