Where We’re Importing and Exporting

A glance at two maps – top import and expert country for each state in 2016 – reveals some interesting observations:

  • On the export side, Canada is the leading destination from 33 states (including Indiana and 25 of the other 31 east of the Mississippi River)
  • Mexico (six states) and China (four states) were next on the list
  • Among the more intriguing partnerships: Nevada’s exports are going to Switzerland
  • On the import side, nine countries are represented with China (23 states) and Canada (14 states) leading the way
  • Indiana and Oregon are the two states in which the lead importer is Ireland (Happy St. Patrick’s Day, by the way!)
  • Of Indiana’s four neighbors, China is tops in Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois, while Mexico (think auto industry) is the top partner with Michigan
  • Hawaii stands alone with its top partners of Indonesia (imports) and Australia (exports)

According to the American Enterprise Institute:

Last year, American companies sold $2.2 trillion worth of goods and services to buyers in other countries, and American companies and consumers purchased $2.7 trillion worth of imports from trading partners all around the world. Seven states – Michigan, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Washington and Texas – have their international trade represent more than 30% of their economic output.
Together, that volume of international trading activities represented 26% of the value of America’s $18.5 trillion in GDP in 2016. In terms of employment, more than 27 million American workers, about one in five, have jobs that are directly supported by trade with the rest of the world. Some states like California and Texas have more than two million jobs that are directly supported by international trade.

Where Americans are Headed on Vacation This Fall

9809397Travel Leaders Group provides frequent updates on current trends through comprehensive surveys of its travel agents.

A few findings from the most recent outreach:

  • New York City is the most popular domestic destination for the remainder of 2015
  • Caribbean cruises lead the way internationally
  • For clients age 30 and under, the top reasons/destinations for travel are honeymoons, Caribbean and Mexico

Additional details from the survey:

“Based on actual bookings, New York made a remarkable leap over perennial top destinations like Las Vegas and Orlando. It is an incredibly vibrant, world-class city for leisure and business travelers alike. From the fall right through the holidays, it’s nothing short of spectacular,” states Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben. “In addition, the data we have collected indicates travel will continue to be strong for the remainder of the year, which is leading to incredible optimism among our travel agent specialists.”

Following New York, the top domestic destinations being booked were Orlando, Maui, Las Vegas, Alaska cruises (maybe some of these are for 2016 travel), Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Internationally, following cruises are Cancun, London, European cruise, Rome, Paris, Mediterranean cruise, Dominican Republic, Florence and/or Tuscany (Italy) and Montego Bay (Jamaica).

America, the Beautiful

7659613I love traveling. In fact, I am infatuated with traveling.

I’ve been to six different countries across three continents, and in January I plan on studying abroad in Europe for four months. It’s my greatest pleasure to seek adventure and experience culture, but something I often forget is just how awesome our home country is.

I found a list on BuzzFeed of the 29 most breathtaking places in the United States. You’ll want to check this out — and you might even need to update your bucket list.

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

Draper Inc. Employee Gets Trip of a Lifetime for Wellness Efforts

Over the past few years, employers have begun taking a larger role in the health and well-being of their employees. Many are finding it benefits not only morale, but the bottom line as well when workers are happy and healthy — and more productive. While many are experimenting with rewards programs and weight loss initiatives, Draper Inc. in Spiceland has raised the bar by giving one employee a trip to Hawaii for her efforts.

Draper's blog tells the story of Nancy Vickery, one of the company's nearly 160 employees who met the walking requirements — and her number was drawn to head to America's 50th — and some would argue most beautiful — state. Following the contest, 115 Draper employees were surveyed and reported the following results from their contest:

  • A combined weight loss of 526 pounds
  • Eight of them are no longer taking medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes
  • One of them no longer uses a sleep machine

Both the Indiana Chamber and the Wellness Council of Indiana offer kudos to Draper Inc. for this initiative. If you think your business could benefit from joining the Wellness Council, just reach out to its executive director, Chuck Gillespie, at chuck@wellnessindiana.org  .

Poll: We’re Striving to Thrive But Falling Short

Gallup is certainly one of the kings when it comes to the polling world. Its latest effort, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, seems to require a bit more interpretation than most.

Respondents were asked to rate their lives today and their expectations for their lives in five years. The answers lead to classifications of ‘thriving," "struggling" or "suffering." Indiana finds itself on the bottom 10 list of states with the lowest percentage of residents thriving.

Biggest improvement from 2011 to 2012: South Dakota, third overall; biggest drop over the last year: Alaska. In somewhat of a contrast, South Dakota was also among the four states (with Wyoming, West Virginia and Vermont) that are "least optimistic" about five years from now compared to today. In the "most optimistic" category for five years hence, honors go to Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, Florida, Ohio (breaking the Southern monopoly) and Hawaii.

Top 10 "thrivers" in 2012: Hawaii, Utah, South Dakota, Maryland, Texas, New Hampshire, Nebraska, New Mexico, Colorado and Minnesota. The bottom 10: West Virginia, Maine, Delaware, Nevada, Oregon, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Florida.

What does it mean? In Gallup’s words:

Gallup’s research has shown that people take a variety of factors into account when rating their lives. While this thriving measure doesn’t always align perfectly with macro-level trends on economic indicators such as economic confidence and job creation, it is known to correlate with personal factors in one’s own life including career, social, physical, financial, and community wellbeing. To that end, the states that do best overall in "thriving" are similar to those best positioned for future livability based on a variety of factors encompassing economic, workplace, community, and personal choices. As such, it remains clear that a broad-based approach will likely fare best in terms of improving how residents rate their lives and their level of optimism for the future.

 

Casting the Vote in Various Ways

An innovative vote center option has been unable to expand beyond the pilot stage in Indiana. In Hawaii, meanwhile, various methods of casting absentee ballots are in play with an effort to institute all-mail elections. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser has the story:

As of last year, Hawaii was among 29 states allowing some form of no-excuse absentee voting and is now among five states that allow citizens to become permanent absentee voters, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Hawaii’s Legislature approved the system in 2008 over Gov. Linda Lingle’s veto, but a bill to require statewide all-mail election failed in last year’s session.

The governor expressed concerns that the permanent absentee ballot could result in fraud because it lacks a means for verifying that the intended voter was the person who mailed in the vote. That should no longer be an issue since the 2009 federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act requires states to be equipped with reliable ballot tracking technology.

The Honolulu administration has sent out permanent absentee voting applications to the state’s 250,000 registered voters and other counties also will reach out to their voters. Applicants must provide their Social Security number and sign the form. Election workers are to compare the signature accompanying the mailed-in vote to the one on file from the application.

Oregon initiated all-mail elections in 2000 and appears to have avoided serious fraud by leveraging signature verification and ballot tracking, while increasing turnout by 7 percent in previous years to 67.6 percent in 2008.

Voting by mail follows a trend in that direction in Hawaii.

Thirty-eight percent of votes were cast by absent ballot in the 2008 general election, compared with only 19.7 percent in the 2000 election.

In Oregon, the cost of elections has gone down from $1.81 to $1.05 per voter since the move to all-mail balloting. However, the Los Angeles city clerk warned last year that an all-mail election would entail the prohibitive cost of hiring 480 new employees to process ballots. Hawaii is closing only about one-fourth of polling places, so cost-saving in this year’s election seems doubtful.

This year’s primary and general elections in Hawaii should provide an indication of whether voter turnout is enhanced by permanent absentee ballots and the cost would be affordable if the state were to move to all-mail voting. The Legislature should visit the issue in its next session.

Education: Days + Hours = Improvement

I wrote two days ago about an Expanded Learning Time pilot program in Massachusetts that has generated improved academic performance. Didn’t really think it would be time to harp on the same subject again, but …

Hawaii has passed a new law that guarantees 180 days per school year. (Our 50th state had the fiasco in 2009-2010 of furlough Fridays when state budget shortages sent teachers home at the end of the week and resulted in 163 days of instruction). Indiana and a large number of other states have been at that 180 number for years.

Big deal! Other countries around the world are at 190, 200, 220 days and more. They’re greatly exceeding the five-hour daily instructional average that Hawaii is also putting into law and others undoubtedly are following. And those countries are somehow ending up with better test scores than their U.S. counterparts in international comparisons.

Let’s review. More days in school plus more time on task each day helps equal better results. Sounds like a basic elementary school equation.

Oh, by the way, in Hawaii, leaders indicate the next challenge is bargaining with teachers unions on how to implement the new requirements. Don’t get me started on that.

Read the Hawaii story if you wish; more importantly, speak up and support school reform efforts before more students pay the consequences.

Insurance by the Numbers

When the subject these days is health care, that dreaded six-letter "r" word that ends in "form" usually follows. Let’s skip that topic and its consequences. Instead, a few interesting insurance facts, courtesy of The Council of State Governments and its annual The Book of the States.

  • Top five states for percentage of residents covered by insurance: Massachusetts (97%), Hawaii (92.5%), Wisconsin (91.8%), Minnesota (91.7%) and Maine (91.2%)
  • Bottom five states for percentage of residents covered by insurance: Texas (74.8%), New Mexico (77.5%), Florida (79.8%), Mississippi (81.2%) and Louisiana (81.5%)
  • On a regional basis, percent insured are 88.6% in the Midwest, 88.5% in the East, 83.9% in the South and 82.8% in the West
  • Where people get their insurance: 53.7%, employer; 13.2%, Medicaid; 12.1%, Medicare; 4.9%, individual
  • People under age 65: 65% have private insurance and 17% are uninsured
  • Children under age 18: 58% have private insurance, 34% are on a public health plan and 8.9% are uninsured

What do all the numbers mean? Let us know your interpretation.

Hawaii Strives to Lead on Electric Vehicles

Hawaii officials are hoping to make the state a leader on the usage of electric vehicles. Nice. It will be great to see "Dog the Bounty Hunter" load perps up in a hybrid SUV.

Starting this month, state and county agencies buying new vehicles are required to give priority to electric vehicles, alternative-fuel vehicles and hybrids. And by the end of next year, government and private parking lots open to the public must have at least one space for electric vehicles and a vehicle charger for every 100 parking spaces.

To offset the costs of electric cars and special parking, the state plans to spend $4.25 million in federal stimulus money by an April 2012 deadline on chargers and grants.

Vehicles that run on electricity rather than gasoline emit less pollution and are expected to be cheaper per mile to operate. They’re under development by every major car maker, and certain models are scheduled to be available in limited quantities on the Mainland by year’s end.

However, it’s unclear when the vehicles will be available to Hawai’i residents, and how quickly they will adopt the cars, which need to be regulary charged with electricity. There are also questions about the durability, reliability and serviceability of this new breed of vehicles.

Tax News: Good to Be Tied to Arkansas in This Case

Interesting numbers from the Tax Foundation, which is in the business of analyzing interesting (tax) numbers. Its annual review of what states did with their tax policies included some strong praise for Indiana. A few excerpts from the release and a link to the full study, which takes some to task for targeted tax hikes and accounting gimmicks (instead of reducing spending).

Nine states increased individual income tax rates (five states reduced their rates), six states raised general sales tax rates, 17 states increased excise taxes on cigarettes and five states increased rates of alcohol excise taxes.
 
“Two states – Arkansas and Indiana – managed to roll back spending growth commitments and take actions to limit spending, but other states have either kicked the budget can down the road or increased taxes,” said Tax Foundation Director of State Projects Joseph Henchman, who authored Tax Foundation Fiscal Fact No. 204, “A Review of Significant State Tax Changes During 2009.”  

“With state revenues declining due to the tough economic situation, most state leaders in 2009 have tapped high-income earners, smokers, out-of-state business transactions, or other targeted groups, those being the only people that politicians feel safe raising taxes on,” Henchman notes. 

California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon and Wisconsin increased individual income tax rates. States that increased sales taxes include California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina and the District of Columbia.
 
Other miscellaneous tax changes in 2009 include obesity and soda taxes, excise taxes on plastic bags (often mischaracterized as “fees”) and “Amazon” taxes, which force out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes from customers if the companies have affiliate and advertising relationships with in-state businesses.