TechPoint won't distribute its annual Mira awards until its banquet at the Indiana Roof Ballroom May 19. But the state's largest high-tech trade association has completed the nomination process for its top awards, pulling together a list of 49 innovative companies and educators in such categories as information technology, life sciences and advanced manufacturing.
About 750 people usually attend the Mira banquet. But the awards are meant to reverberate among a far wider population all year long as confirmation which young Hoosier companies are up-andcoming.
"It's important to promote what's going on in Indiana, the diversity and strength of its high-tech companies," said TechPoint President Cameron Carter. "One of the reasons you do this is to help put Indiana on the map."
Formed when the Indiana Information Technology Association merged in 2002 with the Indiana Technology Partnership, TechPoint has evolved. Today, it's an organization that's equally focused on Statehouse lobbying and creating opportunities for technology leaders to meet one another.
It has about 400 member companies, a figure it has slowly increased by broadening its mission. Once dominated by IT companies, TechPoint has been adding members in the life sciences, logistics and advanced-manufacturing industries.
A filing with the Internal Revenue Services shows TechPoint in 2004 had revenue of $1.2 million and expenses of $1 million. More recent figures aren't yet available. TechPoint's dues vary by member size. For firms with one to 10 employees, dues are $250 a year. They increase up to $5,000 for companies with more than 5,000 employees.
Events like the Mira awards offer TechPoint an opportunity to thank its members for their efforts throughout the year. Companies can nominate themselves or their peers for awards. Nominees are then vetted by a panel of industry experts selected by TechPoint. There's one winner in each of seven categories.
Carter said the event was, until recent years, a money-loser. He's spent the last several years trying to introduce cost controls without harming the gala. The bulk of TechPoint's revenue comes from membership dues and sponsorships, he said.
TechPoint's IRS filings confirm the financial turnaround. In 2003, TechPoint listed total revenue of $1.3 million and total expenses of $1.7 million-a $446,000 loss.
Although not yet a powerhouse on par with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce or the Indiana Manufacturers Association, Tech-Point boasts growing clout. It was among the first to seek support in the Legislature for several business measures that won approval, including adoption of daylight-saving time and of the venture capital tax credit. TechPoint also successfully pushed for the establishment of technology committees in both the House and Senate.
Because its leaders are a who's who of the local tech sector, TechPoint is often among the first to clamor for improvements in the local business climate. But TechPoint says it does not deserve solo credit for any gains. To sway the General Assembly, Carter said, TechPoint enlisted the help of larger business organizations.
In addition to the Mira Awards, Tech-Point organizes an annual Indiana Technology Summit every fall to highlight the state's progress as a high-tech hub. Throughout the rest of the year, much of its attention is on education and networking at its High-Tech Tuesdays and New Rules, New Economy meetings, each focused on a different high-tech topic.
Mike Fritsch, president of Fort Waynebased transportation software maker ZOOM Information Systems, is serving as TechPoint's 2006 chairman. He said his goal is to broaden the organization's support around the state.
Indiana's technology sector needs the validation of events like the Mira banquet, Fritsch said. Young technology companies rarely find it elsewhere.
"Some people might view [the Mira awards] as selfgratification," Fritsch said. "But a lot of times, you need to pump yourself up as a technology community to say, 'We are doing some great things.'"
Harold Apple, president of Indianapolis-based Vector Technologies, was a founder of INITA, TechPoint's predecessor. He said Indiana's technology firms have always struggled to earn recognition-particularly in the general business community. Mira awards are important, he said, but still not as prestigious as they should be.
"Fundamentally, I still think it's patting ourselves on the back. We haven't gained the community or state recognition that would make receiving a Mira award a really big thing," he said. "But at least we're moving in the right direction."