BizVoiceExtra: A Day to Remember

From the moment I heard about Phyllis Gratz Poff’s career, I was intrigued. When I met her in person, I was awestruck.

BizVoice® magazine profiles Poff (at age 87, she’s Indiana’s longest-practicing female attorney) in our current issue, which features a special law firm section. I traveled to her downtown office in Auburn, which she’s occupied for 45-plus years.

During an impromptu lunch, we ran into attorney Eric Weber who affectionately proclaimed, “She’s a legend around here!” At least a handful of others acknowledged her with a hug, a wave or chat.

Young attorneys in the area starting their careers often seek guidance from Poff. “Just as I did (in her early days),” she observes.

In addition to knowledge and experience, what makes her such a vital part of the community is her spirit:

  • Grit: In 1953, she graduated from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago (she was the only female in her class.)
  • Civic service: Between 1960 and 1964, Poff served as the attorney for DeKalb County and Watlerloo, her hometown. In addition, she presided as Auburn city judge (1967 to 1979), among other roles.
  • Resilience: She refuses to surrender to cancer and other health issues. Three weeks after having back surgery, for instance, she returned to work. My jaw dropped upon learning this! Poff didn’t bat an eye. Why? Devotion to clients is a way of life.

During our chat, she tells childhood stories, shares legal lessons and imparts words of wisdom: “You can never give up on the human race,” she reflects.

I was so inspired, I asked her to take a photo with me to commemorate my visit. It’s one I’ll cherish.

Read more about Poff in BizVoice.

OCRA Hosting Downtown Development Week in October

 

Rural communities will be on display in October during a weeklong inaugural celebration by the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) called Downtown Development Week.

The celebration of cities and towns across Indiana will be October 8-12. During the week, Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch will visit communities, determined in part by a photo contest going on now until July 8.

More details of the program and contest below:

“The downtowns of our rural communities have really transformed under the leadership of the Indiana Main Streets, elected officials and volunteers,” said Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch. “It is time we highlight the hard work that was put into revitalizing downtown spaces, and I look forward to joining the celebrations.”

This week will be an opportunity for communities across the state to host events to celebrate their communities and encourage comradery through events and activities. Downtown Development Week, which will run from Oct. 8 – 12, 2018, will honor Indiana’s cities and towns’ commitment to preserve and invest in the heart of the community, the downtown.

“We are very excited to launch this new week to celebrate the focal points of our rural communities,” said Jodi Golden, Executive Director of OCRA. “A thriving downtown is important to a community’s continued development and we want to celebrate all of the amenities they have to offer.”

To generate excitement for Downtown Development Week, OCRA is planning a variety of events, including a statewide proclamation honoring Indiana downtowns, free placemaking workshops in Bargersville and Grant County and promoting community events across OCRA social media.

Starting today, participants are encouraged to submit photos in the “Bring the LG to My Community” contest by using #LGtomyDowntown on each entry. These photos should capture the spirit and uniqueness of your community and downtown. Also, tell us why Lt. Gov. Crouch should visit your community. Crouch may visit your town during Downtown Development Week, if you are chosen as a winner. Photos must be submitted by midnight on July 8, 2018 to be eligible.

To view more information, including complete contest rules, on Downtown Development Week, visit www.in.gov/ocra/2896.htm.

Indiana Workforce Recovery Making Progress

The opioid epidemic impacting many parts of Indiana and our country did not happen overnight. The solutions won’t be immediate, either, but the Indiana Workforce Recovery effort of the Indiana Chamber and the Wellness Council of Indiana is moving forward.

The initiative, announced earlier this year in partnership with the state, is in place to help address the effects of drug use in the workplace. Among the recent and ongoing steps for Indiana Workforce Recovery:

  • Allyson Blandford

    Allyson Blandford

    Project manager Allyson Blandford is on board to guide the day-to-day activities

  • More than 30 key stakeholder meetings have taken place to identify potential partners and align Indiana Workforce Recovery programs with other initiatives
  • Funding discussions continue with a variety of local, state and national organizations
  • Initial actions that employers can take today have been released

Indiana Workforce Recovery is focused on the workplace, disseminating best practices that support prevention, early identification, treatment and recovery. The goals include helping to educate employers and reduce the stigma around substance abuse disorder.

Among the upcoming actions:

  • Convening sessions for employers in conjunction with the state’s Family and Social Services Administration. Bloomington, Greenwood, Fort Wayne, Terre Haute and Lafayette will be the initial locations. Look for details soon
  • Establishment of a peer review panel to evaluate effectiveness of toolkits and other support initiatives
  • Addition of a Mental Health First Aid training pre-conference to the 2018 Indiana Health and Wellness Summit, which will also have a session on substance use disorder in the workplace

The Chamber’s BizVoice® magazine will feature an Indiana Workforce Recovery update in its September-October issue.

Learn more from Blandford at (317) 264-2166 or ablandford@indianachamber.com.

Gain Power Through Knowledge at the Indiana Energy Management Conference

Concerned about rising energy demands and costs? Join experts and colleagues at the Indiana Conference on Energy Management for the latest updates, forecasts and trends regarding energy issues.

Learn how to cut costs while remaining compliant and see what’s coming down the pipeline during the day-and-a-half conference (July 31-August 1) at the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis.

Choose from among 12 sessions and attend two keynote presentations, a roundtable lunch and reception. Browse and network at the concurrent Expo.

The program is ideal for facility and energy managers, plant operations managers, maintenance supervisors, energy aggregators, energy engineers, utility company managers, governmental affairs managers and others.

Session topics include:

  • Real-time energy management
  • Corporate renewable energy in Indiana
  • Demand reduction versus peak shaving
  • Economic benefits of distributed generation
  • What’s next with the Volkswagen Environmental Trust
  • How the dynamic electric utility industry impacts industrial and manufacturing customers
  • Saving energy in compressor systems

Registration is $399 for Chamber members with a special $199 rate for government employees. Register two or more and receive a 20% discount.

The conference is sponsored by Indiana Michigan Power along with Ice Miller, Apex Clean Energy, MacAllister Power Systems, EDF Energy Services, Vectren, Cummins, Inc., Citizens Energy Group, Geronimo Energy, Country Mark and NIPSCO. Additional sponsorship opportunities are available. Contact Jim Wagner at (317) 264-6876 for details.

Preview the complete agendaregister or call (800) 824-6885 for more information.

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Online Sales Tax Collection; Indiana Poised to See Millions in New Revenue

The U.S. Supreme Court decision issued yesterday in South Dakota v. Wayfair has been awaited by many brick-and-mortar retailers and state budget-makers for over 25 years. In a nutshell, the Supreme Court’s decision (5-4) will permit states to move forward with sales tax collection from online retailers.

The Court overturned the Quill v. North Dakota decision (and Bellas Hess on which Quill was based) dealing with sales tax on mail orders – dating back to 1992, well before the internet boom. The Court found those old decisions to be “unsound and incorrect” and deemed them to be “an extraordinary imposition by the judiciary on states’ authority to collect taxes and perform critical public functions.” The old cases found that requiring the collection of sales tax, when the seller has no physical presence in the state, an undue burden on interstate commerce – a constitutional issue. The “physical presence” test effectively prohibited states from requiring an out-of-state business to collect sales tax from its customers. But now the Court has stated that it “can no longer support the prohibition of a valid exercise of states’ sovereign power”. To put it simply, times have changed. There is readily available software that online retailers can utilize to set up the sales tax collection; it’s no longer a big deal. Separately, the online retail market has become so huge in the last two-plus decades as consumer shopping preferences have shifted; that’s made it all the more imperative that the segment be on a level playing field tax-wise with brick-and-mortar stores.

The Court also addressed the widely-held notion that this issue needed to be resolved by Congress. The Court responded to that saying, “It is inconsistent with this Court’s proper role to ask Congress to address a false constitutional premise of this Court’s own creation.”  In other words, the Court created this dilemma, if you will, with the Quill case and determined it needed to be the one to then provide a remedy.

The new ruling essentially upholds the South Dakota statute that allowed the state to require online sellers to collect sales tax if they deliver over $100,000 in goods into the state, or have over 200 separate transactions with customers in the state. (Technically, the case was remanded to the South Dakota Supreme Court to issue a new determination without the Quill case serving as a controlling precedent.) The Court found that the requirement under other precedent – that the seller have legal nexus in the state – was clearly met by the sales thresholds of the South Dakota Act.

The Indiana Chamber has been a long-time advocate for online sales tax collection; it is one of the key goals in our Indiana Vision 2025 plan. State lawmakers, led by former Sen. Luke Kenley, were also attuned to these issues and quite wisely enacted legislation in 2017 that was modeled after the South Dakota statute. In fact, our law is essentially identical. This means that with a law that the U.S. Supreme Court has now found legally sufficient, Indiana is poised to begin requiring online sellers to collect and remit Indiana sales tax from their Indiana customers. Again, this is directed at those online sellers who meet the $100,000 or 200 transaction thresholds outlined above.

 It is worth mentioning that Hoosiers are already legally obligated to pay the online sales tax when they file their state income tax returns, but as a practical matter almost nobody does. Uncollected sales tax from online transactions has resulted in substantial loss of revenue to states, thus increasing the tax burden on those who do pay the taxes they owe. Estimates place the uncollected tax for the state of Indiana at more than $100 million annually, perhaps as high as $200 million. That number has grown exponentially with the popularity of online shopping and is only going to keep rising.

So here’s to the U.S. Supreme Court for rectifying this long-standing problem, leveling the playing field between businesses and placing the sales tax burden evenly.

Carmel Family Collects Trash on Purpose

Traveling across the country with a minivan full of trash doesn’t sound like my idea of vacation, but that’s what one family from Carmel has done this summer – and for a good reason.

The Kendrick family is driving cross-country to Yosemite, California, and stopping at 11 national parks along the way, all the while holding on to their trash (including food scraps) for the first 10 days of their trip. For the last 20 days, they’ll be learning how to travel with zero waste.

Full disclosure – one of my daughter’s previous preschool teachers is the mom, Samantha, in this family. Her husband, Josh, is a seventh-grade teacher in Carmel and received a $12,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment for this project. One hundred K-12 teachers in Indiana received funding through the Teacher Creativity Fellowship grant program.

The pair and their two children, ages 13 and 10, are updating their blog along the way; read it here.

I’ve heard of people who live a zero-waste lifestyle, but I can’t imagine putting that into practice or even where to start such an initiative in my own life. That’s another of the messages from the Kendricks: They’re a typical Midwestern family with two children. If they can do it, maybe I can as well?

Or, can I at least consider what I’m throwing into the trash can?

The Indy Star has more on the family’s adventures:

It certainly was an eye-opening experience for Kendrick and his family as they inventoried their “landfill” Monday at Grand Teton National Park. 

Among their haul: numerous plastic food bags, tin foil for baked potatoes, ketchup splattered napkins, and lots and lots of straws and plastic cutlery. They’ve also kept all leftover food, such as french fries, apple cores, cantaloupe rinds and hamburger buns. 

After sorting through, the Kendricks composted the food and other items they could and recycled the materials that qualified at the park’s facilities. The family cleaned a few containers they plan to reuse and then had to toss the rest. 

With their bins emptied, all four are looking forward to the next 20 days and a trash free car. 

“Collecting everything is a pain and having to keep it all, it kind of puts you down to see that you use that much,” said Kendrick’s 13-year-old son, Nathan. “But it’s a wonderful trip, and I love the idea.”

His younger sister, Addie, echoed that sentiment. 

“At first I thought there was no way this was possible and that dad was just making up a crazy idea,” the 10-year-old said. “But it has been an eye-opening experiment.” 

That creativity and drive is a large part of what the Lilly Endowment saw in the Creekside Middle School teacher’s proposal, according to Endowment spokeswoman Judith Cebula. 

It’s about taking a commitment to the environment and learning more deeply how one person can make a difference,” she said. “Also, it reflects a commitment to taking what he learns this summer … and finding a way to share what he experiences with his students when he goes back to school in the fall.” 

Kendrick hopes to be able to show other families that they all can be more aware of what they are throwing away and the impact it has on the environment. He also wants to give examples of accessible changes a family can make to reduce its waste. 

Those ideas are still to come over the next 20 days as the Kendricks continue to the west coast and then make their way back to Indianapolis in July. 

“If we don’t change how we are living, these treasures of our national parks that we are showing our children and the water and the air will not remain the same,” he said. “So we need to change how we are doing things.” 

Tech Talk: Scoring the Votes, Tallying Your Benefits

It seems so long ago that an up-and-down software-as-a-service legislative journey ended successfully with passage of now Senate Enrolled Act 257. The bottom line: Indiana put a definitive stake in the ground, becoming just the fourth state to clearly establish that it will not tax such SaaS transactions. (Summary on Page 2 here).

But with the 2018 Indiana General Assembly not wrapping up its work until a one-day special session in mid-May, an evaluation of the legislators’ work and a review of how members benefitted from Indiana Chamber advocacy have just recently been released.

The 2018 Legislative Vote Analysis, as the name suggests, grades lawmakers on their support for pro-economy, pro-jobs initiatives. Scores for 2018 range from 47% to 100%. Two Chamber priorities, however, are not included in the analysis as they did not advance to the floor for full votes due to leadership decisions. Those were efforts to raise the smoking age to 21 and reform the state’s smallest townships.

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar notes, “For this exercise, it means that two critical pieces of legislation never came into play, so ‘tough votes’ weren’t taken and overall vote scores are higher as a result.”

View the full report or one-page summary of legislator scores.

Overall, the Chamber’s advocacy work resulted in savings for Indiana employers of $615 million – or $228 per employee. Major efforts included the following:

  • Tax savings, most significantly avoiding direct tax increases due to conformity with federal tax reform, and the SaaS sales tax exemption
  • Defeat of a variety of labor and insurance mandates

What do the Chamber efforts mean for your organization? If you have 10 employees, it’s $2,280; for 25 employees, $5,700; or 100 employees, $22,800.

View the 2018 Legislative Return on Investment.

USS Indiana Submarine to be Commissioned in September

Shakespeare famously wrote, “What’s in a name?”, implying names are mere signifiers that don’t alter substance.

But when it comes to ships and other nautical vessels, names are important and carry significance and historical gravitas. Take, for instance, the Navy’s newest submarine: the USS Indiana (SSN 789). Named by the Secretary of the Navy in 2012, the fast-attack submarine will be commissioned on Sept. 29 in Port Canaveral, Florida.

The USS Indiana will be the 16th Virginia-class sub to join the fleet (Virginia-class subs have the capability to attack targets on shore with cruise missiles, can conduct long-term surveillance, and assist with special forces delivery and support).

This is not the first U.S. Navy ship to be named after Indiana, but it is the first submarine to bear the name. For more on the history of ships named after our state, read this 2016 BizVoice® article.

Here’s more on the USS Indiana, from the U.S. Navy:

Diane Donald, wife of retired Adm. Kirkland H. Donald, is the ship’s sponsor.

Designed to operate in both coastal and deep-ocean environments, Indiana will present leadership with a broad and unique range of capabilities, including anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface ship warfare; strike warfare; special operation forces (SOF) support; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; and mine warfare missions.

Indiana is a part of the Virginia-class’ third, or Block III, contract, in which the Navy redesigned approximately 20 percent of the ship to reduce acquisition costs. Indiana features a redesigned bow, which replaces 12 individual Vertical Launch System tubes with two large-diameter Virginia Payload Tubes each capable of launching six Tomahawk cruise missiles, among other design changes that reduced the submarines’ acquisition cost while maintaining their outstanding warfighting capabilities.

Indiana has special features to support SOF, including a reconfigurable torpedo room which can accommodate a large number of SOF and all their equipment for prolonged deployments and future off-board payloads. Also, in Virginia-class SSNs, traditional periscopes have been replaced by two photonics masts that host visible and infrared digital cameras atop telescoping arms. Through the extensive use of modular construction, open architecture and commercial off-the-shelf components, the Virginia class is designed to remain at the cutting edge for its entire operational life through the rapid introduction of new systems and payloads.

An artist rendering of the Virginia-class submarine USS Indiana (SSN 789). (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Stan Bailey/Released)

Fast Food Freaky Friday

What is going on in the world of fast casual dining? Earlier this week, IHOP (the chain breakfast eatery), announced a new marketing campaign, teasing the week before by announcing it was temporarily changing its name to IHOB.

The big reveal was that the “B” stands for … burgers.

Well, that’s not where I thought it was going (bacon, breakfast, blueberries; there are lots of other “b” words that go along with breakfast foods). Of course, that’s not the point. The company is trying to branch out into its other non-breakfast fare, hence the burgers.

Who knows? Maybe they’ll be really good at burgers (or maybe they already are? I just usually get the pancakes, so I don’t know about the other menu items).

What this has led to, at the very least, is an amazing combination of fast food marketing and hilarious social media teams.

Take, for instance, Burger King. Or should we say, Pancake King.

The burger and fries joint – I’m not forgetting about the chicken sandwiches – responded by taking advantage of the hullabaloo and changed its name on Twitter to Pancake King to remind the world that it offers pancakes for breakfast.

Pancakes for burgers, burgers for pancakes. It’s a fast food Freaky Friday!

Burger Pancake King was not the only brand to respond with some savagery on Twitter (As a public service announcement, check out Wendy’s social media work. It’s impressive).

Whatever happens, the temporary name change for IHOP definitely put its name out there and got people talking. Whether or not the burgers are any good, it seems like the restaurant probably met its visibility goals.

Meanwhile, I’ll just stick to the chocolate pancakes. You let me know if you try the burgers.

Tech Talk: Entrepreneurship and the World

While innovators and entrepreneurs often exhibit a required laser focus on their own initiatives, there is a whole wide world of activities taking place. Here are three observations from the Kauffman Foundation after the recent Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC).

When 171 nations gathered in Istanbul, Turkey, to discuss the future of entrepreneurship, it showed that entrepreneurship has moved beyond the fringes of economic development planning. Each country was represented by some officials in the highest levels of their respective governments, emphasizing the importance of the role entrepreneurs play in building stronger economies.

We need to remember that many countries aren’t so fortunate. While at GEC, we spoke with two entrepreneurs from Venezuela. They work aggressively to infuse entrepreneurship into their homeland, and they believe entrepreneurship can transform communities. However, they are facing innumerable obstacles with an economy in disarray and a government not supportive of entrepreneurship, currently making Venezuela one of the toughest countries in which to start a business. For these two entrepreneurs, at least, conditions are so challenging, they run their activities from exile.

We in the United States face countless barriers to take an idea and make it an economic reality. However, we should also be thankful that we have the support of our governments – federal, state, and local.

In the U.S., systemic barriers have left women too far behind in starting and growing enterprises. In 2018, women are still half as likely as men to own employer businesses. That’s unacceptable.

In addition to advancing the Kauffman Foundation’s strategies in reducing barriers for women entrepreneurs, we as an organization have been working on being more aware of our own unconscious bias. One thing that was troubling throughout GEC was how representatives from some countries talked about entrepreneurship. To some, they believe entrepreneurship was a male-only venture. It was even more obvious when those same individuals were on more diverse panel discussions and attempted to dominate the conversation by talking over women panelists. It’s something that we all need to be more alert to and speak up on.

Our nation needs to take note. Other countries are approaching the work of supporting entrepreneurship with a passion and zeal. We can no longer take for granted that the U.S. is on the cutting edge of innovation and change. Countries like Estonia, Congo and the Philippines all see entrepreneurship as a pathway to a better future for their communities and nations. They are working aggressively to support entrepreneurs through coordinated strategies that enhance education, training and eliminate barriers to access of capital and the start-up process.

We need to keep moving forward, and quickly, or others will outpace us. We can do it, but we can’t be complacent in our approach. We must act with intentional urgency.