Commerce Apps Revolutionizing Shopping

A couple of nights ago, as I was idly passing time on my phone, I opened up the App Store and proceeded to download four or five new apps. Three of these were shopping-related. When asked if I wanted to receive notifications, I granted the applications permission. I quickly realized the danger of my decision. Less than 24 hours later, I was beginning to receive alerts, tempting me to view discounted items that would still inevitably accumulate to a steep amount if I made purchases every time I was notified of a sale.

This type of interactive commerce may very well be the future of shopping. An article on ReadWriteShop recently outlined three e-commerce tools that are setting the trend.

  • eBay’s digital shopping windows: large digital screens allowing users to view and purchase products on display
  • Zero Effort Commerce: an app that learns users’ shopping habits and can be programmed for different conveniences, such as making purchases before running out of a certain product or offering customized item suggestion
  • eBay Valet app pilot: an app designed for selling products that transfers much of the work to eBay, such as estimating a price, taking professional photos of the item and sending a shipping box and label

Apps such as these will make shopping and selling more accessible than ever. It will be interesting to see how advances in e-commerce shape purchasing trends—particularly apps that monitor spending habits and offer tailored recommendations. For a shopping-lover such as myself, a new level of self-control will certainly have to be developed, but I believe the benefits will outweigh the setbacks.

VIDEO: A Discussion About Northwest Indiana recently spoke to our president, Kevin Brinegar, about the key issues facing the northwest Indiana business community. We appreciate the opportunity, and here is their synopsis of the 21-minute interview.

In this interview, Kevin Brinegar of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce discusses the Chamber's relationship with Northwest Indiana. He talks about how important the Region is to Indiana as a whole, given the proximity to Chicago and the variety of infrastructure in place for transportation and industry. He goes on to discuss some of the recent developments coming out of the Region, including the Illiana Expressway and how it will improve traffic flow in and out of the area, as well as the expansion of the Gary Airport, lakefront developments, and how the RDA is helping with improvements on a regional level. Next, he covers some of the positive opportunities coming out of Gary in the future, and how the revitalization efforts are helping the future of this strategically located city. Kevin then talks about the business climate in Indianapolis, and how visionary leaders across industries have helped foster a thriving area of economic growth. He attributes this growth to Indiana having one of the best, most stable climates for business growth, and how well the state has been ranked overall. He sees Indiana's economic future in the hands of the Chamber of Commerce, helping to grow the economy over long periods and directing long-term planning for the years ahead. He goes on to discuss how the Indiana Chamber of Commerce distributes information to the people of Indiana, through emails, newsletters, magazines, blogs, twitter, and more. Some plans the Chamber of Commerce have been implementing include the Indiana Vision 2025 plan and covering the cost of preschool for families to help prepare the next generation. He sees the Porter County Career and Tech Center as a model for engagement with employers as student are learning trades in school.

The Ultimate Countdown: 100 Reasons to do Business in Indiana

If you’re an Indiana enthusiast, you’ll enjoy the Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s 100 Reasons to Move Your Business to Indiana. The list is complemented by a colorful, eye-catching web site.

We’re happy to relay the Indiana Chamber suggested some of the items on the list and has contributed mightily over the years to many of the factors that have created an outstanding business climate. Most notably from the 2012 legislative session, we’re enthusiastic about numbers 12 ("Indiana is a right-to-work state") and 14 ("Indiana is eliminating the inheritance tax").

Kudos to the IEDC and all the contributors to this list. We live in a truly great state — and we’re always happy to show it off.

Press-Seal Gasket Corp: Fort Wayne Company Seals Future with Dynamic Approach

Founded in 1954, Press-Seal Gasket Corporation has grown from a small Fort Wayne operation to a company with international reach, selling to customers in Israel, Sweden, Norway, Mexico, Canada, Japan and some Caribbean countries.

“When I first started as a salesman in 1978, I was just the 13th employee,” relays Chairman and CEO James Skinner, adding the company now has 138 on staff.

Skinner explains the company was initially founded by a concrete pipe producer who wasn’t satisfied with the quality of rubber gaskets available at the time. Ten years later following some deaths in his family, two attorneys serving as the company’s counsel ended up owning the company. They struggled to produce a reliable accounting report, so they called IBM to send a computer salesman out in 1964 to straighten it out.

“My father (Hank Skinner) was working for IBM and was sent out to Press-Seal and explained IBM could not sell them a computer because the company was too small, and the cost of the computer would have been half of its annual revenues.”

He did provide them with a bookkeeping system and a list of accountants who could keep it straight.

“Basically, they were so impressed with him that they offered him part of the business – to come in as general manager,” Skinner says. “Then over the next eight years, my father purchased the interest of the other two stockholders. Since 1964, our family has been involved in the management of the company, and I purchased it from my parents in 1984.”

Over time, the company has expanded from mainly pipe gaskets and pipe-to-manhole connectors, and in 1990 expanded into extrusion and molding. Press-Seal has also added a tool and die operation.

“That’s a similar story to how the company started,” Skinner notes. “I was unable to get good delivery from local tool and die shops because we were a small company and all the larger companies in the Fort Wayne market were their priority. So I bought a small tool and die shop in Columbia City and turned it from a small shop that was servicing the foundry and automotive industries to a shop that focuses on medical, aerospace, automotive and higher tech things. It’s now a fully integrated shop…

“It allows us to take a different tack on how things are made,” he adds, noting that stainless parts are a specialty of the operation. “While a lot of tool and die shops are going out of business these days, we are thriving. We find a lot of customers are in a lot of pain in terms of non-delivery and (a shop) not understanding the customers’ needs.”

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Members: Attend May 4 Policy Call on State of Economic Development

The economic development headlines evolve from, in simple terms, “getting new businesses to come to the state.” But the role of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation is also heavily focused on helping existing companies grow. It has a variety of initiatives, programs and strategies to accomplish both missions.

Indiana has fared better than most in the job creation game in recent years. What are the secrets to the state’s success? What are the biggest challenges to an even stronger performance? How can your company benefit from the state’s efforts?

Dan Hasler, Indiana’s secretary of commerce since September 2011, will join us to discuss these issues and more during our Policy Issue Conference Call on Friday, May 4 (9 – 10 a.m. EDT). It will be your opportunity to learn about the early impact of right-to-work, the competitive world of business attraction and much more. Your questions and comments are always welcome. This is for Indiana Chamber members only, and you can register online.

Churn Accelerating at Top Companies

A recent interesting read indicated that the lifespans of S&P 500 Index companies are shrinking. I wasn’t necessarily surprised by that fact, but taken aback by the amount of the decrease.

The report, conducted by the innovation consulting firm Innosight, shows that the pace of technology change, global competitors and pressure from start-ups are increasingly threatening some of the most iconic corporations. According to the report, the 61-year tenure for the average firm in 1958 narrowed to 25 years in 1980 — and to 18 years in 2011. At the current churn rate, 75% of the S&P 500 will be replaced by 2027.

Richard N. Foster, the firm’s lead director, argues that to combat this trend, companies must apply market principles to itself. In other words, the only way to fight fade is to embrace "creative destruction" before the market does it to companies. "Markets outperform companies — they always have, with only occasional exceptions," said Foster . "And you want to be one of the exceptions."

Foster recommends that companies use the market as their benchmark: If the S&P is turning over 5% of its companies in a given year, a corporation should seek to add 5% to its sales from new businesses while also undertaking the even more difficult task of shedding 5% of its current sales through divestiture. According to Foster, business leaders must "create, operate, and trade"— build new divisions and trade mature ones at the pace and scale of the market without losing control of their company. 

IRS Decision Good News for Small Businesses

You don’t hear this often: Kudos to the IRS. They’ve stopped plans that would have been a nightmare for small business recordkeeping. The Phoenix Business Journal reports:

The Internal Revenue Service has dropped plans to require businesses to reconcile their receipts from credit card transactions with reports filed with the IRS by third-party payment entities.

Legislation enacted in 2008 requires these third parties to report how much every merchant is paid each year through credit cards, debit cards or services like PayPal. For the 2012 tax year, the IRS planned to require businesses to reconcile their records with these third-party reports when they file their tax returns.

The IRS decided to drop this requirement after complaints from small-business owners, who said it would pose a significant burden on them. They noted that the amount recorded on credit or debit card purchases often does not equal the revenue a business receives from the transaction. For example, customers often get cash back on debit card purchases or receive cash when they return merchandise purchased with credit cards.

Legislation to overturn the requirement recently was introduced in the House. On Feb. 9, however, the IRS told small-business groups it would not impose the reconciliation requirement for 2012 tax returns, “nor do we intend to require reconciliation going forward.”

“We appreciate your work with us in this and other areas as we continually seek to improve our processes and to minimize compliance burden on taxpayers,” wrote Steven Miller, the IRS’ deputy commissioner for services and enforcement.

Business groups praised the agency’s decision.

“The IRS did the right thing, and they should be applauded for listening to the concerns of the small-business community,” said Giovanni Coratolo, vice president of small-business policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“We were very pleased that the IRS took time to listen and work with us to resolve this matter in a satisfactory manner,” said Bill Hughes, senior vice president for government affairs at the Retail Industry Leaders Association. “This will relieve retailers of an unnecessary burden while still providing the IRS with the tools it needs to ensure tax compliance.”

Dan Danner, CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business, called the IRS reversal on the reconciliation requirement “a small, but important victory for small business."

“Doing Business in Canada” Event in Indy on Feb. 22

While my impression of Canada is largely shaped by my summer fishing trips to Northern Ontario, it’s important to remember our neighbor to the North is far more than just beautiful country and sparkling lakes — it’s also an international business hub. If your business is one of the many in America currently doing business in Canada — or if you’re considering doing so — the Canadian Consulate General wants to help you get informed.

In partnership with PNC Bank, Barnes & Thornburg and BKD Accounting, the Consulate General is conducting a "Doing Business in Canada" seminar on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Meridian Hills Country Club in Indianapolis. (There is no fee to attend.)

Hope you can make it, and the agenda is as follows:

9 a.m. Registration / Coffee / Networking 

9:15 a.m. Welcoming Remarks (Richard Ellis, PNC Bank) 

9:30 a.m. Doing Business in Canada Overview (Delon Chan, Consul & Trade Commissioner)

10 a.m. Business Structure, Labour Law, and Legal issues in Canada (Peter A. Morse, Barnes & Thornburg)  

10:30 a.m. Coffee Break / Networking 

10:50 a.m. Accounting – General Tax Structures: How to Organize the Business to Obtain the Right Tax Result (presented by Tom Miller, Partner, BKD Accounting Firm)  
– Operating Taxes – GST/HST; Tax treaty between the US and Canada 
– Doing business without creating a taxable presence 
– Service PE

11:20 a.m Foreign Exchange Risk Management and Global Treasury Management in Canada
(Thomas Miller, Managing Director, Foreign Exchange)
– PNC’s Capital Markets (Randolph Goode, Global Treasury Management, PNC Bank)

11:50 a.m. US-Canada Relations
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Roy Norton, Consul General of Canada 

12:50 p.m. Closing Remarks (presented by PNC)  

To reserve a spot, just register online.

Business Movement Grows to Support Transportation Infrastructure

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Congress on January 23 encouraging it to support investment in the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure. The letter had around 1,000 signatories from the business community, as most feel enhanced transportation infrastructure (better bridges, public transportation, etc.) will make America a better place to do business. Congress has until March 31 to reauthorize the current funding law: 


As Congress embarks on a new legislative session, we, the undersigned companies and organizations, urge you to Make Transportation Job #1 in 2012 and pass federal highway, transit and safety legislation before the current law expires on March 31. The long-delayed reauthorization of federal highway and public transportation programs is a major piece of unfinished business that can provide a meaningful boost to the U.S. economy and its workers and already has broad-based support.

To grow, the United States must invest. There are few federal efforts that rival the potential of critical transportation infrastructure investments for sustaining and creating jobs and economic activity over the short term.

Maintaining at 2011 levels—and ideally increasing—federal funding for road, bridge, public transportation and safety investments can sustain and create jobs and economic activity in the short-term, and improve America’s export and travel infrastructure, offer new economic growth opportunities, and make the nation more competitive over the long-term. Program reform would make the dollars stretch even further: reducing the time it takes transportation projects to get from start to finish, encouraging public-private partnerships and use of private capital, increasing accountability for using federal funds to address the highest priority needs, and spurring innovation and technology deployment.

We recognize there are challenges in finding the resources necessary to adequately fund such a measure. However, with the economic opportunities that a well-crafted measure could afford and emerging political consensus for advancing such an effort, we believe it is time for all involved parties to come together and craft a final product.

In 2011, political leaders—Republican and Democrat, House, Senate and the Administration — stated a multi-year surface transportation bill is important for job creation and economic recovery. We urge you to follow words with action: Make Transportation Job #1 and move legislation immediately in the House and Senate to invest in the roads, bridges, transit systems that are the backbone of the U.S. economy, its businesses large and small, and communities of all sizes.


What Can be Done Now to Assist Job Growth?

The U.S. Chamber’s Campaign for Free Enterprise offers some thoughts on what President Obama can do right now to kickstart American job creation. (Note: As we are sometimes asked about it, we are not affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.)


That was the number many Americans were talking about during the unofficial final weekend of summer, because that was the number of net jobs created in August.

Zero isn’t so much a number as the absence of one. It’s a void, a hole. Our economy is in a hole with millions of people unemployed, and millions more who have given up looking for work.

Lots of jobs plans will be bandied about, including one from the President in a speech to Congress on Thursday. The business community has to be part of the discussion. In an open letter sent to the Congress and the President yesterday, the Chamber offered six steps that should be taken now to spur job creation without adding to the deficit.

Expanding trade and global commerce

• Passing three pending free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama could create 380,000 jobs;
• Modernizing export controls and could help create 340,000 jobs;
• Expanding U.S. exports by advancing the Trans-Pacific Partnership and initiate trade talks with the EU, our largest commercial partner, to eliminate all barriers to goods trade with Europe;
• Protecting 19 million IP-related jobs by cracking down on rogue websites and passing patent reform legislation.

Producing more American energy

• Opening up offshore resources could help create 144,700 jobs;
• Expanding access to federal lands for oil and gas exploration could add 530,000 new jobs;
• Promoting development of natural gas in resource-rich shale would create 116,000 jobs (in Pennsylvania alone);
• Approving the Keystone XL pipeline connecting Canadian oil fields to refineries in Texas, a project that would support 250,000 jobs.

Speeding up infrastructure projects

• Passing surface transportation, aviation, and water resource bills to enable communities to plan, hire, and prevent layoffs;
• Removing documented obstacles to 351 stalled energy projects, which could help create 1.9 million jobs annually;
• Removing impediments to private capital could add 1.9 million new jobs over 10 years;
• Fully implementing the Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPC) Program, which could create 35,000 jobs a year.

Welcome tourists and business visitors to the United States

• Removing the hassle factor by expanding the visa waiver program and streamlining the visa application process;
• Promoting American destinations and restore the U.S. share of the travel market to its 2000 level, which could help create 1.3 million jobs by 2020.

Streamlining permitting and provide regulatory certainty and relief

• Geting job-creating projects moving;
• An executive order prohibiting discretionary regulations with a substantial economic impact would give businesses certainty and help spur hiring;
• Taking up to $1 trillion in accumulated private capital off the sidelines and into business expansion by eliminating uncertainty caused by burdensome regulations.

Pass job-creating tax incentives

• Implementing a repatriation holiday and could lead to 2.9 million jobs over two years.
• Creating a corporate capital gains tax window in order to free up capital for investment and job creation.