Chamber Report Card Shows State Is Moving Forward, But a Quicker Pace Required

While economic momentum continues in portions of the state, the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card and 10th annual workforce survey clearly illustrate challenges that need both short- and long-term attention.

Among the findings: not enough skilled workers to meet economic needs; high rates of smoking and obesity that prove costly and impact quality of life; rising electricity prices; and a lack of statewide entrepreneurial activity and venture capital to support such efforts.

“There are a number of positive developments – both taking place every day and in our latest research – that are cause to celebrate,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “But it is also evident that a lack of workers, unhealthy lifestyle choices and limited Indiana-based funding to grow promising companies is keeping the state from realizing its full potential.”

The Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card compares the 50 states on 62 metrics related to 36 goals grouped by four drivers: Outstanding Talent, Attractive Business Climate, Superior Infrastructure, and Dynamic and Creative Culture.

Overall, Indiana did better on the 2017 version than the 2015 Report Card. Improvement occurred in 36 metrics – up from 28 two years ago; Indiana also declined in 16 rankings, which was three less than in 2015. The state remained the same or there was no updated data available in eight metrics; that number was 12 in 2015. (Two metrics couldn’t be compared.)

Some of Indiana’s top performances include:

  • Business regulatory environment: Regulatory Freedom Index (2nd) and Small Business Policy Index (9th)
  • Early education: A variety of top 10 ranks in NAEP (National Assessment of Education Progress) test scores, particularly at the fourth-grade level
  • Exports: 10th among the 50 states, extending a string of similar rankings

The early education gains, however, are countered by a lack of workers in critical areas, including STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The Report Card reveals Indiana colleges and universities produce the third most science and technology degrees, but the state is only 42nd in the adult population with such degrees.

In addition, two troubling trends from the Indiana Chamber’s annual employer workforce survey continue:

  • The number of respondents that left jobs unfilled due to under-qualified applicants increased to 47% – from 39%, 43% and 45% the last three years
  • Those indicating that filling their workforce was their biggest challenge also increased – 29% after previous marks of 20%, 24% and 27%. Combine that with those answering next biggest challenge and the number soars to 79% – following totals of 72%, 74% and 76% the last three years

“Employers tell us, both through the survey and in their daily work experiences, that they simply can’t fulfill growth possibilities due to the lack of skilled workers,” Brinegar notes. “While many efforts are underway to prepare future employees and upgrade the abilities of those in the workforce today, those programs must be operated at the highest level of effectiveness and accelerated.”

The unhealthy lifestyle choices among Hoosiers carries a $6 billion annual price tag in increased health care costs and lost productivity. Indiana’s 20.6% adult smoking rate is an improvement over past years, but ranks 39th among all states. A six-rank improvement in adult obesity still leaves the state with a 36th-place rating and nearly a third of adults are considered obese.

Electricity prices, once considered a strong advantage for the most manufacturing-intensive state in the country, are now 29th for industrial customers and 26th for commercial. And while progress has been made on gathering data to avoid the water crises that have plagued others, the state must move quicker on regional planning and governance issues regarding future supplies.

In the important area of Dynamic and Creative Culture, momentum in central Indiana is overshadowed by poor statewide performance in a series of metrics, including: Kauffman Entrepreneurial Index (tied for 44th); job creation among new firms (44th); and venture capital (35th).

“Indiana must continue to make all areas of the state attractive destinations for workers and the companies that create jobs,” Brinegar concludes. “We’re encouraged by the regional cooperation that has emerged in recent years and look forward to enhancing our statewide performance and outcomes in future Report Cards.”

About Indiana Vision 2025
Mission: “Indiana will be a global leader in innovation and economic opportunity where enterprises and citizens prosper.” Indiana Vision 2025 was developed by a statewide task force of community, business and education leaders. The plan was released in early 2012. This third Report Card is available at www.indianachamber.com/2025.

About the Indiana Chamber Foundation’s Workforce Employer Survey
Sponsored by WGU Indiana, the 10th annual survey was conducted in partnership with Walker. More than 1,200 employers responded. Full results, including questions on workforce training and opioid use in the workplace, are available at www.indianachamber.com/education.

Statewide Discussions and Analysis
The 2017 Report Card and workforce survey will be the focus of six regional forums (to discuss the results, obtain local analysis and share best practices). The events are sponsored by Duke Energy Foundation; Indiana Michigan Power; NIPSCO, a NiSource company; and Vectren.

The forum schedule: June 6 (South Bend), June 7 (Hammond), June 27 (Sellersburg), June 28 (Indianapolis), June 29 (Evansville) and July 20 (Fort Wayne).

Ron Christian of Evansville Named Indiana Chamber Chairman

christian-jpg

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce formally introduced its new chairman at an awards dinner tonight. Ron Christian, an executive at Evansville-based Vectren Corporation, has been tapped to lead the organization’s board of directors for 2017.

Christian, executive vice president external affairs, chief legal officer and corporate secretary at Vectren, has served on the Indiana Chamber’s board and various policy committees since 2006. Additionally, he has been a part of the Indiana Business for Responsive Government policy group since 2014. Christian was also a member of the 24-person Indiana Vision 2025 task force, which developed the long-range economic plan for the state. In 2013, Christian was named an Indiana Chamber Volunteer of the Year.

At the 27th Annual Awards Dinner before a crowd of nearly 1,500, Christian led the recognition for the Indiana Chamber’s outgoing board chair, Indianapolis businessman Tom Hirons, president and CEO of Hirons Advertising + Public Relations.

A southern Indiana native, Christian started his career as a utility lawyer for Barnes & Thornburg in Indianapolis, after graduating from the University of Evansville, and then with a law degree from the University of Louisville. Christian returned to southern Indiana in 1999 during the merger of Indiana Gas Co. and Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Co., which created Vectren in 2000. Vectren serves more than one million natural gas customers in the state and west-central Ohio, and electric customers in southwest Indiana.

“Ron has been a key partner for the Indiana Chamber for many years and he has passionately given his time and expertise to work on various policy committees, and especially as a member of the Indiana Vision 2025 task force,” states Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “We look forward to his leadership and increased involvement with our organization over the coming year.”

Christian’s chairmanship duties for the Indiana Chamber extend through the group’s next fall board meeting in November 2017.

See the 2013 Volunteer of the Year video on Christian:

Thanks Niel; You’ve Earned a Happy Retirement

Working in communications at the Indiana Chamber and as editor of our BizVoice magazine offers the opportunity to meet, interview, get to know and sometimes just be around some pretty amazing leaders. One of those people is Niel Ellerbrook, whose upcoming retirement as CEO of Evansville-based Vectren Corp. was announced Wednesday.

Niel was the Chamber’s 2007 Business Leader of the Year; you can read his story in BizVoice. A few of the highlights: born in Rensselaer, grew up in Franklin and earned an accounting degree from Ball State University. His career was divided into equal segments — 10 years with Arthur Andersen, 20 with Indiana Energy and another 10 with Vectren, the product of a major utility company merger. All stops were marked by organization and individual success.

Service to the Chamber for Niel included, among other roles, heading the tax and fiscal policy committee and active involvement on the board of directors and executive committee (including time as treasurer). His community involvements have been significant in both the volume of activities and the prominence of his accomplishments. Several are featured in the BizVoice article.

The Vectren press release has more on the company transition.

Pillars of Indiana Awarded at Annual Dinner

A heartfelt congrats and thanks to the winners of prestigious awards last night at the Indiana Chamber’s 19th Annual Dinner:

Business Leader of the Year: Tony George, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp.
George became CEO of the family-owned Indiana Motor Speedway Corporation in 1990 and later founded the Indy Racing League. During his reign over the famous two-and-a-half-mile oval, George has added to the event offerings beyond the famed Indy 500, with NASCAR’s Brickyard 400, a stretch of Formula One races and, just this year, Indianapolis’ first MotoGP. He also led efforts in 2008 to unify open wheel racing under the IndyCar Series, allowing the Indy 500 to remain the cornerstone event. In addition to facilities and events at the Speedway, George and his family oversee Terre Haute-based baking enterprise Clabber Girl. Last year’s winner was Niel Ellerbrook of Vectren. 

Government Leaders of the Year: Former Gov. Joe Kernan and Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard
The bipartisan pair led the seven-member Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform. The effort produced 27 bold recommendations in areas in which Hoosiers could realize better delivery of services and set the stage for Indiana to restructure local government for the benefit of all citizens. Among the suggestions: eliminate township government, realign county government by reducing the number of elected officials and by creating a single county executive for more accountability, increase countywide coordination of the delivery of emergency response services and encourage joint purchasing among school corporations. Last year’s winner was Mayor Graham Richard of Fort Wayne.

Community of the Year: Noblesville
Noblesville saw its population increase from less than 30,000 in 2000 to nearly 40,000 people five years later and with the numbers still on the rise, put together an aggressive plan to supplement its residential growth. An unprecedented 3,600-acre-plus Corporate Campus combines industrial and commercial development – leading to a more diverse tax base and providing job opportunities for community residents – with additional housing opportunities. Downtown is also emphasized, with longtime professional and retail operations joined by a variety of newcomers – all benefiting from city funding devoted to marketing and infrastructure improvements. Last year’s winner was Anderson.