Suite Deal: New York Life Partners With Local School


Partnerships between the business community and local schools are nothing new. More and more are taking place in relation to athletic facilities. In Westfield, New York Life has taken a different approach by hosting a special hospitality suite for the last two years at local high school football games.

“We were looking for an opportunity to get involved with the community and let people know of our presence in the area,” says Alex Clark, a representative with the local office of the insurance and financial services firm. “For us, it allows people to see us every other week. They like to work with someone they know, someone who is helping out in the community.”

img_2380The firm hosts various groups – police and firefighters, school guidance counselors and Westfield alumni as examples – as well as winners of a random drawing for each game. The suite area offers catered food, camaraderie with fellow attendees and an excellent view of the game. (Westfield compiled a 7-2 regular season record this year and will open the playoffs Friday at Lafayette Jefferson).

Group sizes have ranged from 30 to 55, with an average of about 40 attendees at each game. The reactions are all positive.

“There’s a lot of buzz. Parents who are coming say, ‘We’ve heard about it, we were curious, you guys have really done a nice job’ and they’re very appreciative of what we’ve provided for them,” Clark confirms. “They’re thrilled and excited. Once they get to come and see the space, they’re really in shock how nice it is.”

New York Life has the benefit of a 171-year corporate history, but Clark notes, “So much of what we do is built on relationships. People can find products and services we offer anywhere. But they choose to do business with us based on the strength of our company and the relationships between our clients and our advisers.”

Tech Thursday: Parker’s Pointers

EDITOR’S NOTE: BizVoice® has featured technology/innovation stories throughout its 18-year history. Look for these flashbacks each Thursday. Here is a 2014 favorite.

Kent Parker’s story is not unique. He grew up in Indiana (a sixth-generation Hoosier in Gibson County), attended school here (the University of Evansville with a 1983 degree in mechanical engineering) and began his working life (three years with United Technologies Corporation) in Indianapolis. Parker returned (with a home in New Harmony and numerous business and civic involvements) years later after a highly successful career that included key roles at Caribou Coffee in Minneapolis and Ariba (a software and information technology firm) in Sunnyvale, California.

The entrepreneur and investor admits, “I never once considered after I left Indiana in 1985 that I would come back here to try and make a living. It just never crossed my mind.” But Parker is back now.

BizVoice: You mentioned that people are the most important factor for growing successful businesses. Does Indiana have enough people – entrepreneurs, members of the workforce?

Kent Parker: “I think there are. Entrepreneurism is locally driven. It requires an entrepreneurial community; within that community, there are layers of people and their roles. When we started Caribou Coffee, the managers and employees we hired – not classic entrepreneurs, but people with skills who were interested in this new kind of activity, new kind of company and the excitement around that.

“What makes an entrepreneurial venture successful is the ability to attract the people who are motivated to have the kind of career experience that truly is much different than working in a larger company or long-established company. You need this entire ecosystem.”

Read the full story online.

And learn more about the Indiana Chamber’s new Technology & Innovation Council. Want to participate? Contact Mark Lawrance at mlawrance(at)


TECH THURSDAY: Indiana Vision 2025 Dynamic Leader of the Year


EDITOR’S NOTE: BizVoice® has featured technology/innovation stories throughout its 18-year history. Look for these flashbacks each Thursday. Here is a 2015 favorite.

I sit down with Dustin Sapp at the TinderBox office overlooking Monument Circle in Indianapolis. The morning sun streams into the lobby, illuminating the walls as some of the company’s nearly 60 staffers mill about.

Sapp is a busy man. In fact, we rescheduled our initial meeting because the “low-key” day he’d sat aside quickly became less so. This is the reality of a tech CEO.

Donning jeans and sipping a morning coffee, he appears quite comfortable and very at home in his surroundings – at least not overwhelmed by the pressures of being a head honcho. And discussing his career path and his affinity for his family reveals a man who’s quite content, yet hungry to keep moving his company forward. The excitement of starting a venture and the dedication to making it thrive are part of his wiring.

“Every minute you spend in this kind of environment matters,” Sapp reveals. “The sense of empowerment that comes with that – and the feeling of despair when things aren’t going well. It’s rare that you can experience all of those emotions (in a professional position).”

Read the full story online.

And learn more about the Indiana Chamber’s new Technology & Innovation Council. Want to participate? Contact Mark Lawrance at mlawrance(at)


Indiana Technology and Innovation Council Moving Forward


The Indiana Chamber announced the creation of the Technology and Innovation Council earlier this summer. The goal of the group is to leverage the Chamber’s statewide presence and ability to convene leaders and partners so we can enhance the growth of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology in Indiana with forward-thinking public policies and relevant programming.

Below is an update on the main aspects of the program:

Tech Policy Committee
This committee is in the process of working with leaders of various technology and innovation entities to develop the Chamber’s technology and innovation policy agenda. While many of the policies are updating current policies, such as venture capital incentives, new subject areas are being carefully considered. The committee chairman is John McDonald with CloudOne and vice chairman is Bill Soards with AT&T.

After the committee does its work over the next month, the tech policy agenda for the 2017 legislative session will be affirmed by the Chamber board this November. It will be publically announced at our Technology and Innovation Policy Luncheon on Thursday, December 15.

We hope to augment Indiana’s strong business climate with a renewed focus to better meet the needs of innovators, entrepreneurs and technology-oriented enterprises.

Programs and Trends Committee
Work is underway by this committee to think through what additional programming and information can help accelerate the growth of Indiana’s innovation and technology companies. Indiana has many excellent programs going on around the state and we hope to better connect the dots through the work of this committee. The chairman is John Wechsler of Launch Fishers and vice chair is Kristin Marcuccilli of STAR Financial Bank.

Already, the Chamber has enhanced its technology and innovation communication efforts through its BizVoice magazine and with Chamber members and customers through frequent email communications. It has created the web site, Indiana Chamber Tech, to provide relevant and useful information. Other activities being planned include a technology/innovation road show, a series of peer-to-peer lunch events and an innovation summit. The goal is to help better inform stakeholders around the state with useful programming and information relative to our future economy.

A Worthy Read
One of the most interesting white papers on business I have read recently includes this excellent paper from the Kauffman Foundation titled, A Tale of Two Entrepreneurs. It talks about two different types of businesses (we need both) and some important differences in fostering economic growth. I hope you take a few minutes to read it.

Please contact me directly to learn more about the Tech Council or sign up now.

Chamber’s Final Policy Letter: Invest in Tech Sector, Expand Quality of Place Efforts

kbbtb4In our fourth and final letter to the major party gubernatorial candidates, the Indiana Chamber calls for additional investment in innovation and entrepreneurs, and addressing the economic divide within the state.

The organization’s six-week Beyond the Bicentennial campaign (going beyond the state’s first 200 years) has focused on the “most potentially impactful public policies to ensure Indiana doesn’t become complacent and continues to push for progress in needed areas.” The blueprint for the campaign comes from the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 plan, introduced in 2012, and the four economic drivers within the plan. Dynamic and Creative Culture is that fourth driver.

Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar says continuing efforts to enhance Indiana’s business climate will revolve around “quality of place” aspects. That includes changing the inaccurate global perception that Indiana is not a welcoming place by expanding civil rights protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

97867199“We would hope this basic guarantee for Hoosier citizens would be followed by a moratorium on social issues, so we can, collectively, focus on the important economic and job-related challenges that are facing our state,” Brinegar asserts.

Those challenges include enhancing the environment for entrepreneurial and start-up businesses, as well as supporting rural areas of the state that are struggling to keep up with attracting jobs and employees. An increased focus on the technology sector and more opportunities for venture capital funding are also needed.

“Indiana is highly regarded for our business climate, and that is something that the state, Indiana Chamber and others have worked tirelessly for,” Brinegar continues. “But we cannot miss out on the great opportunity to make technology innovation an integral part of the state’s identity, and we must do more to lift up the rural areas, supporting them with the tools and assistance to be able to be competitive.”

The Indiana Technology & Innovation Council, formed this summer and managed by the Indiana Chamber, will lend a unified voice to that area and push for policies at the Statehouse. Those policies, notes Brinegar, are to be announced at a mid-December event.

The previous letters of the Beyond the Bicentennial campaign focus on the Indiana Vision 2025 drivers. Each one of those areas also impacts the state’s ability to possess a Dynamic and Creative Culture.

The first letter, on Outstanding Talent, highlighted the need for expansion of the pre-kindergarten pilot program and additional resources for job training. The second letter, on Attractive Business Climate, called for an increase in the cigarette tax and increasing the legal smoking age to 21; additionally, continued emphasis on removing the burdensome business personal property tax was noted. The third letter, on Superior Infrastructure, called for common sense measures to provide sustainable long-term road funding, diversify Indiana’s energy mix and put a statewide water resources plan into place.

All four installments are online at

Chamber Endorses Jennifer McCormick for Superintendent of Public Instruction

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce is backing Dr. Jennifer McCormick in the race for state superintendent of public instruction over incumbent Glenda Ritz. The organization has very rarely stepped into statewide races and this marks the first time ever to endorse a challenger in one. McCormick is the current Yorktown Community Schools superintendent.

“Our volunteer leadership voted to take this unusual step because we can’t have four more years of divisiveness and dysfunction from the Department of Education. It’s time to hit the reset button,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

“We need a state superintendent who understands the importance of having a productive working relationship with the stakeholders engaged in the state’s education policy. Glenda Ritz has proven she’s incapable of doing that and has over politicized the system.”

In contrast, the Indiana Chamber notes McCormick’s “positive relationships with both educators and the business community. She will be the constructive, get-things-done type of a superintendent that we need in today’s climate.”

States Dr. McCormick: “I am honored to receive this support from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Over the last two decades, I have served at every level in our state’s K-12 public education system, as a classroom teacher, principal and superintendent. I am running for this office because Indiana deserves the best Department of Education in the nation.

“I look forward to working with our state’s dynamic business community and all stakeholders as we strive to put students first and prepare them for careers in our great state.”

The Indiana Chamber has long been involved in education policy because businesses need good, qualified talent to thrive.

“We are well aware of the current workforce challenges that must be addressed by business leaders and educators working together,” Brinegar explains. “We need a superintendent who will roll up her sleeves, and work in tandem with other state agencies and organizations to make the needed progress. That is exactly what we expect Jennifer McCormick to do.”

When it comes to specific policies under Ritz that are of concern, Brinegar is quick to cite several.

“Maintaining the education policies that have improved student outcomes in recent years is at risk,” he states. “Whether that’s our assessments, school and teacher accountability or parental choice of which school is best for their children. Ritz is in favor of none of that.”

Her clear opposition to any type of accountability may be the most troubling for the Indiana Chamber.

“The accountability aspect is so vital because this is what tells parents, students and the community at-large how well their schools and teachers are performing, so that parents can make informed decisions about what school their child attends,” Brinegar stresses.

“Jennifer McCormick believes in the importance of accountability and she demonstrates it every day as a successful superintendent who leads a team in her schools and focuses on what’s best for student learning.”

One of the Indiana Chamber’s top objectives for the 2017 legislative session will be expansion of state-supported pre-K to more students from low-income families.

“Jennifer McCormick realizes that the at-risk group needs to be the focus and she will make effective use of the state’s scarce resources,” Brinegar offers. “We can count on her to administer this important program properly. We can’t risk having what happened to ISTEP happen with pre-K.”

Immigration Discussion Continues; Recommendations on the Horizon

The fifth meeting of the Senate Select Committee on Immigration Issues was recently held. Topics discussed included Indiana demographics, provided by a representative of the Partnership for a New American Economy. The chairman of the 6th congressional district Latino caucus also provided the committee with information about the struggles of Hoosier Latinos in Union City. He further testified to the use of and success of a voluntary emergency ID program for undocumented immigrants in his community. He suggested the idea could possibly be mirrored by the state.

Senator Chip Perfect (R-Lawrenceburg) discussed the quandary for employers that would be presented with an ID/driver’s license that could be used for purposes of the I-9 for hiring but on that document specifically identifies that the person is undocumented. Social work students from Valparaiso University testified to the need to allow for undocumented immigrants to have access to higher education. Senator Mike Delph (R-Carmel) asked committee members to provide thoughts for recommendations to the General Assembly before the next and final meeting on November 10. At that time, we should get a feel for what Sen. Delph will be wanting to do in regards to potential upcoming legislation.

Recruiting the Next Generation of Hoosier Educators

96631972The following is a guest blog by Indiana House Speaker Rep. Brian C. Bosma (R-Indianapolis).

The single most important factor in student success is an outstanding teacher in the classroom. That’s why our schools need a strong hiring pool of high-quality teachers to ensure Hoosier students have the best chance of success.

To help attract and retain top talent, I authored a new law this year establishing the Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship. This program, which received bipartisan support, is designed to incentivize our best and brightest high school graduates to pursue degrees in teaching and work in Indiana’s classrooms.

Beginning Nov. 1, both incoming and current college students studying education can apply for the scholarship, which awards $7,500 per year toward college costs to those who commit to teaching in Indiana’s public or private schools for five years after graduating.

The scholarship is available to 200 students statewide each year who either graduate in the top 20 percent of their class or earn a score in the top 20th percentile on the SAT or ACT. While in college, students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA and complete at least 30 credit hours per year to continue receiving the grant. Graduates must obtain their teaching license and teach in Indiana for five consecutive years. The commission can make special exceptions for life’s unexpected circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

Students interested in applying must be nominated by a teacher and submit their nomination form to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. Students are encouraged to complete the nomination form before the application period opens.

I applaud the work of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and Commissioner Teresa Lubbers in implementing this new program and launching a promotional campaign to spread the word about this great opportunity. Students can visit for information and to submit an application before the Dec. 31 deadline. The commission is also expected to launch TV, radio and digital advertisements this month.

Indiana’s new scholarship program represents a bipartisan effort with input and broad-based support from lawmakers, teachers and education organizations, including the Indiana Department of Education, Indiana Chamber of Commerce, a coalition of Indiana colleges and universities, the Indiana State Teachers Association, the Indiana Catholic Conference and Stand for Children.

This new program will help our schools attract and retain highly qualified teachers – especially for subjects like STEM and special education. Hoosier students hold the keys to Indiana’s future, and we will continue to work together to strengthen our commitment to students, teachers and schools.

Hancock, Delaware Counties Honored by Wellness Council as Healthy Communities


The Wellness Council of Indiana (WCI) recently honored two Indiana communities as Indiana Healthy Community Initiative designees. The designations are the first for the WCI program, which began earlier this year.

Hancock County and Muncie-Delaware County were awarded the title at the 2016 Indiana Health and Wellness Summit September 21-22 in downtown Indianapolis. The annual summit is the largest gathering of wellness professionals in Indiana, and was presented in partnership with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the Wellness Council of Indiana, the Indiana State Department of Health, INShape Indiana and the American Diabetes Association.

To be considered an Indiana Healthy Community, communities must apply to the WCI and meet eight key components, including working with various community leaders, getting citizens involved, analyzing political atmospheres and ensuring environments are best for making healthy choices. Part of the requirements include having a certain number of businesses certified as AchieveWELL companies, a WCI designation for individual organizations (see AchieveWELL information and list below).

Additionally, community leaders identify short-term and long-term strategies to ensure a healthy community for all citizens. WCI representatives assist communities in providing best practices for achieving community goals.

“The premise of the Indiana Healthy Community Initiative is to drive economic growth and development for communities, so that when companies want to relocate or start in Indiana, they’re looking at communities where health is a priority,” WCI Executive Director Chuck Gillespie says.

“And in these areas – like in Delaware and Hancock counties – what companies will find are healthier employees and families, lower insurance costs and a productive workforce.”

Six other counties – Putnam, Howard, Dubois, Kosciusko, Monroe and Hendricks – are all in various stages of involvement with the Indiana Healthy Community Initiative.

Locations interested in becoming Indiana Healthy Communities can visit the WCI web site (Healthy Communities tab) for more information and to apply.

The Wellness Council of Indiana is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber Testimony in Support of Pre-K Expansion Given to Interim Committee


The Indiana Chamber submitted testimony Wednesday to the Interim Study Committee on Fiscal Policy regarding the state-supported expansion of pre-K for children from low-income families. Below is that testimony from Caryl Auslander, the Indiana Chamber’s vice president of education and workforce development:

“I am honored to serve for the Indiana Chamber, but the most important role I play right now is that of being a Mom to two school-aged kids. My youngest started pre-K this fall and she is off to an amazing start to her educational career. But there are thousands of four-year-old Hoosier children from low-income families that are not as fortunate. They risk starting school with a bigger disadvantage of being behind and not being ready to learn.

First and foremost – we would like to thank the Indiana General Assembly. Two years ago, Indiana became the 42nd state to offer direct state aid for preschool tuition to at-risk children. As you know, this pilot program (On My Way Pre-K) provided $10 million for vouchers provided to four year old children in five counties (Allen, Lake, Marion, Jackson and Vanderburgh).

Fast forward two short years later, we are thrilled that both gubernatorial candidates, both superintendent of public instruction candidates and legislative leaders of all four caucuses have committed to making pre-K a priority this upcoming legislative session. But we know that the breakdown comes from the details on the plan and how exactly to pay for it. The Indiana Chamber has been working hard in the interim as a part of the AllIN4PreK coalition focusing on pursuing several key policy points:

  • We are promoting expanding the pilot program to include more 4 year olds from low-income families across the state
  • And if we are going to spend state dollars – we need to do it wisely. These pre-K programs must be high-quality – levels 3 or 4 on the Paths to Quality rating system
  • And these programs need to be accessible to working parents – nearby where they live or work or on public transportation lines. Therefore we suggest supporting a mixed-delivery system – quality providers in centers, public schools, private schools, ministries and homes
  • We want to ensure that we continue data reporting requirements that are now in place within the pilot program to make sure our investments are providing positive results
  • And finally, we want to work with the Legislature to find an appropriate fiscal number to fund this program within the constraints of the budget and reflective of revenue forecasts. We recognize that this is a big investment but it is a worthwhile one – according to the Indiana Department of Education, our state spends nearly $32 million a year on kindergarten remediation and expanding the pilot program could significantly mitigate those costs

Kindergarten is now more like first grade due to the increased rigor of college and career-ready standards. It is imperative that children, specifically those without means, have access to quality early-childhood education to have them ready for kindergarten by the time they walk in the door. It is our hope that attending a quality pre-K program will mitigate the high costs of remediation and have students more prepared to learn in their educational career.

The Indiana Chamber has made expanding pre-K a priority for the 2017 session as we want to grow our own talented workforce in Indiana – and an important pathway to that is starting early with four year olds from low-income families and a quality pre-K program.”