All About the Water

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The governors of the Great Lakes states recently approved a request by a Wisconsin city to draw water from Lake Michigan after its existing water supply dried up. But because the city isn’t in the watershed of the Great Lakes, the two Canadian provinces that share Great Lakes water rights say the request should be denied.

Waukesha, Wisconsin will be allowed to tap Lake Michigan for up to 8.2 million gallons per day once it completes a $207 million pipeline project that would draw in lake water and return fully-treated wastewater.

Delegates for the governors of Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York gave their unanimous consent to the first formal request to divert water outside the Great Lakes basin during a meeting of the compact council.

The 2008 compact prohibits water from being sent outside the basin watershed. Communities like Waukesha, located over the line but within a straddling county, can apply under a limited exception.

The eight governors approved the request over the objection of widespread opposition. Mayors, legislators, policy-makers and citizens around the Great Lakes have worried about the precedent Waukesha’s application represented.

Waukesha is under a court-ordered deadline to provide safe drinking water by mid-2018. The city draws most of its water from a deep aquifer that is contaminated with unsafe levels of radium, a naturally occurring carcinogen. The city has a population of about 70,000 people.

Kiplinger warns that more water conflicts will flare up, citing California, India, South Africa and the Middle East among the likely areas of dispute.

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.

Economic Energy? Look to Local Leadership

I read a recent post from the CEO of Gallup, who provided a good reminder that, like politics, ultimate business success is often locally driven. Yes, policies from Washington and state capitals make a big difference — but so does leadership in communities and companies.

A few highlights from Jim Clifton:

Throughout this year’s long election season, I was often asked: “Who will be better for jobs and the economy, President Obama or Governor Romney?” My reply most surely disappointed partisans from both sides: The president of the United States doesn’t make as much difference in terms of creating economic energy as you’d think, according to Gallup data.

In fact, if the president mattered that much, why is it that cities and states have such extreme variation in their local GDP and job growth? Shouldn’t they all go up or down together with each president?

Instead, Austin, Texas, and Nashville, Tenn., are booming, while Albany, N.Y., and Stockton, Calif., are failing. Texas is prospering while California is almost surely going broke. Austin’s jobless rate is around 5%, while the unemployment rate in Stockton is above 13%.

The difference, in my view, is that Austin has deeply caring, highly engaged business, political, and philanthropic leaders with principles, policies, beliefs, and values about human nature that work. They understand how to build a thriving, growing economy — one that welcomes business and entrepreneurship. Albany has the opposite, as I see it: Leaders with principles, policies, values, and beliefs that discourage business and entrepreneurship, if not outright scaring them away.

Cities across the country with great leadership are filled with booming startup companies, and those cities have thriving economies that create authentic, organically grown good jobs. These cities are saving America, while the others are letting the country down.

Great city leadership has never been so needed. Nationally, business startups are currently growing at under 400,000 annually. If this rate doesn’t double soon, in my view, absolutely nothing will fix our current nightmare of joblessness.

Of course good policy for small businesses is better than bad policy, but in my opinion, the estimated 10,000 business, political, and philanthropic leaders of all shapes and sizes who drive the performance of America’s top 100 cities are the most important people in our country right now. 

Hurricane Sandy Hits Home

For the most part, I live a somewhat sheltered life. It’s not that I shun television (far from it) or approach life with a “Candy Land” mentality, but I tend to focus on “my” world – the one that revolves around my family, friends and beloved pets. But in the midst of Hurricane Sandy, I’m reminded that “it’s not all about me.”

Sandy has claimed precious lives and caused unimaginable damage on the East Coast. Power outages have left many residents without electricity, a frightening prospect as temperatures begin to drop. Seen through children’s eyes, the storm washed away their long-awaited Halloween celebrations. It sounds trivial compared to the scale of destruction residents are facing, but it’s a sad reality they won’t soon forget.

Remembering my childhood travels through the East Coast on the way to Connecticut to my grandparents’ wooded cabin connects me to the part of the country enduring nature’s wrath. I’ll never forget the breathtaking views, scrumptious food, historic destinations and laughter. 

As residents of New Jersey, New York and other states face Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath, there are four words of hope I can offer. They’ve come from my dad, one of the wisest men I know, through the years as my family weathered storms of our own: “We’ll get through this.”

Gigerich Breaks Down U.S. Chamber Enterprising States Report

Larry Gigerich of the highly respected site selection firm Ginovus penned a column for Inside INdiana Business, in which he relays and analyzes a recent report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (to whom we have no direct affiliation) listing the top enterprising states. Interesting stuff:

The Chamber breaks policies down into five major areas.

1. Exports and International Trade
2. Entrepreneurship and Innovation
3. Taxes and Regulation
4. Talent Pipeline
5. Infrastructure

The report combines metrics for the different policy areas to measure performance, which has allowed the Chamber to evaluate the top states based upon quantifiable measurements. Please find below a list of the measurements used to rank the states.

1. Long-term job growth
2. Short-term growth
3. Overall expansion of gross state product
4. Productivity – state output per job
5. Productivity growth – growth in output per job
6. Income growth – growth in per capita personal income
7. Livability – median income of four-person households, adjusted for state cost of living

Based upon the metrics used by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here are the top performing states and a brief summary of why they rank in the top 10.

1. North Dakota: The state ranked in the top 10 in six of the seven measurements. The state ranked first in short-term jobs, long-term jobs, gross state product and per capita personal income. The energy boom in the western part of the state has led the growth of the economy in the state.

2. Wyoming: The state ranked in the top 5 in five different categories. The state is second on long-term job growth and gross state product and third in productivity growth and income growth. Energy, chemicals and metals helped drive the performance of the state’s economy.

3. Virginia: The state has the highest income in the nation, after adjusting for cost of living. In addition, Virginia ranks in the top 25 in all seven categories. The state’s growth in professional services and information technology jobs has helped led to excellent results.

4. Alaska: The state ranked in the top 8 in three key areas: overall productivity, long-term job growth and gross state product. Alaska’s economy has been driven by energy, mining and tourism activities. The growth of these sectors has led to the significant growth of retail support entities in the state.

5. Maryland: The state ranked in the top 25 in all seven measurements. Maryland ranked the highest in adjusted family income, followed by productivity growth. The growth in government jobs in the Washington D.C. area, high technology growth and corporate headquarters helped to propel the state.

6. Texas: Texas ranked second in short-term job growth and fifth in long-term job growth. In addition, the state fared well in the growth of gross state product. Its energy sector, affordability, and business climate fueled economic growth throughout Texas.

7. South Dakota: The state ranked fourth in growth in gross state product and per capita income. Long known for its back-office finance operations due to its well educated workforce, South Dakota can credit growth in manufacturing and professional services for propelling its economy today.

8. Washington: The state of Washington jumped five spots from 2011 largely due to rapid short-term job growth. In particular, aerospace and transportation equipment manufacturing has been growing rapidly. Professional services and technology have also been growing significantly.

9. Iowa: The state ranked fifth in growth in economic productivity, sixth in per capita income growth and eleventh in gross state product. Iowa’s finance and insurance industries have grown by nearly 30 percent. Transportation and warehousing are also growing rapidly.

10. New York: The state ranked in the top 25 in six of the seven measurements. The state jumped eleven spots in this year’s rankings due to the rapid growth of gross state product and per capita income. The rebound in the financial services sector, coupled with the growth of educational entities have assisted New York in these rankings.

Two Charters: One OK, the Other Not

Traditional public schools sharing space, when available, with charter schools simply makes economic sense. For the New York City teachers’ union, however, that only applies if the charter school is unionized. Find out more about the "blatant hypocrisy."

Eva Moskowitz put New York City’s teachers union in its place this week.

The founder of numerous successful charter schools in the city called out the United Federation of Teachers on the blatant hypocrisy of the union’s opposition to traditional public schools collocating with charter schools.

Moskowitz cites a recent UFT article online that contends Moskowitz’s Success Academy is limiting the growth of Public School 241 in Harlem by sharing the building with the school.

“Nonsense,” Moskowitz wrote. “PS 241 has 113 students – averaging just 19 per grade. Its building was built to serve 1,136 students. It has 61.5 classrooms, almost one per every two PS 241 students.

“With collocation, PS 241 has been allocated 13 rooms. That means it has nine students per room on average. PS 241 could grow by a third and easily fit within its current room allocation. However, just the opposite has been happening.

“PS 241 has shrunk in recent years from 952 students to 113. That is not because of space but because parents have many educational options in Harlem these days, including many charter schools.”

If the misleading UFT story wasn’t bad enough, Moskowitz points out that there are actually two charter schools that operate out of the same building as Harlem’s PS 241, but only the Success Academy is the target of union attacks.

There’s a good reason why, and it says a lot about the UFT’s true priorities.

“Curiously, the UFT article doesn’t mention the other charter school sharing space with PS 241: Opportunity Charter School. Why? After all, if both schools take PS 241’s space, why is only one wrong for doing so? The answer: Opportunity’s teachers are UFT members.

“In fact, the UFT never objects to space-sharing by schools, whether charter or district, whose teachers are unionized. The UFT itself even runs two charter schools that share public school space. Talk about hypocrisy.”

Moskowitz explains that the UFT is lobbying to give parents whose children attend traditional public schools the right to refuse to share space with charter schools. It’s a political ploy that would allow the UFT to exploit teachers’ intimate connection with students and their parents to limit competition from non-union schools.

The union is already taking advantage of that relationship, Moskowitz said, citing a middle school teacher who “assigned all of her middle school students to write an essay about how they could protest Success Academy’s collocation with their school.”

All of the dirty union tricks point to one clear but troubling conclusion.

“Obviously, the UFT’s opposition isn’t about the needs of students,” Moskowitz wrote in the Daily News. “They just don’t want there to be schools whose teachers choose not to be unionized, since that model threatens the UFT’s flow of union dues.

“The UFT wants to use public school buildings, built at taxpayer expense, to advance its own interests.”

Breaking Down Incomes by County in Indiana and the U.S.

There are approximately 3,000 counties in the United States. The "approximate" comes from whether you include Louisiana parishes and Alaska boroughs in that total. Delaware has the fewest counties (3) and Texas the most (254).

How much money can you expect to make (or at least what is the per capita personal income) if you live in a particular county? The Governing web site has compiled data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, with a map that shows 1990, 2000, 2009 and 2010 income figures for each county — and that’s a lot of county shapes and numbers.

The top five U.S. counties with the highest per capita personal income:

  1. New York (New York): $111,386
  2. Teton (Wyoming: $94,672
  3. Marin (California): 82,936
  4. Sully (South Dakota): 80,165 (an increase from $26,832 in 1990)
  5. Alexandria (Virginia): $79,967

Check out the totals for the 92 counties in Indiana and beyond on the interactive map.

Double the Taxing ‘Pleasure’ on April 17

There’s something ironic (not pleasant, but ironic) about Tax Freedom Day this year occuring on April 17 — the same day taxes are due. The day, according to the Tax Foundation, is when people finally work long enough to pay their taxes for the year.

The latest Tax Freedom Day took place on May 1, 2000. With the economy booming that year, Americans paid 33% of their total income in taxes. A century earlier was more pleasant with "freedom" arriving on January 22, 1900.

State tax burdens vary the tax timeframe. Indiana residents will "celebrate" on April 14, which ranks 26th nationally. As for the best of 2012:

  • Tennessee, March 31
  • Louisiana and Mississippi, April 1 (no foolin’)
  • South Carolina, April 3
  • South Dakota, April 4

And the worst:

  • Connecticut, May 5
  • New Jersey and New York, May 1
  • Washington, April 24
  • Wyoming and Illinois, April 23

Biggest UI Hole: It’s California By a Wide Margin

Indiana is unfortunately all too familiar with outstanding loans from the Federal Unemployment Account (that means borrowing money from the feds to provide unemployment benefits for state workers who have lost their jobs). At least Indiana’s balance of slightly over $2 billion owed pales to, guess who, California.

According to U.S. Department of Labor numbers at the end of February, California owed $10.2 billion of the $38.55 billion total that 28 states had borrowed from Uncle Sam. New York is second on the list with a $3.7 billion balance, followed by Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Illinois and Ohio.

California’s UI Trust Fund did not become insolvent until 2009, so the debt has been piling up quickly. Businesses suffer, however, as outstanding loan balances mean they lose credits and pay higher federal unemployment taxes until the situation is resolved.

Indiana Chamber efforts in 2011 helped move Hoosier businesses into a lower rate schedule to offset some of the increased federal payments. The move is expected to save employers a combined $2 billion through 2020.

Who else has outstanding federal balances? Florida, New Jersey and Wisconsin owe between $1 million and $2 million. Those with less than a $1 million balance (biggest balance first) are Kentucky, Nevada, South Carolina, Missouri, Georgia, Connecticut, Arizona, Colorado, Arkansas, Virginia, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Michigan, Kansas, Vermont, Alabama, Delaware and the Virgin Islands.