September '18

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144 • RV PRO • September 2018 rv-pro.com B U S I N E S S RV PRO: So, your basic function is to lobby for manufacturing. How does that work? Burton: It is a complex endeavor when you have 150 legislators, elected officials, dozens of different departments that all affect the manufacturing and business climate in the state of Indiana. Just about every facet that touches the business community we are involved in. RV PRO: How big is your staff? Burton: We have a staff of 12, which includes four full-time lobbyists with more than 100 years of statehouse experience. RV PRO: What is the general atti- tude by the Legislature toward man- ufacturing? That is: Do the members "get" how important manufacturing jobs are to Indiana? Bu r t o n : Ye s a n d n o. We h a ve embarked upon an effort to raise the awareness of manufacturing. Everyone wants to chase the shiny object, whether it be the dot.com era or information technology era. In Indiana, IT accounts for 2 percent of our GDP and manufacturing consumes most of the information technology. Last year on the technology side, 95 percent of all R&D was done in the man- ufacturing sector in our state. So, we are trying to get the word out that today's manufacturing is high-tech, high-wage, with tremendous opportunity. RVP PRO: In Indiana, both cham- bers of the Legislature and the gover- nor's office are held by Republicans, making for a trifecta. That would seem to make for a "slam dunk" for getting pro-business legislation passed. Is it? Burton: In the political world, there are no perfect trifectas. You have to con- tinue to remind elected officials – no matter which party they are from – about the importance of manufacturing and what drives the economy, particularly in our state. There are numerous reset buttons in the legislative process. We not only have to inform elected officials, but we have to get information into our K-12 educa- tional system. We have to talk to princi- pals, teachers, superintendents, parents, guidance counselors and school students at an early age and let them know what opportunities exist in our economy. Indiana has been very good about transitioning our graduates from the K-12 system into four-year higher ed institutions. We have one of the highest percentages in the country. Nearly 65 percent of high school graduates go onto a four-year institution. Unfortunately, we lose half of those the first year. Therefore, we need to let young people know what opportunities are out there for those who are not going to a four-year institution and we have to do a better job for those who go to a four- year institution letting them know what opportunities are available once they get their degrees. RV PRO: IMA's legislative agenda for the 2018 session included employ- er-training tax credits, relocation incentives for out-of-state workers, a mechanism to provide transparency and oversight for workforce-related programs, and several educational initiatives. How did your agenda fare? Burton: Nothing of substance (from that agenda) was passed by the General Assembly. We have told them for the last nearly 20 years Indiana has done a great job in creating a positive business climate. We rank at or near the top in most all business surveys. However, we, like many states, lack in the workforce arena. More and more investment deci- sions are not being made based upon the business climate. They are being made on where the available skilled workforce is located. All the hard work of creating a posi- tive business climate could be for naught if we do not tackle the workforce issue. RV PRO: If the workforce issue isn't addressed, is there any concern that one of these days, companies – including RV makers – may expand somewhere else because there just aren't enough good workers in state? Burton: We do a very thorough survey each year with the accounting Burton (center) has crossed paths with many notable dignitaries during his nearly two decades at the IMA. He is pictured here with Vice President Mike Pence (left), when Pence served as Indiana's governor, and Luke Kenley, a recently retired veteran Indiana state lawmaker.

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