Coats Earns Business Endorsement

It’s endorsement season — and the Indiana Chamber Congressional Action Committee (ICCAC, the Indiana Chamber’s non-partisan federal political action program) today endorsed Dan Coats for the U.S. Senate seat in this year’s election.

Coats says he has talked to hundreds of struggling Hoosier business owners who are fed up with higher taxes, more regulations and the ambiguity of what is yet to come.

"They are asking for checks and balances against the one-party control in Washington and this cloud of uncertainty," says Coats, who previously served in the Senate from 1990-1998. "It’s all about creating jobs and stimulating the economy. Those are the keys to our campaign."

The former senator added that every effort should be made to repeal the health care reform measure that, he notes, imposes 19 new taxes. If that proves not possible, "sensible corrections" need to be pursued.

Coats, running against current 8th District Congressman Brad Ellsworth, had sharp words for Congress and its decision to head back to the campaign trail without addressing the tax cuts that are scheduled to expire at year’s end.

"That was totally irresponsible." The uncertainty that is stopping company investments and job expansions is "now extended two more months. It has frozen businesses in place because they don’t know what their tax situation will be."

Chamber President Kevin Brinegar said that the volunteer business community leaders of the ICCAC want representatives in Washington who "focus on economic growth and job creation, not growing government, and Dan Coats clearly understands this."

Washington Threatening the “Free” in Free Enterprise

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Indiana Chamber and others participating in a roundtable discussion earlier today on economic growth and job creation in the Hoosier state all easily agreed on one principle: It’s not about government creating jobs, but government creating an atmosphere for the private sector to create jobs.

Indiana receives a leading grade in that category; Washington does not.

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar was among the discussion participants. He noted that member companies and others in the Hoosier state "could expand their businesses further, hire even more employees or even re-open facilities but they’re not doing so until they have a better handle on their future costs as imposed by the federal government and the economic direction of our country."

Various business leaders gave examples of growth as a result of Indiana’s entrepreneur-friendly policies and practices, as well as how national actions are threatening their companies and others.

The campaign — American Free Enterprise. Dream Big. — says business leaders understand the challenge, but that those serving in government sometimes do not. It is posing five questions to ask candidates to determine if they are free enterprise friendly:

  • Do you believe our free enterprise system is currently threatened?
  • Do you believe that tax increases hurt job creation?
  • Do you believe that the growth of government at all levels and the deficits that follow negatively impact job creation?
  • Would you deal with the debt and deficit issues through increasing government revenue or decreasing government spending?
  • Do you believe that the uncertainy resulting from pending tax increases, higher government deficits and more government regulations will hurt the economy?

Good questions; ones that deserve honest answers. 

Keep it Free; Create the Jobs

Economic growth and job creation are the focus of a national discussion taking place in Indianapolis this morning — and the Indiana Chamber will be there.

The U.S. Chamber’s National Chamber Foundation (with assistance from the Indiana Chamber and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation) is hosting the 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. event. Several members of the national chamber team, including former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, will offer comments along with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

A roundtable discussion will take place, with Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar and several Chamber board members among the participants. Daniels will focus his remarks on Creating Jobs Through Free Enterprise and an Indiana-specific study will also be unveiled.

We’ll provide some Twitter updates during the discussion and come back with another blog later in the day.

Solving the Procurement Puzzle

It’s such a big, lumbering word for what should be a straightforward process. Procurement is the 11-letter moniker for what I like to call bringing buyers and sellers together. Or simply doing business. And now a new ePortal — Indiana Supplier INsight — is in place to make the job easier for Hoosier companies.

Launched by Conexus Indiana, the powerful but easy-to-use (and free) system encourages Indiana companies to do business with other firms within the state. Businesses create searchable online profiles, while others provide detailed listings of supplier needs. The technology helps do the rest. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

"Manufacturers look at suppliers all over the country, often unaware of qualified firms right here in their own backyard," says Steve Dwyer, president and CEO of Conexus Indiana. "This initiative shines a light on these companies and helps them forge new relationships."

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar adds, "We welcome the opportunity to provide our members with this ability to connect with fellow Hoosier businesses, benefiting both organizations and the Indiana economy. The need for such a service was evident in the Chamber’s recent work studying Indiana mid-market companies and their potential for additional growth."

Companies ready to take advantage of this system can connect online or e-mail Lisa Laughner ([email protected]), program director at Conexus Indiana. The Indiana Chamber, Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Secretary of State’s office and Indiana Department of Administration are supporting the initiative.

Those interesting in sponsorships on the Indiana Supplier INsight portal — reaching thousands of Indiana companies and their key personnel — should contact the Chamber’s Jim Wagner ([email protected]).   

Chamber Statement on Bayh Decision

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar comments on today’s announcement by Sen. Evan Bayh to not seek a third term:

“Senator Bayh has enjoyed a long and distinguished career serving Hoosiers. He has done many positive things for Indiana, both as governor and U.S. senator, and we  wish him and his family nothing but the best going forward. I believe he is quite genuine with his comments that the hostile political atmosphere and partisan bickering were the tipping points for his decision. When he was governor, he was known for his fiscal conservatism and made a point of working with both sides of the aisle to get results. Not being able to see that happen in the Senate and Congress in general, where it is sorely needed, must be a source of frustration and disappointment for him, as it has been for Hoosier employers and their workers the Chamber represents.

“In particular, the events over the past six months in Congress obviously have changed the senator’s belief that meaningful, positive outcomes for issues like health care, debt reduction and job creation could be achieved. In August, when he spoke to the Chamber’s board of directors, he was quite optimistic that Congress would deal with these issues in a bipartisan, productive way to get things done for Americans. Unfortunately, things appear to have gone in the exact opposite direction.

“From the Chamber’s standpoint, we have always found Sen. Bayh to be thoughtful and consistent in his decisions and a willing listener to the business community’s position. During his time in Washington, the senator has routinely participated in our annual D.C. Fly-in trip, meeting in-person with business leaders from throughout the state to discuss the issues important to them. While Sen. Bayh did not always vote with the Chamber position, we respected his stance and felt that courtesy was returned to us.”

Here’s Why Indiana Needs a New Wishard

One day late last week the operating rooms at Wishard Memorial Hospital were shut down after a steam pipe burst. It was an accident that could happen anywhere, but does take place at the near downtown Indianapolis facility far too frequently due to crumbling infrastructure at its outdated facilities.

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar discusses the need for a new Wishard, why Marion County voters should support the project and the implications that extend out to the rest of the state:

Paying for the Road(s) to Success

Stimulus. Cap and trade. Health care reform. All have been/are vying for attention — and dollars — in Washington. But what about transportation funding? You know, paying for the highways, bridges and infrastructure that help keep our country moving.

The Indiana Chamber’s Cam Carter was one of more than 100 association and business leaders to converge on Washington yesterday to deliver the "Transportation is Your Business" message to lawmakers. The SAFETEA-LU (you have to love those Washington acronyms) authorizing legislation expires on September 30. Delays on a new funding plan are normal, but the U.S. Chamber (organizer of this event) and the business community don’t want those in the nation’s capital to overlook these vital resources.

Among the major challenges is the fact that the traditional funding source for transportation projects, the federal gasoline tax, is generally regarded as nowhere near adequate to meet future needs. More public-private partnerships (see Major Moves here in Indiana) are touted as one of the solutions, but protectionist attitudes have put a damper on these projects. Washington, states, locals and more must begin to realize and accept that additional foreign investment is a good thing.

Transportation investment helps drive the economy (creating jobs in construction, engineering and more) and cost-effective and efficient services are essential for companies and their employees. If we can’t move products and people, we’re basically out of business.

A recent report noted that President Obama and some congressional leaders favor an 18-month extension of the current law before tackling a new agreement. If that time was spent developing new and innovative strategies to meet current and future needs, MAYBE it would be a good idea. Deadlines in Washington, however, like at the state level, often mean the work doesn’t get done until that drop dead time approaches (or passes). Carter reports from Washington that the 18-month extension is likely to become a reality.

Transportation investment is a big issue. Companies, large and small, and their employees can’t really afford for it to be put on the back burner.

You can join Carter, Chamber President Kevin Brinegar and Indiana business leaders on September 23-24 for the annual D.C. Fly-in. On a more immediate front, Carter and Chamber health care expert Mike Ripley will discuss the fast track efforts on health care reform during Friday’s Policy Issue Conference Call for members.

Statehouse Leaves One Searching for the Right Words

I’ve been doing this writing thing for publication for more than 30 years now (must have started from the crib, right?) and rarely experience trouble expressing myself. The problem here is not the dreaded writer’s block, but what not to say following a long, long day at the Indiana Statehouse on Wednesday.

(Indiana Chamber members can get the full story directly from ICC president Kevin Brinegar on Friday from 9:30-10:30 a.m. ET in our monthly Policy Issue Conference Call. Kevin has just about seen it all in his nearly 30 years around the Statehouse, but Wednesday’s developments had him joining others in shaking his head. Remember, this is for members only. Registration is required).

I’ll try to be brief. First key point: At a time when economic fortunes are low and unemployment is high, legislators pass an unemployment insurance trust fund bill that practically guarantees additional job losses. Figure that one out. Second, a state budget proposal (the lone requirement for the nearly four-month session) fails in the House (71-27) and that is the good news. The "compromise" would have started the steady climb up the "cliff" that everyone said needed to be avoided (in other words, relied too heavily on stimulus funds and set the stage for big tax hikes two years from now or sooner) and took several steps in reverse on education policy.

I’ve come to learn in 11 years at the Chamber that negotiations in the final days of the session produce the ultimate final bills on the major issues. I’m not a big fan of that, but I’ve come to accept it as reality. The products of these conference committees, however, seemed to evolve from one-sided negotiations. House Republicans and Senate Democrats, the minorities, talked of being shut out. Senate Republicans unfortunately seemed to be missing in action based on the conference committee outcomes.

Just a few details. The unemployment "solution" was termed a $685 million tax increase on employers over two years. Econ 101, or maybe freshman common sense, tells you struggling employers faced with monumental tax increases will have to cut costs in other ways — quite likely in personnel. Passionate speeches aside from both caucuses, the bill passed the House 52-47 (party line vote) after 96-3 passage in the Senate.

The budget proposal: Too much spending ($28.1 billion over two years when the state doesn’t have that much money to spend). A message that we’re still not serious about education. No scholarship tax credit. A cap on charter schools at a time when everyone from President Obama on down is calling for more school choice. House Minority Leader Brian Bosma said this move would have jeopardized $275 million in education stimulus funding and disqualified the state from Obama’s $5 billion Race to the Top education grant fund.

I’ll stop there. There will be plenty more to come as those two dreaded words — special session — are now reality.

Brinegar: It’s Not Too Late for Legislators to Act

Two weeks remain in the 2009 Indiana General Assembly legislative session. Will we be smiling, crying or shrieking in horror when the final gavel falls — likely late in the night on April 29?

Chamber President Kevin Brinegar offers his two-minute video take on some of the things that should happen before the legislators leave Indianapolis. Hint: it’s not too late for local government reform and a fair solution must be found for the broken Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund system.

See what Kevin has to say in this Inside INdiana Business commentary and let us know what you think.