Tech Talk: Moving Ahead on the Policy Front

2017 Tech Policy Summit

The discussions at the second Indiana Technology & Innovation Policy Summit last Friday were so plentiful and rich with content that three stages were utilized during the five-hour event. Seven sessions and a keynote address were part of the mix.

We’ll hit a few highlights below, but an overall takeaway: Our state has momentum, there is more work to do to continue that positive pace and one way for tech and innovation business leaders to get involved and help ensure success is communicating with your legislators. It’s a critical component.

In the words of the presenters:

  • Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness: Indiana can largely check the box on enhancing its tax and business climate; today is about the innovation climate and building bridges between traditional industries and technology companies. And he says the IoT lab coming to Fishers will send a powerful message about aggregating talent.
  • Software-as-a-Service: The legislative mission is to provide “certainty and predictability to the tech community” about SaaS and tax treatment. Three states (Washington, Tennessee and Pennsylvania) have put up red lights on software development by taxing SaaS. Indiana seeks to join a similar number with a green light encouraging investment. Christopher Day of DemandJump: “It’s not just about SaaS. What it’s about is growing our wealth as a state. It’s time to transition the Crossroads of America to the Nation’s Nucleus.” SaaS panel
  • Certified Technology Parks: Fifteen of 23 tech parks in the state have met the $5 million funding cap. The proposal is to allow those parks that meet certification requirements to be eligible for additional funds to continue to provide technical assistance to companies within the facilities.
  • Larry Gigerich, Ginovus, on expanding investment capital: Twenty states have tax credits that are transferable, sellable or bondable with eight or nine more set to consider such action. Indiana is missing from that equation, its 20% tax credit is no longer competitive against many other states and the state’s cap is “middle of the pack.” Although the Next Level Fund approved in 2017 will be helpful, Gigerich gives preference to a stronger tax credit system.
  • Autonomous vehicles (AV): State Rep. Ed Soliday presented extensive data. Again, Indiana is looking to join other states (21 with legislation, five with executive orders) with some form of policy. Indiana’s goals: ensure public safety and encourage innovation/AV research and development in our state. Soliday says much work needs to be done to convince the public about the benefits.
  • Data centers: Rich Carlton of Data Realty didn’t argue with the general assertion that data centers themselves don’t create large numbers of jobs, but cited the related development and job creation that has taken place in South Bend. Tax treatment is preventing Indiana from being a participant in the national data center boom. A $2 million data center building with an additional $23 million in equipment would be taxed at the first figure in many states, but at $25 million in Indiana. Carlton: “Do we want to have part of something or all of nothing?”

Jeff Brantley, Indiana Chamber vice president of political affairs, connected the dots on legislative victories resulting from both political and policy involvement from the business community.

Micah Vincent, director of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget, shared that we can expect to see the initial Next Level Fund investments in the first quarter of 2018. And he projected that the 2018 Indiana General Assembly may very well end up being the “workforce session.”

Check out the two-page summary of how the legislative positions of the Chamber’s Tech Policy Committee can impact the state’s economic future. Look for continued coverage of these important issues through various Chamber communications.

BizVoice: Takeaways on Building a Business

The November-December edition of BizVoice® wrapped up a yearlong series with Fishers-based Recovery Force. The promising start-up develops wearable medical technology devices intended to increase circulation among other benefits.

BizVoice has followed the company’s progress over the last year, from early inception and beginning work to grow the organization to now, as the company is seeking advanced funding rounds and products are heading to market in 2018.

The first story highlights the Recovery Force beginnings, including the unique approach to solving an everyday medical challenge. Team building is featured in the series’ second story, and the third takes a look at the federal regulatory and grant environment.

Company advisors, from business experts to a former Indianapolis Colts player, discuss their roles with Recovery Force in the fourth story. And the fifth story puts fundraising front and center.

Recently, Recovery Force co-founder, president and CEO Matt Wyatt joined BizVoice editor Tom Schuman on Inside INdiana Business to discuss what’s next for the company in 2018. Watch the video below:

Find all of the Recovery Force stories and more from the November-December edition of BizVoice at www.bizvoicemagazine.com.

Tech Talk: Innovation Policy Takes Center Stage

Fact: Indiana is enjoying success in attracting and growing technology and innovation businesses.

Next step: What public policies can help continue that momentum?

Find out during the Indiana Technology and Innovation Policy Summit on December 1 at the Conrad Indianapolis.

tech summit

Influential industry, government and legislative leaders will highlight policy priorities during morning sessions. Micah Vincent, director of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget, will deliver the luncheon keynote.

This year’s summit builds on the successful 2017 legislative session when a number of key issues supported by the Indiana Chamber became law.

Among the legislative priorities to be featured during this year’s summit:

  • Autonomous Vehicles – Find out about the opportunity for Indiana to engage in and capitalize on the growing interest and work done in autonomous vehicle research and programs. State Rep. Ed Soliday will lead the discussion.
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and tax implications – Indiana ranks second in software job growth. It’s important to clarify the tax situation for SaaS companies so Indiana remains competitive with other states.
  • Data Centers – With the economy increasingly dependent on data, hosting data centers is an economic growth opportunity for Indiana. Rich Carlton, president and COO of Data Realty in South Bend, will talk about fundamental changes the state needs to make to attract data center facilities.

Fisher Mayor Scott Fadness will discuss Smart Cities, Smart State initiatives and the future of certified technology parks will be analyzed. Ted Baker of the Muncie Innovation Center and Karl LaPan of the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center are presenting.

Registration and a continental breakfast start at 8 a.m. The summit begins at 8:30 a.m. and concludes at 1:30 p.m. View the complete agenda.

Registration is $95 for Indiana Chamber members and $125 for non-members. For more information, visit the event page.

Event sponsors are Smithville, the Digital Policy Institute and Purdue University. Additional sponsorship opportunities are available by contacting Jim Wagner.

Tech Talk: Guidance, Insights From the ‘Rise’ Experts

Last week’s Rise of the Rest tour stop in Indianapolis was a powerful testament to the continued emergence of central Indiana’s tech and innovation prowess. Before sharing some of the panel insights and a few observations, a little dose of reality must be included.

This was the 31st stop in recent years for AOL co-founder Steve Case and his traveling team. That means a lot of other cities and regions are also upping their games. In other words, we must keep advancing. Plenty in the Midwest and beyond are also pulling out all the stops to attract innovators, entrepreneurs and the jobs that come with their ideas.

Union 525A daylong series of events included a fireside chat at The Union 525 (recall our BizVoice® story earlier this year on the then emerging venue). Case, author/investor J.D. Vance, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai and former U.S. chief technology officer Megan Smith shared these gems, among others:

  • Case referred to ExactTarget as the “type of breakout iconic success that puts cities on the map.” He added that Indianapolis should be proud of what has been accomplished “but the next five to 10 years is the time to really accelerate.”
  • Calling the internet the “great equalizer,” Pai contends: “To me, no issue for the FCC is greater than closing the digital divide.”
  • Giving the example of doctors serving in the surgeon general role, Smith reminds that it’s important to “make sure entrepreneurs are in the room when determining entrepreneurship policy.” (A dictionary entry on that might point to Indiana and the 2017 legislative session).
  • Vance, speaking of the “downstream effects of the start-up economy” and the need for additional talent: “How do we take that person who has been out of the labor force and bridge the gap – marshal the resources that are on the sidelines.”

Case wrote The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future. He notes the first wave was a decade-long effort (with 300 partners) in going from 3% of Americans online an average of one hour a week in 1985 to truly getting America online. The second wave was building out software services with a focus on apps, not partnerships.

“The third wave is integrating the internet in a much more pervasive way. It’s not about software but getting people and companies to integrate. Companies that think they can go it alone will fail. It’s the old proverb: If you want to go quickly, you can go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Asked about lessons they were taking away from their day in Indianapolis, several agreed on the strong culture and passion in the community. Vance added, “Entrepreneurs who had success are reinvesting in the ecosystem. It absolutely makes a difference. It’s not just the money, but the mentoring and the relationships.”

A student in the audience sought their advice for a young entrepreneur …:

Vance: “Don’t think you have to be the person with the idea. Being the fourth, fifth, 12th person in a high-growth company is a good thing.” (Stay tuned for a similar local sentiment in the coming weeks).

Pai: “Seek out people who fascinate you. People are happy to talk with you and share ideas.” (That is certainly the case in Indiana).

Case: “Pick a battle worth fighting. Don’t pick an easy problem. You only live once.” He recalls this comment from Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it happens.”

Tech Talk: Getting the Most From Your Marketing Firm

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jim Walton is CEO of Brand Acceleration, Inc., which focuses on economic development marketing. Jim’s tips, however, can apply to all company-marketing partnerships. Learn more at www.brandaccel.com.

After working in the advertising and marketing industry for several decades, I can tell you that there remains a lot of confusion about what a marketing firm or ad agency does. For many, the notion is that such firms are made up of purple-haired, bearded designer types with tattoos and flip-flops. Admittedly, there are some of those, but today’s successful marketing firms offer much more than just design.

So, how do you select a marketing firm? What skills and characteristics do you look for? Once selected, how do you make the partnership work? Here are a few pointers:

It’s a partnership
The first thing the client (economic developer) needs to remember is that it’s a partnership relationship. Great marketing firms work as part of your marketing team, not just as a vendor who is there to take orders and design stuff. They assume an ownership role in you and your community. They’re in it for the long haul.

Think big picture
Great organizations, including economic development organizations (EDO), have a well-thought-out set of goals, setting forth their vision for the community’s future. From the first day, the EDO should get the new marketing firm involved with the visioning, making them part of the team, and sharing the vision. This is not the time to hold back or to be secretive.

The marketing firm should provide depth and counsel
Have you ever hired a designer to create a new brochure or website, just to find that you spend much of your time teaching him or her about economic development? Maybe you even have to do all the copywriting because the designer doesn’t write.

A great marketing firm should know your industry and your audiences as well, or better, than you. Do they know any site selectors or real estate professionals? Have they ever visited c-suite offices or interviewed corporate executives about their expectations of marketing tools? To save yourself a lot of aggravation, seek out a marketing firm that knows your audiences. They should also demonstrate a deep knowledge of marketing principles. From start-to-finish, the marketing firm should know and be able to communicate your story.

Get them involved early and often
Let’s say your organization wants to target the food industry, and you’re considering ways to reach out to people in that industry. From that very moment, that’s when you should get your marketing firm involved. Rather than simply cranking out a food industry brochure, the marketing firm, working as your partner, will help flesh out important considerations and provide ideas for ways to successfully reach the audience with the right message.

Be open to new ideas
Coming off point number four, you should always be open to new and different ideas. A marketing firm with broad experiences may bring you a suggestion that you never considered. They will also offer suggestions that are more in tune with the big picture (point number two).

Cheaper isn’t necessarily better
We are often asked what our hourly rate is, as if a lower rate means a cheaper final product. It doesn’t. If a vendor has a low hourly rate, there’s probably a good reason for that. Instead, you should look for a firm, fixed price that won’t change unless the scope of work changes. That way, you’ll know how much to budget.

What services do they provide, and which ones do you need?
Some agencies offer a very narrow line of services, like web design. Others offer a much broader list, such as media planning and buying, public relations, video production, workforce attraction marketing, event planning and management, etc. It’s unwise to limit yourself by selecting a firm that is unable to grow with your needs.

Be responsive
Working with a marketing firm does not mean that all the burden is on their shoulders. They’re going to need your input to get work done, especially if the work is on a deadline. You’ll be asked to proofread work and answer numerous questions to be sure it meets your expectations. It’s important to respond right away.

By making your marketing firm a trusted partner in your community economic development marketing effort, you’ll have a much greater likelihood of success. Hire the best, and you’ll experience truly positive results.

Tech Talk: Federal Tech Team Still in Place

The following is excerpted from NextGov:

An Obama-era technology troubleshooting team has continued under President Donald Trump, maintaining projects some experts suspected would be shuttered in the new administration.

The U.S. Digital Service, a task force of professionals recruited from the private sector, was established to tackle some of the federal government’s highest profile and highest risk technology challenges. Today, it has satellite operations in seven federal agencies, including Defense, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services.

The team reports to the Office of Management and Budget and is now part of the American Technology Council, a group of business leaders that President Trump taps for advice on federal problems. The Digital Service (USDS) also works with the White House Office of American Innovation, which is led by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and is aiming to modernize government technology.

Among the recent USDS priorities, according to its report to Congress:

  • A variety of projects for Veterans Affairs – building and deploying a system to process claims for disability compensation; piloting a tool to allow lawyers and judges to review evidence from those claims; and launching Vets.gov, an online portal consolidating thousands of federal benefit sites for veterans.
  • Collaborating with U.S. Citizenship and Innovation Services to digitize the immigration paperwork processing system.
  • Shoring up the federal purchasing process, including an education program to train contracting officers on buying digital IT services.

The USDS web site notes that in support of its goals, “We recruit top technologists for term-limited tours of duty with the federal government. We hope to encourage a tradition of public service in the technology industry that will support the ongoing improvement of government digital services.”

Bottom line: There’s no doubt that there are plenty of opportunities for improvement when it comes to government and technology. Let’s hope USDS can play a positive role in that mission.

Talking Technology at Connect & Collaborate Sessions

“Today, every company is a technology company. We know technology is evolving quickly and not just in current businesses, but those that are looking to make their mark in Indiana,” says Brock Hesler, Indiana Chamber director of membership.

“If you don’t evolve, you could be left behind and your business growth might be hindered.”

The Indiana Chamber is once again hosting the Connect & Collaborate series as a thank you to its members and investors. The 2017 focus is technology – how it is permeating Hoosier businesses, and how companies can learn and adapt to new and improved ways of getting things done. Presented by AT&T, the series begins in May and concludes in August.

Consider these examples from the world of agriculture. What if technology could provide an answer to how much moisture is in a stalk of corn or a field of beans? What if farmers could drive tractors from a remote location or control an entire farm from a keyboard?

These scenarios sound futuristic, but are starting to become reality around Indiana. It’s not just the agriculture industry that is heavily impacted by new technologies: advanced manufacturing, logistics and others are already changing dramatically – as are the workforce skills required to staff these industries.

Attendees can hear an update on the Indiana Technology & Innovation Council, and a local business/community leader from each of the 12 Connect & Collaborate locations will comment on how that area or region is utilizing technology. A panel discussion will also allow for audience questions.

The free series – with either breakfast or lunch included (depending on the time of day) – enables companies to hear directly from Indiana Chamber representatives and learn more about membership resources available to them. Several new locations are included in 2017.

“This is a way to thank our members for their investment and support,” Hesler adds, “while also providing information that we think can help them succeed at an even higher level.”

Dates and cities for the Connect & Collaborate series:

May 9, Indianapolis
May 11, Lafayette
May 30, Bloomington and Columbus
June 6, Huntingburg and Evansville
June 8, Muncie and Richmond
June 13, Terre Haute
June 20, South Bend
June 22, Fort Wayne
August 16, Scottsburg

For complete details on locations and to register, go online or call Nick at (317) 264-6885.

Mixed Bag With Tech, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Priorities in Senate Budget

The long-awaited announcement of the Senate initial version of the budget came late
last week. In it, there are several technology-related issues that were either included or dropped from the bill, as well as some funding amounts also reduced from the House version:

  • Transferability of the Venture Capital Tax Credit was deleted. The Chamber would like to see it included to increase the flow of venture capital funds for promising qualified businesses.
  • Funding of the 21 Fund (21st Century Research and Development Fund) remains at $20 million a year. The Chamber prefers $30 million a year.
  • Funding to backstop the initiation of direct flights to Europe was reinstated, although it is $4 million rather than $10 million over the two years. A good start.
  • Funding for the Management Performance Hub (MPH) was reduced to $6 million for two years, which is less than what the House reduced from the Governor’s original amount.
  • Keeps $20 million for the two years for the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute
  • Removed the Next Level Trust Fund, which would have provided investment guidelines and supervision to direct a portion of the Major Moves Trust Fund to invest in promising Indiana opportunities.
  • It allocates $1 million for the biennium for the Launch Indiana program.

We will work to keep the things we like in the bill and try to restore other items that were reduced or removed as it advances through the Senate and goes to conference committee. The Chamber will continue to educate legislators on these important economic development priorities currently in the bill.

New Addition: Indiana Technology & Innovation Council

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Technology companies are relocating to and growing in portions of Indiana. The mission of the Indiana Chamber’s new Indiana Technology & Innovation Council is to support and expand those efforts.

The Chamber will utilize its policy, political affairs, event planning, research, communications and financial resources in collaboration with tech company leaders and organizations. The Indiana Technology & Innovation Council opens the door statewide to those wanting to join Chamber members, who will receive these expanded benefits as part of their current Chamber dues investment.

Chamber members can participate in upcoming open discussions on policy and programming priorities. Two committees – Tech Policy, and Program and Trends – comprised of representatives of member companies will develop a specific policy agenda and programming that supports existing efforts.

Full details are available in this press release. Mark Lawrance (mlawrance@indianachamber.com), who recently returned to the Chamber as Vice President of Engagement and Innovation Policy, will be the lead staff person.

“We’re excited to partner with tech companies and their leaders,” states Lawrance, “while offering a statewide platform to expand Indiana’s growing tech success story.”