Chamber Report Card Shows State Is Moving Forward, But a Quicker Pace Required

While economic momentum continues in portions of the state, the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card and 10th annual workforce survey clearly illustrate challenges that need both short- and long-term attention.

Among the findings: not enough skilled workers to meet economic needs; high rates of smoking and obesity that prove costly and impact quality of life; rising electricity prices; and a lack of statewide entrepreneurial activity and venture capital to support such efforts.

“There are a number of positive developments – both taking place every day and in our latest research – that are cause to celebrate,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “But it is also evident that a lack of workers, unhealthy lifestyle choices and limited Indiana-based funding to grow promising companies is keeping the state from realizing its full potential.”

The Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card compares the 50 states on 62 metrics related to 36 goals grouped by four drivers: Outstanding Talent, Attractive Business Climate, Superior Infrastructure, and Dynamic and Creative Culture.

Overall, Indiana did better on the 2017 version than the 2015 Report Card. Improvement occurred in 36 metrics – up from 28 two years ago; Indiana also declined in 16 rankings, which was three less than in 2015. The state remained the same or there was no updated data available in eight metrics; that number was 12 in 2015. (Two metrics couldn’t be compared.)

Some of Indiana’s top performances include:

  • Business regulatory environment: Regulatory Freedom Index (2nd) and Small Business Policy Index (9th)
  • Early education: A variety of top 10 ranks in NAEP (National Assessment of Education Progress) test scores, particularly at the fourth-grade level
  • Exports: 10th among the 50 states, extending a string of similar rankings

The early education gains, however, are countered by a lack of workers in critical areas, including STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The Report Card reveals Indiana colleges and universities produce the third most science and technology degrees, but the state is only 42nd in the adult population with such degrees.

In addition, two troubling trends from the Indiana Chamber’s annual employer workforce survey continue:

  • The number of respondents that left jobs unfilled due to under-qualified applicants increased to 47% – from 39%, 43% and 45% the last three years
  • Those indicating that filling their workforce was their biggest challenge also increased – 29% after previous marks of 20%, 24% and 27%. Combine that with those answering next biggest challenge and the number soars to 79% – following totals of 72%, 74% and 76% the last three years

“Employers tell us, both through the survey and in their daily work experiences, that they simply can’t fulfill growth possibilities due to the lack of skilled workers,” Brinegar notes. “While many efforts are underway to prepare future employees and upgrade the abilities of those in the workforce today, those programs must be operated at the highest level of effectiveness and accelerated.”

The unhealthy lifestyle choices among Hoosiers carries a $6 billion annual price tag in increased health care costs and lost productivity. Indiana’s 20.6% adult smoking rate is an improvement over past years, but ranks 39th among all states. A six-rank improvement in adult obesity still leaves the state with a 36th-place rating and nearly a third of adults are considered obese.

Electricity prices, once considered a strong advantage for the most manufacturing-intensive state in the country, are now 29th for industrial customers and 26th for commercial. And while progress has been made on gathering data to avoid the water crises that have plagued others, the state must move quicker on regional planning and governance issues regarding future supplies.

In the important area of Dynamic and Creative Culture, momentum in central Indiana is overshadowed by poor statewide performance in a series of metrics, including: Kauffman Entrepreneurial Index (tied for 44th); job creation among new firms (44th); and venture capital (35th).

“Indiana must continue to make all areas of the state attractive destinations for workers and the companies that create jobs,” Brinegar concludes. “We’re encouraged by the regional cooperation that has emerged in recent years and look forward to enhancing our statewide performance and outcomes in future Report Cards.”

About Indiana Vision 2025
Mission: “Indiana will be a global leader in innovation and economic opportunity where enterprises and citizens prosper.” Indiana Vision 2025 was developed by a statewide task force of community, business and education leaders. The plan was released in early 2012. This third Report Card is available at www.indianachamber.com/2025.

About the Indiana Chamber Foundation’s Workforce Employer Survey
Sponsored by WGU Indiana, the 10th annual survey was conducted in partnership with Walker. More than 1,200 employers responded. Full results, including questions on workforce training and opioid use in the workplace, are available at www.indianachamber.com/education.

Statewide Discussions and Analysis
The 2017 Report Card and workforce survey will be the focus of six regional forums (to discuss the results, obtain local analysis and share best practices). The events are sponsored by Duke Energy Foundation; Indiana Michigan Power; NIPSCO, a NiSource company; and Vectren.

The forum schedule: June 6 (South Bend), June 7 (Hammond), June 27 (Sellersburg), June 28 (Indianapolis), June 29 (Evansville) and July 20 (Fort Wayne).

Electric Vehicle Charging Station Program Begins in Northwest Indiana

In an effort to encourage more use of alternative fuels in Northwest Indiana, the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) has partnered with South Shore Clean Cities to launch a pilot program making electric vehicle charging stations available to more public entities.

South Shore Clean Cities is a Crown Point-based public/private organization that promotes the use of alternative fuels and technology.

Through the end of January 2015, the IN-Charge Around Town Electric Vehicle Program offers financial incentives to help defray the costs of putting in charging stations on public buildings. NIPSCO is offering up to $1 million in incentives for the program, according to a press release.

This program is the second part of NIPSCO’s recent alternative fuel push; the IN-Charge at Home Program gave an instant credit for residents to install a charging station on their property. Additionally, NIPSCO will buy an equal amount of renewable energy certificates for every unit of electricity used through the program.

“Electric vehicles are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to gasoline-powered cars,” explains Carl Lisek, executive director of South Shore Clean Cities, in a press release. “They offer fuel cost savings, produce no tailpipe emissions and help reduce reliance on imported oil.”

Charging station owners can choose to charge for using the station, but will operate free of charge for the owners.

Deadlines and Developments are Part of the Business

In this era of Twitter, smartphones and cable news networks, the minute something happens we know about it. A lot has been said/written/tweeted/etc. about print media dying.

While that’s a debate for another day, I will say I experience a monthly euphoria when the latest copy of Vanity Fair (ahem, I mean Forbes) is waiting for me in the mailbox.

I don’t expect to the find the news of the day when I pick up a magazine. No, I am looking for those in-depth stories and images that are much more enjoyable on glossy pages than a retina-burning digital screen.

So, that brings us to my point … the latest issue of BizVoice. Just like other magazines, we work on a production schedule that makes breaking news nearly impossible (once again, not the role of magazines anyway).

While topics in the magazine are planned so they are relevant for when they are released, those pesky deadlines can make things complicated. Case in point:

  • January 26 – I sat down with Eileen O’Neill Odum, NiSource executive vice president and NIPSCO CEO, for a brief interview for the BizVoice “Getting to Know” feature.
  • Our conversation was then turned into a nearly two-page spread for the March/April issue, which was sent to the printer February 12 – two weeks before it’s distributed to readers.
  • February 18 – Odum announced she would resign her position at the end of the month to spend time with her family. 

What are the chances? I guess that’s part of the deadline business. Don’t write off the story though – Odum’s words remain relevant as she discusses the company and Northwest Indiana. Go ahead and get to know her. We wish Eileen all the best as she enjoys some valuable time with family.

I can’t help but wonder if there’s something in the Northwest Indiana water though. Vince Galbiati officially resigned his position as CEO of the Northwest Indiana Forum the day after participating in a BizVoice roundtable discussion.

While we could have decided to leave him out of the story, you’ll find his perceptive comments are included (with a note acknowledging his resignation). You’ll also find several other stories in this issue highlighting Northwest Indiana. And just in case my theory on the water is correct, I’ll keep you posted on any other resignations.

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].