Indiana Would Be Hit Hard by NAFTA Pullout

The U.S. Chamber recently released its analysis of which states would be most harmed from a NAFTA withdrawal.

Unfortunately, Indiana would be among the Top 10 most hard hit states, with more than 250,000 Hoosier jobs put at risk.

On top of that, nearly half of Indiana’s exports are destined for customers in Canada and Mexico, generating more than $16 billion in export revenue. Indiana’s farmers and ranchers would also suffer a blow, particularly those with soybean crops exported to Mexico.

Where We’re Importing and Exporting

A glance at two maps – top import and expert country for each state in 2016 – reveals some interesting observations:

  • On the export side, Canada is the leading destination from 33 states (including Indiana and 25 of the other 31 east of the Mississippi River)
  • Mexico (six states) and China (four states) were next on the list
  • Among the more intriguing partnerships: Nevada’s exports are going to Switzerland
  • On the import side, nine countries are represented with China (23 states) and Canada (14 states) leading the way
  • Indiana and Oregon are the two states in which the lead importer is Ireland (Happy St. Patrick’s Day, by the way!)
  • Of Indiana’s four neighbors, China is tops in Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois, while Mexico (think auto industry) is the top partner with Michigan
  • Hawaii stands alone with its top partners of Indonesia (imports) and Australia (exports)

According to the American Enterprise Institute:

Last year, American companies sold $2.2 trillion worth of goods and services to buyers in other countries, and American companies and consumers purchased $2.7 trillion worth of imports from trading partners all around the world. Seven states – Michigan, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Washington and Texas – have their international trade represent more than 30% of their economic output.
Together, that volume of international trading activities represented 26% of the value of America’s $18.5 trillion in GDP in 2016. In terms of employment, more than 27 million American workers, about one in five, have jobs that are directly supported by trade with the rest of the world. Some states like California and Texas have more than two million jobs that are directly supported by international trade.

Have a Taste for Culinary Careers?

23064608Every weekend, I reach for a spoon – a big one – and dig into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream. Delectable chocolate chunks. Crunchy walnuts mixed with bananas. It’s one of my favorite indulgences. But that doesn’t mean I want to be a primal ice cream therapist.

Haven’t heard of it? Neither had I until I saw Delish’s list of the 10 coolest food jobs (no pun intended)!

Check out this description:

Ben & Jerry’s Primal ice cream therapist (yes, that’s his real title!), Peter Lind, consumes four to five pints of ice cream in an average week (roughly 15 to 25 flavors per day). The purpose of this madness? To assure Ben & Jerry’s delivers the best-tasting product possible. Peter and his team dream up, then sample and adjust flavors over and over until they are completely satisfied. “You could make a chipotle ice cream, but exactly how hot should it be?” That’s the kind of creamy conundrum the gurus must figure out.

Crave adventure? Become a chocolate explorer:

Biting into a bar of chocolate, it’s hard to comprehend the journey those cocoa beans travel to get to your taste buds. Meet Ray Major, Scharffen Berger’s resident “cacao hunter.” It’s his job to source the best possible cacao for the company’s artisan chocolates. His work has taken him around the world to Nicaragua, Belgium, Ghana, Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, Guatemala … the list goes on. On these adventures, Major and his team visit plantations to evaluate the trees, discuss the crops, sample the pulp and study the quality of beans.

Food lovers also may enjoy careers as celeb chef assistants, restaurant publicists, gourmet food buyers or beekeepers – just to name a few. And getting paid for what you love to do? That’s icing on the cake.

Help Get I-69 Into National Freight Network

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is currently seeking comments on the Primary Freight Network and National Freight Network designations. The Indiana Chamber believes that I-69 should be included as part of the National Freight Network and is asking DOT to support this effort.

As part of the National Freight Network designation, DOT has the opportunity to identify an additional 3,000 miles of highways that are critical to the future efficient movement of goods; this represents a strategic opportunity for the nation to enhance its freight transportation network.

A national priority over the past 20 years, I-69’s significance as a major freight route will increase as states along the corridor continue making progress toward its completion.

I-69 provides the most direct interstate access to principle international border crossings between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as well as multiple Gulf Coast ports; the volume of traffic on I-69 is anticipated to dramatically rise as the interstate progresses. For all these reasons, I-69 should be included in the Primary Freight Network.

We urge you to show your support for including I-69 as part of the Primary Freight Network by signing this petition.

Immigration Reform Heats Up; Messer Weighs In

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, S. 744, is currently being debated by the U.S. Senate, with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) seeking final passage prior to the July 4 recess. The comprehensive reform bill has something to like and something to dislike for just about everyone involved, but the primary political battle lines are being drawn between border security first (a Republican priority) and a path toward legalization and citizenship (a Democratic priority).

The so-called “Gang of 8” has labored mightily to keep a fragile coalition of support together in the Senate, but fissures are materializing. What once looked like a very sizable 70 votes in support has dwindled as the debate has progressed. As of Friday morning, June 21, senators were discussing a new compromise border security proposal in an effort to secure more support for the bill.  
The best guess at this point is that an amended S. 744 passes the Senate with overwhelming support from Democrats and just enough Republicans to get over 60 votes and send the legislation to the House of Representatives, where Speaker John Boehner’s caucus is even more uneasy and polarized than the Senate GOP. Boehner has publicly stated that any bill that does not have majority support from his caucus will not be heard, so the House may take a “piecemeal” approach addressing specific aspects or issues included in S. 744 (and likely tackling and emphasizing border security first). However, the Speaker has also met with the Hispanic Caucus and the House’s own “Gang of 8” seeking a comprehensive, bipartisan measure.
Indiana Congressman Luke Messer (R-6th District) told the Indiana Chamber recently that “if we are able to reach agreement on border security and documented status for workers, then we have an opportunity for further dialogue about what we do about citizenship once those workers are documented.
“My sense today is that we don’t yet have a consensus about what to do about citizenship, which makes it difficult if you tie all three together. That’s the challenge. There’s an opportunity to come up with a plan this year to deal with those first two topics. Probably it’s going to take demonstrated success on those to be able to move on to citizenship.” (Look for the full Q&A with Congressman Messer in the next BizVoice® magazine, available online June 28.)
We see Speaker Boehner’s leadership at a very serious crossroads on this issue, with many conservative Republicans rebelling against any bipartisan deal that includes a path to legalization or naturalization for illegal immigrants currently in the country. How Boehner squares this circle will be fascinating to watch.
The Indiana Chamber believes that now is the time to craft a principled, pragmatic reform that secures the border, strengthens the rule of law AND creates a program for undocumented workers to earn legal status, as it is utterly impractical to seek the mass deportation of an estimated 11 million individuals.

FMLA News: Overactive Nurse Done In by Facebook Posts

If you're into rhyming mnemonic devices, a relevant one for workers on leave could be: "If you're out on FMLA, better watch how much you play."

The California Chamber's HR Watchdog blog tells the tale of a nurse in Detroit who was not only quite active while on leave, but documented her hijinx on Facebook. Needless to say, her employer and coworkers were less than enthusiastic about how she was milking the company.

A Detroit nurse out on Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave for a back and leg injury was fired after Facebook posts showed her vacationing in Mexico. Her doctor certified the need for her leave due to substantial lifting and mobility restrictions. But several Facebook posts showed the nurse in Mexico riding in a boat; lying on a bed holding up two bottles of beer.

She also posted other details about her life that seemed inconsistent with her leave, including pictures of herself holding her grandchildren while standing (one in each arm), details about trips to Home Depot, “watching” the grandchildren and taking online classes.

Co-workers who were Facebook “friends” of the nurse told management. While on leave, the nurse sent an email to her boss complaining that she never received a get-well card from staff.

Her boss replied that: “the staff were waiting until you came back from your vacation in Mexico to determine the next step. Since you were well enough to travel on a 4+ hour flight, wait in customs lines, bus transport, etc., we were assuming you would be well enough to come back to work.”

The nurse responded that she used wheelchairs at the airports, but eventually conceded that this was a lie and that she had been able to stand for 30 minutes while waiting in airport lines.

She was terminated for violating a company policy on dishonesty and for misuse of FMLA leave. A federal court in Michigan upheld the termination. Lineberry v. Richards (E.D. Mi. February 5, 2013)

Indy Event Focuses on Doing Business with Mexico

An August 21 World Trade Club/U.S. Department of Commerce event in Indianapolis will focus on doing business in Mexico. Here are the details

Since NAFTA was implemented, Indiana’s sales to Mexico have grown at an annual average rate of 12.8%. In 2011, Indiana’s exports to Mexico reached $3.27 billion. Transportation equipment alone constitutes 31.8% of total exports, and has increased by over 20% since 2005. Mexico is the United States’ second largest export market resulting in over $850 million of trade taking place each day. Indiana exports to Mexico constitute nearly 11% of total exported manufactured goods, offering growth potential for U.S. companies. It provides a unique opportunity for U.S. manufacturers, particularly small and medium sized enterprises, to participate in Mexico’s manufacturing supply chain.

At this event, the World Trade Club will be presented an Export Achievement Award by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Keynote Speakers

Michael Camuñez: Assistant Secretary of Commerce, International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. He will discuss:

  • U.S. – Mexico Trade Relations
  • Cross-border issues
  • National Export initiative

Juan M. Solana: Consul of Mexico. He will discuss the benefits NAFTA U.S – Mexico trade relations.

Featured Speakers

Dr. Allert Brown: Faculty Fellow, Kellogg Institute for International Studies at University of Notre Dame. He will discuss the current business climate in Mexico.
Chris Felts: Partner, Barnes & Thornburg, LLP. He will discuss the legal opportunities and obstacles in Mexico.
– Randy Goode: Senior Vice President, PNC Bank. He will offer a perspective on financing business deals in Mexico.

Ranking the Best to Invest for 2011 Around the Globe

Site Selection magazine is well known for its tracking of business projects and rankings of economic activity. One of its newest projects (in its fourth year) is Best to Invest ratings. Half of the evaluation is based on its comprehensive database of new and expanded facilities, with the other 50% an analysis of business environment, business risks, foreign direct investment and infrastructure.

Here are top countries in five global regions. The metro rankings in these regions are based on similar factors as above, but with a slightly different weighting formula.

Western Europe

  • Top five countries: Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany, Austria and (tie) Switzerland and Italy. Top five metros: Dublin, Ireland; Frankfurt, Germany; Edinburgh, Scotland; Birmingham, England; and (tie) Belfast, Northern Ireland and Paris, France.

Eastern Europe

  • Countries: Hungary, Poland, Slovak Republic and (tie) Estonia and Czech Republic. Metros: Budapest, Hungary; Moscow, Russia; Bucharest, Romania; Prague, Czech Republic; and Warsaw, Poland.


  • Countries: Singapore, Australia, (tie) Malaysia and South Korea, Vietnam. Metros (first three in China and last two in India): (tie) Beijing and Shanghai; (tie) Chongqing and Chennai; and Bangalore.

Africa and the Middle East

  • Countries: South Africa, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Metros: Port Elizabeth, South Africa; (tie) Nairobi, Kenya; Cairo, Egypt; and Kinsasha, Congo; and Casablanca, Morocco.

Latin America

  • Countries: Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, Chile and Argentina. Metros: Sao Paulo, Brazil; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Mexico City, Mexico; (tie) Guadalajara, Mexico and Monterrey, Mexico.


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.”

Continue reading

Manufacturing Study: Time to Act or Else?

In Indiana, we make things. Engage in a discussion about that topic today, and it’s typically referred to as advanced manufacturing. No matter the name, it’s important.

On a national level, the State Science & Technology Institute summarizes a recent study by Booz & Co. and the University of Michigan’s Tauber Institute for Global Operations.

The authors point out three significant findings that emerged from the study. First, contrary to popular belief, U.S. manufacturing has been much more productive. Currently, U.S. companies produce about 75 percent of the products consumed by the nation. Second, manufacturing will remain largely regional. According to the authors, no single country will become "the factory of the world." Instead, manufacturers will increasingly locate factories close to major markets, including the U.S., Europe and Southeast Asia. Third, labor costs and currency rates are playing a decreasing role in decisions by manufacturing executives. Instead, four other factors are driving manufacturers’ choices:

  • The skill level and quality of factory employees, especially for high-tech facilities;

  • The presence of high-impact clusters;

  • Access to nearby countries with emerging consumer markets and lower-cost labor; and,

  • A reasonably competitive regulatory and tax environment.

The authors contend that if U.S. business leaders, educators and policymakers make "a series of identifiable smart actions and choices" that a manufacturing-driven economy could produce up to 95 percent of all products consumed by the nation. According to the report, the series of actions and choices includes recommendations in four policy areas:

  • Attract the best workers — currently, the U.S. faces a shortage of qualified manufacturing employees. To address this problem, policy makers must develop educational initiatives that promote engineering, relax federal immigration regulations for trained knowledge workers (e.g., H-1B visas) and establish state manufacturing education initiatives (e.g., scholarships and other programs). Manufacturing companies must also offer a more collaborative workplace experience, attract workers by attending campus recruitment events and industry job fairs, increase college internships, form partnerships with local colleges and universities and partner with other manufacturers to jointly support specialized training programs.

  • Invest in high-impact clusters — In the context of manufacturing, clusters are essential to grow geographic concentrations of interconnected companies, suppliers, service providers and associated institutions. State and local governments can encourage clusters by investing in infrastructure—roads, ports, rail lines and communication links—for centers that have begun to form organically. However, studies have shown that governments should not seek to micromanage cluster creation.

  • Build a future with Mexico — Mexico offers a cost-conscious and attractive alternative to China and other distant offshoring sites. By developing production facilities there, manufacturers can tap a relatively low-cost labor pool and maintain tight links with R&D talent and facilities in the United States.

  • Simplify and streamline the tax and regulatory structure — Policymakers should reduce taxation levels and tax code complexity. In the Booz & Company survey, 61 percent of respondents cited government regulations and policies as having a negative impact on their companies’ U.S. manufacturing output.