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Supercomputing grid comes to South Bend

gridThe Northwest Indiana Computational Grid is now scheduled to go online in January, thanks to $6.5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Through a partnership with the University of Notre Dame, Argonne National Laboratory, and Purdue University, the grid will combine processing, storage, transmission, and visualization of complex data to be used in a wide variety of research applications.

In South Bend, Notre Dame will house a 21-foot long cluster of 580 computers downtown at Union Station by Coveleski Stadium. The cluster will be linked into the grid in cooperation with the St. Joseph Valley Metronet – the non-profit dark fiber network established in cooperation with the City of South Bend earlier this year.

The South Bend Tribune says the project, along with other recent local technology developments “represent(s) a continuing shift in the local economy away from traditional manufacturing toward a technology base.”

The Grid will be an incredible opportunity for our area, but I do not think it necessarily precludes manufacturing applications. Increased computing power and research capability will help serve to modernize our manufacturing base – not eliminate it.

Jeff Kantor, V.P for research and graduate studies at Notre Dame says the grid will dramatically increase the research infrastructure, but also cites some practical implications for the nuts-and-bolts engineering and manufacturing economy:

“The design of orthopedic devices, from an engineering perspective, is an example of where we can lead with simulation studies and computations work that will be supported through the collaboration of the grid.”

1 comment December 20th, 2005

FSSA privatisation and Buy Indiana

The Associated Press is reporting that the privatization of state operations at the Indiana Family & Social Services Administration (FSSA) will cost at least $1 billion:

“The projected cost of this opportunity is more than $1 billion,” the Indiana Department of Administration said in a newsletter sent by e-mail to vendors this week…

The work is now done by more than 2,500 state employees in 107 county offices, but FSSA Secretary Mitch Roob Jr., an appointee of Gov. Mitch Daniels, said in July he hoped to reduce the number of eligibility offices to 18 to 40 by 2009…

The state’s largest current contract is for $490.8 million to Anthem Insurance Companies of Indianapolis for a state employee health maintenance organization for the four years that began Jan. 1, 2003. The next largest is $264.4 million to St. Louis-based Correctional Medical Services for prison health and mental health services over four years that began Sept. 1.”

In the 2004 session I introduced legislation (HB 1275) to implement a “Buy Indiana” program that would ensure a majority of Indiana tax dollars used for procurement and contracts were reinvested in Indiana companies. While my legislation did not pass, another version, of which I was a cosponsor (HB 1080, Representative Carolene Mays, D – Indianapolis), was eventually signed into law by Governor Kernan.

One of the key differences between the two was in the definition of “Indiana business.” HB 1275 defined one as:

(1) A business whose principal place of business is located in Indiana.
(2) A business that pays a majority of its payroll (in dollar volume) to residents of Indiana.
(3) A business that employs Indiana residents as a majority of its employees.
(4) A business that manufactures or assembles in Indiana the supplies that are the subject of the purchase.

HB 1080 deleted (4) and added the following two criteria:

(4) A business that makes significant capital investments in Indiana.
(5) A business that has a substantial positive economic impact on Indiana.

Governor Mitch Daniels issued Executive Order 05-05 in January 2005, which allowed the Department of Administration (DOA) to interpret those last two points and establish the “Buy Indiana” program criteria.

DOA Commissioner Earl Goode has since issued the policy with clarifications on the definitions of “Substantial Capital Investment” and “Substantial Indiana Impact”:

Substantial Capital Investment:
Any company that can demonstrate a minimum capital investment of $5 million or more in plant and/or equipment or annual lease payments of $2.5 million or more shall qualify as an Indiana business under category #4. If an out of state company does not meet one of these criteria, it can submit documentation/justification to the State for review for inclusion under this category.

Substantial Indiana Economic Impact:
Any company that is in the top 500 companies (adjusted) for one of the following categories: number of employees (DWD), unemployment taxes (DWD), sales tax (DOR), payroll withholding taxes (DOR), or Corporate Income Taxes (DOR); it shall qualify as an Indiana business under category #5. If an out of state company does not meet one of these criteria, it can submit documentation/justification to the State for review for inclusion under this category.

The form a company must fill out to certify their “substantial Indiana economic impact” can be found here.

With a contract as huge as the one being considered by FSSA, I certainly hope everything possible is being done to ensure that the “Buy Indiana” program will be put to use, and these tax dollars will be reinvested in Indiana businesses.

1 comment November 18th, 2005

Ivy Tech, the IEDC, and growing small businesses

ivy tech lunchYesterday I attended the annual Ivy Tech Legislative Luncheon in South Bend along with fellow legislators Rep. Tom Kromkowski (D-South Bend), Rep. B. Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend), Sen. Marvin Riegsecker (R-Goshen), and Sen. John Broden (D-South Bend).

We heard updated information on Ivy Tech’s continually improving programs and increasing enrollment. Some of their new courses at the campuses in South Bend, Warsaw, and Elkhart include paramedic science, paralegal, biotechnology, and an AA degree for liberal arts students.

I had a good conversation with attendees about the changing role of the community college in Indiana. Ivy Tech administrators want to know if there are better ways they can increase opportunities for our underprivileged population (who might not otherwise attend a post-secondary school), while continuing to provide valuable vocational skills training.

I told some of them about the meeting I attended before the luncheon. That morning I had met with David Behr, a project manager at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) North Central Region office in South Bend.

The main focus of my conversation with Mr. Behr was the problem of providing service to the smaller companies that need help, but don’t have the resources to find it. For example, a small machine shop with 30 employees may not have a human resources director who can apply for grants to pay for half of their training costs. An injection mold company may not even be aware of the people waiting to help them with export assistance, or the team that can help with modernization from the Purdue Technical Assistance Program.

The large companies with support staff know all about the many benefits that Indiana offers, but small businesses – the backbone of our economy – are hard to reach.

My suggestion to the IEDC and to the folks at Ivy Tech was to focus on serving these small business better. It may take more effort and energy to accomplish, but most new job growth in the state comes from existing small businesses. The drive to help our small businesses must be at least as strong as the effort to bring new companies to Indiana.

Some possible solutions may involve further streamlining paperwork requirements for grant applications, or even a more proactive outreach strategy from agencies like the IEDC. If you have any ideas that can help streamline assistance programs for small businesses, please feel free to let me know.

Add comment October 12th, 2005


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