Tech lobbying group focusing on talent, capital, place at Indiana Legislature

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The new lobbying group formed by leaders in Indiana’s tech industry have announced their priorities for the year, focusing on talent, capital and place.

The goals for the Indiana Technology and Innovation Association—which includes members from more than 100 companies from startups to major players such as Salesforce and AT&T—boil down to getting more high-skill workers here and finding more venture capital dollars for companies.

“The biggest barrier right now is the growth of the talent pool,” said Mike Langellier, CEO and president of TechPoint and member of ITIA.

The group is especially tuned into workforce development and tax credit legislation. They’d like to see funding for computer science training in schools, expanded career and technical education opportunities for students and a 50 percent tax credit for contributions made to a not-for-profit group that provides workforce training.

Langellier said the state needs to focus on programs that provide both soft skills, like time management, and specific technical skills.

“It’s not one or the other—it’s both,” Langellier said.

He said TechPoint is exploring whether it could be an intermediary organization to offer training that schools and employers are unable to offer.

The tax credit in question is included in Senate Bill 420, which is authored by Sen. Jeff Raatz, R-Centerville. The bill has already passed one committee and has been sent to the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee.

“Many times the schools are not the best equipped to be able to deliver these career exploration or workforce skill training,” Langellier said.

Tech leaders are also lobbying lawmakers to make the Venture Capital Investment Tax Credit transferable as a way to provide an incentive to out-of-state investors, who don’t pay Indiana taxes.

ClearObject CEO John McDonald said Kentucky has a similar law, which has made obtaining venture capital in Indiana even more difficult for startups along the southern border, as investors would rather spend their money in Kentucky for the tax benefit.

Senate Bill 563, authored by Republican Sen. Travis Holdman, would make the change. That bill has also been sent to the Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee.

The group also wants to make changes to the Headquarters Relocation tax credit program and exempt data warehouse equipment purchases from sales and use taxes.

On the topic of place, the organization wants to see direct flights from Indianapolis to more U.S. cities and other countries. Langellier said that means increasing the frequency of some existing routes, including those to San Francisco and Seattle, and also adding more locations in Europe.

Tech leaders will also weigh into a broader issue at the General Assembly. The association is pushing the Legislature to pass a bias crimes law so Indiana will no longer be one of five states without such legislation.

“This is such a no brainer,” McDonald said. “Who wants to raise their hand and be the last state to have this one?”

A hate crimes law would allow a judge to increase the penalties of a defendant whose crime was motivated by bias or hate. Langellier said the group supports hate crime proposals that delineate the classes of people—based on gender, race or sexual orientation—against whom crimes would qualify. He said if legislation doesn’t pass this year, recruiting talented people to Indiana will continue to be difficult.

“We need to move ahead to the future,” Langellier said.

McDonald said if the bill includes a list of categories, it should be inclusive. In particular, he said it should include sexual orientation and gender identity—sticking points for some Republican lawmakers—“or it will be utterly ineffective.”

But McDonald said if it came down to no bill or a bill without a list, he’d take the bill without the list.

“That is a significant improvement,” McDonald said. “But it would be better to have a list.”

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