2021 Tech Agenda is robust, inclusive and bold
The Indiana Technology & Innovation Association (ITIA) has released its policy agenda for the 2021 Indiana General Assembly session. The legislative session begins on January 4th at the Indiana State Capitol in downtown Indianapolis. The four month legislative session will look and feel very different this year.
During pre-pandemic times the 100 House representatives and 50 senators would descend on Indianapolis to vote on legislation, hear in-person testimony from lobbyists and citizens in jammed packed conference rooms throughout the state capitol. This year, while legislators will still gather in person, they will be socially distanced, utilize video services and work in larger meeting spaces throughout the capitol and state government complex.
One thing that remains a constant is that technology, innovation and entrepreneurship continue to be critically important to the economic success and future of Indiana. Perhaps even more apparent during times of Covid-19, all Hoosiers must have accessible and reliable technology to conduct business, educate students and provide healthcare.
TechPoint works closely with ITIA to ensure that policy makers see the value and significant growth opportunities of the technology and innovation ecosystem in Indiana. ITIA and it’s staff are mission focused on providing technology-driven companies a stronger identity, collective voice, and representation with Indiana’s state leaders and policy makers. TechPoint’s CEO Mike Langellier serves on the ITIA board of directors and is the chairman of the talent policy committee. The robust ITIA legislative agenda is focused on four key categories that includes talent, capital, place and equity. The entire ITIA legislative preview can be viewed here. Each of these specific areas are highlighted below.
Tech Talent Policy
With technology careers growing throughout the state, it’s imperative that Indiana has a ready and trained workforce to attract and retain technology jobs. ITIA is focused on better integrating technology into classrooms with the goal of preparing students and the next generation for in-demand tech jobs. This includes continued efforts to infuse computer science education into K-12 classrooms and incentivizing tech industry professionals themselves to assist with classroom instruction.
ITIA also supports increasing direct pathways for high school students pursue technology careers through apprenticeships, internships and technology trade schools. The organization also wants to ensure that the state’s Next Level Jobs program continues to prioritize and align the most in-demand tech careers into it’s program.
Finally, the ITIA is focused on making Indiana a more desirable location for tech workers and tech companies that operate in non-traditional office environments. This attraction program includes working with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to calibrate incentive programs for remote workers and companies that utilize a distributed tech workforce.
It’s imperative that Indiana entrepreneurs and startups have access to capital to grow companies, create jobs and stimulate economic activity. ITIA supports policies and programs that help accelerate high growth and high promise entrepreneurial ventures throughout Indiana. These policies include continued investment in the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund and commitment to the Venture Capital Investment tax credit program.
ITIA strongly supports funding and promoting the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. The organization is also focused on efforts to grow existing venture capital funds and supports the creation of new venture capital funds that specifically invest in and accelerate the growth of the Next Level Fund.
Finally, the ITIA is focused on continuing to support the Smart & Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Focus Fund as well as funding proven tech accelerator programs to spur Indiana-based innovation.
Over the past few decades, Indiana has attracted companies and jobs by building a strong reputation as a business-friendly state. To ensure that this success continues ITIA explains that Indiana must position itself as an attractive and welcoming place by focusing on quality of life metrics.
ITIA supports investment in high speed broadband and connectivity across Indiana through continued support of the Next Level Connections Broadband Grant program, which would help to ensure that K-12 students throughout the state are digitally connected.
ITIA also supports the continued expansion of Certified Technology Parks, the reauthorization of Indiana’s Entrepreneur and Enterprise District program and investment in Indiana’s coworking spaces and innovation hubs. The organization is focused on continuing to exempt software as a service from the state sales tax and the adoption of federal data privacy legislation to provide consistency and certainty for consumers and businesses.
Finally, the ITIA supports removing barriers to developing, testing and deploying autonomous vehicle technology and opposes efforts to halt Indiana’s transition to clean and renewable energy. The organization is also encouraging the Indiana Destination Development Corporation to include the story of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship as the organization undertakes a rebranding of the state.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Policy
For Indiana’s tech sector to thrive and have long term and sustainable success, the industry must ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion is a top priority. The ITIA states that tech industry equality gaps begin to emerge in elementary school with girls and students of color less likely to enroll or be included in STEM courses that create a pathway to the tech industry. ITIA believes that Indiana should focus on closing these gaps while continuing to identify and remove barriers that lead to disparity.
To begin to address access to STEM education the ITIA supports a dedicated state effort to promote tech pathways through Next Level Jobs to help reach more women, Black and LatinX students as well as broadening Computer Science education. The organization supports requiring state-funded entities that invest in Indiana ventures to record and annually report the number of investments and the amount of money invested into women, minority and veteran owned companies.
ITIA supports expanding the Last Mile program, to ensure that qualified offenders have relevant tech skills upon release from incarceration. The ITIA wants to bolster transparency and accountability around equity issues into criminal justice systems by supporting a public disparity data portal and statewide public law enforcement database. The organization states that these initiatives would show how state programs are operating and seeking to identify disparities. This would also require law enforcement agencies to collect, maintain and report data around accountability and transparency.
Finally, the ITIA supports efforts to combat bias, discrimination and racism in Indiana through criminal justice reform, an inclusive hate crimes law, law enforcement training and reform and conducting a study on racial inequity as a public health crisis.
The TechPoint team is excited for this robust, inclusive and bold legislative agenda put forward by the ITIA. We encourage members of the Indy tech community to stay engaged in the legislative session this year. Your elected officials value your opinion and feedback on important issues affecting our state.