Chamber Statement on State Takeover of I-69 Project

Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar, who is also the board chair for Hoosier Voices for I-69, comments on the state’s announcement today that the Indiana Finance Authority is taking over management of the I-69 section from Bloomington to Martinsville:

“It’s the absolute right thing for the state to do to ensure that this segment and the entire project is completed as quickly as possible.

“We must stay on course, because the ramifications are too important. When fully finished, the new I-69 – from Evansville to Fort Wayne – will help further Indiana’s position as the Crossroads of America.

“It will provide many more Hoosiers with better road access, leading to reduced travel time. And that also is very attractive for businesses, making Indiana an even more viable hub for companies and new jobs.”

A Welcome Move: State’s Telecom Agreement With Agile Networks Denied

The state’s controversial proposed lease of its cell phone towers, fiber and public rights of way to Ohio-based Agile Networks officially won’t happen.

Governor Eric Holcomb put an end to it in an announcement Thursday. The Indiana Chamber applauds his decision and had been advocating for such a resolution.

Funds from the proposed $50 million lease were earmarked for bicentennial construction projects, with the Agile agreement promoted as a way to bring greater connectivity to rural areas.

Beginning last September, after learning in more detail about the agreement, the Chamber voiced significant concerns and objections on behalf of the state’s telecommunications industry.

Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar had numerous discussions with the Indiana Finance Authority and State Budget Committee members – the groups needing to approve the deal. The Chamber made a clear request that the agreement not proceed.

Therefore, we are very pleased that Gov. Eric Holcomb shared our belief that this deal was bad for Indiana.

In his statement, the Governor said: “I have asked the Office of Management and Budget to assess how best to move forward and to develop alternatives we might pursue. Enhancing broadband availability in rural parts of our state will be an important part of my consideration.”

The Chamber believes that’s the correct approach.

Our board-approved position supports free market competition in the delivery of advanced telecommunications services. Yet this deal went too far and essentially suppressed this important principle. Not to mention, good Hoosier companies inexplicably were not even given equal opportunity to bid for the project.

Additionally, all industry players and competing technologies should be on a level playing field. However, this proposed deal would have only served to pit the state against private providers.

Getting better broadband access to rural areas of the state should be a priority. That was unlikely to happen with the now-defunct deal, which would have done nothing to drive Agile Networks to serve our rural areas. The company’s publicized plans were to build in the state’s largest cities – Evansville, Fort Wayne and Indianapolis – where cable and broadband services and competitive choices already exist.

Looking ahead, the Chamber pledges to work with state government in any way it can to advance the effort to truly bring connectivity to rural parts of the state. These areas must be brought up to date technologically to help reverse their downward population and economic trends.

Ron Christian of Evansville Named Indiana Chamber Chairman

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The Indiana Chamber of Commerce formally introduced its new chairman at an awards dinner tonight. Ron Christian, an executive at Evansville-based Vectren Corporation, has been tapped to lead the organization’s board of directors for 2017.

Christian, executive vice president external affairs, chief legal officer and corporate secretary at Vectren, has served on the Indiana Chamber’s board and various policy committees since 2006. Additionally, he has been a part of the Indiana Business for Responsive Government policy group since 2014. Christian was also a member of the 24-person Indiana Vision 2025 task force, which developed the long-range economic plan for the state. In 2013, Christian was named an Indiana Chamber Volunteer of the Year.

At the 27th Annual Awards Dinner before a crowd of nearly 1,500, Christian led the recognition for the Indiana Chamber’s outgoing board chair, Indianapolis businessman Tom Hirons, president and CEO of Hirons Advertising + Public Relations.

A southern Indiana native, Christian started his career as a utility lawyer for Barnes & Thornburg in Indianapolis, after graduating from the University of Evansville, and then with a law degree from the University of Louisville. Christian returned to southern Indiana in 1999 during the merger of Indiana Gas Co. and Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Co., which created Vectren in 2000. Vectren serves more than one million natural gas customers in the state and west-central Ohio, and electric customers in southwest Indiana.

“Ron has been a key partner for the Indiana Chamber for many years and he has passionately given his time and expertise to work on various policy committees, and especially as a member of the Indiana Vision 2025 task force,” states Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “We look forward to his leadership and increased involvement with our organization over the coming year.”

Christian’s chairmanship duties for the Indiana Chamber extend through the group’s next fall board meeting in November 2017.

See the 2013 Volunteer of the Year video on Christian:

Brinegar: We Commend INDOT on I-69 Route

i69The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) announced today that the preferred route for Interstate 69 section 6 between Martinsville and Indianapolis is the State Road 37 corridor. Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and Hoosier Voices for I-69 Chairman Kevin Brinegar offers his comments:

“We support INDOT’s decision that the State Road 37 corridor is the best alternative for completing the I-69 extension and it will be the best investment for Hoosiers. The corridor requires far less new construction than the alternatives, impacts the fewest homeowners and has the most consensus among all interested parties.

“We commend INDOT on the thorough selection process and the analysis used to come to this decision.

“While we’ve made much progress on the I-69 extension – most recently with the opening of Section 4 in Greene and Monroe counties in December – there is still much to be done from the Bloomington area up to Indianapolis. The state must remain committed to funding this important project and seeing it through to completion.

“In the not-too-distant future, I-69 will run continuously from Evansville to Fort Wayne and beyond. That will provide many more Hoosiers with better road access, leading to reduced travel time. And that also is very attractive for businesses, making Indiana an even more viable hub for companies and new jobs.”

VIDEO: See What’s in the New Edition of BizVoice

Our Senior VP and editor of BizVoice Tom Schuman explains what’s in the March/April edition. If you’re interested in higher education, corporate social responsibility or Vanderburgh County, we have information you can’t miss.

This issue also focuses on the “Outstanding Talent” driver of the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 plan.

Read BizVoice online today.

Hoosiers Invited to Submit Photos for Bicentennial Book

book coverThere are many exciting plans in place to celebrate our beloved state’s 200th birthday. Among them is an upcoming book from the Bicentennial Commission, Indiana at 200: A Celebration of the Hoosier State. You can even place your pre-order now, in fact. The publisher, M.T. Publishing Company in Evansville, says to expect the book to be ready around Statehood Day on Dec. 11 of this year.

The state has also issued a call for photos to include in the book. See more information from the release below (but do note the deadline is May 15).

Governor Mike Pence is inviting amateur and professional photographers across Indiana to submit their favorite images of the state for possible inclusion in a coffee table book commemorating Indiana’s 200 years of statehood. The deadline to submit photos is May 15, 2015.

“As Hoosiers, we all know Indiana is a special place,” Governor Pence said. “We see the unique qualities of her cities and towns, her farms and forests. Most of all, we see the distinctive virtues of her people. This effort presents a unique opportunity for Hoosiers to take part in our state’s storied history and share their favorite photos around our state.”

Photos must be taken in Indiana and should reflect one or more of these categories: natural environment and landscape; buildings and architecture; cities and towns; farms and fields; the Hoosier people; schools and libraries; transportation; business and commerce; medicine and health; religion and philanthropy; government; media and communication; arts, culture and entertainment; and sports.

Images must be uploaded in .jpg/.jpeg format with quality resolution (300 dpi).

Use of photos will not be compensated, but photographers will receive a photo credit in the book. Photos will be reviewed and selected based on content, quality and space availability.

For more guidelines and information – and to upload photos – go to: http://mtpublishing.com/index.php/default/indiana200photos.

“Indiana at 200: A Celebration of the Hoosier State” will contain approximately 240 pages and will be published by M.T. Publishing Company, Inc., which is under contract with the Indiana Bicentennial Commission. In addition to photos, each of the book’s 14 chapters contains essays and vignettes from Hoosiers around the state.

“This commemorative book is a signature project for the Bicentennial Commission and a legacy for the State of Indiana,” said Perry Hammock, the commission’s executive director. “Four of our commission members—James Madison, Judge Sarah Evans Barker, Tony George and Mickey Maurer—have worked diligently to bring this project into being. We are proud to work with Indiana authors and an Indiana publisher.”

A Day to Remember in Evansville

evilleArmed with my Starbuck’s latte, I stepped out into the cold. It was mid-January and I was headed to Evansville to conduct interviews for our education/workforce development issue of BizVoice® magazine.

I started the day around 7 a.m. and didn’t pull into my driveway until shortly after 7 p.m. that evening. You know what? It was worth it. In fact, it was unforgettable.

First up: Ivy Tech’s College Connection Coach initiative. The program places Ivy Tech employees in high schools to promote a culture of college attainment and to provide career counseling and advisement. Launched last fall, it stresses collaboration with guidance counselors, administrators and teachers.

Carrie Feltis, a College Connection Coach in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, spends two days a week at both Central and Harrison High Schools. While visiting Central, I watched her interact with a senior named Lindsey, with whom she’s worked closely. What a rapport! They shared laughs – lots of them – and proudly conveyed Lindsey’s many accomplishments. Among them: She’ll be the first member of her family to graduate from high school.

Next was a visit to Ivy Tech Community College-Southwest/Wabash Valley Region hosted by chancellor Jonathan Weinzapfel, a former state legislator and Evansville mayor. He passionately expressed the importance of the program and its potential impact in leading students down a path that includes postsecondary education.

Then it was time to dive into my next story. It was time to step into Signature School.

Signature, the state’s first charter school, is nationally recognized for its challenging curriculum and unique culture. Located in downtown Evansville, its close proximity to libraries, the YMCA, the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra and more provides the backdrop for learning beyond the doors of Signature’s two buildings.

Executive Director Jean Hitchcock beamed as we stepped into dynamic classrooms and met the people who create Signature’s success. The teachers are passionate. The students are spirited. It’s a tight-knit team that lives by the Signature Way.

If there’s one word to sum up my impressions of Signature, it’s this: brilliant.

Brilliant minds. Brilliant opportunities. That’s Signature.

Evansville: “You Get a Building!”… “You Get a Building!”

Now here’s an interesting idea to get vacant downtown buildings filled – give the buildings away!

Well, don’t just give the buildings away. Try something like the Southwest Indiana Chamber of Commerce is doing: offering a restaurant challenge to anyone looking to open a restaurant in downtown Evansville and then give the building away as the award.

According to local TV station WFIE, the building in question has been empty since 2008 and the city’s Downtown Alliance came up with the idea – the first of its kind in the state, says the news report.

Dubbed the “Main Course Challenge,” the contest’s web site explains that the prize package includes over $250,000 in cash and in-kind services to develop the restaurant. The prize package includes $100,000 in start-up cash, as well as advertising services, inventory, real estate, architectural and construction services.

Interested restaurateurs simply need to apply with a biography of all partners, a prospective menu with pricing, a draft of a business plan and a reason why the pitch should be chosen over all others. The deadline to apply is Oct. 15. Once selected, finalists will provide more detailed information as well as a sampling of the food that would be served at the restaurant.

WFIE reports that the winner will have to move into the building by Sept. 1, 2015.

It’ll be an interesting experiment to see how this contest plays out and if the restaurant will have staying power once the hullabaloo dies down. But, talk about a great way to get a vacant building in your downtown filled, while introducing a new dining experience that might bring in more visitors and tourists.

This program by the Southwest Indiana Chamber of Commerce (an Indiana Chamber member company) is the type of innovative experience that will continue to revitalize older downtown districts. Maybe there are other cities and towns around the state that would benefit from something similar?

Visit www.maincoursechallenge.com to enter the contest.

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):

Tri State Oktoberfest: Getting in Touch with Evansville’s German Roots

Recently featured on 14News, Evansville Courier & Press, and this blog, Dishcrawl, a national startup founded on the premise that communities can be brought together through good food and good company is putting on their leighderhosen! Our international Battledish event on Franklin Street was a huge success and this event will follow in its footsteps, working with the Evansville Germania Maennerchor.

“Joining with Germania will give us the opportunity to bring four restaurants under one house to feature good food, music, and celebrate our region's heritage,” says Michael Armanno, Dishcrawl Evansville Community Manager.

On Tuesday Oct. 22, Dishcrawl will explore Evansville’s German Heritage. For only $45, food lovers can join in and eat signature German dishes from four restaurants in one night. Tickets can be purchased online, and use the code "downtownchamber" to receive $10 off.

Part of the fun is the mystery aspect. Participating restaurants are kept a secret until 48 hours before the event at which time they are revealed to ticket holders.