On the Federal Front: Around the Horn

The U.S. House of Representatives was on a week-long recess, which means our delegation was back home and visiting with their constituents around the state. The Senate, however, remained in D.C. working. Both will continue on the job in Washington starting next week until their recess around Memorial Day. A few news and notes:

* Congressman Larry Bucshon, M.D. (IN-08) held a job fair in Terre Haute on Wednesday in coordination with WorkOne Western Indiana, Indiana State University and the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce. The event, held at Indiana State University’s Hulman Center, afforded potential employees the opportunity to meet with employers hiring in the Wabash Valley. A special emphasis was given to hiring veterans.

* Bucshon recently attended the Indiana Chamber’s I-69 Regional Summit in downtown Indianapolis. He was fresh from the floor vote in Congress on health care reform and also took time to meet with Chamber executives to discuss the topic.

* Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement on Thursday regarding reports that the Trump Administration is considering sending more American troops to Afghanistan:

“I am glad that President Trump is willing to seriously consider the request of his commanders on the ground, who are asking for additional forces. We’ve been at war in Afghanistan since 2001, but in recent years, decisions about troop levels have been based on politics instead of military strategy. We’ve invested too much blood and treasure in Afghanistan to tolerate a stalemate or defeat. I look forward to learning more about the administration’s plans in the coming days.”

* U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly has released his Foundation for Families Agenda – a series of policy proposals aimed at improving the quality of life for Hoosier families. Included in the policy agenda:

  • Paid family and medical leave
  • Expanding access to pre-K and quality childcare options
  • Affordable higher education
  • Equal pay for women

Donnelly released a video explaining his agenda. He stated, “I am unveiling the Foundation for Families Agenda because we need to ensure our policies and priorities support hardworking Hoosier and American families. When our families succeed, so
does our economy. The foundation for our families should include family leave, options for affordable childcare and pre-K, access to an affordable college education, and the assurance that Hoosier women are paid equally when they do the same job as their male counterparts. These are common sense ideas that I am hopeful we can advance in a bipartisan manner in the Senate.”

* Many news organizations are speculating that a potential candidate to be the new FBI director might be the current president of Anderson University, John Pistole. Pistole is former deputy director of the FBI (and led significant counter-terrorism efforts) and past head of the Transportation Security Administration. He has declined all requests for interviews since the speculation began, but a few friends and family spoke to the Indy Star.

* Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson has been tapped to serve on President Trump’s national commission investigating the integrity of American elections; see The Northwest Indiana Times story. Vice President Mike Pence is chairing the commission.

Community Impact of I-69 Expansion Takes Center Stage at May 5 Summit; Business and Civic Leaders Encouraged to Attend

Now that the completion of the Interstate 69 corridor from southern Indiana to Indianapolis is becoming closer to reality, it’s time to look at how the state can take its moniker of “The Crossroads of America” to the next level.

The I-69 Regional Summit on May 5 in downtown Indianapolis will focus on how this long-awaited connection through the state positively impacts communities along the route and what increased economic development efforts those areas can pursue.

The event is presented by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Hoosier Voices for I-69.

Speakers from across the United States and Canada will provide attendees with a comprehensive overview of the project and its magnitude, plus the potential economic opportunities that each community and the state has as a result. Experts also will examine ways to enable collaboration and leverage the new I-69 corridor from a statewide perspective.

The summit will open with the latest from the Indiana Department of Transportation on Section 5 and a timeline for Section 6, as well as updates on the Trump administration’s proposed transportation funding bill. Breakout sessions will cover topics such as branding and marketing strategies; the Canada/U.S. connection; economic development; zoning and tax credits; best practices and much more.

“We encourage business and civic leaders all along the I-69 route to attend this gathering. They will receive detailed information and a toolkit of ideas to take back to their own community or organization, as well as the chance to connect with experts who can be tapped into after the summit concludes,” says Indiana Chamber CEO Kevin Brinegar, who is also chairman of the board for Hoosier Voices for I-69.

A reception will be held May 4 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. The summit begins the morning of May 5 at 8 a.m. and concludes at 4 p.m. A luncheon from noon to 1:30 p.m. will be held May 5, with a keynote panel that includes Canadian Consul General Douglas George.

All events are held at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Indianapolis.

Cost for the full summit (including the May 4 reception) is $269 per person.

Individual tickets to the May 4 reception are $69. Individual tickets to the May 5 luncheon are $69; a table of 10 at the lunch on May 5 is $600.

Register online by visiting www.i69summit.com or the Indiana Chamber’s web site at www.indianachamber.com/specialevents.

The platinum sponsor is Duke Energy. Silver sponsors are: Hoosier Energy; Indiana Office of Tourism Development; Radius Indiana; and Smithville Fiber. Silver lunch sponsors are: AZTEC Engineering; Butler, Fairman & Seufert Inc.; Daviess County Economic Development Foundation, Inc.; and Old National Bank. Bronze lunch sponsors are: HNTB Corporation; and 69 BridgeLink.

Sponsorship opportunities are still available; for more information, contact Jim Wagner at jwagner@indianachamber.com or by calling (317) 264-6876.

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.”

Chamber Supports Regional Cities Initiative, I-69 Route in Southern Marion County

HB 1403 establishes the Indiana Regional City Fund to provide grants and loans to regional development authorities. Provides that the Indiana Economic Development Corporation administers the fund. Provides that a city or town that is eligible to become a second-class city may become a member of a regional development authority.

The Indiana Chamber testified in support of HB 1403, joining many others. The Indiana Chamber endorses regionalism and place-making economic development strategies that this legislation seeks to enable. Both have proven effective and both are in line with the Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 economic development plan. How to fund the state portion of the regional cities initiative remains an open question and one which the Indiana Chamber is prepared to work with legislative leaders to find an answer.

The bill was heard in the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday. No vote taken; eligible for further committee action.

Furthermore, see the article on the Regional Cities Initiative in the January/February edition of BizVoice magazine.


HB 1036 removes the requirement that the General Assembly enact a statute authorizing the construction of I-69 in Perry Township (Marion County) before I-69 may be constructed in Perry Township.

The Indiana Chamber, along with many others, testified in support of HB 1036; no party testified in opposition to the bill. There is no valid reason that the current prohibition for I-69 in Perry Township, Marion County should exist in law. The Chamber’s position: The current prohibition should be repealed; all potential routes for the final section of I-69 should be objectively studied by the appropriate agencies of both the federal and state governments; and the route with the least environmental and best economic impact for the state should be chosen upon the merits, not upon any political clout or other considerations.

This bill was heard in the House Roads and Transportation Committee on Wednesday. No vote taken; eligible for further committee action.

I-69: Open for Business!

Today was a monumental day in Indiana transportation, with the opening of a portion of the new I-69 highway. Gov. Mitch Daniels and other leaders convened to open the road this morning near Evansville, and Daniels then rode his motorcycle to Washington (Indiana). The Indy Star reports:

Daniels called the new stretch of highway "perfect,” proclaiming it will be a source of jobs and joy for communities along route.

Daniels, joined by federal, state and local officials, this morning opened the first of three new sections of I-69 in Far-Southwestern Indiana with a ribbon-cutting ceremony near Evansville. Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind. , Lt. Gov.-elect Sue Ellspermann, Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke and Norm Bafunno, president of Toyota Indiana were on hand.

Bouchon got to drive highway. He said he was thrilled with it connection the 3rd largest city with central Indiana.

Pike County commissioner Brian Davis also road the route with Daniels’ entourage. He called it both good and strange. Davis said it is great to have the county’s first interstate, but added "it was funny how quick we went through our county."

Daniels headed north to Washington and met with David Graham, a retired Daviess County farmer and longtime advocate for the new I-69 corridor, and Mark Newland, representing his late father, Jim, of the Mid-Continent Highway Coalition, another long-time advocate for the new highway.

The governor’s final stopwill be at a new interchange with U.S. 231 near Crane Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center about 20 miles west of Bloomington. According to INDOT, that stop also will “include special recognition of Indiana basketball legend Bobby Plump and Olympic gold medalist David Boudia.”

The new interstate is slated to open to the public at 6 p.m.

Thanks to Chamber VP Cam Carter for the picture, taken this morning near Evansville.

Gora: Immersive Learning Spurs Innovation, Collaboration

In her second guest post, Ball State University President Jo Ann Gora offers her insights on the following topic:

  • Tell us something that not enough people know about your college or university that makes it such a special place.

While many Indiana citizens and others around the country know that Ball State is redefining education through immersive learning, they often are unaware of the breadth and intensity of those experiences.

Immersive learning is a more focused and intense form of experiential learning, as interdisciplinary teams of students work with a faculty mentor to provide real-world solutions for real-world problems faced by businesses, nonprofit organizations, and communities across Indiana and literally around the world. These projects hone our students’ skills in innovation and collaboration and help them to turn knowledge into judgment and judgment into action.

In the last two years, more than 5,300 Ball State students from 38 academic departments and all seven of our colleges completed 285 immersive learning projects in 69 Indiana counties. Those students have helped to open an arts industry incubator in Brown County, conducted the annual perch count on Lake Michigan, and developed the I-69 Culinary Trail for nine counties stretching from Indianapolis to the Michigan state line. They have written an 18-week nutrition and wellness curriculum with our partners at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent and Marsh Supermarkets that is now being used by nearly 250 elementary schools in 60 counties. And they have written a crisis communication protocol for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security that affects every county in our state.

The reach of our immersive learning experiences is tremendous. Two of the students involved in the Culinary Trail project are from China, learning about Hoosier culture (and cuisine) as well as marketing and communication.  And a group of Ball State students, mostly from Indiana, spent 10 weeks in China, just outside Hong Kong, working with one of the leading toy manufacturers in the world on a Six Sigma initiative.  This spring, 40 students from our College of Architecture and Planning are visiting 56 cities in 23 countries and applying these new cultural and architectural perspectives to design projects in their own hometowns.

Bringing bright students together with talented faculty in immersive learning projects creates a unique educational experience, one that defines Ball State.

Tomorrow: Ivy Tech’s Tom Snyder

The Big ‘E’ as in Evansville

Evansville is always an interesting locale. Residents there feel the disconnect from Central Indiana (it’s difficult to have a conversation without the Interstate 69 topic coming up, and I understand to some degree their frustration), but they don’t really have the big out-of-state neighbor (think Chicago, Cincinnati or Louisville) to turn to as an Indiana alternative.

I’ve had the opportunity to report on a number of intriguing stories out of the area known as the Pocket City, River City, Crescent City and probably a few other nicknames. I’m working on one for the next BizVoice magazine that focuses on plans for a new downtown arena and the economic development potential it brings.

Look for a major announcement on that project soon and some analysis in the upcoming BizVoice. Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel, by the way, says that on its own scale this development will be every bit as important to his community as the Lucas Oil Stadiums and Conseco Fieldhouses are to Indianapolis.

We’ve also compiled community feature sections from Fort Wayne, South Bend and Terre Haute in 2009 editions of BizVoice. There is plenty going on in all corners of the state and in many cities and towns in between. We enjoy bringing you the stories, hope you enjoy reading them and welcome your ideas for future topics.