One S.I. Business Group Addresses Religious Freedom Act

One Southern Indiana President Responds to Religious Freedom Restoration Act

New Albany, IN– The following statement was released by One Southern Indiana (1si) President and CEO Wendy Dant Chesser in response to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was signed into law as Senate Bill 101 in Indiana last week:

Wendy Dant Chesser
Wendy Dant Chesser

“While the actual long-term impacts of S.B. 101 are unknown and subject to heated debate, One Southern Indiana’s number one concern is the perception of Indiana by potential employers who we are recruiting—both for expansion and relocation.

“RFRA has created a negative perception of Indiana’s business climate, as it is being portrayed—rightly or wrongly—as unfriendly to a workforce that employers want to hire. As a result, the negative perception created by this bill will cause employers to cross Indiana off the list as a possible state in which to start and grow their businesses, erasing the effects of Indiana’s positive business attributes such as our fiscal stability and favorable tax climate.  The reality of this negative perception is of great concern to 1si.

“For better or for worse, perception can be reality in the economic development world. In fact, Indiana has benefitted a great deal from perception. One recent example of the positive impact of perception is Indiana’s passage of the Right-to-Work legislation, which triggered a great deal of interest in Indiana before anyone had even measured the impact on Indiana’s workforce.

“Members of our economic development team attended an event last week where site-location consultants discussed the importance that workforce recruitment has on a growing company’s decision.  More than 90 percent of companies report that attracting talent to their key positions is their most important decision.  Laws that can be construed as limiting talent’s interest in locating or remaining in Indiana are counter-productive to our efforts in this area.

“No business asked 1si to take a position on S.B. 101 before it passed. However, now that it has passed, 1si is listening to the concerns of its members and investors and will watch with great interest what effect the law actually has.  Most importantly, though, 1si will let businesses interested in moving to or growing in Southern Indiana know that ours is a welcoming and business-friendly community committed to meeting their workforce needs.

“The 1si advocacy guidelines are clear.  The role of 1si in promoting a fiscally-stable, business-friendly environment transcends local, regional, state and national issues.  In January of 2015, the board of directors of 1si approved the 2015 Advocacy Agenda, which includes positions on career-ready workforce and educational initiatives; infrastructure and transportation, business-friendly tax and fiscal initiatives; regional initiatives; and engagement with policy makers.  The RFRA issue is not germane to any of these categories, and so the organization did not take a position on the bill.

“1si is communicating with our locally-elected state officials to give them the feedback we have been receiving from our members and the public at large.”