Happy 25th Anniversary, Kevin!

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has had just seven executive leaders throughout its nearly 100-year-existence (the Chamber was officially formed in 1922) in our drive to fulfill our mission to “cultivate a world-class environment which provides economic opportunity and prosperity for the people of Indiana and their enterprises.”

President and CEO Kevin Brinegar, in the role for 15 years and celebrating his 25th anniversary with the Chamber yesterday, has been part of major policy and legislative accomplishments during his time at the helm of the organization. A few to mention include: observance of Daylight Saving Time, Right to Work, a preschool pilot program, numerous tax reforms, and most recently, needed investment that will ensure adequate transportation infrastructure funding for the next two decades.

Brinegar’s anniversary comes just two days after our 28th Annual Awards Dinner, where he was presented with a Sagamore of the Wabash by Gov. Eric Holcomb. The award for distinguished service is his second; the first was presented in 1992 by then-Gov. Evan Bayh.

During an Indiana Chamber staff meeting, Brinegar received a commemorative photo collage signed by the Chamber’s staff. We also celebrated with cake!

Kevin Brinegar

Brinegar discussed being presented with the Sagamore of the Wabash and said all current and past staff members of the Indiana Chamber made the award possible and have worked tirelessly to move public policy forward in Indiana and make it a top tier state and a leader across the nation.

Thank you for your hard work on behalf of our staff and the state of Indiana, Kevin. Congratulations on 25 years!

VIDEO: Brinegar Explains School Corporation Size Study

Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar discusses the recent study from Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research: “School Corporation Size & Student Performance: Evidence from Indiana,” commissioned by the Indiana Chamber Foundation.

Former Chamber President John Walls a True Leader

Although my tenure at the Indiana Chamber started in 1998 (some five-plus years after John Walls had retired as president of the organization), I had the pleasure of getting to know and work with John a few short years later. John had authored an informal history of the Chamber and I was honored to work as his editor as we compiled his research and commentary into a publication that is still used today to inform new board members and others about the association.

John passed away last Friday at the age of 86. I continued to see John and wife Phyllis (65 years together) most years at the Chamber's Annual Awards Dinner. John was particularly passionate about this organization and its important role in the state. Thank you, John, for your leadership and all you did for the Chamber.

The following was shared with Chamber members:

John Walls, the fifth of seven presidents of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce during its 91-year history, passed away May 31 after a brief illness.

John, 86, served as the Chamber’s chief executive from 1977-1992. It was his second stint at the organization as he had been a research assistant from 1950-1952 in his first job after college.

“The Indiana Chamber continued its growth and provided even greater service to its members under John’s leadership,” says current Chamber President Kevin Brinegar. “John enjoyed a distinguished career in public service before coming back to the Chamber and provided excellent counsel following his retirement. He remained passionate about this organization, including authoring an informal history in 2000. I will miss seeing him at our Annual Awards Dinner, which he and wife Phyllis attended regularly.”

Information about John’s career, including his role as senior deputy mayor of Indianapolis for Richard Lugar, is available in his obituary.

Among the many accomplishments during his tenure as president:
• Strategic planning efforts and enhanced involvement of volunteer board leaders
• Increased emphasis on economic development and environmental issues, as well as a renewed focus on education
• Creation of new entities: Indiana Small Business Council, Indiana Legal Foundation and the Chamber’s own Foundation to support the research needed to improve the state’s business climate
• Expanding the Chamber’s service to its members through employee training seminars, regulatory compliance publications and the IndianaNet legislative information system

In the conclusion to his book about the Chamber, Wall writes: “The men and women who have served in either paid or unpaid leadership roles have been primarily responsible for creating and perpetuating this effective organization. The final truth is that there would have been no Indiana Chamber of Commerce without generations of leaders. And the answer to “What of the Future?” is that the Chamber will be there as long as capable leadership exists.”

Poll: Legislators Could Have Done Better

Those who voted in our most recent blog poll were not overly impressed with the work of the Indiana General Assembly in 2013. The grades and the percentage of votes received:

  • C: 29%
  • D: 29%
  • B: 23%
  • A: 16%
  • F: 3%

We conducted a roundtable for our BizVoice magazine earlier this week. Giving their views on the session were Chamber President Kevin Brinegar, two House legislators (Democrat Phil GiaQuinta of Fort Wayne and Republican Jerry Torr of Carmel) and Evansville Statehouse reporter Eric Bradner. You'll be able to check out their analysis in the July-August issue.

Our new question, top right of this page, seeks your opinion on federal health care reform as implementation moves closer.

There is Such a Thing as a Free Lunch — and More

When Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar wants to buy you lunch, you should take advantage of the opportunity. Now, don’t misinterpret that to mean the leader of the state’s largest broad-based business association doesn’t spring for a good meal every now and then.

Brinegar is buying lunch for Chamber members in six communities across the state this summer. He and other Chamber staff are coming to your town to share the latest on Chamber programs and benefits, important legislative accomplishments and more. Your questions and feedback are always welcome.

Where’s the action this summer? It starts June 14 in Fort Wayne, with subsequent events in Evansville, New Albany, Indianapolis, South Bend and Valparaiso. Check out the details here — and enjoy that lunch, networking with local leaders and Indiana Chamber hospitality.

Legislature 2011: Tallying Up the Victories

The recently concluded Indiana General Assembly session was, in non-technical terms, a really, really, really good one for Chamber members, their employees and all Hoosiers. Chamber President Kevin Brinegar calls it maybe the best overall in his 19 years with the organization.

We told you earlier about a May 13 Policy Call for members that will include House Speaker Brian Bosma and Chamber issue experts. Members can also look for the Final Legislative Report on May 10. In this one, we let our issue experts unleash that creativity that has been building up over the last four months. They’ll give the big picture on what happened, why it happened, who you should be thanking and more.

We’re also in the process of setting up in-person review briefings in communities around the state. Brinegar and the Chamber team will come to your town, provide the overview and answer your questions. We’ll keep you posted as they develop.

Right-to-Work Would Put More Hoosiers to Work

What’s the No. 1 thing Indiana lawmakers could do this session to put more Hoosiers back to work and enhance the state’s economic climate? It’s a straightforward answer: Pass a right-to-work law.

We shared some general benefits of RTW on Friday and promised some Indiana-specific numbers today. Check out a few below and learn more via the following:

If Indiana had passed a right-to-work law in 1977, the impact by 2008 would have been nearly $3,000 more in per capita income — or almost $12,000 more for a family of four. Going forward, a right-to-work law passed this year would generate a projected $968 per person or $3,872 for a family of four by 2021.

Do Hoosier voters support right-to-work? By a 3-to-1 margin (69% to 23%) in a scientific poll of 800 registered voters. That support comes from Republicans, Independents, Democrats and across all demographics — age, income, gender, occupation. Despite a constant and inaccurate propaganda campaign for their bosses, even 44% of union members are supportive of RTW.

The bottom line: Pass RTW — and pass it now. Workers, families and the state of Indiana will be the beneficiaries.

Member Benefit: The 2011 Legislature and Your Business

Chamber members, this one is for you. A one-hour Policy Issue Conference Call on Friday (9:30 a.m. EST) will feature a preview of the 2011 Indiana General Assembly session.

There are two dozen new legislators as a result of the November election and previous retirements, etc. Republicans picked up 12 seats in the House to take control of that chamber and extended their already large majority in the Senate. Education and local government reform, fixing the broken unemployment compensation system and drawing new political maps are among the priorities. And there’s that pesky two-year state budget thing during extremely tight financial times.

Chamber President Kevin Brinegar will offer his analysis and answer your questions. It’s going to be a big session with a major impact on companies and their employees. Find out how — and what you might be able to do to assist in the process.

Sign up today and listen in/participate on Friday.

‘Good’ Higher Ed Performance Not Good Enough

A new higher education report finds that Indiana’s public colleges and universities are performing "relatively well" while generally receiving "average or near average" funding.

Teresa Lubbers, Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education, doesn’t want anyone to be satisfied. Acknowledging that some in the Hoosier state might be content and even ask, "What do you expect?" Lubbers answers with, "I expect a whole lot more than middle of the pack."

The report, Crossing the Starting Line: An Examination of Productivity at Indiana’s Public Colleges and Universities, was prepared by Patrick Kelly of NCHEMS — the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. It is part of an Indiana Chamber and higher education commission productivity initiative funded by the Lumina Foundation for Education.

"The good news is that Indiana is a frontrunner in tackling this issue," Kelly states. The findings are not "gloom and doom" and he emphasized that more money is not the answer — "it’s not just about increasing resources to improve performance."

Indiana’s public college and university campuses are compared to their national (and largely self-identified) peers. Performance measures are graduation rates within 150% of program time, first-year retention rates and undergraduate credentials per 100 full-time students. The report also emphasizes Indiana’s dramatic underproduction of associate degrees and certificates compared to other states.

Lubbers and Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar both pointed to the big picture, the necessity for more people to earn higher education credentials and linking that to business and workforce needs.

What’s next? Positive steps would include continuing the move toward increased completion and performance-based funding for colleges and universities (Indiana is trying but it’s not an easy path from the traditional state dollars based on the number of students coming through the doors) and improving the entry for older adults into the education system (a focus for Ivy Tech, but one that is critical to businesses and their employees).

The full report, press release, individual campus profiles and additional higher education news and research are available at the Chamber-created Achieve Indiana web site.