VIDEO: Time to Move Forward and Improve Indiana’s Infrastructure

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar discusses the importance of improving Indiana’s infrastructure. 2016 looks to be the “year of infrastructure” at the Statehouse, and Brinegar asserts “Indiana can’t wait for Washington to act.”

This Boilermaker Prefers Copperheads to Rattlesnakes

BrewerThis past year was quite the adventure for me. Last March, I left the Indiana Chamber after 14 years to tackle a new chapter in my life. I could blame the move on the brutal winter that year, but I think the time had arrived for me to explore and to feel like I tried something new. With the exception of a semester abroad in college, I had lived all 37 years in the good ol’ Hoosier state. I didn’t want to look back some day and say, “I should have tried” or “what if?” So, my wife and I packed up our two Subarus, then headed west to Tucson, Arizona with great enthusiasm and a terribly confused dog.

I’ve told many friends that this past year was arguably the year I learned the most about myself. I learned how to avoid multiple rattlesnakes on trails. I learned how to carry 100 ounces of water on a mountain bike ride. I learned how important it was to continue to see new places and grow my need for wanderlust. Most importantly, I had plenty of time to think after climbing to the top of four of the five mountain ranges surrounding Tucson, and it made me realize what was most valuable to me… my mom’s pecan pie. Well, her pecan pie made the most missed list, but being in the same area code with my Montgomery County family and all of my friends in Indianapolis was most important to me.

The direct flight from Indy to Phoenix was fairly easy, but life just wasn’t as fulfilling. I missed seeing my nephew’s first start at defensive end for Rose-Hulman’s football team. I missed seeing Purdue thump IU both times during the basketball season. I missed the community feel of my old, funky Broad Ripple neighborhood. I missed my favorite beer at Thr3e Wise Men. I certainly enjoyed the active outdoors lifestyle in mountainous southern Arizona, and I continued Chamber work with four state chambers, but it just didn’t feel right. After one year, we came running back, and the dog was even more perplexed.

My new role with the Chamber starts this week as the advertisement sales director for BizVoice magazine. I really enjoyed my time at the Chamber in membership and helping members, and I’m blessed to have the opportunity to work with the Indiana business community again.

That’s enough reflection for one day. Time to head to Crawfordsville for a piece of my mom’s pecan pie.

Small Business Administration Makes Disaster Loans Available in Indiana

In case your company was impacted by the excessive rains in Indiana this summer, there may be some relief available. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has issued the release below.

Note: Disaster relief is only available for selected counties, which are mentioned:

The SBA announced today that federal Economic Injury Disaster Loans are available to small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and private nonprofit organizations located in Indiana as a result of excessive rain and flooding beginning on June 1, 2015.

The disaster declaration includes the following counties: Benton, Gibson, Knox, Lake, Newton, Posey, Sullivan, Vermillion, Vigo and Warren in Indiana.

“These counties are eligible because they are contiguous to one or more primary counties in Illinois. The Small Business Administration recognizes that disasters do not usually stop at county or state lines. For that reason, counties adjacent to primary counties named in the declaration are included,” said Frank Skaggs, director of SBA’s Field Operations Center East in Atlanta.

Under this declaration, the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is available to eligible farm-related and nonfarm-related entities that suffered financial losses as a direct result of this disaster. With the exception of aquaculture enterprises, SBA cannot provide disaster loans to agricultural producers, farmers, or ranchers.

The loan amount can be up to $2 million with interest rates of 2.625 percent for private nonprofit organizations and 4 percent for small businesses, with terms up to 30 years. The SBA determines eligibility based on the size of the applicant, type of activity and its financial resources. Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition. These working capital loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that could have been paid had the disaster not occurred. The loans are not intended to replace lost sales or profits.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website.

Disaster loan information and application forms may also be obtained by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by sending an email to disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. Loan applications can be downloaded from the SBA’s website at www.sba.gov/disaster. Completed applications should be mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

Completed loan applications must be returned to SBA no later than April 12, 2016.

Ontario Systems: Maximizing Its Chamber Investment Through Talent Recruitment

Lehman_JillGreat minds think alike.

Jill Lehman, vice president of administration and chief people officer at Ontario Systems (an Indiana Chamber member since 1992), views its collaboration with Indiana INTERNnet – an internship-matching program linking employers, students, high schools, colleges and universities – as a perfect fit.

Based in Muncie, Ontario Systems is a leading accounts receivable technology and services provider.

“Indiana has great students. It has great talent. We believe in trying to find that talent, keep that talent and grow that talent,” Lehman emphasizes. “Our mission is very similar to the mission of Indiana INTERNnet. It’s definitely something we want to be a part of.”

During a telephone conversation in July, Lehman raved about the 12 students participating in Ontario Systems’ summer internship program. Three were EARN Indiana-eligible. EARN (Employment Aid Readiness Network) is a partnership between Indiana INTERNnet and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education that allows employers to be reimbursed for up to 50% of their interns’ wages from the state.

Lehman’s take on the initiative? “It’s phenomenal.”

Ontario Systems’ summer interns included mainly college juniors, seniors and recent graduates. They gained experience in areas ranging from software engineering, client support, legal, human resources and marketing.

“We’re getting great ideas generated from the students as we look at different ways to approach how we do work and solve problems,” Lehman declares. “We’re really excited that our interns are wanting to continue their careers with us – whether it’s through part-time employment or full-time employment depending on where they’re at (college student vs. graduate). And we’re able to have quality jobs for them right here in Muncie, Indiana.”

D.C. Fly-in with Congressional Delegation Sept. 16-17

7324001Don’t sit on the sidelines when you could be influencing laws and regulations under discussion in Washington. Make an impact by attending the Indiana Chamber’s D.C. Fly-in on September 16-17. (Note: Our hotel room block expires Sunday so book your reservations this week!)

The event offers business and community leaders an opportunity to speak with Indiana’s congressional delegation and key staff members during a roundtable discussion/dinner on September 16. The second day features a panel of national and state issue experts, followed by numerous group visits to congressional offices.

By September, the 2016 presidential campaign will be in full swing with a number of members of Congress running for re-election. Dominant issues in Washington and beyond will include transportation, tax reform, repatriation of overseas funds, Obamacare and immigration.

Cost is $149 per person and group discounts are available. Each attendee is responsible for securing travel arrangements. Discounted hotel rooms are available for Chamber Fly-in guests at The Liaison Capitol Hill. Register online.

(The D.C. Fly-in is sponsored by Zimmer. The breakfast program is sponsored by Faegre Baker Daniels. Additional sponsorship is provided by Duke Energy. Thanks to these fine businesses for their support.)

Knox County ARC: Maximizing Chamber Investment Through Helplines

ODell_AmyKnox County ARC has 36 locations across the county, including five group homes, 25 waiver homes and several plants. Amy O’Dell, director of human resources, leverages Indiana Chamber membership to make sure HR operations are running smoothly.

The organization, which has been an Indiana Chamber since 1992, works with people who have developmental and intellectual disabilities, providing jobs/skills training, housing, and even school and preschool programs to the community.

To help O’Dell stay on top of industry regulations, she calls the Chamber at least once a quarter with HR questions.

“(I call when) I need to bounce ideas off someone else who understands where I am coming from with the HR laws and regulations,” O’Dell explains.

O’Dell notes that she has used the Chamber’s HR Helpline for everything from ordering posters to handling difficult staffing situations. She says Michelle Kavanaugh, human resources director at the Chamber, is like “an extension of the HR department.”

“I would recommend it because Michelle is very knowledgeable and has a lot of experience in HR, and I trust the feedback she gives me,” O’Dell remarks. “She is very willing to get on the phone and listen to all the details. She always has time to help.”

O’Dell has also used Chamber membership to attend conferences, at a discounted rate, that helped her gain additional training, including a workshop on the Family Medical Leave Act and the annual HR conference.

The Chamber’s helpline, though, may be a “best kept secret” for HR professionals, says O’Dell.

“It is something I use instead of calling an attorney right off the bat,” she explains. “It is definitely a huge resource to companies, so I hope they know it’s there and they utilize it.”

Sneaker Fans: Step Right Up!

What in the world is a Sneakerhead?

I hadn’t heard of the term until I stumbled upon this NPR story about a new exhibit that traces the history of sneakers. What a cool way to get your kicks!

Shoes of all shapes and sizes are on display at the Brooklyn Museum (future stops include Toledo, Ohio and Louisville):

The show begins with some of the first rubber shoes ever made. They were manufactured in Brazil and exported to America in the 1830s.

In the same case, there’s a crusty, brown, old canvas kick with a familiar shape. It’s a Converse All Star from 1917, the year that shoe was first produced. …

Every step here is shoe history. There’s a bizarre high-heeled sneaker from around 1925 and a TV ad for Keds from 1958.

One of the industry’s most famous designers, Chuck Taylor, hails from Columbus, Indiana. Special-edition Converse All Star Chuck Taylor sneakers featured an exclusive Columbus design last fall.

Share your memories on the fads that paved the way for today’s fashion. What were your favorites?

Teachers Deserve (and Need) Our Support

This column by Indiana Chamber VP of Education and Workforce Development Policy Caryl Auslander originally appeared in Inside INdiana Business.

As we near the beginning of a new school year, what better opportunity is there to celebrate the people who make such a positive impact on so many lives.

I’m talking, of course, about teachers. That makes it all the more troubling to see recent stories about a dramatic decline in education school enrollment, as well as district difficulties in finding qualified teachers for available openings.

The all-too public disputes between the Indiana Department of Education and the State Board of Education are hopefully a thing of the past. There is no worse example, or bigger drain on morale, than adult battles that can – and should – be avoided.

As a wife, daughter and sister of teachers, I see firsthand the passion and commitment they bring to their work. As someone advocating in the areas of education and workforce development, I’m in constant contact with others who share that dedication to seeing all students have the opportunity to succeed.

I’m proud that my employer has a mission that calls for providing “economic opportunity and prosperity for the people of Indiana” and leads an Indiana Vision 2025 plan that boasts Outstanding Talent as its most important economic driver.

I’m pleased that our state has opened new doors for families through the introduction and expansion of charter schools and vouchers. These schools and these programs, like all others in education, however, must continue to demonstrate proven results. There is no room for underperformance in this critical enterprise.

I’m happy that the Indiana Chamber and its allies have helped deliver alternative routes for persons holding professional degrees to share their expertise by becoming teachers. The success stories of these career changers and the lives they impact continue to grow.

I’m encouraged that full-day kindergarten options are in place and that preschool pilot programs are taking off in a few selected counties. The expedient expansion of early education, especially for low-income and other disadvantaged population, is hopefully among the next steps. The results are proven and the need is great.

But what about those teachers? They are the MOST critical factor in each student’s ability to obtain the quality education that allows them to become productive members of society. There is no doubt that more needs to be done to attract, retain and reward the best teachers. “More” includes:

  • Increasing starting pay for teachers to attract the best and brightest to the profession
  • Paying our best teachers more money
  • Directing more than the 57% (as of 2013) of every K-12 dollar that reaches the classroom
  • Providing meaningful feedback and professional development for all educators
  • Celebrating teaching successes and lifting up those who have the greatest classroom impact

While teachers play that crucial role, discussions about public education need to focus on the students. Equal access to quality education and success in school for every child is the most important social justice issue of our time. That quality education is the surest way to break cycles of poverty, transform individual lives, lift up our communities and our state, and attract the best employers and jobs.

Thousands of well-paying jobs are going unfilled today and our future ability to secure the best jobs relies on what we do now to provide educational opportunities for all. Every child, every school and every community benefits when all children are learning and succeeding.

Education is not about public versus private or unions versus politicians. It’s about parents, educators, employers, communities and all others coming together and creating an expectation, opportunity and clear path to success for every child.

New Report Shows Progress In On-Time College Graduation, But Not Enough

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education (CHE) released the latest Indiana College Completion Report last week, which showed a nearly 7% increase in the number of Hoosiers earning bachelor’s degrees in four years or less. Small gains were also
shown in on-time completion for earned associate degrees. The Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 key driver of Outstanding Talent includes a goal on increasing to 60% the proportion of Indiana residents with high quality postsecondary credentials, which aligns with this study.

From the CHE press release: “We should be encouraged by Indiana’s degree completion gains, especially for our low-income and minority students,” Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers said. “At the same time, we must not relent in our efforts to advance state policies and campus-level practices that encourage ongoing improvement. Opportunities for Hoosiers without a degree or credential beyond high school are diminishing daily. For individual quality of life as well as for our state’s economic future, it is critical that we dramatically increase education attainment in Indiana.”

For more information, view the CHE’s press release and the graduation report.

Bluebridge Holding Launch Party with Verge This Thursday

https_proxyHave plans Thursday? If not, you should hear one of Indiana’s leading young entrepreneurs, Santiago Jaramillo of Bluebridge, describe his experiences thus far in starting a business, and unveil his company’s new digs and new app technology in Fishers. (Get your tickets online.)

During this Verge event, Jaramillo will discuss raising capital in Indianapolis and give entrepreneurs advice on scaling their business to the first $1 million in revenue. Topics will include fundraising, scaling sales and marketing, and hiring.

Here’s a message with details from our friends at Verge:

We’re really excited to team up with Bluebridge for the month of July and celebrate the birth of the new Verge app. We’d love for you to share your feedback on the app experience for its test launch. We’ll be adding features in the months ahead.
Here’s the launch agenda:

– 5:30 pm – Doors open to public (Pizza & beer provided)
– 6:15 pm – Welcome announcement
– 6:30 pm – Pitches
Mobile App Studio – Santiago Jaramillo, Bluebridge
Verge App – Matt Hunckler, Verge
Future of Tech in Fishers – John Wechsler, Launch Fishers and Scott Fadness, Mayor of Fishers
– 7:00 pm – Fireside chat with Santiago Jaramillo, CEO of Bluebridge
– 8:30 pm – Doors close

As you know, tickets move fast, and we’re only releasing 300 spots for this special event. Reserve your spot today!

If you’d like more background, we’ve also covered Jaramillo and Bluebridge in BizVoice.