Another Successful Annual Dinner in the Books

Over 1,500 folks participated in last night's Annual Awards Dinner, and the central theme was to honor Indiana's contribution to the U.S. military. It was an enjoyable, yet humbling evening. I'd like to thank my coworkers for putting on another memorable event. The keynote from Gen. Stan McChrystal was enlightening, and here is some information about the award winners:

Business Leader of the Year: Steve Ferguson, chairman of Cook Group, Inc., Bloomington – “Steve Ferguson is a class act and has a thoughtful and calming way about him. He is a perpetual optimist and has a good way of getting people to focus on the right things, the task at hand and getting it done,” offers Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “I think we all should aspire to be like Steve in terms of his approach to business and in particular his approach to interpersonal interactions.”

An attorney by trade, Ferguson was a Cook Group consultant for more than two decades before finally being persuaded to make the partnership official in the early 1990s. He was company founder Bill Cook’s confidante and trusted advisor (Cook passed away in 2011).

Today, the Cook Group (which also includes enterprises in the retail, real estate and travel/transportation industries) employs 11,000, has annual sales of approximately $2 billion and generates more than a million medical device products each day.

The importance of what the core company does hits home daily, Ferguson says.

 “We see those stories – a child who is surviving, a parent who lives to see his grandchildren. I would think everybody in the company, whether they are on the floor manufacturing or in leadership, realizes that every device is going to affect somebody’s life.”

Another Cook legacy that Ferguson has been heavily involved with is building restoration. Ferguson led the affiliate responsible for these projects, which began locally in Bloomington in the 1970s. The crowning jewel would come in 2007 with the return to glory of the West Baden Hotel and creation of the French Lick Resort.

“It’s an impact project. There’s a lot of involvement in the bricks and mortar, and I think we’ve done a very nice job there. But it’s much more than that. To bring it back to life and to have people visit there and enjoy it, which was one of the things Bill always wanted.”

Ferguson spends three workdays at Cook headquarters in Bloomington and two at the French Lick Resort. He listens to those running the day-day-day operations and imparts his wisdom without telling them what to do. It’s all done with a positive attitude that he finds so important.

“I think you need to be around positive people and you need to be a positive person yourself. If someone asks how I am, I always say ‘I couldn’t be better.’ I get up every day feeling like that,” shares the 72-year-old.                                                           

A welcome activity for Ferguson is volunteering and community involvement, which he believes is something everybody should embrace. One such effort that remains near and dear to his heart is the 800 basketball games he coached. Other highlights: He served 12 years on the IU Board of Trustees and was a member of the state’s Higher Education Commission and Indiana’s Education Roundtable.

Government Leader of the Year: former U.S Sen. Richard Lugar – “Few government leaders have made as wide and positive an impact as Richard Lugar has for his home state and nation,” offers Brinegar. “In fact, ‘Government Leader of a Lifetime’ might well be a more appropriate designation.” Lugar was also the inaugural Government Leader of the Year in 1990.

After two terms as Indianapolis mayor, Lugar represented Indiana for 36 years in the U.S. Senate.

During his time in the Senate, Lugar was known for his bipartisanship and thoughtful approach to various complex issues – including the dismantling of weapons of mass destruction. As a testament to these traits and his many accomplishments, Lugar is one of the recipients of this year’s Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest civilian honor presented to those who have made especially meritorious contributions to U.S. security or national interests.

The 81-year-old Lugar hasn’t slowed down after leaving Congress. As president of the Lugar Center in Washington D.C., he continues his work on many of the same passions that dominated his career, including energy and national security issues. Recent diplomacy efforts included trips to South Korea, Azerbaijan and Montenegro.

“(Energy) is still politically charged; the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline seems to go on and on and on. Many people take the point of view that climate change requires that all fossil fuels be curtailed. I’m optimistic – balance of payments are down, production in the United States is up and our foreign policy has changed because of much less dependence upon the Middle East and other areas that are hostile to us,” Lugar explains.

Regarding money matters, he has confidence Americans can find solutions to the many challenges.

“My hope is that there is going to be more optimism. We are in a degree of economic recovery, even if not as strong as all of us wish it was, that compared to other countries … we are still the strongest and are recognized that way. The dollar is still the best currency; this is where the Chinese want to put their reserves,” he emphasizes.

Lugar has also expanded his relationship with the University of Indianapolis to form the Lugar Academy, which provides students with unique learning experiences here and in Washington. Lugar also teaches university students in Indiana and at Georgetown University.

When he’s not helping to prepare the next generation of business and civic leaders, you might find Lugar on the 604-acre Marion County family farm that he still manages today, planting and pruning trees with his son, Bob. Family is especially important to Lugar; he met longtime wife, Charlene, when the two served as co-presidents of the Denison University student body.

“We have continued to be supportive of each other through all the public life ups and downs and the raising of four wonderful sons, who I have enormous pride in and have great achievements of their own. These have been critical factors in my ability to serve. My family has wanted to be teammates in this and I’ve included them,” he adds.

Community of the Year: Bedford – “A community that adapts to changing industries and citizen needs is one that will succeed,” states Brinegar. “To see Bedford thrive and capitalize on partnerships at all levels to support its businesses and residents is heartening. The community sets a wonderful example.”

Bedford’s comprehensive plan (which hadn’t been updated in 25 years) centers on strategic investment and downtown revitalization. The city honed in on expanding education and workforce development efforts; diversifying and continuing to support growing industries, including health care and defense manufacturing; plus beautifying buildings and offering affordable housing for seniors.

Strengthened partnerships among the city, county and private sector paved the way for the community to focus on the high unemployment rate that was burdening the small city of 14,000 in south central Indiana.

Bedford's progress was recognized by the state earlier this year, as it was chosen as a Stellar Community. Only two Indiana communities are designated as such each year. The award brings $19 million in state, local and private funds to Bedford for planned improvements.

The awards dinner followed the Indiana Chamber’s fall board of directors and annual membership meetings. Indiana Chamber Volunteers of the Year were announced during a lunch ceremony: Ron Christian (Vectren, Evansville); Mike Campbell (recently retired from Neace Lukens, Indianapolis); and Melissa Proffitt Reese (Ice Miller, Indianapolis).

Patty Prosser, managing partner of Career Consultants – Oi Partners, of Indianapolis, was elected the Indiana Chamber’s 2014 chair of the board of directors.

RECENT INDIANA CHAMBER ANNUAL AWARD WINNERS:

Business Leader of the Year
Scott Dorsey – 2012
Jean Wojtowicz – 2011
Mike Wells – 2010
John Swisher – 2009
Tony George – 2008

Community of the Year
Indianapolis – 2012
Kokomo – 2011
Terre Haute – 2010
Valparaiso – 2009
Noblesville – 2008

Government Leader of the Year
Sen. Carlin Yoder and Rep. Jerry Torr – 2012
Speaker of the House Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long – 2011
Tony Bennett, state superintendent of public instruction – 2010
Stan Jones, former state commissioner for higher education – 2009
Former Gov. Joe Kernan and Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court Randall Shepard – 2008

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Former Chamber President John Walls a True Leader

Although my tenure at the Indiana Chamber started in 1998 (some five-plus years after John Walls had retired as president of the organization), I had the pleasure of getting to know and work with John a few short years later. John had authored an informal history of the Chamber and I was honored to work as his editor as we compiled his research and commentary into a publication that is still used today to inform new board members and others about the association.

John passed away last Friday at the age of 86. I continued to see John and wife Phyllis (65 years together) most years at the Chamber's Annual Awards Dinner. John was particularly passionate about this organization and its important role in the state. Thank you, John, for your leadership and all you did for the Chamber.

The following was shared with Chamber members:

John Walls, the fifth of seven presidents of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce during its 91-year history, passed away May 31 after a brief illness.

John, 86, served as the Chamber’s chief executive from 1977-1992. It was his second stint at the organization as he had been a research assistant from 1950-1952 in his first job after college.

“The Indiana Chamber continued its growth and provided even greater service to its members under John’s leadership,” says current Chamber President Kevin Brinegar. “John enjoyed a distinguished career in public service before coming back to the Chamber and provided excellent counsel following his retirement. He remained passionate about this organization, including authoring an informal history in 2000. I will miss seeing him at our Annual Awards Dinner, which he and wife Phyllis attended regularly.”

Information about John’s career, including his role as senior deputy mayor of Indianapolis for Richard Lugar, is available in his obituary.

Among the many accomplishments during his tenure as president:
• Strategic planning efforts and enhanced involvement of volunteer board leaders
• Increased emphasis on economic development and environmental issues, as well as a renewed focus on education
• Creation of new entities: Indiana Small Business Council, Indiana Legal Foundation and the Chamber’s own Foundation to support the research needed to improve the state’s business climate
• Expanding the Chamber’s service to its members through employee training seminars, regulatory compliance publications and the IndianaNet legislative information system

In the conclusion to his book about the Chamber, Wall writes: “The men and women who have served in either paid or unpaid leadership roles have been primarily responsible for creating and perpetuating this effective organization. The final truth is that there would have been no Indiana Chamber of Commerce without generations of leaders. And the answer to “What of the Future?” is that the Chamber will be there as long as capable leadership exists.”

U.S. Chamber Honors Pro-Business Members of Congress

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently honored members of Congress (252 in the House; 48 Senators) for their pro-jobs, pro-growth stances with the annual Spirit of Enterprise Award.

“In the face of high-stakes politics and difficult choices, legislators from both parties provided America’s job creators with a strong voice in Congress,” said Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber. “This award recognizes these men and women for consistently demonstrating their support for pro-growth policies.”

The Chamber’s prestigious Spirit of Enterprise Award, in its 25th year, is given annually to members of Congress based on key business issues outlined in the Chamber publication How They Voted. Members who support the Chamber’s position on at least 70% of those votes qualify to receive the award.

The Chamber scored Congress on 8 Senate and 12 House votes in 2012, including reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the establishment of Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with Russia, and the reauthorization of surface transportation legislation. Also scored were votes to repeal onerous provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, improve the process by which regulations are promulgated, and better secure the United States from cyber threats.

To view a complete list of the 2012 Spirit of Enterprise recipients, please visit www.uschamber.com/soe.

Those from Indiana are:

INDIANA
Sen. Dan Coats
Sen. Richard G. Lugar
Rep. Joseph Donnelly (IN-2)
Rep. Marlin A. Stutzman (IN-3)
Rep. Todd Rokita (IN-4)
Rep. Dan Burton (IN-5)
Rep. Mike Pence (IN-6)
Rep. Larry Bucshon (IN -8)
Rep. Todd Young (IN-9)

IBRG: Thoughtful Discourse Unfortunately Taking Backseat to Fury and Fear

A couple of months ago I had the pleasure to attend the Indiana Chamber’s statewide summit on the Indiana Vision 2025 plan. A very diverse group of a couple hundred leaders from business, community, academic and research had a very engaging and cooperative discussion. There was real energy and excitement about coming together to do big things.

This came in stunning contrast for this writer, fresh off another election cycle, a few more bruises, stories, wins and losses. Elections are seldom about big ideas, cooperation or, certainly not, bipartisanship. Election campaigns are about political combat, contrast, division, and lining up in camps. It has always been this way, varying only by tone and degrees.

This all came to mind in reviewing a recent speech by former Senator Richard Lugar at Duke University on partisanship and our political climate. An excerpt:

Perhaps the most potent force driving partisanship is the rise of a massive industry that makes money off of political discord. This industry encompasses cable news networks, talk radio shows, partisan think tanks, direct mail fundraisers, innumerable websites and blogs, social media, and gadfly candidates and commentators. Many of these entities have a deep economic stake in perpetuating political conflict. They are successfully marketing and monetizing partisan outrage. In some cases, these partisan practitioners are true believers whose economic interests coincide with their political views. But in other cases, they are just executing a business model predicated on appealing to the prejudices and fears of their adherents . . . The cumulative result is that extremism has a much greater chance of being rewarded electorally than it did even a decade ago, and good governance has suffered.

As a practitioner in the political industry, I think this is a fair criticism. However, Sen. Lugar’s assertion that “extremism has a much greater chance of being rewarded…” is a particularly important one.

Fury and fear have become the fuel of our political discord. The competition for attention in a rapid-fire, all-encompassing communication world creates a need to be creatively outrageous, loud, brief and divisive to get attention and to motivate people to act.

Policy intricacies, open and deep discussions around finding a broad vision, encouraging cooperation are, well, boring in the new and old media worlds alike. Conflict, name-calling, grenade throwing and “gotcha” politics are more entertaining and, ultimately, entertainment gets attention.

With the lines blurred and almost gone now between election campaigns and the governing/public policy making process – the incentives have escalated the trend to rhetorical excess, criticism and divisiveness in our political discourse. To steal Adam Smith’s imagery, the invisible hand of the political market provides a powerful incentive to breed fear, fury and factions in our system.

Jeff Brantley is the Indiana Chamber's VP of political affairs and leads Indiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG). Follow him on Twitter at @jbrantleyIBRG.

Saying So Long to Senate Seniority

We know about Indiana's changes in Senate seniority — from Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh a few years ago to first-termers Dan Coats and Joe Donnelly. Although Coats served previously, his 12-year gap between terms puts him back in the pack, for the most part, when it comes to seniority.

BIPAC, the Business Industry Political Action Committee in Washington, has some interesting insights on the rapid changes in seniority across the country and some of the impacts.

Seniority in the U.S. Senate has always been viewed as beneficial.  More senior members usually have increased clout in the chamber and higher positions in committees.  However, in a year where almost half of the senators have been serving less than six years, lack of seniority and experience can also be a good thing.  This is a great time to reach out to the newer members and introduce yourself and your issues.
 
There are currently 45 senators (this includes Senator Kerry's successor) that have served less than six years.  In 11 states – Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Virginia and Wisconsin – both senators have served less than six years.
 
Since the 2012 elections, changes in the Hawaii and Massachusetts delegations have drastically altered seniority in both states and the Senate.  When Senator Inouye passed away, the Senate lost its most senior member and Hawaii lost its seniority as a state in the chamber.  Both Sens. Schatz and Hirono have served less than two months, a major change from the long careers of Sens. Inouye and Akaka.  Schatz is considered Hawaii's senior member, since he was sworn in on December 27, 2012 and Hirono was sworn in on January 3, 2013.
 
Now that Kerry has submitted his resignation to become Secretary of State, Massachusetts lost the seniority it held for decades.  Kerry was the seventh most senior senator and Ted Kennedy, before he passed away, was the second most senior member.  Once Kerry's seat is filled, both senators from Massachusetts will have been in office for less than a year (This will still hold true if Scott Brown is elected to take Kerry's seat.  He lost his seniority when he left office in January 2013 after losing to Elizabeth Warren).
 
Two states that still hold considerable seniority in the Senate are Iowa and California.  For Iowa, Senator Grassley is the sixth most senior senator, followed by Senator Harkin who is seventh.  Iowa's position will change following the 2014 election now that Harkin has announced his retirement.  California holds the 14th and 15th most senior spots, with Sens. Feinstein and Boxer.   Senator Leahy from Vermont is the Senate's most senior member.
 

Lugar: 13,000 Votes and a Few More to Go

Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar may be in his final year of representing our state in Washington, but his place in history earned another footnote last week when he cast vote number 13,000.

Congratulations and thank you — words that will be repeated often between now and the end of the year. A few facts regarding the latest milestone:

Lugar is in 10th place on the all-time Senate voting list, having passed earlier this year former senator and current Vice President Joe Biden (D-DE) who cast 12,959 votes.
 
Lugar has maintained a better than 98 percent attendance record during his more than 35 years of Senate service.
 
There have been 1,931 individuals to serve in the United States Senate since it was convened on March 4, 1789. On January 3, 1977, Lugar was the 1,705th Senator sworn into the Senate.
 
On May 1, 1996, Lugar became the longest-serving senator from Indiana when he surpassed Daniel Wolsey Vorhees (1877-1897).
 
Active Senators who have cast more than 13,000 votes include Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who cast his 14,000th vote at the same time as Lugar’s milestone.  

Lugar has served with all the senators on the all-time top 10 list:
 
Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) 1959-2010                  18,689
Strom Thurmond (R-SC) 1955-2002                16,348
Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) 1963-present              16,265
Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) 1963-2009          15,236
Ted Stevens (R-AK) 1969-2008                       15,033
Ernest Hollings (D-SC) 1967-2004                   14,194
Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) 1975-present              14,000
Pete V. Domenici (R-NM) 1973-2008                13,666
Claiborne Pell (D-RI) 1961-1996                       13,214
Richard G. Lugar (R-IN) 1977-present              13,000
 

2012 Primary: Here’s What You Need to Know

Need a comprehensive review and analysis of what took place in the 2012 primary elections, as well as a look ahead to November. Indiana Business for Responsive Government, the Chamber’s non-partisan political action committee, has the report. A few highlights:

  • 18 IBRG endorsed candidates (out of 23) were winners in their primaries
  • All 11 endorsed incumbents facing primary challengers were successful
  • Various national and state dynamics played a role in the competitive nature of the campaigns thus far, yesterday’s vote and what is still to come leading to the general election
  • A new factor was added to the above mix with the defeat of six-term U.S. Senator Richard Lugar. The impacts of that race will continue to be felt

The report has results, vote totals and general election matchups at both the state and congressional levels. It will be updated as additional results become available. Access the full report.

Poll Time: Health Care Vote; Lugar-Mourdock Race

We’re not sure whether participants in our recent poll voted with their heads or their hearts. But it is not ours to judge, only to report the results.

We asked your opinion on how the Supreme Court would rule on the federal health care reform. (Arguments were heard in late March; a decision is expected by June).

The results:

  • 59% say the law will be struck down entirely
  • 27% believe the individual mandate provision will be ruled unconstitutional
  • Less than 5% chose the other two options — law will be upheld or Medicaid expansion negated

Thanks for those who took part. At right, for the next few days at least, is the opportunity to cast your vote on the U.S. Senate primary between Richard Lugar and Richard Mourdock. Who will win and by what margin? Let us know what you think.

Canadian Bankin’

Pardon the title, but Canada is in a position to make some serious bank off of its natural resources — namely oil. In our upcoming May/June edition of BizVoice magazine, Communications VP Tom Schuman has an interesting interview with Roy Norton, Consul General of Canada, about how Canada plans to move forward after President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Although, Obama contends the rejection was pending more environmental review and may not be permanent. (If you have a few minutes, read Norton’s remarks when he spoke to a group at the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce in February.)

At any rate, I just perused the article in the editing process and I think our readers will be intrigued by our northern neighbor’s concerns and ambitions. It also includes a quote from Norton that reinforces why the Indiana Chamber endorsed Sen. Richard Lugar in the 2012 GOP primary and general election:

"You can safely say that if there is one person in the United States Congress who gets the geopolitical importance and relevance of achieving North American energy self-sufficiency and what that could mean for North America in unburdening us, making us less susceptible to Iranian adventurism and Venezuelan adventurism, it’s your senior senator from Indiana." – Norton

Why We Endorsed Sen. Lugar Today

We announced our endorsement of six-term incumbent Richard Lugar for the U.S. Senate today. The endorsement was made by the Indiana Chamber Congressional Action Committee, the federal political action committee of the Indiana Chamber.

"Senator Lugar has compiled a most impressive pro-economy, pro-jobs voting record throughout his years of service," said Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. "His focus on helping grow Indiana businesses and putting Hoosiers back to work is exactly what we need in Washington."

Lugar has been a long-time leader on many energy, national security, foreign policy and agricultural issues, among others. His effort to overcome bureaucratic obstacles and make the Keystone XL pipeline a reality – and create jobs in Indiana and throughout the country – is just one current example of his continued leadership.

"In a time when congressional approval levels are at record lows and partisanship is all too common," Brinegar adds, "Sen. Lugar should be applauded for his ability to reach across the aisle and work with members of both parties. We believe Hoosiers strongly benefit from his expertise and experience."