Short Session Starts With a Flurry of Activity

The Governor and General Assembly have continually heard from Hoosier employers on the need for a skilled workforce – and better aligning state programs with job demand. The good news is bills are being introduced to address those concerns. While only a handful of measures have been released to date, we are seeing legislation related to training tax credits and grants, as well as efforts to streamline current workforce programs. We anticipate a comprehensive workforce bill (1002) will be introduced in the House later next week.

The Governor’s computer science bill (SB 172) requires all public schools to offer a one-semester elective computer science course at least once each school year to high school students. We expect a hearing on this measure in the next two weeks. Both this and the workforce efforts are 2018 Indiana Chamber legislative priorities.

Senate Bill 257 has been introduced by Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle) to serve as the beginning of discussions on clarifying the exempt status of computer software sold as a service (SaaS) – a Chamber priority. Holdman is also authoring another major piece of tax legislation, SB 242, which contains a variety of tax matters. The House bills are coming in too, with a good number already filed addressing local tax issues.

Speaking of local matters, the Chamber is very pleased to see that the House Republican agenda includes a bill that will make township government more effective and efficient by the merging of townships (approximately 300) where less than 1,200 people reside. Such local government reform has been a longstanding Chamber goal.

In addition to SB 257, other technology-related bills include Rep. Ed Soliday’s (R-Valparaiso) autonomous vehicle (AV) proposal to position Indiana to safely test and implement AV technology with automobiles. The bill also will address truck platooning, which uses GPS and WiFi technology to allow trucks to more closely follow each other for greater efficiency, on Indiana roads.

Rural broadband, high-speed internet and small cell wireless structures technology all will be topics for the Legislature to debate. Certified technology parks also will be discussed with the idea to have an additional capture of sales and income tax revenue for those complexes that perform well.

In health care, enabling employers to ask prospective employees if they are smokers not only heads the Chamber’s wish list but also appears to be gaining traction this go-round. Eliminating the special protections (currently in state statute) for smokers is found in SB 23 and will be guided by Sen. Liz Brown (R-Fort Wayne). The bill has a pretty good chance of getting a hearing in the Senate – which would be a first. Previously, a measure was taken up in a joint hearing in the House.

Increasing the tobacco tax and raising the legal age for smokers to 21 are policies that likely will be included in a bill to be introduced by Rep. Charlie Brown (D-Gary). The Indiana Chamber is supportive of both.

Nine utility-related bills are on our radar screen at this point. They range from tweaks of last year’s big legislation (like SB 309, which addressed rising energy costs and a long-standing struggle between the investor-owned electric utilities and larger consumers of energy) to compulsory sewer connection, excavation for infrastructure, regulation of solar energy systems in homeowners’ associations and new water legislation. Separately, Sen. David Niezgodski (D-South Bend) has a proposed ban on coal tar pavement sealer, which we oppose.

There are also a number of bills proposing changes to Indiana’s alcohol laws including: Sunday sales, cold beer sales by grocery and convenience stores, and increases in fees and penalties.

The Chamber will be providing more details on all of these bills as the session progresses.

For anyone who wants a refresher about how legislation becomes law, the Chamber has a handy guide free of charge. It includes a diagram of the bill process, a glossary of often-used terms and a look at where bills commonly get tripped up.

Additionally, the Chamber will be providing updates and issuing pertinent documents throughout the session at www.indianachamber.com/legislative.

It Was a Very Good Year

Out with the old and in with the new?

Not at the Indiana Chamber, where each year brings a mix of familiar membership offerings and additional opportunities to maximize your investment. All businesses – and their needs – are different. That’s why you can choose from a multitude of resources and benefits.

Revisit 2017 with a brief (though not comprehensive) recap of highlights:

  • Legislative advocacy: The Chamber’s policy work in 2017 yielded a return on investment of $1.575 billion for Hoosier businesses (or $587 per employee). Among many legislative victories were a long-term road funding plan, expanding the state’s pre-kindergarten program, and several technology and innovation advances.
  • Preparing for 2018: The second annual Indiana Technology & Innovation Policy Summit on December 1 set the stage for the upcoming General Assembly
  •  session. Discussions centered on enhancing the state’s tax and business climate, software-as-a-service, certified technology parks, expanding investment capital, autonomous vehicles and data centers.
  • Indiana Vision 2025: The Chamber’s long-range economic development plan includes a biannual Report Card comparing the 50 states in 62 metrics related to 36 goals (grouped by four drivers: Outstanding Talent, Attractive Business Climate, Superior Infrastructure, and Dynamic and Creative Culture). The Chamber conducted 11 statewide regional forums – expanding the conversations to even more areas than in the past – to discuss the results, obtain local analysis and share best practices.

Business Education and Events: Did you take advantage of the 50-plus training opportunities or variety of regulatory compliance guides? Many members turn to these resources to ensure their staff is trained and protect their business from non-compliance fines!

Ann Compton

Annual gatherings collectively draw thousands. Among them were the Safety and Health Conference and Expo (the largest event of its kind in the state), Human Resources Conference and Expo and Legislative Dinner (former ABC News White House correspondent Ann Compton shared personal stories and an optimistic perspective about our country’s future).

An extraordinary 100 workplaces celebrated their success at the 2017 Best Places to Work in Indiana Awards Dinner. Mark your calendar for the 13th annual event on May 3, 2018!

NFL legend Peyton Manning entertained 2,000-plus attendees at the Chamber’s 28th Annual Awards Dinner on November 7. Register today for the 29th Annual Awards Dinner on November 13.

Stretch

Affiliate programs: The Wellness Council of Indiana recognized 19 organizations with AchieveWell designations (part of a comprehensive assessment and evaluation) and continued to grow its Indiana Healthy Community Initiative.

Indiana INTERNnet, a free high-tech and high-touch internship matching service, filled 909 internships (up from 726 last year!) and broadened its focus with a pilot program aimed at high school students. The annual IMPACT Awards luncheon, which recognizes internship excellence, drew a record number of nominations for its February 2018 celebration.

Indiana Chamber web site

Inside the Chamber: Our new web site is more streamlined and user friendly. In addition, the site is responsive – you can access on your tablet or smart phone any page or post you can view on your desktop. Another highlight is the Member Benefits page, now organized in four key areas: advocacy, compliance and information, savings and visibility.

The EchoChamber podcast features informal discussions with Indiana leaders in business, education, technology, politics and much more. Most recently, Blair Milo, Indiana’s first Secretary of Career Connections and Talent, discusses state efforts to meet employer needs. Stay tuned for what’s coming and check out the archives.

Wrap up the year by celebrating Indiana’s manufacturing legacy in the January-February issue of BizVoice® magazine. We’ll feature companies and stories from across the state as we explore “Manufacturing: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.” It will be available online and in the mail the last week of December.

Tennessee to Offer Skills ‘Warranty’

Tennessee has drawn its share of higher education attention with its Promise program gaining national recognition. A new initiative seeks to further address workforce skills challenges.

The Times Free Press in Chattanooga has the details.

Beginning next fall, new graduates of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) or similar technical programs offering certificates and degrees from state community colleges will come with an eye-catching “warranty” for prospective employers.

If companies can demonstrate the graduates they hire aren’t up to snuff, “we’ll take them back and train them for free,” Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora Tydings told Gov. Bill Haslam.

Replied Haslam: “I love the idea. … That’s accountability at its finest.”

“It’s exactly what it sounds like,” Tydings told reporters. “If you do not have the skill set for which we say we have trained you, we’ll take you back and retrain you for free – if an employer documents that you do not have those skill sets within a year of graduation.”

Tydings said she doesn’t expect community colleges and TCAT to have to do much graduate retraining because of the job the institutions do.

promise

New Training Grants for Employers Now Available

The Indiana Chamber has been strongly encouraging our state government leaders to take bold action to address Indiana’s current and future workforce needs – a significant concern for many of our members.

We’re pleased to see Gov. Holcomb’s recent rollout of the Next Level Jobs initiative, which will help to further ensure employees have the skills needed to compete in the 21st century workforce.

What does this mean for your business?

Employer Training Grants are available! Employers in high-demand business sectors can be reimbursed up to $2,500 for each new employee that is trained, hired and retained for six months.

• Your employees can also take advantage of Workforce Ready Grants and access free education opportunities to help sharpen their skill set for the changing workforce.

Let us know if you need assistance in navigating these opportunities.

Training: Turn Up the Heat in August

Business direction background with two people

Summer will be in full swing with a multitude of training opportunities to enhance employees’ expertise and protect your bottom line this August.

First up is the 2016 Indiana Tax Conference, one of the state’s largest, on August 11. Learn the latest in tax case law and legislation as highly-experienced speakers identify ways to help you stay in compliance and reduce tax liability.

Francina Dlouhy, partner at Faegre Baker Daniels, will share her perspective on a crucial issue during her keynote luncheon presentation – It Was a Bad Idea Then and It Still Is Now! What Combined Filing Would Mean for Indiana. Among other themes are multistate tax hot topics for 2016, Affordable Care Act reporting compliance and an Indiana Department of Revenue update.

BKD, LLP is the presenting sponsor. Gold sponsors are MCM CPAs & Advisors and McGuire Sponsel. The silver sponsor is DMA – DuCharme, McMillen & Associates, Inc.

Fuel business savings the following week by attending the 14th Annual Indiana Conference on Energy Management on August 17-18. Learn how to cut costs and maximize resources as energy experts from throughout the state share practical – and effective – compliance strategies.

Don’t miss engaging keynote presentations:

  • Congresswoman Susan Brooks (invited) – opening general session: August 17
  • Canadian Consul General Doug George – Energy Security and Supplies: the Canada-U.S. Relationship – general session: August 18
  • Kyle Rogers, The American Gas Association, and The Edison Electric Institute representative (invited) – Outlook on Natural Gas and Electric – closing luncheon: August 18

Additional highlights include panel discussions, customized training (choose from a variety of options) and an expo showcasing the products and services offered by businesses in your field. Explore topics such as distributed generation; reducing utility bills; using the government and tax code for energy efficiency; and energy bankruptcies.

The 14th Annual Conference on Energy Management will take place at the Crowne Plaza Indianapolis-Downtown Union Station. Register online or call (800) 824-6885.

Gold sponsors: EDF Energy Services; Ice Miller LLP; MacAllister Power Systems; and Vectren. Silver sponsors: Cummins, Geronimo Energy, Indiana Electric Cooperatives, NIPSCO and Telamon Corporation.

Rounding out August offerings are:

Sponsorships are available by contacting Jim Wagner at (317) 264-6876.

Pace Dairy of Indiana: Maximizing Its Chamber Membership Through Employee Training

Sarver_ShirleyShirley Sarver keeps a special reminder of her experience at the 2015 Indiana Safety and Health Conference & Expo with her every day.

“There was a saying that I absolutely loved,” comments Sarver, a production lead at Pace Dairy of Indiana in Crawfordsville (an Indiana Chamber member since 1998). “I don’t have Internet access at work, so I had my (IT) person send it to me (via) email so I could keep it with me.

“It says, ‘When people understand you, you get their attention. When people trust you, you earn their loyalty. When people know you really care, you catch their hearts.’ ”

One of the presenters shared the quote during a session on leadership.

“The class was very, very informative,” she asserts. “Since I’m a lead, I loved how he talked about being in the leadership role.”

Twenty years ago, a desire to help people attracted Sarver to Pace Dairy, a cheese plant operated by Kroger. It has two locations: Crawfordsville and Rochester, Minnesota. Each site has approximately 280 employees.

“I go out on calls. If they’re (workers) having problems on a line, I help troubleshoot,” she explains. “If I can fix it, I fix it. If I can’t, I get ahold of maintenance and help out where needed.”

Sarver, who has attended several of the Chamber’s annual safety conferences, values gaining knowledge that she can apply directly to her job.

“I think it’s very beneficial for the team because it gives us new ideas on what we can bring back here to the plant,” she reflects. “I would highly recommend the expo. You get to be one-on-one (learning about different products and services) instead of looking in a book.”

MDWise, Inc.: Maximizing Chamber Investment Through Employee Training

Lux_LindseyAre great leaders born or made? The answer is simple: Great leaders are “made” – and embracing learning opportunities is a key step.

The Indiana Chamber’s annual Human Resources Conference & Expo provides a variety of tools to boost leadership skills. Lindsey Lux, a regular attendee, enjoys the panel discussions, legal updates and collaboration with fellow HR professionals.

Lux is vice president of operations at MDwise — an Indiana Chamber member since 2007. Headquartered in Indianapolis, the Indiana nonprofit health insurance company is focused on giving uninsured and underserved Hoosiers the compassionate service and care they want and need.

“The legal presenters at the conference have given interesting presentations with real-world applicability,” she comments. “The conference is the best in Indiana to earn strategic recertification credits necessary to maintain my SPHR (senior professional in human resources).”

Lux participated in a focus group with other past attendees regarding ways to enhance the event.

“Most conferences ask you to complete a satisfaction survey once you are finished. This is the first time I’ve been asked to discuss (my input) face-to-face with attendees,” she emphasizes.

Reflecting on an especially memorable experience at the Human Resources Conference, Lux describes a session about leadership development.

“I walked away with a workbook full of information after having clearly identified my values, my company strategy, goals, etc.,” she recalls. “It’s nice to leave a session feeling empowered to improve in areas as an individual and as an organization.”

Nothing Wrong with Gettin’ Dirty: Talking Career Options with Indiana High School Students

We had the pleasure of presenting Indiana Skills (and Indiana INTERNnet) to eight classes of Perry Meridian High School students recently. It was great to see the attention students paid to this important topic – we had students ask us about training for jobs in sonography, truck driving and public safety.

We had the added pleasure of being joined by Jack Hope, owner of Hope Plumbing in Indianapolis. Hope has become a terrific partner for us with his dedication to advocating middle-skill careers. We know the demand and the rewards are there, but we find that many students don’t understand their post-secondary options outside of four-year college.

“We’ve created this idea that if you’re getting your hands dirty that that’s somehow demeaning or not as helpful for your community,” said Hope on Inside INdiana Business. “I don’t think people appreciate hard work in the way they used to.”

See Hope’s full video interview with Inside INdiana Business.

Indiana Works Council Up and Running

The goal: Building an education system that leads to workforce readiness.

Last Wednesday, state leaders took another step toward achieving that goal. Gov. Pence launched the Indiana Works Council in Vigo County as a result of the new law that creates regional works councils tasked with coordinating between education, job skills and career training.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Ready Indiana were fervent supporters of this legislation that brings together workforce development groups, employers and schools to evaluate and ensure that career and technical education opportunities for high school students address the workforce needs of the region.

"We need to make sure that our schools work just as well for our kids who want to get a job right away instead of getting a degree,” said Gov. Mike Pence.

Read the story from WTHI.

Indy’s RecycleForce Helps Ex-Offenders Start Again

Gregg Keesling may have dropped out of Earlham College at 19 years of age, but he soon gained a worldly education by landing in Jamaica. He then spent over two decades in the midst of civil unrest as the Caribbean nation fought for its identity in a changing world. With his adopted country at a tipping point in 1980, he saw the election of Ronald Reagan back home help to bring capitalism to the island.

He notes that he himself converted from a "hippie" to a capitalist, and began working on developing a hotel — and then public projects like helping eradicate polio from the country and working with the European Union to install a sewer system in the area, which ultimately helped gentrify the area around the hotel. His participation in Rotarian work eventually brought him back to Indianapolis, where he founded RecycleForce in 2003.

Not only does RecycleForce work to help the environment by providing an array of waste disposal services, but the 501(c)(3)'s staff is mostly made up of men and women who have spent time in Indiana's corrections system. Keesling is focused on helping them re-enter society by finding gainful employment.

"These (ex-offenders) are some of the best people on earth," he contends. "They’ve been tagged as if they’re not. Someone once said 'the arc of history bends toward justice' — and it’s hard to be openly racist anymore, like when I grew up in the 1970s … but you can certainly use the same sentiments and feelings and call the person an 'ex-offender.' And you can get away with it, and say 'I don’t want those criminals in my neighborhood. They should all be locked up.' But these are human beings with inherent worth; they’re fathers, brothers, uncles and they deserve a role in our world."

Keesling asserts that the liability employers are currently burdened with is the most significant barrier to employment for former prisoners.

"If a guy is doing a great job and a company wants to hire him directly (after using a staffing company), the liability would keep them from doing it … if companies want to reduce their liability insurance, they screen out ex-offenders."

He points to a study recently conducted by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) indicating 70% of employers in Marion County have some type of barrier against hiring an ex-offender.

"Many will hire them, but you have to be out of prison for five or seven years," Keesling qualifies. "So the question is: What do you do for those years? How do you eat? You can’t get food stamps. You can’t get public housing. You can’t get any help and seven out of 10 employers won’t hire you. There are 135,000 to 150,000 felons and high misdemeanors in Marion County, according to the UC Berkeley Center for Employment Law."

He believes a solution could start at the Statehouse.

"If there’s one thing the Legislature could do, it would be smart tort reform around what is a negligent hire," Keesling offers. "If a guy committed a robbery, he can still drive a truck. Now I wouldn’t want to put a (recovering) drunk in a truck, or a sex offender in daycare, but there has to be some logical ways to get them in the workforce."

Keesling harkens back to his memories of Jamaica about the dangers and violence that ensue when a large percentage of the population is not employable — and the desperation that leads people to commit crimes in order to eat.

Yet success stories are evident at RecycleForce, which currently employs 128 workers, with 22 others in management.

"I'm thankful for my job at RecycleForce," explains Robby Wiker, a truck driver for the company. "Without the help or training they gave me, I don't know where I'd be or what I'd be doing. They provided great training to me and it was without cost to me. I'm also a forklift operator and am trained in many warehouse operations — and I'm a permanent employee there."

The company is also now the sixth largest recycler in the state.

"It proves they can work. That’s the biggest myth – that these guys don’t want to work," Keesling reinforces. "I think it’s the most important issue of our time — that nobody seems to care about."