Indiana Technology & Innovation Association officials visited Fort Wayne late last month for an Aptera-hosted event explaining the organization’s mission and how the region’s tech community can help shape public policy.
Hundreds of industries have organizations at the Statehouse representing their interests, but until ITIA was formed in Indianapolis last year, the technology industry did not have one, Jennifer Hallowell, ITIA manager, said during the visit.
Techpoint works on the development of Indiana’s tech ecosystem, helping it build community and attract talent and resources, but it doesn’t get into government advocacy and lobbying. Instead, it supports ITIA efforts along those lines, she said. Mike Langellier, Techpoint’s president and CEO, serves on ITIA’s board.
To maximize ITIA’s impact, “it’s really important to have voices from all over the state of Indiana — not just central Indiana — advising, guiding, shepherding, changing, fixing, educating our legislators on what we need in all parts of our state,” said John McDonald, Clear Object CEO and ITIA board member.
“The people who make those policies, the state legislators, need to hear from them about what’s important to them. And, if they’re not there, their voices have not been heard,” he said.
The regional tech community’s involvement with ITIA also is important as a means of keeping up with new resources and opportunities that become available through the organization’s advocacy for the technology industry, McDonald said.
Discussion at the event included a review of programs “that are available through the state to assist technology companies and unfortunately, very few people that were here tonight knew about them, let alone knew that they were for them,” he said shortly after the event.
A 2019 legislative recap the organization presented boasted ITIA helped secure $3 million per year in state funding for the Next Level Computer Science Program, which will make sure every school in Indiana is offering computer science education by 2021.
It also helped restore $30 million per year in state funding for the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund, which supports tech-related entrepreneurship and research as well as academic technology transfer.
“There were a couple of different times during the legislative session that some of those funding mechanisms were challenged. So, when the Senate version of the budget came out, there were cuts in computer science education for schools and cuts in the 21 Fund,” Hallowell said.
“Our members mobilized and worked to get the funding levels restored to what they originally were,” she said.
ITIA also advocated successfully for legislation that made venture capital investment tax credits transferable to third parties, which was designed to help Indiana attract more out-of-state venture capital investment.
Other legislation and initiatives receiving ITIA support included those providing tax incentives for data centers, Gov. Eric Holcomb’s $100 million rural broadband initiative and a bias crimes law allowing judges to increase criminal penalties for hate crimes.
ITIA also supported the governor’s initiative to double funding for Next Level Employer Training Grants and Workforce Ready Grants designed to upskill Indiana workers in high-wage, high-demand fields.