Former Michigan Governor a Fan of Indiana Manufacturing

John Engler, a former governor of Michigan, spent much of his June 3 Economic Club of Indiana presentation doling out praise – for Indiana rather than his home state – when it comes to “getting it right” on manufacturing. Engler, current president of the National Association of Manufacturers, feels that Gov. Daniels and others in Indiana government have helped create an environment in which manufacturing can thrive. 

“As I go around the country and look at (manufacturing) data, Indiana stands out. Indiana is intelligent in manufacturing,” Engler said.

Engler noted business development tax incentives and the commitment to developing a skilled workforce as two areas in which Indiana is leading the way.  
  
Global competition

“In 1982, unemployment was 17%, but we could recover then without competition from a unified Europe or growing China. We have to be more strategic,” Engler explains.

Engler reminded the audience that the U.S. is still the largest manufacturing economy in the world but warns that any economic recovery will lag without a comprehensive manufacturing strategy in place at the federal level.

“It’s no longer governor vs. governor but governor vs. national leader,” Engler offered, adding, “The federal government has a role because states can’t compete when their incentives are dwarfed by the federal cost of taxes and regulations.”

Engler expressed particular disappointment with the recent expiration of a federal research and development tax credit – noting that the U.S. is now the only major economy in the world without a research and development incentive. He also mentioned the new 2.3% federal excise tax on medical device makers – a major part of Indiana’s economy – as an unnecessary burden.

“I don’t know of another country in the world that takes a leading sector (medical device manufacturing) and says, ‘let’s hit them with $20 billion in new taxes.’”

Education leading the way

Regulatory and tax policy changes may improve the U.S. business climate but education, according to Engler, is key to another of his stated goals – for the U.S. to become the best place in the world to conduct research and develop new products. He highlighted the industry’s need for engineers, computer programmers and other highly skilled professionals. Engler complimented Ivy Tech Community College in particular on its efforts to produce an advanced manufacturing workforce for the future.

Engler believes we can dramatically improve education on a national basis by building on currently successful initiatives – no matter how small or regional they may seem.

“We have solved every education problem in America. Every problem has been solved in some area. We are just terrible at replicating successful programs,” Engler explains. 

Engler’s luncheon presentation in Fort Wayne was the first of three stops on the Economic Club’s traveling summer series. The summer series continues with John Norquist, president & CEO of Congress for the New Urbanism, speaking in Evansville on July 15. Learn more.

C-SPAN Founder Lamb Looks at Past & Future of Network at Economic Club

Presidential Medal of Freedom winner and famed journalist Brian Lamb began Wednesday’s Economic Club of Indiana presentation in Indianapolis by poking fun at the C-SPAN networks he created and runs. The audience rolled with laughter as Lamb played satirical journalist Jon Stewart’s commentary on the admittedly dry nature of C-SPAN’s 24-hour congressional coverage.

With all joking aside, Lamb, a Lafayette native and Purdue alum, used archived C-SPAN video to share a variety of Hoosier success stories. Lamb demonstrated the massive archives’ true value with his uncanny ability to connect incredible happenings with the often tiny details of their origin. Lamb recently made C-SPAN’s entire 30 years of video history free and available online in hopes that educators will start making similar connections for young minds.

Going where cameras have never gone before

C-SPAN is regularly credited with gaining unprecedented government access for all media outlets – increasing the public accountability of elected officials. Not all of this access has been welcome or easily won.

“Our whole effort is public meetings and you would be surprised how hard it is to get into public meetings,” Lamb explains.

Lamb described how resistance from congressional leadership has increased over the past couple of years, but stated his belief in the need for private meetings to occur.

The times they are a changin’

Lamb, well known for avoiding even the slightest hint of his personal political views, did comment on broad changes in political media and the increasingly argumentative tone.

“I think we’re probably better off when people are at each other’s throats and challenging each other on bills,” Lamb offered, adding, “The stronger the voices are, the better…”

Lamb spoke of the three networks that dominated news when he was growing up and how much government happened behind closed doors because of the lack of available coverage. He welcomes the advent of blogging and social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.

One aspect of media evolution that Lamb views as negative is the increasing impact of money on the trade – pointing to Walter Cronkite’s hiring of a talent agent in 1952 as the first link in this chain.

The next Economic Club event is scheduled for Tuesday, May 4 and will feature Mark Miles, president of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership discussing economic development in Central Indiana. 

Learn more about the Economic Club of Indiana.

Gov. Daniels Speaks of Past Accomplishments, Indiana’s Future at Economic Club

Governor Mitch Daniels spoke to a capacity crowd at the Economic Club of Indiana luncheon today. Daniels, who replaced Steve Forbes as the original keynote for the event, had the audience laughing early by comparing himself to Forbes in a quip about his own future ambitions.

“He’s run for President of the United States…I’ll just leave it at that,” Daniels teased.

Daniels’ presentation came on the heels of a legislative session he characterized as hard-fought and the passage of a national health insurance reform bill he strongly opposes.

“It is fraudulent to assert it (health insurance legislation) will not add to the debt of this country,” Daniels stated. Asked if Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller would join other state attorneys general in pursuing legal challenges to the legislation, Daniels replied, “I believe he will; I’ve encouraged him to,” adding, “This is the first time the federal government has ordered citizens to purchase something.”

On the home front, Daniels spoke of previous accomplishments – receiving loud applause for reducing BMV wait times – and reiterated his administration’s stated mission from day one of making Indiana a better place to live and do business. He outlined why the state has achieved high marks for business friendliness and how everyone can help attract jobs to Indiana.

In looking forward, Daniels acknowledged some looming economic challenges, telling business owners, “If you think budgeting was difficult last year, just wait.” He stressed the need to meet these challenges by building on our strengths and continuing to stand out among our peers.

“Every month that goes by that we find a way to not raise taxes and other states raise them, Indiana gets a little more competitive.”

The next Economic Club event will be held on April 28 and feature C-SPAN founder and CEO Brian Lamb.

Economist/Presidential Advisor Bearish on Recovery at Economic Club Lunch

Martin Feldstein – one of the most respected economists of our time – spoke a cautionary message at the Economic Club of Indiana luncheon in Indianapolis Tuesday.

“Reports of the economic recovery have been greatly exaggerated,” Feldstein said.

As a long-time Harvard professor of economics, Feldstein has educated many of today’s economic leaders. He has also served in top advisory roles for three of the past five U.S. Presidents. While acknowledging the consensus among professional forecasters that we are in an economic recovery, Feldstein remains skeptical about the sustainability of current growth.

“Many of the recent positive (economic) numbers are from temporary policy changes such as the stimulus package and first time home buyer tax credit,” Feldstein explains.

Feldstein supports the idea of using fiscal policy to end the recession but feels the Obama administration’s programs were poorly designed and ultimately failed. His long range concerns are based on the housing market – in which one-third of homebuyers owe more money on their loan than the home is currently worth – and the growth in national debt. 

In total, Feldstein feels that the economic outlook is a mixed picture – with the decrease in value of the dollar versus other world currencies making American goods more affordable and reducing trade deficits. He believes the prospects for a recovery are based largely on the household savings rate in 2010. An increased savings rate – while typically seen as beneficial for individual families – would delay the overall economic recovery by slowing consumption. The current national savings rate of 4-5% is double what it was immediately prior to the recession.

Sometimes It’s Easy Being Green

With apologies to Kermit the Frog, I learned recently how to make my job easier by being green.

Each year, I produce the Chamber’s popular Legislative Directory by collecting, editing and assembling biographical information for all 150 state legislators. The collection process usually goes something like this:

  1. Send form letters and questionnaires via snail mail to every legislator
  2. Get 30% of the materials back from legislators before contacting their assistants to receive the remaining 70%
  3. Spend a week deciphering handwriting and converting the paper questionnaires into the appropriate format for publication

Enter the digital world. Abandoning the formality of printed envelopes and 44-cent stamps, I e-mailed the necessary documents directly to those who can really get things done in Indiana politics – the legislative assistants. In two days’ time my response rate was through the roof and the savings in time, paper, printing and other costs is substantial. This experience has encouraged me to “green” the marketing approach for this publication as well – likely to result in even more savings.

I have always been more an advocate for “going efficient” than “going green,” but in sharing my example and hearing from others, I’ve learned that environmental friendliness and efficiency often go hand-in-hand.

What examples do you have of environmental responsibility saving you time and/or money in the workplace?

Economic Club Speaker was Chided for ‘Outlandish’ Economic Predictions — That Came True

Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com, was widely criticized by financial professionals and journalists for predicting a global financial crisis more than two years ago. Byrne, a native of Fort Wayne who received his education from Cambridge and Stanford, warned of a market meltdown perpetrated by cheap credit and writing checks on the bank accounts of future generations. The man who took Overstock.com from a half-million dollars in annual revenue to nearly $1 billion annually, takes little pleasure in accurately predicting our current economic situation but continues to advocate for what he feels are positive reforms – specifically to the controversial practice of short selling stocks.

Byrne will appear at the Economic Club of Indiana luncheon in Indianapolis on November 5. Get your tickets today.

Pacers Sports & Entertainment President Speaks at Economic Club in Evansville

Jim Morris, president of Indiana Pacers Sports & Entertainment, spoke to an audience of nearly 170 at the Economic Club of Indiana luncheon held in Evansville yesterday.  

Morris began with humor – issuing the same promise he claims Elizabeth Taylor made to each of her seven husbands: “Don’t worry honey, I won’t keep you long.”

It was clear from the outset of his presentation that few in the audience would have minded if Morris, one of the most accomplished humanitarian and business leaders of our time, had indeed run long, though he did not.

Morris spoke with eloquence and expertise on the contributions of Evansville to Indiana and the world, noting the ideas for Riley Children’s Hospital and the Smithsonian Institute came from the city. He also spoke of work with the United Nations’ World Food Program – which he led from 2002-2007, and, of course, leading the Pacers – which he says is “just as difficult” as his UN gig but “not as important.”

Morris addressed the problem of world hunger and its impact on children by analogizing that the number of children dying from hunger equates to 45 fully-loaded 747 aircrafts crashing — every single day. He thanked Sen. Lugar and other Hoosiers for some powerful contributions in the fight against hunger but reminded the audience that much work remains and spoke of his own “haunting feelings of insufficiency at not getting enough done.”

Morris spoke of the upcoming basketball season. He told of a conversation in which Pacers Team President Larry Bird (known as a player for his legendary work ethic) credited 2009 Pacers draft pick Tyler Hansbrough with being the hardest working player Bird had ever seen. When Morris pressed with “as hard as you worked?,” Bird replied, “even harder.” 

Overall, Morris’ presentation was both insightful and reflective – describing life as being about the search for community and insisting that, “We all need to work harder at being advocates and working for each other.”

Be sure to follow the Economic Club of Indiana on Facebook.

Juan Williams to Present Insider’s View at Economic Club

Juan Williams — one of the most accomplished and respected journalists in America — will share his powerful insights with the Economic Club on May 1 (at noon in the Indiana Convention Center’s Sagamore Ballroom).

Williams’ storied journalism career includes 23 years with the Washington Post, a bestselling book on the Civil Rights movement and an Emmy. He currently works as a senior national correspondent for NPR and analyst for Fox News — where his professionalism and candor through spirited debate has become well-known.

Join us on May 1 as Williams presents an insider’s view of politics, the economy and other current affairs. Get your tickets now.

Indiana Government Lagging in Digital Transparency

A recent Indianapolis Star article takes Indiana government to task for not providing online access to important public information. The story is based on a survey by journalism organizations that shows Indiana near the bottom of all 50 states when it comes to providing this information in digital form:

The days when tracking down pertinent public information required sifting through volumes of paper records have long passed. Or at least they should have here and elsewhere based on the technology now available.

We’re unaware of the state’s plans to increase information, but realize it will likely take years before state government provides the access businesses need. After all, we have had the same system of township government since the mid-1800s.

The Chamber’s own government information portal, IndianaNet, was not around during the Gettysburg Address, but has been supplying comprehensive online access to government information for many years.

IndianaNet provides regulatory information, agency information, meeting schedules and follows state legislative activity in real time. In addition to being a one-stop shop for complete government information, IndianaNet provides unique reporting capabilities and other powerful tools to ensure businesses are never blindsided by any state government or legislative action.

Click on the link to learn more about IndianaNet .

Economic Club Hits the Road, Bringing Speakers to More Indiana Cities

The Economic Club is pleased to announce a series of presentations throughout Indiana during the summer months of 2009. These events, dubbed the "Economic Club Summer Series," will feature the same high-quality speakers that the regular season events have become known for.

"We are very excited to be bringing the (Economic) Club, in a physical sense, to other parts of the state," comments Steve Walker, president of the Economic Club.

An arrangement allowing WFYI to produce statewide broadcasts of current presentations has helped generate a great deal of interest outside of Indianapolis over the past two seasons. Hosting events in other cities is part of the continuing effort to bring the Economic Club to all Hoosiers.  

The first stop on the 2009 Summer Series tour is set for June 9 in Merrillville — featuring tax policy expert and nationally published opinion leader Scott Hodge. Indiana Pacers president Jim Morris will be the keynote speaker for a July 14 event in Evansville, and Fort Wayne will play host in August. Details for the August event and other specifics are still being finalized but will be announced soon.   

Current sponsors for the 2009 Summer Series include Ivy Tech, ProLiance Energy, Franklin College, Schmidt Associates and ESW Inc. Speaker’s Reception sponsors include NIPSCO – June; Old National, Regency Commercial Associates – July.

A variety of sponsorship opportunities remain. Contact Jim Wagner for details at [email protected].