Promise Receives Extra Boost

promise inCreating a college-going culture is the primary theme of the Wabash County Promise Initiative and the growing Promise Indiana network. Now, Wabash County students in grades four through eight are receiving additional financial assistance as the result of a $430,000 grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

The Promise program allows parents to create a 529 college savings account for their children when they register for school. The new grant permits elementary and middle school students to earn additional funding for their accounts through academic accomplishments, family savings and postsecondary planning.

The work that started in Wabash County is earning national and international attention. The Indiana Chamber was pleased to help spread the word through its Indiana Vision 2025 regional forums in 2015 and additional outlets. Learn more:

Little Steps Can Lead to Big Energy Savings

Business direction background with two people

This column was also posted on Inside INdiana Business.

Indiana possesses a number of advantages in its business climate. One of those traditional benefits has been energy that is adequate, reliable and affordable.

The inexpensive part of that equation has come into question lately. Industrial energy rates that were once among the five lowest in the country are now around the middle of the pack. Federal regulations – ones that often impact Indiana to a greater degree due to its dependence on coal – lead the way as a major cause for the increase.

All companies, not just heavy energy users, can more closely evaluate their usage and likely lower their costs. That subject is the theme of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Connect and Collaborate series – luncheons around the state this summer for Chamber members.

Here is some of the information being shared in the form of 10 energy-saving tips:

  1. Know your costs: Just as we hopefully do or should be doing at home, examine your electric power bill. You have to realize the source of your largest energy costs to be able to potentially have the opportunity to reduce those charges.
  2. Evaluate your contract: Is your current agreement the best deal you can get? You don’t know what’s possible until you ask.
  3. Lighting can be a hidden cost: Are you aware of what type of lights you use? Are they the most efficient? Are unnecessary lights turned off when not needed? Have you considered motion sensors?
  4. Air recycling: Heat rises, making it important to properly recycle your air. Have a professional examine your system. Efficient ceiling fans (or exhaust fans in warmer weather) could make a major difference.
  5. Avoiding the pressure: Steam and air pressure are common ingredients in many industries. Leaking joints, pipes and systems can be a huge energy drain.
  6. Water equals power: If you use water from a municipal treatment plant (or even your own facility), nearly 20% of that cost is energy. Examine your system to eliminate water leaks. You are paying for your water, as well as the energy it takes to process and move the water.
  7. Check the pumps: Workplace pumps are huge energy users. Assess your pumps – are they needed? Could they be changed out for a more efficient model? Would a variable speed pump make more sense?
  8. Transportation troubles: Another personal priority needs to be carried over to the workplace. Car/truck care in the form of proper tire pressure, tune-ups and other maintenance is essential. Companies with multiple vehicles are often well served by having someone responsible for the fleet.
  9. Proper planning: In addition to the modes of transportation, logistics are critical. Efficiently planning trips and scheduling deliveries will help conserve power and enhance productivity. This applies to organizations of all sizes.
  10. Compressing the fuel: Compressed natural gas continues to gain favor among many companies with heavy delivery schedules. An upfront capital outlay is often rewarded with a very timely return on that investment.

Chamber President Kevin Brinegar, I and a local business leader look forward to sharing this information and talking energy with members at each stop on our Connect and Collaborate tour. Your business could be the beneficiary.

Utah Changes Course on Four-Day Workweek

We’ve written about the Utah government’s move to a four-day workweek on this blog before. But if the opposite of "Back to the Future" is "Forward to the Past," then I guess that’s what the Beehive State is doing now, as it plans to once again use the five-day model like everyone else. As this article from the Deseret News conveys, the move — initially launched by former Gov. (and current presidential candidate) Jon Huntsman — was expected to save $3 million. The move hasn’t realized those savings, however. I guess you could throw that in the "Well, it was worth a shot" file.

Gov. Gary Herbert announced he was ending Utah’s four-day workweek as of Sept. 6 in a letter to state workers.

"Most certainly, this decision will generate mixed feelings," the governor said in the letter released early Wednesday evening by his office, calling the return to a Monday through Friday schedule "the best alternative to balance both customer and employee needs."

Herbert’s decision follows action by lawmakers last month to override his veto of a bill requiring state agencies to reopen on Fridays. The bill would have allowed agencies to keep some employees on a workweek of four 10-hour days.

But staying open longer hours and reopening Fridays carried a price tag of some $800,000 that was not funded by the Legislature, the governor said after the veto override. His letter said the decision to return to eight-hour work days was necessary to "comply with legislative mandates and remain within budget constraints."

It was former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. who instituted the four-day workweek in 2008 as a cost-saving measure. Huntsman had hoped closing offices on Fridays would cut some $3 million from the state’s energy bills, but an audit found the savings fell far short of that goal.

Herbert said the new hours of operation for state offices, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, will take effect Sept. 6, the day after Labor Day. He said in the letter he hoped that would be enough time for state workers to make the needed adjustments to their personal and professional lives.

"This transition will undoubtedly require a spirt of cooperation from all employees, so please know I personally appreciate everything you do on behalf of the people of Utah," the governor wrote. 

Average Chamber Member Savings: $20,565

It seems the price of everything is going up and up.  The Chamber offers a variety of ways to stem this rising tide.  Take advantage of the special discounts available as a member of the Indiana Chamber.  Anthem, Enterprise, Office Max, and TruPay are consistently recognized as leaders in their areas of service.  With Indiana Chamber membership, you can save up to:

* 5% on health care insurance with Anthem, a national leader in the insurance industry.

* 10% on car rentals with Enterprise, the largest rental car company in North America. 

* 20% on paycheck services with TruPay, an Indiana-based company is located in Mishawaka.

* 60% on office supplies and printing with Office Max, a leader in both business-to-business office solutions and products.

With no enrollment fees or purchasing quotas, you can save big when you choose to use Indiana Chamber discount programs.  Just visit our web site for more information.

Utilizing the discounts offered with your Indiana Chamber membership, the average member has realized savings of $20,565.