Before discussing goals for the 2020 Indiana General Assembly legislative session, Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar presented a history of Indiana’s business climate during the Dec. 13 chamber breakfast for all Hamilton County chambers at Conner Prairie.
Brinegar shared statistics from 2000-01 and compared them to today’s figures.
“We were the only state to suffer a net loss of technology jobs during the ‘dot com’ boom from 1994 to 2000,” Brinegar said.
Indiana ranked poorly in other areas, including job creation and growth, where it was 50th in 2000. The state was first in bankruptcies and home foreclosures, and the business tax climate was among the worst in the nation.
“What have we done to transform Indiana in the last 20 years?” Brinegar said. “The Indiana chamber’s response was to prepare and release our economic vision for 2010 in 2000. It was a 10-year economic action plan for the state, because at that time, the state had no plan. It set goals and metrics for moving Indiana out of the lower half.
“We embarked on a 20-year odyssey that I call our march out of mediocrity, and if you think about where we were in 2000, the term mediocrity is, frankly, generous.”
Today, Indiana’s business climate is significantly brighter. It is first in the nation for infrastructure, fourth for business friendliness, fourth for cost of doing business and second for software job growth.
“We have accomplished a lot in these last 20 years, but we are not finished,” Brinegar said.
Brinegar listed several areas where improvements can be made and noted how the General Assembly can help. Education attainment, per capita income, improving health metrics, increasing quality of place are among the areas he said the state can still grow.
To help improve education attainment, the General Assembly plans to look at Free Application for Federal Student Aid filings.
“Hoosiers are leaving a lot of money on the table by not filling out the FAFSA form. The rate of completion is the lowest in the Midwest states,” Brinegar said. “We think it ought to be a requirement with an opt-out option. This is not just for college, but for other training credentials.”
Brinegar also said the legislative session will focus on establishing a statewide energy plan.
“Indiana’s electricity supply dropped from 95 percent coal to 65 percent coal,” Brinegar said. “It caused our rank in electricity prices to go from fifth-lowest to now about 30th. We are doing a study on energy, on why that happened, where to go in the future and how can we have balance between renewables and lower cost and be strong for reliability.”
Brinegar voiced concern about the general state of Hoosiers’ health.
“Smoking in Indiana is 50 percent higher than the national average, and that costs businesses money,” he said.
Among other items, the General Assembly in 2020 will explore decreasing the state’s vaping and smoking rate by attempting to raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.
A monthly breakfast will be held at Conner Prairie throughout the legislative session. Cost is $20 for members of any Hamilton County chamber and $30 for non-members. For more, visit web.onezonecommerce.com.