Chamber Unveils Podcast: EchoChamber is Now Live!

EchoChamber is a new informal discussion with Indiana leaders in business, education, technology, politics and much more. We’ll begin with the following three outstanding guests in as many weeks before reverting to a biweekly format:

  • Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation and one of the foremost minds in the world on education and workforce policy and initiatives
  • Lee Hamilton, an 17-term U.S. representative who remains a thoughtful voice on state, national and global issues
  • Graham Richard, the innovative one-time Fort Wayne mayor who is now guiding efforts at a national organization called Advanced Energy Economy

Subscribe at iTunes, GooglePlay or wherever you get your podcasts to be notified about the latest interview.

Tech Talk: Catching Up on Indiana Chamber Activity

A busy June at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce included items of importance to the innovation and entrepreneurship communities. A brief overview:

Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card
The every-other-year evaluation of our state’s economic performance includes the Dynamic and Creative Culture driver. Unfortunately, the statewide statistical measures don’t match up to the progress being seen in central Indiana and other select areas. Indiana is tied for 44th in the Kauffman Entrepreneurial Index and 35th in venture capital invested.

There are strong performances in university business spinouts, foreign direct investment and exports.

Full details and summaries at www.indianachamber.com/2025.

10th annual employer workforce survey 
While the Report Card showed some progress in educational measures, this survey reinforced the ongoing skills mismatch. Two numbers: 47% of respondents left jobs unfilled in the past year due to under-qualified applicants and 79% indicate filling their workforce is among their biggest challenges. Both trends have only increased over the past four years.

The survey also looks at workforce recruitment strategies, training and drug testing.

Details at www.indianachamber.com/education.

Coming Your Way

  • The July-August BizVoice® includes, among other features, visits to four co-working spaces around the state and a column on the green Internet of Things.•
  • Coming in mid-July is the new EchoChamber podcast. Technology and innovation will be one of the featured subjects. Catch a sneak preview at www.indianachamber.com/echochamber.

Employer Survey: Skilled Workers Scarce; Few Take Advantage of Tuition Reimbursement

A new employer survey from the Indiana Chamber shows concerning trends in workforce shortages, tuition reimbursement and response to prescription opiate abuse.

“Too often employers can’t find the workers they need, and those currently employed aren’t taking advantage of tuition reimbursement that would put them in better positions,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

More than 1,100 businesses from throughout the state took part in the Indiana Chamber Foundation’s 10th annual employer survey, sponsored by WGU Indiana and conducted in partnership with Indiana-based Walker.

Specifically, research shows that nearly half (47%) of employers left jobs unfilled in the past year due to under-qualified applicants. That extended a trend from the previous three years in which the answers to that same question were 39%, 43% and 45%, respectively.

Additionally, almost 80% (79%) percent cited filling their workforce as among their biggest challenges. That number is also on the rise from 72%, 74% and 76% in the previous three years.

Once again, more than half of employers (53%) expect to increase the size of their workforce in the next one to two years. But their challenges are even larger with 54% saying the supply of qualified applicants does not meet demand and 85% placing the filling of talent needs as among their critical challenges.

“In many cases, it’s not a lack of a four-year degree or higher educational achievement. Two-thirds require less than a bachelor’s degree for their unfilled jobs,” Brinegar explains. “This puts additional emphasis on the certificates, credentials and associate degrees in which Indiana, unfortunately, trails the majority of states.”

But it’s not always a lack of education or training that leads to the unfilled positions. In the view of employers, 45% of applicants are unwilling to accept the pay/compensation offered and 28% are not attracted to the community where the job is located.

In the training world, there appear to be some missed opportunities for employers and their workers. Only 40% of the respondents indicate that they partner with an educational institution to help meet their training needs.

For the employees, nearly half (48%) have access to tuition reimbursement programs but very few take advantage of those opportunities. From the employer perspective, 60% said employees have no desire or motivation to participate and 35% believe workers see no personal benefit in advancing their education.

“Part of the problem is employees not having the funds to cover the tuition payments upfront that will be reimbursed at some point by their employer. And that’s a common arrangement for these programs,” Brinegar offers.

“But we also know if employers pay for the tuition directly to the school – which is obviously easier for larger companies – more workers are likely to take part. We heard from one of our members who saw participation jump from about 50 employees to more than 400 when that change was made. So that is something the Indiana Chamber will be looking at this summer in our business-higher education committee to see what public policy recommendations may make sense.”

When it comes to prescription opiate misuse, less than half (47%) of the respondents said they drug tested employees for it in safety-sensitive positions. On a broader scale, 56% of employers said they tested any employee if they suspected misuse or abuse of prescription opiates. However, more than a third (34%) of employers indicated they did not know how to detect such misuse or abuse.

The survey results are available at www.indianachamber.com/education.

The annual employer survey complements the work the Indiana Chamber is doing with the Outstanding Talent driver in the Indiana Vision 2025 long-term economic development plan for the state.

Indiana Vision 2025 measures Indiana’s progress compared to other states on 36 goals in the four driver areas of Outstanding Talent, Attractive Business Climate, Superior Infrastructure, and Dynamic and Creative Culture. The latest Report Card showing how Indiana ranks was released earlier this month and is available at www.indianachamber.com/2025.

Chamber Honored for Support of National Guard

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar holds the Above and Beyond Award, presented to the Chamber for its support of our employee Cory Ahlersmeyer. Cory’s annual two-week deployments allow him to train for his service in the National Guard.

We’re proud to have received the Above and Beyond Award from the U.S. Military’s Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program for our support and flexibility with our staffer Cory Ahlersmeyer. We’re grateful for his service to the country and proud to call him a colleague! The award reads: “Presented on behalf of the men and women of the National Guard and Reserve Forces for outstanding service and continuing support to the National Defense.”

Chamber Scores Lawmakers on Voting Records, Honors Five as Legislative Champions

Each year, the Indiana Chamber holds state lawmakers accountable for their voting records on pro-jobs, pro-economy legislation. Today the 2017 results were revealed in the organization’s annual Legislative Vote Analysis, with vote scores ranging from 29% to 100%.

“We want employers and citizens to take note of this report because it makes it very clear which legislators were supportive of bettering Indiana’s economic climate and which were not,” states Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

Bills included for examination in the Legislative Vote Analysis can be traced back to the Indiana Chamber’s economic development plan, Indiana Vision 2025 (www.indianachamber.com/2025). The plan contains 36 goals in the four driver areas of Outstanding Talent, Attractive Business Climate, Superior Infrastructure, and Dynamic and Creative Culture.

Separately, the Indiana Chamber acknowledged 11 legislators who made a difference in the 2017 session. Five legislators were named Indiana Chamber Legislative Champions for “taking on tough assignments and working diligently to see much-needed policy cross the finish line or at least meaningful debate started,” Brinegar offers.

These legislators are: Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer (Dist. 89 – Beech Grove); Rep. David Ober (Dist. 82 – Albion); Sen. Jeff Raatz (Dist. 27 – Centerville); Rep. Holli Sullivan (Dist. 78 – Evansville); and Rep. Ed Soliday (Dist. 4 – Valparaiso). (Why each received the honor is listed on page 6 of the report.

Additionally, appreciation was noted for six lawmakers in leadership positions: House Speaker Brian Bosma (Dist. 88 – Indianapolis); Senate President Pro Tem David Long (Dist. 16 – Fort Wayne); House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning (Dist. 91 – Indianapolis); House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown (Dist. 41 – Crawfordsville); Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee Chairman Brandt Hershman (Dist. 7 – Buck Creek); and Senate Education and Career Development Committee Chairman Dennis Kruse (Dist. 14 – Auburn).

All scores and the full report are available at the Indiana Chamber’s web site at www.indianachamber.com/lva.

Base scores for each legislator are calculated as a percentage of votes cast in agreement with the Indiana Chamber’s position on the bills included in the Legislative Vote Analysis. Six pro-economy, pro-jobs bills were double-weighted to reflect their importance. These include legislation for long-term road funding, ISTEP replacement, pre-K expansion for children from low-income families, an appointed State Superintendent of Public Instruction, a broad energy policy and prohibiting a “ban the box” practice against employers seeking criminal history information on an employment application.

A modest adjustment factor (positive or negative) was added to the Legislative Vote Analysis scoring model to factor in very important legislative activities outside of floor votes. These include whether a legislator sponsored/authored these important bills and whether committee chairs held hearings or killed these bills.

Legislators who score 70% or greater for the most recent four-year voting period are eligible for endorsement by the Indiana Chamber’s political action committee, Indiana Business for Responsive Government.

Lawmakers are notified of the Indiana Chamber position and reasoning on the bills in this report through various communications during the legislative session – and prior to key votes being taken. Only floor votes for which there is a public record are used in the Legislative Vote Analysis.

Copies of the Legislative Vote Analysis report are sent to all legislators and Indiana Chamber board members, and made available online for all businesspersons, community leaders and citizens.

This marks the 33rd year the Indiana Chamber has measured state legislators’ voting performance on bills that reflect the organization’s public policy positions.

Chronic Diseases Top of Mind for New Wellness Council Executive Director

Chronic disease management is a costly challenge in Indiana. Due to high rates of tobacco usage and obesity and the resulting health issues (diabetes, lung cancer, heart disease, etc.), Indiana finds itself again near the bottom of recent national health and fitness rankings.

As the new executive director of the Wellness Council of Indiana (WCI), Jennifer Pferrer is ready to help tackle those challenges and spread the message of comprehensive wellness programming to Hoosier employers.

“Some of the goals in the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 economic development plan target reducing smoking rates and obesity levels in Indiana, and the role of the WCI is to bring that conversation to a broader space and make an impact in health care costs and the health of Hoosiers,” she explains.

“I’m passionate about health care and I am looking forward to adding my mark on the Wellness Council of Indiana, as it really fits my background.”

Pferrer joined the WCI – a program of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce – in April and previously worked for the American Diabetes Association (ADA) for 10 years, serving in roles that included executive director for Indiana and Kentucky, and regional vice president of a six-state region. Prior to the ADA, she studied consumer-physician relationships as marketing manager at St. Vincent Hospital.

Pferrer’s goal is to continue proving the value of the WCI as an investment for Hoosier employers.

“Wellness is so much broader than Fitbit programs. This is not just food and fitness. There is a data-driven business case for wellness. Wellness needs to be seen as an investment and it goes back to managing chronic diseases,” Pferrer notes. “For example, health education for employees with pre-diabetes can reduce the annual health care spend by the employer by thousands of dollars.”

Through the WCI’s AchieveWell company-based wellness program certification and the Indiana Healthy Community Initiative – which encourages a community-based approach to wellness to increase economic development potential – Pferrer says the infrastructure is in place for wellness success.

“I want employers to know – if wellness is on their radar, they don’t have to recreate the wheel. We can convene and share best practices and be that resource for them,” she concludes.

For more information on the WCI or to connect with Pferrer, visit www.wellnessindiana.org or call (317) 264-2168.

Gov. Holcomb Statement on the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card

Gov. Holcomb offered the following statement on the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card and 10th annual workforce survey released Tuesday:

This report card makes clear our state’s strengths and challenges: Indiana is a top state for doing business, but to meet the demands of our growing economy we must double-down on efforts to attract and prepare a ready workforce.

There is no single solution for improvement. The only way we’ll take our state to the next level is with a comprehensive strategy, and Indiana has the right roadmap.

From improving roads and bridges to attacking the drug epidemic, from prekindergarten to adult career training, from more direct flights to enhanced regional development—all of these efforts combined will help build healthier, more vibrant communities that are magnets for jobs and growth.

Now is the time for our state’s leaders to come together and put in the hard work that will improve the lives of Hoosiers.

We appreciate the governor’s support and attentiveness to our efforts.

Chamber Report Card Shows State Is Moving Forward, But a Quicker Pace Required

While economic momentum continues in portions of the state, the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card and 10th annual workforce survey clearly illustrate challenges that need both short- and long-term attention.

Among the findings: not enough skilled workers to meet economic needs; high rates of smoking and obesity that prove costly and impact quality of life; rising electricity prices; and a lack of statewide entrepreneurial activity and venture capital to support such efforts.

“There are a number of positive developments – both taking place every day and in our latest research – that are cause to celebrate,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “But it is also evident that a lack of workers, unhealthy lifestyle choices and limited Indiana-based funding to grow promising companies is keeping the state from realizing its full potential.”

The Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card compares the 50 states on 62 metrics related to 36 goals grouped by four drivers: Outstanding Talent, Attractive Business Climate, Superior Infrastructure, and Dynamic and Creative Culture.

Overall, Indiana did better on the 2017 version than the 2015 Report Card. Improvement occurred in 36 metrics – up from 28 two years ago; Indiana also declined in 16 rankings, which was three less than in 2015. The state remained the same or there was no updated data available in eight metrics; that number was 12 in 2015. (Two metrics couldn’t be compared.)

Some of Indiana’s top performances include:

  • Business regulatory environment: Regulatory Freedom Index (2nd) and Small Business Policy Index (9th)
  • Early education: A variety of top 10 ranks in NAEP (National Assessment of Education Progress) test scores, particularly at the fourth-grade level
  • Exports: 10th among the 50 states, extending a string of similar rankings

The early education gains, however, are countered by a lack of workers in critical areas, including STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The Report Card reveals Indiana colleges and universities produce the third most science and technology degrees, but the state is only 42nd in the adult population with such degrees.

In addition, two troubling trends from the Indiana Chamber’s annual employer workforce survey continue:

  • The number of respondents that left jobs unfilled due to under-qualified applicants increased to 47% – from 39%, 43% and 45% the last three years
  • Those indicating that filling their workforce was their biggest challenge also increased – 29% after previous marks of 20%, 24% and 27%. Combine that with those answering next biggest challenge and the number soars to 79% – following totals of 72%, 74% and 76% the last three years

“Employers tell us, both through the survey and in their daily work experiences, that they simply can’t fulfill growth possibilities due to the lack of skilled workers,” Brinegar notes. “While many efforts are underway to prepare future employees and upgrade the abilities of those in the workforce today, those programs must be operated at the highest level of effectiveness and accelerated.”

The unhealthy lifestyle choices among Hoosiers carries a $6 billion annual price tag in increased health care costs and lost productivity. Indiana’s 20.6% adult smoking rate is an improvement over past years, but ranks 39th among all states. A six-rank improvement in adult obesity still leaves the state with a 36th-place rating and nearly a third of adults are considered obese.

Electricity prices, once considered a strong advantage for the most manufacturing-intensive state in the country, are now 29th for industrial customers and 26th for commercial. And while progress has been made on gathering data to avoid the water crises that have plagued others, the state must move quicker on regional planning and governance issues regarding future supplies.

In the important area of Dynamic and Creative Culture, momentum in central Indiana is overshadowed by poor statewide performance in a series of metrics, including: Kauffman Entrepreneurial Index (tied for 44th); job creation among new firms (44th); and venture capital (35th).

“Indiana must continue to make all areas of the state attractive destinations for workers and the companies that create jobs,” Brinegar concludes. “We’re encouraged by the regional cooperation that has emerged in recent years and look forward to enhancing our statewide performance and outcomes in future Report Cards.”

About Indiana Vision 2025
Mission: “Indiana will be a global leader in innovation and economic opportunity where enterprises and citizens prosper.” Indiana Vision 2025 was developed by a statewide task force of community, business and education leaders. The plan was released in early 2012. This third Report Card is available at www.indianachamber.com/2025.

About the Indiana Chamber Foundation’s Workforce Employer Survey
Sponsored by WGU Indiana, the 10th annual survey was conducted in partnership with Walker. More than 1,200 employers responded. Full results, including questions on workforce training and opioid use in the workplace, are available at www.indianachamber.com/education.

Statewide Discussions and Analysis
The 2017 Report Card and workforce survey will be the focus of six regional forums (to discuss the results, obtain local analysis and share best practices). The events are sponsored by Duke Energy Foundation; Indiana Michigan Power; NIPSCO, a NiSource company; and Vectren.

The forum schedule: June 6 (South Bend), June 7 (Hammond), June 27 (Sellersburg), June 28 (Indianapolis), June 29 (Evansville) and July 20 (Fort Wayne).

Chamber Goes to D.C., Talks Top Member Issues With Hoosier Delegation

The Chamber’s Caryl Auslander met with Sen. Todd Young last Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Indiana Chamber members were once again represented in Washington as Caryl Auslander, VP of federal relations, returned to meet with over half of Indiana’s congressional delegation last week. On the agenda: the most pressing public policy matters the Chamber hears about from its member companies throughout the state.

On this trip, Auslander met with Sen. Todd Young, Rep. Susan Brooks (IN-05), Rep. Larry Bucshon, M.D. (IN-08) and Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (IN-09), as well as with key legislative staffers from the offices of Rep. Jim Banks (IN-03), Rep. André Carson (IN-07) and Rep. Pete Visclosky (IN-01).

Below are the five main policy areas discussed with these delegation members:

Health Care Reform
The Indiana Chamber wants to see lower health care costs and improvement to the overall system. We believe the Affordable Care Act is overly complex, administratively burdensome and financially unsustainable as-is. We support a “repeal and replace” approach, but in the absence of that, substantial changes should be made to make the law more workable and viable for the long term.

Infrastructure
The Chamber is looking for a stable, long-term way to pay for highway infrastructure, with a separate, sustainable and dedicated transportation funding source. Whatever the upcoming Trump and congressional plans entail, Indiana deserves its fair share of federal transportation dollars. Equity guarantee would ensure that all states receive a minimum level of funding relative to other states. All states should receive a minimum of 95% return on their share of fuel tax contributions and on any additional funding sources. Without an equity guarantee, overall funding may increase; however, Indiana could receive less overall or comparatively.

Regulatory Reform
The federal government has consistently overreached its authority, which has left Hoosier companies facing a multitude of complicated and changing federal regulations. It’s not only burdensome and time-consuming, but has created a lot of business uncertainty and hinders the ability to expand in the U.S. NOTE: Auslander reiterated the top regulations to overturn from the Chamber’s standpoint and gave the delegation another copy of the list.

Rural Broadband
The Chamber believes that advanced communications and digital infrastructure is critical to long-term economic development. Yes, we have come a long way, but still not enough is happening and not quickly enough. We encouraged our delegation to find more ways to bring the most rural parts of the country and state up to date technologically to help reverse downward economic trends. Broadband in rural communities helps businesses, schools and communities at-large; it is no longer a luxury but now a necessity.

Tax Reform
We need a tax code that is certainly simpler. It’s complicated and it costs way too much to comply with. Lowering the corporate income tax rate – which puts us at a competitive disadvantage globally – is something virtually everyone agrees on. We also urged getting rid of the ineffective alternative minimum tax (AMT) and the federal estate tax, which poses a real threat to small businesses and family farms. And while it is important for comprehensive tax reform, we need to do it in a way that does not increase the deficit.

We Can Check These Education Matters Off the List (For Now)

For the last decade, the Chamber has strongly advocated to have a state-funded high quality pre-K program for children from low-income families. While we were successful in achieving a small pilot program for five counties a few years ago, we were able to significantly increase the state’s investment this legislative session. The Chamber helped to lead a strong coalition of community leaders, businesses, philanthropies and providers to achieve $44 million appropriated in the two-year budget (HB 1001) to expand the pilot. We can now increase the number of counties from the original five to up to 20, with a preference given to rural areas.

Separately, we successfully advocated for a lowering of the county match of dollars from a base of 10% down to 5%. In addition, we worked on offering up to 20% of the appropriated dollars to be used for capacity-building grants to allow for providers to grow more high-quality placements. This was a priority for both the House and Senate leadership, as well as Gov. Holcomb and the final bills passed with strong bipartisan votes of 82-16 and 31-19, respectively.

The Chamber also were able to pass a bill (SB 248) that would allow small school corporations situated in the same or adjoining counties to consolidate services if 20% of legal voters in both school districts petition the trustees of their respective school corporations. A small school consolidation grant that was originally included in this bill was moved into the budget to help offset costs. The Indiana Chamber has been supportive of this legislation in previous sessions and most recently, the Indiana Chamber Foundation has commissioned and is finalizing a study that shows the direct correlation between smaller school corporations and lower postsecondary attainment for students.

The Chamber has had a long-standing policy to support the opportunity to reduce administrative costs by merging or consolidating administrative services in smaller school districts, which we believe will in turn reduce the duplication of programs or services, increase cost efficiencies relating to the use of school facilities, plus reduce debt and provide for establishing other cost-cutting measures.

And we can now check off a legislative agenda item that the Chamber has been advocating for over 30 years to complete. House Bill 1005 will move the Superintendent of Public Instruction from an elected to appointed position. We had originally advocated for this bill with an effective date of 2021 (and therefore no election in 2020); however, the Senate version of the bill died by surprise on the Senate floor on third reading. That meant to consider the House version (which was virtually identical), the content had to be “substantially different” than the failed bill, per Senate rules.

Therefore, the Senate amended the bill to change the effective date to 2025 and include a residency requirement of two years and have certain educational experience. The Chamber did not support these changes as we felt that Indiana’s education leader should be the best person available and no other appointed state agency position has such required qualifications. However, it was decided by Senate leadership and counsel that the changes had to remain for the measure to proceed. So while we are extremely happy that we were able to get the position appointed, we are disappointed with the additional requirements. The Chamber will continue to advocate for these to be stripped from statute in subsequent sessions, although we feel that it will likely be a very difficult lift.