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My grandfather founded Powers & Sons Construction in 1967. Over the next 50 years, our family home building company grew to become a leading construction firm spanning commercial, industrial and institutional businesses. It has taken hard work from three generations of our family, and it hasn’t always been easy.

Worthwhile endeavors are rarely easy. It’s a lesson we’re learning again this year at the Indiana Statehouse, as advocates push to pass a law protecting Hoosiers from bias crimes. We’re one of just five states that haven’t stood up against hate by adding criminal penalties for offenses motivated by bias against personal characteristics like race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Enough is enough. We have to stop turning a blind eye to the violence, vandalism and other crimes inspired by intolerance. We have to recognize economic reality, that thriving communities offer a diverse workforce. Indiana should welcome all, by being open to people and employers who want to contribute to our state.

Companies want to invest in growing regions, where they can recruit (and retain) the best employees. Even though we’ve added a Chicago location to our headquarters in Gary and offices in Indianapolis, we’re Hoosiers first. And we know Indiana can’t afford to stay stuck in the past, turning away talented people and new businesses by tolerating bigotry.

We want our home state to lead the way in protecting its citizens — our employees — from hatred and discrimination, while building a stronger economy.

And if our elected officials won’t lead, then it’s our duty as citizens to show them the way.

Gov. Eric Holcomb has taken a strong stand for bias crimes legislation, but many in the General Assembly are hesitating. The speaker of the Indiana House has asked the Senate to act first; in the Senate, two good bills (Senate Bills 12 and 75) have been pushed aside, waiting for a hearing.

The next two weeks are crucial. Without committee action moving one of these bills to a vote of the full Senate, our opportunity may slip away. Recent polling says 74 percent of Hoosiers support the passage of a hate crimes law. If you’re reading this and are among that 74 percent, it’s time to take action.

The Indiana Forward campaign has been created to help Hoosiers show their support for a comprehensive bias crimes law. Take 30 seconds to sign up at www.IndianaForward.org, and pass the link along to friends, family and co-workers. It will be the most meaningful minute you spend today.

If you’re active in the business community, take another moment to sign up with Indiana Competes, at www.IndyChamber.com/advocacy/bias-crimes. It’s a coalition led by our friends at the Indy Chamber making the economic case for action on bias crimes, that hate isn’t just wrong for Indiana — it’s bad for business. This is an issue where our consciences and our desire for commerce come together.

We know that Northwest Indiana has more than its share of challenges, along with communities across the state. We’re builders, and so I’m optimistic that there’s no problem facing Indiana too big for Hoosiers to fix — but we have to start by protecting our neighbors and keeping our doors open to new opportunities. We must stop denying justice and damaging our own economy by refusing to act against bias crimes.

Mamon Powers is executive vice president of Powers & Sons Construction Co. The opinions are the writer's.

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Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.