Thoughts on Sen. Luke Kenley’s Pending Retirement

Earlier this summer, Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) announced his plans to retire from the Indiana Senate on September 30 after a quarter century representing constituents in Hamilton County.

Kenley is the longtime chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for that chamber’s budget-writing proposal.

Governor Eric Holcomb said of the news: “Few understand the intricacies of Indiana’s finances like Luke Kenley. He has been an essential state-budget architect for years and years, and he is widely respected for both his expertise and his no-nonsense approach to lawmaking. Even though he is moving on to the next chapter in his life, many will continue to seek his counsel – including me. So, even though he won’t be in the Senate Chamber come January, and he’ll have a little more time to spend at his ranch in Texas, he will continue to contribute to our state’s success in countless ways.”

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar, himself a Noblesville resident and constituent of Kenley’s, offered these remarks:

“We were sorry to learn that Sen. Kenley has chosen not to serve his full term; it is undoubtedly a loss for Senate Republicans and the collective body. Senator Kenley brought his vast experience as a lawyer, judge and small business owner to his service and has been an outstanding and model public servant.

“He has been a strong conservative force on fiscal policy matters and that has served our state very well. Senator Kenley has also proven to be an attentive legislator and during his tenure was involved in virtually every important piece of policy and legislation to move Indiana forward and enhance our prosperity.

“It’s been my pleasure and honor to work with him over these many years. I’m proud to call Luke Kenley my friend and wish him the best in his retirement.”

On a related note, Sen. Ryan Mishler (R-Bremen) was appointed in mid-July to take over chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Growing Strong at Noblesville’s SMC

10295185_649652505143607_8886419329462044533_oSMC Corporation of America is the U.S. subsidiary – based in Noblesville – of a Japanese-based company specializing in the manufacturing of pneumatic devices. Think actuators, valves, connectors, temperature control equipment and more.

Business is good. So good that the organization is looking to expand its sales force – in a serious way. During a recent conversation with the Indiana Chamber member, I was told the company is planning a dormitory on campus to educate and train those new salespersons over a six-month period.

SMC looks to expand on its 800 employees already in Indiana. In addition, the company is heavily involved in a promising internship program that places Noblesville High School students into the workplace to gain hands-on experience.

Congratulations on all the good work at SMC and continued success.

Noblesville’s RMI Expanding Business, Adding Talent

Historically, RMI in Noblesville has focused on orthopedic solutions for spinal surgeries, as well as hip and knee replacements. It’s had quite a bit of success in this industry, but RMI leadership now sees an opportunity to expand its focus.

"More recently, we’ve been looking for opportunities for growth in the non-medical field," President James Evans explains. "So we’re in the process of getting our aerospace certification."

Evans relays that expansion is one of the key reasons the company moved to Noblesville from Rochester in fall 2011. He explains the move gave the company more access to talent, and provided a more central location and close proximity to customers. While quite an undertaking, 19 of RMI’s Rochester staffers made the move south with the company, which currently has 25 employees (although that number will grow to 28 in the near future and well beyond once it expands into aerospace).

"We build low volume precision components out of exotic materials for the medical industry," Evans clarifies. "It’s a natural outgrowth opportunity to build products for other markets. Aerospace (and government, high-reliability military and aviation industries) all have requirements for the kind of capability that we have. Fairly high value componentry and assemblies are what we specialize in. In the spinal parts we build, the cervical plates, the hooks, the rods, the screws, which are mainly out of titanium and stainless steel and exotic plastics — we could really apply those to other markets."

Evans adds that the company has worked to evolve from just a component supplier and has expanded into full assemblies, which now comprise 40% to 50% of its business.

"When you start adding components together as part of an assembly, you have all of the interferences and system-level issues that you uncover," he notes. "And frankly, most of our competitors don’t want that hassle — so we look for more of those opportunities and that separates us from the competition."

He adds that the company now focuses on getting products to market faster by increasing engineering staff and adding equipment, which has helped build customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Evans remarks that RMI now serves more second tier developers.

"In 2005, most of our business was with large OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), and we had very little flexibility in defining the manufacturing of these products," he says. "We had little say in product improvements, and now we’re with customers who are competitive with large OEMs; they’re design houses and they’re working with orthopedic groups. … they look to us for manufacturing solutions."

Challenges still face Hoosier companies in the medical device industry.

"With people out of work, they don’t have insurance and put off having surgeries," Evans offers. "People are also doing tigher inventory controls, so purchasing habits have changed and so we don’t get as many large orders as we used to get. And of course Obamacare has had its own set of challenges, as well as the medical device tax — those things will affect the marketplace."

When asked about Indiana’s pipeline of talent for his industry, Evans explains central Indiana provides more access to talent, but he believes the state has room for improvement.

"The people who actually run our machinery, they need to be trained machinists and need to know a lot about metallurgy and inspection processes, and we have to train every one of them that comes in here," he asserts. "So there’s always a talent gap."

Would you like to know more about RMI or its products? Reach out to Evans at [email protected].

“A Man Needs a Maid” – Neil Young

A recent press release from The Maids reveals that even in tough times, Americans still don’t like cleaning their own houses.

Even in a tricky economy, more and more households are getting outside help. What precious free time people have they don’t want to spend scrubbing the toilet.

“People want more balance in their lives and the free time that they do have they want to spend with their families or friends,” said Ron Graf, Owner of The Maids of Noblesville. “Knowing that the house will get a good scrubbing not only frees up time but reduces stress for many of our hard-working customers.”

The Maids International reports that use of maid services are on the rise in many parts of the country.

In more than 100 U.S metropolitan areas with franchises of The Maids, people such as Karleen Dell’Ova say regular service from their local team is the last thing they will give up.

“I would give up my iPad, my iPhone, whatever to have The Maids,” Dell’Ova said. “I told my husband that when he retires, The Maids will be the last thing to go.”

Dell’Ova has used The Maids of North Hampton, N.H., since 2003. With their two children grown and out of the house, she and her husband Vin moved to a retirement community in nearby Durham.

She wanted some help and a neighbor recommended her cleaning woman. Dell’Ova gave her a try. “It did not work for me,” she said. “I wanted a company.” She uses The Maids once a month and the schedule keeps her on track with routine upkeep but spares her the heavy-duty stuff. She appreciates how fast the team works and loves returning home to a spotless house.

“They know the house,” she said.

“Personal attention and outstanding customer service are hallmarks of The Maids,” said Graf. “We treat every house like it is our own.”

Remote Areas to See Broadband Uptick

Stateline.org recently examined state and federal initiatives to bring broadband service to America’s rural areas:

Maine gives out about $1 million about every 10 months to help its residents get high-speed Internet connections. In July, it approved nine projects costing the state almost $800,000 to get 5,000 families hooked up.

States across the country have pursued similar efforts toward creating statewide broadband policies and better access for their residents. But their scale pales in comparison to the $7.2 billion in stimulus money the federal government has committed over the next two years to improve high-speed Internet connections around the country.

Every state is supposed to get a share, and every governor will get a chance to weigh in on how the funds are spent. In this wash of new money, state officials are scurrying to identify the states’ greatest needs, coaching providers applying for stimulus money and developing overarching plans for how to roll out expanded service.

Most of the stimulus money will go toward building out high-speed connections to people in hard-to-reach places. Larry Landis, an Indiana Utility Commissioner active in national broadband efforts, says states have an “obligation to address those who are currently unserved” by broadband.

“What we need is a broadband consensus which nurtures state initiatives to build out to serve the least, the last and the lost,” he said.

The “least,” he says, are the working poor who haven’t been able to afford broadband. The “last” are those “currently on the fringes of the infrastructure to deliver on the promise of broadband.” The “lost” are consumers who could buy broadband but don’t.

Currently, 63 percent of adults have broadband at home, compared to just 7 percent who use dial-up connections, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which, like Stateline.org, is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Half of the U.S. adults who don’t have broadband at home say they don’t see the need for it, the study said. One in five respondents said they didn’t get a high-speed connection because it was too costly.

Also, take a look at how a Noblesville company is working to help Alabama with its broadband efforts in the May/June BizVoice.

Putting Education Quality at the Top of the Priority List

For too many years, the Indiana Chamber has been fighting an uphill battle in its various education reform initiatives. A number of other like-minded organizations have come and gone – and support from the second floor Statehouse offices of the Indiana Department of Education has been tepid, at best, and probably better described as missing in (in)action.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett promised a new day on the campaign trail and when he assumed office earlier this year. The latest in his series of changes for the better is today’s call for altering teacher licensing procedures to improve quality and increase flexibility in the hiring of school administrators.

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar offered the following statement:

“It’s proven in business every day that there is no longer just one route to effective organization leadership. Indiana school corporations cannot afford to close their doors to superintendent and principal candidates that do not possess the traditional education background.”

Brinegar, also a school board member in Noblesville, adds, “All school boards will have the opportunity to select the top person for the job. Degree, testing and licensure requirements – along with the abilities of elected school board members – will ensure that only the best will be placed in crucial school leadership roles.”

Regarding teacher licensing changes, Brinegar comments:

“The Indiana Chamber has represented the business community in the education arena for many years, advocating for teacher professional development and higher educator compensation. Eliminating any roadblocks to improving teacher quality will help avoid pending teacher shortages in key subject areas, make the state eligible for additional federal funding and, most importantly, help guarantee that our young people are receiving the best education possible.”

Preservers of the status quo will say that this opens the door to anyone and everyone to enter the classroom and the school leadership world. What it is doing is giving principals and the citizens we elect as school board members the flexibility they need to do their job and provide the best teachers and leaders for our students. Remember, that’s the mission here – giving those young people the best chance possible at future success.
 

Brownsburg, St. John, Others Honored by CNNMoney

In CNNMoney.com’s 2009 list of Best Places to Live for small(ish) towns, the top 50 featured two Hoosier burgs — Brownsburg (33rd) and St. John (48th).

Also noteworthy, in a ranking of the Most Affordable Cities (using the criteria, "Residents who buy real estate in these towns from the Best Places database see their incomes go the furthest"), Indiana placed five cities/towns in the top 25. They are:

2. New Haven – $89,152 (median home price in 2008)
7. Brownsburg – $131,000
10. Noblesville – $150,000
24. Plainfield – $126,000
25. Merrillville – $122,309

Check out the list here.

Hat tip to Inside INdiana Business.

Pillars of Indiana Awarded at Annual Dinner

A heartfelt congrats and thanks to the winners of prestigious awards last night at the Indiana Chamber’s 19th Annual Dinner:

Business Leader of the Year: Tony George, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp.
George became CEO of the family-owned Indiana Motor Speedway Corporation in 1990 and later founded the Indy Racing League. During his reign over the famous two-and-a-half-mile oval, George has added to the event offerings beyond the famed Indy 500, with NASCAR’s Brickyard 400, a stretch of Formula One races and, just this year, Indianapolis’ first MotoGP. He also led efforts in 2008 to unify open wheel racing under the IndyCar Series, allowing the Indy 500 to remain the cornerstone event. In addition to facilities and events at the Speedway, George and his family oversee Terre Haute-based baking enterprise Clabber Girl. Last year’s winner was Niel Ellerbrook of Vectren. 

Government Leaders of the Year: Former Gov. Joe Kernan and Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard
The bipartisan pair led the seven-member Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform. The effort produced 27 bold recommendations in areas in which Hoosiers could realize better delivery of services and set the stage for Indiana to restructure local government for the benefit of all citizens. Among the suggestions: eliminate township government, realign county government by reducing the number of elected officials and by creating a single county executive for more accountability, increase countywide coordination of the delivery of emergency response services and encourage joint purchasing among school corporations. Last year’s winner was Mayor Graham Richard of Fort Wayne.

Community of the Year: Noblesville
Noblesville saw its population increase from less than 30,000 in 2000 to nearly 40,000 people five years later and with the numbers still on the rise, put together an aggressive plan to supplement its residential growth. An unprecedented 3,600-acre-plus Corporate Campus combines industrial and commercial development – leading to a more diverse tax base and providing job opportunities for community residents – with additional housing opportunities. Downtown is also emphasized, with longtime professional and retail operations joined by a variety of newcomers – all benefiting from city funding devoted to marketing and infrastructure improvements. Last year’s winner was Anderson.

Noblesville: A Campus Like No Other

Individual economic development facilities are typically measured in square feet. Larger projects are touted by their acreage. What’s taking place in Noblesville is called a Corporate Campus. At an astounding 3,600-plus acres, that’s one big campus.

The industrial, commercial and housing developments taking place on the east side of the Hamilton County seat are one reason Noblesville is being honored as the 2008 Community of the Year by the Indiana Chamber. The other award winners — Business Leader of the Year and Government Leader of the Year — will be announced at the November 6 Annual Awards Dinner (featuring Newt Gingrich).

There is plenty of bang behind the size of the Corporate Campus. Stores in the Hamilton Town Centre are setting sales records. Businesses, old and new, are moving into a variety of facilities and/or building new operations. And there is room for plenty more. We look forward to telling the story in video at the awards dinner and in our BizVoice magazine.

For now, read today’s press release and check out the city’s economic development web site.

Forbes: Hamilton County Most Family-friendly Place in U.S.

What do you like best about Hamilton County? The Fishers Freedom Festival? The table phones at the Noblesville Pizza King? Josh McRoberts?

Well, that debate could continue for a while. The verdict is in, however, regarding Forbes’ best place in the U.S. to raise a family and it is, in fact, our very own Hamilton County. The rankings were skewed toward areas with above par school districts, but the assessment factored in much more than that.

According to the Forbes article:

Raising a happy family requires more than just a good school system. With that in mind, we ranked the remaining counties using 10 data points: cost of living, graduation rate, standardized scores, home price, property tax rate as a percentage of median home price, percentage of homes occupied by owner, per-capita income, air quality, crime rate and commute time.

A hat tip to Hoosier Access for the initial post on this.