BY CINDY GERLACH

Teledyne FLIR’s slogan is “Everywhere You Look”. 

For 20 years, this company in Purdue’s Research Park has been improving technology, “helping people around the world save lives, protect the environment and enhance productivity. We’re building more than innovative technologies; we’re striving to build a more sustainable, more efficient, safer future.” 

Teledyne FLIR, a company started by two Purdue graduates who worked with Dr. Graham Cooks, is owned by parent company Teledyne, a large multinational conglomerate. FLIR is a leader for its applications in thermal imaging and chemical detection, says Clint Wichert, director; site operations. 

The company is best known for its highly specialized chemical detection instruments. There are broad applications for these instruments, which use mass spectrometry, allowing for very specific chemical identification. They can separate specific chemical mixtures, allowing the identification of minute amounts of potentially hazardous chemicals. 

“Our instrument is really the best to use in these applications,” Wichert says. 

This highly specialized equipment can be used by the military, first responders and by hazardous materials units. 

It can, for example, detect fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is highly addictive and possibly fatal when taken in high doses. It is often mixed with other drugs on the black market; this technology can detect fentanyl at even 2 or 3 percent, when it is mixed with acetaminophen — a dangerous and potentially lethal combination.

Improvements in technology have made these instruments smaller and more compact over the years, and they are now portable, meaning they can now be transported to a site. With a three to nine-month backlog in some modern forensics labs, this means less time to identify a substance, and less chance that substance will be contaminated during transport. 

“This technology is really the gold standard for chemical identification,” says Wichert. 

The instruments are sensitive and complex. For years, they were large; with the computer required, pumps and the power source, they took up a great deal of space. But the same technological progressions the world has seen in all other areas have helped make this technology more portable and accessible. 

“We’ve worked progressively over the past 20 years to miniaturize the technology,” says Wichert. “Something that used to weigh 120 pounds is now down to under 40 pounds. This same kind of tech progression has happened and been pioneered in West Lafayette.”

The company employs around 50 people and hires many Purdue graduates but also gets talent from Indiana University and Rose Hulman. Employees are drawn to the Lafayette area and working in the Research Park, with its proximity to the Purdue campus and ability to continue the collaboration with Dr. Cooks. 

As the company continues to grow and expand, it looks forward to expanding these life-saving technologies, Wichert says. 

“It’s been great over the last 20 years to really have the support of the community and of Purdue,” he says. “We work with experts, and we like to be able to tap into this talent pool, both technology and manufacturing. We’re happy to be part of this community.”  ★

BY KEN THOMPSON
PHOTOS PROVIDED

Nostalgia is defined as a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

For many of us who grew up in Greater Lafayette during the 1960s and 1970s, one of those places was Columbian Park. It had everything for children of all ages and their parents. 

A merry-go-round. A train ride. Playground equipment such as the imposing “curly” slide. Gas-powered bumper cars on a winding paved track. A large swimming pool whose fenced-off 10-foot deep section was at first scary and then a rite of passage toward adulthood.

“We’ve brought back some things for people who remember the park when they were kids,” says Jon Miner, director of operations for Lafayette Parks and Recreation.

No, “monkey island” isn’t coming back. Nor is that swimming pool or the bumper cars.

But the COVID-delayed carousel will be opening sometime this summer. Returning for a full season of operation is the train that gives riders a tour of Columbian Park, and the paddle boats.

“We’ve changed enough to adopt what people are looking for today in recreation,” Miner says. “So those families who don’t remember that can still come to the park and make their own memories. Coming to the ballpark to watch the Aviators play, going on a paddle boat ride or seeing a concert at Memorial Island. Visiting a first-rate zoo. 

“Even though the water park is different than the old pool, I think people growing up with Tropicanoe Cove will have the same memories we had of the old round pool. There’s a lot there for the community and people of all ages. Bringing back the paddle boats, the train and the carousel will add to that experience.”

It’s been more than 20 years since the last time a merry-go-round entertained children in Columbian Park. The 42-foot diameter carousel, which was budgeted for $600,000, will feature 36 carved horses and other animals. Morgan Constructors of Lafayette built the building that will contain the carousel.

“Once that’s up we’ll have a full allotment of rides,” Miner says. 

“I think it’s probably the thing most people are excited about. The paddle boats kind of surprised people last year when we said we were bringing them back. That brought a lot of nostalgia back. We’ll experience some of that same thing with the carousel. I think the carousel will be that same type of experience for those of us who remember the old carousel at Columbian Park, and for kids who didn’t experience that it’ll add another reason to come to the park. I think the community will be really, really pleased.”

The carousel and the restrooms under construction on the site of the former Jenks Rest building will wrap up several years of renovation at Columbian Park.

“We’re really looking forward to this summer since it’s going to be the first since 2018 where we haven’t had any construction happening inside the park,” Miner says. “Once that carousel is in, we’re going to have a good year where people will come and not have any construction fences up and around. It’s exciting to get to see what you want to see and not have to worry about restricted parking or ‘we can’t go over there because it’s under construction.’ ”

The new restrooms will serve the east side of Columbian Park that is home to Memorial Island as well as the SIA Playground and the picnic shelters.

“While bathrooms are typically not the most exciting thing to construct, they are critical infrastructure,” Miner says. 

The biggest news coming out of Columbian Park during the past few months came from the zoo. Six of the nine African penguins died after contracting avian malaria.

The three surviving penguins – Shazam, Sagely and Donner – are “doing well,” according to Miner.

“They’ve gained weight and are holding their own,” he says. “I am not a veterinarian nor an animal person but I think we’re past the illness stage with them. There can be some long-term effects of avian malaria on surviving penguins. It’s a matter of keeping an eye on that and making sure we’re doing the things necessary to keep them healthy.”

The Columbian Park Zoo is set to open April 16. 

By that time, the zoo’s neighbor – Loeb Stadium – will be home to Lafayette Jeff high school baseball for the second consecutive year following Loeb’s renovation.

Loeb also will host a movie night on April 22. The animated film “Onward,” featuring the voices of Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer, will be the second movie shown at the ballpark following “Elf” this past fall.

The Lafayette Aviators summer collegiate baseball team opens its home schedule at Loeb Stadium June 1 against Terre Haute.

Residing west of Loeb Stadium, Tropicanoe Cove is preparing to launch its 23rd season. The water slides that remind some park-goers of the old Big Dipper slide is back for the fourth year.

“That’s hard to believe for those of us who remember the old round swimming pool,” Miner says.

Once the carousel and new restrooms open, that will be the last of planned construction at Columbian Park until possibly 2023. That’s a potential date to replace some of the equipment at the SIA Playground, which sits on the land formerly occupied by the pool.

“Playgrounds have a shelf life, and the SIA Playground is approaching 23 years,” Miner says. “That gets to be about the point in time you have to start looking at replacing some of those pieces for safety.”

Future plans also include bringing exhibits featuring primates and North American cats to the zoo. 

Also in the next year or so, fishing may be allowed again in the lagoon, which Miner was proud to say still has crystal clear water following years of decay and mud buildup.

“We’re continuing to work on the ecosystem in the lagoon,” Miner says. “We did a lot of stocking (of fish) last fall. It’s not going to be ready for fishing quite yet. The fish that are in there won’t be of size, but we’re working with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Purdue on stocking it with the appropriate species.”  ★

BY KAT BRAZ
PHOTOS PROVIDED

The night of April 14, 2004, seems like a lifetime ago to Donte Wilburn, the Lafayette businessman honored as the 2021 entrepreneur of the year by the Indiana Small Business Development Center. That night, Wilburn, then 22 years old and a junior at Purdue University, sped through the streets of Lafayette, desperate to get his friend to the emergency room. The two had just been involved in a drug deal gone bad. Wilburn’s friend was shot four times. 

“That night altered my life forever,” Wilburn says. “I had been living a dual life since I was in 10th grade at Harrison High School and someone taught me how to sell drugs. I continued selling in college, but that night was supposed to be my last big drug deal. I could have died.” 

Wilburn’s friend survived the gunshot wounds. And eight months later, Wilburn pled guilty to conspiracy to deal marijuana, a Class D felony. He was sentenced to three years of community corrections. He went to jail but was allowed to leave to attend school and work. The only place that would hire him with his felony record was a local carwash. During that time, he earned his bachelor’s degree from Purdue. 

“Underneath my graduation gown I was wearing an ankle monitor,” Wilburn says. “I asked the correctional officers if I could have one hour after graduation and they gave it to me. I took my girlfriend to Logan’s steakhouse and proposed to her. Before the food came out, I had to go back to jail.” 

Donte Wilburn, owner of Premier Detailing and Wash LLC, is presented with the 2021 Entrepreneur of the Year Award by David Watkins, Indiana Small Business Development Center State Director. (photo courtesy of Nikos Frazier / Journal & Courier)

As a graduate and newlywed, Wilburn threw himself into his work. He wasn’t afraid of hard work, but he didn’t like what he saw in the carwash industry. Employees were paid minimum wage for grueling labor. They were treated poorly and looked down upon. 

“I was complaining and thinking, ‘I’ve got to get out of here,’ ” Wilburn says. “Then I heard a small, still voice tell me, ‘Ya know, if you don’t like it, change the industry.’ ” 

And that’s what he set out to do. He became a system manager and when that company closed down, he went to clean cars for Mike Raisor Automotive Group. In 2011, Raisor gave Wilburn the opportunity to reopen Premier Auto Detailing. Wilburn and his father renovated the facility, which opened on November 1, 2011, with 13 employees. Impressed with Wilburn’s tenacity and leadership in the company, Raisor offered to sell him the business and the property. Wilburn closed the deal in 2018 and became owner of Premier. 

“When Mike told me he was going to sell me the business, I broke down and cried,” Wilburn says. “There were a lot of trying times, but God came to me and showed me a grand vision of how he would bless me if I blessed the people in this industry. When Mike says those words, ‘I’m selling you this company,’ I realized that the vision I had in the middle of the night in 2008 was real. It was unbelievable.” 

Wilburn continued to grow the business and opened a second location in Kokomo in 2020. He now has dreams of franchising 50 locations throughout the country. In 2021, he became one of four new owners of the Legacy Courts sports complex in West Lafayette. The partners have expansion plans to create a Legacy Park that includes fields for baseball and soccer in addition to its indoor basketball courts. Wilburn and his father also invest in real estate. 

Nearly 20 years after that fateful night, Wilburn can hardly believe his good fortune. He and his wife, Tesha, are the parents of three children: Trinity, 13; Titus, 10; and Truitt, 4. Wilburn never had big dreams growing up. He certainly never imagined the life he leads now. 

“If one shifts their direction, it alters their destination,” Wilburn says. “If I would have known the opportunities and possibilities that lay before me when I was 18, where would I be now? My goal is to live a life that inspires others to come behind me. I want to give them hope that no matter how bad your situation is, you can come up out of it. I want my children to know that whatever they dream, they can attain.”  ★

BY RADONNA FIORINI 

What does it take to score almost $35 million in federal and state grants designed to bolster long-term economic health and student-to-workplace success? For officials in six area counties and six cities within those counties, plus representatives from several educational institutions, it took joining hands and working collaboratively.

Two, multimillion-dollar grants have been awarded to Greater Lafayette Commerce that will be used to address quality of life issues, economic development and student readiness in a six-county region around Lafayette, says Greater Lafayette Commerce President and CEO Scott Walker. 

Greater Lafayette Commerce spearheaded the arduous process of applying for the grants, working in partnership with regional elected officials and education professionals to obtain $30 million through the Indiana Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, or READI, and a $4.9 million Student Learning Recovery grant.  

READI split the state into 17 regions and requires neighboring counties and communities to create governing boards that represent each region. The Greater Lafayette region, as defined by the state, encompasses Benton, Carroll, Fountain, Tippecanoe, Warren and White counties. 

While Lafayette/West Lafayette comprise the most populace cities in the region, collaboration between all counties and municipalities is critical for success, says Ben Dispennepp, economic development director for Warren County.

“Collaboration among regional counties and cities is necessary because people desire a diversity of living, recreational and employment options,” he says. “If we share in efforts to build up the region and promote across these invisible boundary lines, this region will offer a higher quality of life and provide more opportunities to thrive in the long run.”

Just applying for the grants was a challenging process that started last May. Creating a final action plan to be implemented in the next four years is the current challenge. 

“It’s complicated and we have to follow all the federal procurement and accounting guidelines,” Walker says. “The ultimate benefit will be fostering regional collaboration in a way that hasn’t been done before. It’s complex, it’s challenging. Over the long term, we’ll work to create more vibrancy and more economic development with regional partners in ways that are strategic.”

Here’s a look at each grant:
READI Grant 

After local officials learned of the grant in 2021, the Greater Lafayette Regional Board of Representatives was established. This 20-person group is comprised of six county commissioners; the mayors of Attica, Covington, Delphi, Lafayette, Monticello and West Lafayette; representatives from area economic development organizations; and representatives from Purdue University and Ivy Tech Community College, Walker says. 

The board worked together to draft the more than 70-page Lafayette Regional Development Plan

which was approved by the state. The $30 million grant was announced in December. 

The plan calls for unprecedented collaboration between the urban and rural areas of the region with a goal of retaining and expanding businesses, including high-tech and advanced manufacturing companies. It addresses the need for a well-trained, diverse workforce, and the importance of addressing quality-of-life issues such as safe, affordable housing; a strong labor market; recreational and cultural opportunities; plentiful child care options; vibrant city centers; and sound infrastructure.

“The process has been very enlightening,” says board member John Dennis, West Lafayette’s mayor. “Bringing together several communities with different population dynamics, different economic drivers, and different needs and priorities has been a real eye opener for all of us.” 

Dennis describes Indiana as a diverse state with influences from around the world and an equally diverse and unique economic base. 

“Collaborating with our regional partners opened the doors for further collaborative opportunities and opened our eyes to the fact that although we might not share a ZIP code, we all share a great love for our communities and our state,” he says.

The regional board currently is identifying specific projects to be funded by the grant. 

Some projects being considered include:

  • Expanding the airport near Purdue, bringing commercial air service back to the region.
  • Residential development plans to address housing needs.
  • Investment in greenways and a trail system along the Wabash River.
  • Expanding access to broadband in rural areas.
  • Expanding the availability of quality child care.
  • Programs to attract talent and a diverse workforce, with a focus on veterans.

“At the risk of sounding hokey, all the projects submitted have a purpose and greatly benefit the region,” says Dennis, adding that he doesn’t have a favorite. “We’re very blessed here in Tippecanoe with two economically strong cities and county. Having a world-class university in our community doesn’t hurt, either.”

Warren County’s Dispennepp concurs that all the proposed projects are important in attracting and retaining a robust workforce. Adequate and affordable housing, however, stands out as one of the keys to long-term economic health.

“In talking with area businesses, they see housing availability as a concern for their workforce and their ability to expand,” he says. “And I would agree that low supply of housing impacts the cost of living, quality of life, and is a barrier to growing our workforce. Our READI project, focused on increasing housing in the region, would help accelerate the efforts that are already being made to address housing needs.”

Projects ultimately chosen must meet federal and state guidelines and be sustainable, long after the grant money runs out, Walker says. The stimulus money, he adds, will help leverage new private/public partnerships to sustain and grow the regional economy and quality of life. 

 “The READI funding will provide much-needed capital for economic development throughout our region,” says Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski, also a board representative. “We have an opportunity to accomplish several quality-of-life initiatives that have been part of our collective conversations for years.”  

Student Learning Recovery Grant Program

This $4.9 million grant, which was awarded to Greater Lafayette Commerce in January, is aimed at addressing issues related to education and the workforce, says Greater Lafayette Commerce Workforce Development Director Kara Webb.

The federal and state stimulus money is designed to help students make up for learning losses experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen the quality of education. Local leaders are focusing much of their efforts on creating strong connections between area manufacturing partners and schools. 

In the last few years, Greater Lafayette Commerce and local governments have partnered with companies to develop programs that introduce students to careers in industry and manufacturing. Those efforts have included tours of area manufacturing plants, and summer camps that offer hands-on opportunities to learn about careers in advanced manufacturing, logistics, coding, robotics and more, Webb says. 

Lafayette’s Roswarski touts collaborative work on such projects as the Greater Lafayette Career Academy, Greater Lafayette Commerce Manufacturing Week/Month and serving as a pilot city for Make IN Move, a statewide advanced manufacturing and logistics initiative.

“These partnerships — along with our work with local businesses, industries and building trades — have built a strong foundation to maximize the use of these (grant) funds,” he says. 

The grant also provides funding for the creation of a curriculum that imbeds manufacturing principles into student coursework. Area manufacturers will work with Skyepack, a West Lafayette company that creates digital learning courses and pathways, and Ivy Tech to develop coursework that will help students obtain credentials and certifications before they graduate high school. Those credentials can help students land a job or get an early start on a college degree.  

“The Student Recovery Grant will help close learning gaps and prepare students for a career right after graduation,” Roswarski says. “Financial resources to schools and community partners will provide students with access to career opportunities and resources as they prepare to join the local job market.”

And the curriculum will emphasize lifelong skills that will serve students well, no matter what college 

or career they choose, Webb says. The teaching of such life and character qualities as attention to detail, confidence, independence and problem solving will be included in the curriculum for each grade level.

Area educators are excited that the curriculum will be made available to them on their own timeline, she says. Participating schools will use their own discretion in how to incorporate the teaching into different instructional areas.

The almost $5 million grant must be used by June 30, 2023, so some of the money will go to help participating schools hire additional staff and tutors to roll out the curriculum. 

Eight schools have signed on, and Greater Lafayette Commerce is offering the program to many more in the region. There is the potential to impact more than 12,000 students in the six-county area, Webb says.

And local industry will benefit from having access to a well-trained workforce, prepared to fill new, high-tech jobs in the region.

 “These programs will allow students to earn credentials and build a portfolio before employment,” Webb says. “We are building a talent pipeline and providing access to a talent pipeline. This will help students recover from the loss (during the pandemic) and have access to local jobs.”

Two other Student Recovery grants were awarded locally:

Purdue University’s College of Education received a $1.1 million grant and will be working with students in kindergarten through third grades in the Tippecanoe, Lafayette and Frankfort school districts.

“We are partnering with district leadership and K-3 grade classrooms … to expand literacy clinics to support emergent readers and writers; expand language clinics to support emergent bilinguals; and offer release time for teachers through our grant,” says Christy Wessel Powell, a Purdue assistant professor.

Purdue also is offering professional development for teachers and partnering school districts using online resources, related workshops and a lending library.

Lyn Treece Boys and Girls Club of Tippecanoe County received a $383,813 grant to extend current programming.  ★

BY KEN THOMPSON
PHOTOS PROVIDED

Legendary college basketball coach John Wooden and his defending national champion UCLA team were the first to find out that Mackey Arena is a difficult place to play for Purdue basketball opponents.

A team featuring Lew Alcindor (aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) came within a last-second shot of being the Boilermakers’ first upset victim when Mackey Arena opened on Dec. 2, 1967. More than 14,400 also witnessed Rick Mount’s debut in a Purdue uniform. The Indiana Mr. Basketball from Lebanon nearly shot the Boilermakers to victory with a game-high 28 points in a 73-71 loss.

Since then, Purdue has won more than 650 men’s basketball games, been home to the Big Ten Conference’s only women’s basketball national championship team and set a record attendance mark (10,645) for an NCAA women’s volleyball match.

Purdue men’s basketball, which achieved the No. 1 ranking in The Associated Press poll in December, expects to fill Mackey Arena’s more than 14,000 seats for every game in the 2021-22 season. 

“Without question it gives us an advantage,” says Matt Painter, in his 17th season as Purdue’s head coach and a four-year letterman under his predecessor, Gene Keady, from 1989-93.

“The noise, the way it bounces off the ceiling, I think that’s a bit of a difference in how loud it gets. I used to always walk into the locker room after we win close games and say I don’t know if we would have won that game anywhere else in the country besides Mackey Arena. There’s no question the fans get us six to 10 points with the atmosphere here.”

The loudest Mackey Arena crowd was registered at 122.3 decibels during a 2017 victory against Indiana. That decibel level has been compared to sitting in the front row at a rock concert or the sound of a thunderclap overhead.

The noise quickly gets the attention of visitors and fans watching the games on TV.

“There is a possibility that Mackey Arena at Purdue is the loudest venue in college hoops. It kinda hurts to work here actually,” says ESPN’s Dave Flemming.

Mackey Arena was hailed as “the first of its kind among collegiate sports facilities” when groundbreaking for the circular concrete and steel structure with a domed roof took place on July 20, 1965.

For more than 50 years, Purdue has gotten its money’s worth from the $6 million investment that replaced the old arena inside Lambert Fieldhouse next door. 

Originally named Purdue Arena, it gained its current name in March 1972 when the facility was named in honor of long-time athletic director Guy “Red” Mackey, who had died the year before. 

On Dec. 12, 1997, the floor of Mackey Arena was declared “Keady Court” in honor of Gene Keady, the winningest coach in Boilermaker basketball history.

If possible, Mackey Arena became a louder place to watch and play a basketball game when an organized student section was added in the early 2000s. Originally called “The Gene Pool” to salute Keady, the organized body was renamed “The Paint Crew” when Painter replaced Keady in 2005.

Purdue senior Bryce Randolph, vice president of The Paint Crew, takes pride in doing his part to help the Boilermakers intimidate rivals.

“From the opening tip to the final buzzer, every single fan in Mackey is into the game,” Randolph says. “Mackey is such a tough place because of how engaged and passionate the fan base is every day and especially every game. Every game is insanely loud and it does not matter who they are playing against.”

Randolph cited a 96-52 victory against Wright State early in the 2021-22 season. 

“Purdue was up 30 points in the first half and the crowd would go crazy for every dunk or big 3-pointer the team had,” he says. 

The Paint Crew’s support hasn’t gone unnoticed by the players. Senior guard Sasha Stefanovic notices during pre-game warmups that the Paint Crew is usually full an hour to 90 minutes before tipoff.

“You feel our students right on top of you, always yelling,” Stefanovic says. “It feels very intimate at the same time. The intimate feel is something you notice right away.” 

The deafening roar of Mackey Arena sometimes has its drawbacks. At Mackey’s loudest moments, Painter can’t call plays for his team and his players can’t hear what he’s saying.

“More or less, you can’t hear yourself think when it gets that loud,” Painter says. “You will have a moment or two every now and then where you are like, ‘This is unbelieveable.’ You become a spectator at times because (the players) can’t hear you. It is a pretty cool setup when it gets that loud. Even though it might be a little harder for us, it’s definitely harder for your opponent.”

Adds Stefanovic: “I’m telling you there are tons of times we don’t understand (Painter), can’t hear. Ball screen assignments, plays. Sometimes you practice with crowd noise when it’s going to be a big game. It’s a good problem to have.” 

Mackey Arena was a quiet place to play during the 2020-21 season, when only family was allowed to attend games due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Painter wondered how his players would react to playing before crowds this season. Only junior guard Isaiah Thompson and Painter’s three scholarship seniors (Eric Hunter Jr., Stefanovic, Trevion Williams) had experienced Mackey Arena at its most boisterous.

“Our freshmen and sophomores had never played in a sold-out Mackey until this year,” Painter says. “Those guys walking into their first game and having a sellout in an exhibition, they think that’s the way it is. It’s not normally the way it is.

“Your exhibitions, they might call them a sellout but you don’t see 14,000 people there like this year. I think it was something pretty cool for all of us, to be out for a year and then be able to see a sellout every single game.”

It’s been more than 30 years since Painter played his first game as a Boilermaker in Mackey Arena. While he doesn’t remember many details, one memory stands out.

“I remember how much Coach Keady was fired up at the time,” Painter says. “I’m thinking, ‘Man, is he like this all the time?’ He was really amped up because the season before they hadn’t played as well. I was fired up watching him.

“He would try to get the crowd even more amped up than they already were. I’m a little different how I’m wired. I’m constantly trying to keep my poise and think about the next thing coming up.”

Stefanovic was 11 years old when he experienced Mackey Arena for the first time. Thanks to his brother, a Purdue student, Stefanovic found a seat among The Paint Crew when Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore led fourth-ranked Purdue past sixth-ranked West Virginia on New Year’s Day 2010.

“It was a crazy, crazy environment,” Stefanovic recalls. “Those are definitely vivid memories.”

Randolph grew up imagining himself wearing a Purdue uniform in Mackey Arena. The next best thing was becoming a part of The Paint Crew when he enrolled at Purdue. 

“After getting in, I fell in love with going to the games with all my friends,” Randolph says. “I really feel like we have a huge impact on the games. The loudest I have heard it was against IU during the (2019)-20 season. Eric Hunter had a breakaway dunk to end the half and Mackey exploded.

“I have never been to another college arena so I cannot compare them to Mackey. But I have a hard time believing them being anything close to Mackey in terms of fan engagement and level of intimidation for opposing teams.”  ★

WHAT THE FANS SAY

“Few things feel as helpless as being on the visitor’s bench when Purdue gets rolling at Mackey Arena.” – Mark Titus, former Ohio State player

“Look up intimidation in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of Mackey Arena.” 

Loren Tate, Champaign News-Gazette

“There are some environments that can’t be replicated and Mackey Arena is one of them.” 

Kenyon Murray, former Iowa basketball player

“Mackey Arena is one of the underrated, great environments in basketball. Does not get the attention it deserves for a place that absolutely rocks.” 

Dan Shulman, ESPN

“I feel like I say this every time Purdue plays a big home game,  but Mackey is a legitimately terrifying place.” – Eamonn Brennan, The Athletic

MACKEY BY THE NUMBERS
(As of Dec. 3, 2021)

» Games played: 810

» Sellouts: 409

» Overall record: 665-145
(82 percent)

» Non-conference record: 306-38
(89 percent)

» Big Ten games: 359-107
(77 percent)

» Average attendance per game from 1967-present: 13,096

BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
PHOTOS PROVIDED

The Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration – 

a contemporary, light- and glass-filled structure in the Discovery Park District of West Lafayette – provided a fitting backdrop last August for the announcement of an innovative, collaborative facility that will investigate the latest in hypersonic technologies.

The planned Hypersonic Ground Test Center (HGTC), revealed to a crowd attending a Hypersonics Summit hosted by Purdue 

University and the National Defense Industrial Association, will be located in the Purdue Aerospace District adjacent to the university campus. The new facility is part of ongoing, long-term economic development plans for Greater Lafayette and Indiana. 

“Creating this first-in-the-nation center is possible because we have industry partners that aren’t just on the cutting edge but are reinventing where the edge is. Couple that with the many thriving communities in Tippecanoe County, and a gushing pipeline of top talent at Purdue including researchers, students and graduates [that are] prepared to make the next giant leaps in both aerospace and hypersonic 

i“It’s because of days like today that our economy remains strong and Indiana reigns as one of the best places in the world to do business.”

Paving the way

Driving along the western gateway of the Purdue campus where State Street meets the U.S. 

231 bypass, you’ll notice a much different landscape from 10 or even five years ago. Rising from the flatlands are multi-story office buildings, R&D facilities, apartment complexes and $450K-plus single-family homes – all part of the $120 billion Discovery Park District development from Purdue Research Foundation and Indianapolis-based Browning Development LLC.

The planned community is designed to attract everyone from startup founders to corporate executives with luxurious homes surrounded by green spaces a short distance from where they work. The transformation, however, began with infrastructure made possible with the help of Greater Lafayette officials. 

In 2013, a $46 million Indiana Department of Transportation project to reroute U.S. 231 was completed, bringing the road parallel to the southern edge of the Purdue campus, with its northwest leg meeting up at State Road 26 near the intersection with Newman Road. This rerouting opened up new possibilities for business development adjacent to Purdue, and later in the year, the West Lafayette City Council voted to annex 3,997 acres including the Purdue University campus and the properties adjoining the U.S. 231 Highway Corridor. 

Two years later, with the consent of the West Lafayette City Council, Mayor John Dennis and his staff applied to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to certify part of the land as an aerospace district.

Then, in 2019, work wrapped on the $123 million State Street Redevelopment Project, a joint venture between the City of West Lafayette and Purdue University. No longer a state highway for through-traffic, the revamped corridor boasts wider sidewalks, bicycle racks, public art and landscaping from the Wabash River up the hill through Purdue. 

That same year, crews completed two other critical projects: construction of a roundabout at the intersection of State Road 26 and Newman Road, and the rebuilding of a railroad bridge with a wider, higher underpass. A collaboration of Purdue University, the City of West Lafayette, the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Purdue Research Foundation, the projects were designed to improve traffic safety and accommodate larger commercial trucks for the anticipated arrival of industry clients. 

All of these improvements paved the way for the Aerospace District and the Hypersonic Ground Test Center.

The next frontier

Hypersonic weapons are missiles that can travel at Mach 5 or higher – at least five times faster than the speed of sound. The United States, Russia and China are all racing to develop hypersonics, seen as the next frontier in national security. 

Purdue University boasts a large team of hypersonic researchers in a number of subspecialty areas, along with expertise in systems-engineering research – the ability to bring these experts together in order to solve complex problems. 

The Aerospace District capitalizes on these capabilities as well as Purdue’s legacy in the broader discipline of aerospace education and research. To date, the university has had 27 graduates in space, and its aeronautical and astronautical engineering program consistently ranks among the top in the United States.

Aerospace and national security is one of four strategic focus areas of Discovery Park District. Boilermakers – and by extension, Greater Lafayette residents – are seen as an essential mix of its burgeoning workforce. 

“At Purdue, we’re committed to research at the very frontiers of science, especially when it can contribute to the national security of Americans,” said Purdue President Mitch Daniels at the announcement of the new hypersonic center. “Becoming home to the nation’s premier hypersonics facilities can make such a contribution, while providing enormous new opportunities for our researchers, aspiring entrepreneurs and job-seeking graduates.”

Team effort

HGTC will further expand the district’s capabilities by offering a central shared facility supporting multiple laboratories. Rolls-Royce is the founding member of a new nonprofit consortium of national defense industry partners that will manage capital and operational costs for the facility. 

The unveiling of plans for the Hypersonic Ground Test Center came last summer on the heels of two other major announcements. 

In July, Purdue University and Purdue Research Foundation officials reported on the planned construction of a 65,000-square-foot Hypersonic Applied Research Facility, which will house a hypersonic pulse (HYPULSE) shock tunnel and the only Mach 8 quiet wind tunnel in the world. 

Then, in early August, Rolls-Royce announced a significant expansion at Purdue, with new test facilities for high-altitude and hybrid-electric engines that are expected to power the next generation of U.S. military aircraft. The company, which notes that it has more engineers from Purdue than any other university, already has a jet engine facility located in Purdue Technology Center Aerospace, the first new building that was constructed for the Aerospace District. 

Purdue University and Purdue Research Foundation will fund the construction of the HGTC. But, as with the infrastructure improvements ahead of the Aerospace District’s development, its expansion is the result of a team effort. 

“That investment from Rolls-Royce, the university and PRF, along with support from the state, West Lafayette, Lafayette and Tippecanoe County, laid the foundation for creating the HGTC,” said Purdue Research Foundation President and CEO Brian Edelman.  ★

BY KEN THOMPSON
PHOTOS PROVIDED

A major presence in the Greater Lafayette economy since 1985, Wabash National has positioned itself to prosper during one of the toughest periods in our nation’s economy. The manufacturer is a leader of engineered solutions in transportation, logistics and distribution.

Instead of fighting for survival during the nearly two years of COVID-19 and its side effects, Brent Yeagy, president and CEO, saw this time period as a chance to regroup and make plans to take advantage of the post-pandemic business world.

“I think it has given us the opportunity to look at the world a little differently,” says Yeagy, whose degrees include a bachelor’s in environmental engineering science and a master’s in occupational health and safety engineering from Purdue University.

“Anytime we have something as disruptive as a national pandemic, things begin to change the world around us. Some for the negative and ultimately there’s things that have a positive nature to it, or at least an opportunity.”

Decreed an essential business due to the economic impact of its semi-trailer and tank trailer production, Wabash National and the more than 6,500 employees nationwide successfully met the social challenges that came with COVID-19.

“The biggest challenge was the initial speed of change and the uncertainty that would be provided by the national government in how best to manage the situation,” Yeagy says. “That gave businesses an unclear footing as to how best to take care of their employees, how to navigate the downturn in the economy and how to forecast what would come next.”

Yeagy had to balance critical decisions with both the Wabash National shareholders and his employees’ best interests. 

Fortunately, the methods to protect those 6,500-plus employees were a far more simple task.

“We did an excellent job across the country in managing everything from how to use PPE, contact tracing and all those things that go around it,” he says. “What was hard is that underlying social impact that occurs. How do you manage a 6,000-plus workforce with schools closed? You don’t have child care. We really had to think of a very innovative way to manage those needs during a really hard time for our employees.”

Wabash National has altered its thinking to the new economic reality that puts more and more emphasis on e-commerce.

“For us, commerce has been a driving force in new opportunities for new products, new customers and new markets that we can position Wabash going forward,” Yeagy says. “We have altered our strategy to what we call ‘First to Final Mile,’ where we look at products and services that span across all logistics, including e-commerce.”

Among those new opportunities was the purchase of Supreme Industries, a Goshen, Ind.-based truck body business.

“We’re launching new products to meet the needs of these changing logistics accordingly. So we think for us, this is a sustainable change that will drive future growth for Wabash over the next decade.”

A noticeable change coming to the company is its name. Recently, it dropped the National part of its brand to become simply “Wabash.”

“We want to tell a story that we’re not the same Wabash,” Yeagy says. “We’re not Wabash National, we’re Wabash. We stand for something different. It’s a reflection of the dramatic organizational and structural changes that we have completed over the last two years that position us to truly grow across the company, to become the visionary leader across a growing transportation and product solution state.”

Greater Lafayette and Purdue University want to play a role in Wabash’s future. With $70 million in investments planned for its two Lafayette plants during the next two years, Wabash and the city of Lafayette agreed to a $25 million tax abatement during that period.

“I think first and foremost it shows trust in Wabash by the city of Lafayette and its leadership,” Yeagy says. “That allows us as a corporation that spans the entire country in terms of operating facilities to continue thinking of Lafayette as a place that we can invest as well.

“Specifically, it allows us to think about job creation opportunities that we have here in Lafayette to support some of the more high-tech product applications that we are bringing to market. As we think about re-capitalizing the equipment in Lafayette that’s been around in some cases for the last 20 years, it allows us to go deeper into the roots we have here. Which means that we can continue to be a contributing part of the community for some time.”

Lafayette is home to about 3,000 of Wabash’s employment force.

Greater Lafayette is also home to Purdue, whose resources are going to play a key role in Wabash’s future. Yeagy cites an unprecedented relationship forged with the Board of Trustees and Purdue President Mitch Daniels.

“We have connected with Purdue in a way that has never occurred in Wabash’s history,” Yeagy says. “We are now a major athletic partner. We are directly reaching Purdue students to the nature of technical skills we are trying to bring into Wabash as we execute our strategic plan.”

Wabash has a direct partnership with Purdue’s Data Mine, which is aiding the company’s multiple data science-related projects. Wabash also holds office space both at the Convergence center and the Railyard. An even longer term relationship with Purdue centers on welding safety and health-related research.

“It allows us to have a significant portion of our workforce to be closer to Purdue as well as we now have space for students, interns and other related academic project work to be done on campus,” he says. 

“We are extremely excited about what it means, not only for Wabash but the Greater Lafayette community.”

As Yeagy points out, Wabash’s reach is nationwide. Just look at any highway or road and it’s a matter of time before one drives past a semi-trailer, tanker or truck body manufactured by Wabash.

“There’s the absolute pride you feel when you see something that you’re attached to so intimately as the product you produce on our nation’s highways and roads,” Yeagy says. “But as a CEO, being able to step back, you know the people that produced them. You know the work. You know the challenges that were faced to get that product on the road, especially the last two years. You know peoples’ stories that went into building that product. When I see it, I think of all that. 

“People should understand they have a corporate entity in their community that builds the safest, most sustainable products in commercial transportation. I think that’s lost at times.”  ★

BY CINDY GERLACH
PHOTOS PROVIDED

Greater Lafayette has been named Community of the Year by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. The award recognizes the community’s growth over the past decade and how it has prospered and thrived in a variety of areas, from infrastructure and jobs to beautification and quality of life. 

This year’s award looked, too, for a municipality that was a shining example during a year of weathering the pandemic.  

A large part of the credit for being chosen for this award goes to the various components that define our community, says Scott Walker, president and CEO of Greater Lafayette Commerce, and their ability to communicate, to plan, and to work together. As the application was assembled and written, Walker says, it became evident just how much planning had gone into the progress of the past 20 years.

“We looked back at where we’d been over the course of two decades, the evolution of the community, the trajectory, and why we should be considered for this award,” Walker says. 

Back at the start of the 21st century, the community looked very different. And community, Walker says, is defined as the entirety of the area, with both cities and the county governments all working together. All these governing bodies were collaborating on a vision of what they wanted to see over the coming years. Hence Lafayette Urban Enterprise, Vision 2020 and the Downtown Development Corp. all played a role, as well as incorporating input from all three school corporations, leaders in industry, the arts and recreational facilities. 

Back in 2000, the population of Tippecanoe County was at 149,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Walker said leadership could see that the community was poised for potential growth, but it wanted to be prepared and for the growth to be intentional. 

The result was these various entities examining where the community was at the time, what the trends were, and what Greater Lafayette wanted to accomplish. A clear goal was attracting business and industry that would provide good-paying jobs that would contribute to the economy and would enhance quality of life for residents. The area has a strong manufacturing workforce, and the focus on talent and workforce retention has resulted in more than 3,800 jobs being added in the past five years. This is thanks to companies as diverse as Caterpillar, Antique Candle, Copper Moon Coffee and Schweitzer Engineering Labs, to name a few. 

And along with that, Greater Lafayette needed a community that would attract these businesses; needed neighborhoods, restaurants, parks, schools, and arts and culture that would make life attractive for families. This investment came in various forms, from public projects such as Lafayette Downtown Development Plan, the Hoosier Heartland Development Plan, the Five Points Development Plan and the Wabash River Development Plan. 

 The State Street Corridor, one example of these improvement plans, was a $120 million effort that transformed State Street, a major artery that runs through the heart of West Lafayette and the Purdue University campus. The transformation reduced automotive lanes and integrated other modes of transportation. It included public transit bus pull-offs, wider sidewalks and bike paths, increasing safety and outdoor seating for local retailers and restaurateurs. It also enabled upgrades to the water and sewer infrastructure and set the stage for the redevelopment of West State Street and Discovery Park District. The effort has led to both additional privately developed housing and office facilities, as well as helping expand the community’s parks, walking and bike trail systems. 

Other major public-private projects include housing developments in both Lafayette and West Lafayette, including The Marq, Pullman Station, The Press, LUNA, The HUB, RISE and the Ellsworth. In addition, Lafayette invested in a Downtown Streetscape project, which included sidewalk improvements, art installations, outdoor dining facilities and upgrades to pedestrian traffic; these upgrades were supported in part by downtown merchants. All of these urban housing developments have helped create a downtown that is active and dynamic. These projects are supported by tax increment finance (TIF) dollars. 
Purdue University Airport
Loeb Stadium

Quality of life projects also contributed to the community’s revitalization, including a new Loeb Stadium, upgrades to the Columbian Park Zoo and Tropicanoe Cove water park, as well as other updates to Columbian Park. The Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds underwent a major renovation, and the Wabash Riverfront is looking at a $150 million investment, including the Riverfront Promenade, which was completed in 2020.

Ultimately, Walker says, all groups came together to work toward this common goal. Today, with the 2019 population at 195,732, the growth clearly did occur. And because of the planning, the communication, the collaboration, the county was prepared to absorb and accommodate that growth. As evidence? Many school districts in Indiana are seeing a decline in sizes of incoming kindergarten classes; in Tippecanoe County, schools have all seen significant growth and kindergarten class sizes have increased, says Walker. The area is clearly a destination; the $250 million investment in education over the past five years — including the implementation of the Greater Lafayette Career Academy — has paid off. 

For Walker, this award speaks, in great part, to a process. And it’s a process that involved the input of so many entities — from the cities, the county, parks departments, Purdue and the public schools, and business and industry — partnering and working together. 

“It appears that the city, the county, we’re all on the same page with the same goals and objectives,” Walker says. “We’re at a point where people are working together, collaboratively. We’re all pulling on the rope in the same direction. This is a well-run region.

“It’s that planning element that we’ve embraced in this community that works so well.”  ★

BY KAT BRAZ

Lafayette Urban Ministry (LUM) established its Immigration Clinic in 2014. That year, the clinic saw 70 clients, providing assistance with various issues such as citizenship, consideration for DACA, applying for emergency visas, asylum or green cards.

Over the past seven years, the program has continued to grow, offering services to clients looking to legally immigrate into the United States. These are people who have already relocated to the Greater La-fayette community and are seeking legal assistance to acquire a visa, green card or gain citizenship status.

“It’s the only clinic offering immi-gration services of its kind within the surrounding eight-county area,” says Rev. Wes Tillett, executive di-rector of LUM. “We provide aid to a variety of people of different status-es, refugees, asylum seekers, people needing a work visa or a green card. Our clients could be feeling violence in their home country or just trying to get a better start for their family in the United States.”
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 12 percent of Tippecanoe County’s population are foreign-born—that’s more than 23,000 residents. Of those, around 18,000 individuals are non-citizens, which include some people who do not consider themselves true immigrants, such as international students and expatriates from other countries.

In 2020, the LUM Immigration Clinic provided help in 120 different cases, down from 256 in 2019. Due to the pandemic, LUM was not able to hold its popular citizenship class-es in partnership with the Lafayette Adult Resource Academy. Still, a dedicated group of about a dozen trained and accredited volunteers has pressed on, under the leadership of the clinic’s two paid positions
— a full-time director and half-time assistant director — to keep the clinic operating under COVID-19 protocols.

“A lot of the work is just listening and learning the person’s story,” Tillett says. “We have to understand who the person is in front of us, where they are at and how they got here. And sometimes, the stories are just heartbreaking to hear what they are up against, what they are trying to flee or what they are working toward.”

Immigration Clinic Director Christian Gallo grew up in Bue-nos Aires, Argentina. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Cole-gio Champagnat, master in laws degree from Indiana University, and JD from Universidad Católica Argentina. Gallo has many years of experience in immigration law and speaks four languages: Spanish, English, Italian and Portuguese. His first-hand experience as an immi-grant himself enables him to quickly build rapport with many clinic clients.

“I understand what these peo-ple go through to immigrate to the U.S.,” Gallo says. “Some of them went through a lot of dangers to get here. And even if they didn’t, they arrive here and can feel kind of lost. Sometimes receiving a little help with something simple can mean so much to a person who is new to the country and doesn’t understand how bureaucracy works here.

“We are not just helping people get a better job or more income. We are changing their lives. We are giving them opportunities for themselves and for their families, for their children.”

For Gallo, every case is person-al. The needs to be met can vary immensely. Some clients might be looking for a better job or higher income, others might be trying to re-unite with a wife or child or perhaps it’s a trailing academic spouse who followed their partner to the area and now wants to establish citizen-ship or apply for a work visa.

“It’s very rewarding work,” Gallo says. “When you see the looks on their faces, that sensation of extreme happiness, it means so much. Sometimes they don’t have words, they just repeat ‘thank you’ over and over. In that instant, their life just changed for the better.”

Whether a person entered the country legally or illegally, they can still be entitled to certain benefits under the law. The mission of the clinic is to help people who are already in the area —encompassing Tippecanoe and surrounding counties — get access to those benefits, regardless of their immigration status. It’s work that aligns with LUM’s overall mission as an organization with a Judeo-Christian heritage.

“Our organization has strong Judeo-Christian roots,” Tillett says. “Harkening back to the Exodus story, there is definitely a command to be hospitable to the sojourner in your midst, because you, too, were once foreigners in Egypt. That command is still pertinent to Jews and Christians trying to obey those scriptures. From a core theological standpoint, that’s part of who we are and part of what we’re trying to do.

“On a more humanitarian level, we are simply trying to be good neighbors. We especially want
to fill the gaps in the community where no other organization is able to meet that need. Immigration is one of those areas, especially seven years ago, that LUM identified as something we could do to help our neighbors from other parts of the world who are having a difficult time navigating through the bureaucracy and getting the legal status that they need.”

The impact of the clinic is summed up by a note of thanks Jaqueline Valera wrote to LUM expressing gratitude for the assistance she and her husband, Ricardo, received from the clinic.

“Since obtaining the LUM Immigration Clinic’s help with our immigration process, my husband was able to obtain his work permit. His income has helped me out with my family and school debt. I no longer have to work two or three jobs. I no longer have to miss important family moments. I no longer have to choose work over my health. We would not be where we are today without your help.” ★

BY KEN THOMPSON
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY CHRISTINE PETKOV

Jon Miner knows first-hand the magic spell Loeb Stadium has woven over Greater Lafayette youths since 1940.

In 1984, at 15, Miner stepped foot on the Loeb Stadium infield for the first time as a member of Lafayette Jeff’s freshman baseball team and as a player for Firefighters in the Colt Recreation League.

“Growing up in this community and playing youth baseball, that was always a big deal to go to Loeb Stadium and watch a baseball game (and) hopefully play there one day,” says Miner, who played two years of varsity baseball at Jeff and visited Loeb Stadium as a senior member of the McCutcheon High School team.

Miner is now the director of operations for the Lafayette Parks and Recreation Department. At the time of this interview, the renovated Loeb Stadium was just a few weeks away from opening day.

The renovation project spearheaded by Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski will make sure thousands of baseball players – and hopefully other athletes – will continue to play inside Loeb Stadium for decades to come. The renovation, which was estimated to cost $20 million, was completed on schedule for Lafayette Jeff’s baseball season opener against Central Catholic on March 31.

“The driving vision behind it, Mayor Roswarski who grew up in this community and knowing the history of Loeb Stadium, was to design and build a facility that would last another 80 years, like the old Loeb Stadium did, if not longer,” Miner says. “To give this community not just a wonderful venue for baseball but a wonderful venue for other community events.”

Roswarski’s vision for the new Loeb Stadium includes the potential to host soccer and football games as well as non-sporting events such as concerts. The new stadium has a seating capacity of 2,600.

“I think when it’s finally open and we break out of this pandemic and people are able to get into the stadium and watch an event – whether it be a baseball game, a soccer game or a concert – they are going to be really pleased with how this stadium has turned out,” Miner says.

There was much anticipation in Greater Lafayette when a front-page headline in the Journal and Courier on July 2, 1940, proclaimed “Park Stadium for Athletic and Cultural Events to be Memorial to Solomon Loeb.”

Bert and June Loeb contributed $50,000 (almost $935,000 in today’s dollars) for the construction of a 3,152-seat reinforced concrete structure inside Columbian Park. The stadium was named Columbian Park Recreation Center, which remained until 1971 when it was renamed Loeb Stadium.

Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski addresses the crowd at the March 31 grand opening of Loeb Stadium.
Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame Head Coach Paul E. “Spider” Fields poses with the Lafayette Jeff Baseball team.
Fans bundled up in the new stadium seating to watch the Lafayette Jeff Bronchos take on the Central Catholic Knights.

“Its purpose being to serve as a public stadium for athletic, cultural and educational events of various kinds; in fact any legitimate entertainment under sun or stars,” the 1940 article stated.

With lights installed as part of the construction, the stadium was projected to not only host baseball games but softball games, boxing matches, concerts, pageants and even horse shows.

Architect Walter Scholer had the foresight to make the stadium dimensions of Major League Baseball stadiums with 333 feet down the left field line, 404 feet to center field and 322 feet down the right field line. Retaining similar distances in the 2021 renovation required some out-of-the-box thinking.

When the decision was made to rotate the field 180 degrees from its original layout, placing home plate near the corner of Main Street and Wallace Avenue, the right field area needed a few extra feet. Since moving the zoo was out of the question, architects came up with a plan to extend the stadium entrance a few feet from the original footprint into Main.

But even that idea wasn’t as simple as it sounds.

“A lot of the fiber infrastructure in this community comes right up Main Street,” Miner says. “There’s only so far you can go into Main Street before you have to get into relocating that.”

Making the most of every foot available, home plate is positioned just a few yards from the corner of Main and Wallace.

When it comes to construction in Indiana weather, nothing comes easily. Toss in a shutdown of nearly a month in April 2020 due to COVID-19 precautions and it’s amazing that the project was completed in time for the Lafayette Jeff baseball season.

“All the contractors have done a marvelous job working through the snow we had, the cold snaps,” Miner says. “We couldn’t be more pleased with their work.”

The new Loeb Stadium also will serve as the front door to the 21st century Columbian Park. Spectators will have a view of the new carousel building beyond the centerfield fence, plus Tropicanoe Cove and the water slides just past left field.

Fans sitting in the suite level will be able to follow the progress of construction going on at Memorial Island.

“It was important to build a beautiful stadium and have the viewpoints be on the inside of Columbian Park and not have the people in the stands looking out into Oakland School, the Frozen Custard and Arni’s,” Miner says. “I think it brings Loeb Stadium more into the park and it will transform Main Street.

“We’re going to have state-of-the-art lighting, state-of-the-art concession facilities. There’s not really a bad seat in the stadium to view a baseball game. Then we have the video board that is really going to add to whatever event is going on there. This is something even communities with nice baseball stadiums don’t have.” ★

BY KAT BRAZ
PHOTO BY CHRISTINE PETKOV

Last summer, tensions surrounding issues of racial injustice boiled over across the country in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. Locally, more than 1,000 peaceful protesters marched downtown on May 31 to rally for racial justice and take a stand against police brutality.

“Witnessing the energy of the young people and the memory, or the wisdom of the older people, together, that gives me hope,” says Rodney Lynch, pastor and director of the Baptist Student Foundation at Purdue University. “I was pleased with the number of people who were there. Most of them were white, that’s the demographics of this community. But standing up for racial justice is not a one-time moment; it’s a lifetime movement.”

Motivated by a desire to join like-minded community members to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), Lynch joined the Diversity Roundtable (DRT) when he relocated to Greater Lafayette in 2016. An outgrowth of Vision 2020, a 2000–2001 community visioning project for the future of Greater Lafayette, the DRT began in 2002 when a small group of citizens started meeting to plan a Diversity Summit held in April 2003. It became a biennial event and this month, the DRT held its 10th summit. The 2021 Diversity Summit, held virtually and free to all participants, focused on Strategic Doing: Turning Conversation into Action.

In addition to the summits, the DRT meets monthly to discuss DEI issues in the community. The meetings are open to the public and co-facilitated by Lynch and Barbara Clark, who retired as director of the Science Diversity Office and director of the Women in Science Programs at Purdue in 2015. An all-volunteer group, the DRT is a committee of Greater Lafayette Commerce.

“We are the only group in the community focused on diversity in general,” Clark says. “We’re not organized in response to a crisis or an issue. We’re focused on raising awareness and educating people about the diversity issues in the community — anything from race to sexual orientation to disability — and how diversity, equity and inclusion intersect with social issues.”

Many of the monthly meetings feature speakers from the community, such as city government officials, school superintendents, police officers and university administrators who share their perspective on how DEI is supported in their respective institutions as well as identifying areas that still need to be addressed. Clark, who has served as a co-facilitator of the group since 2009, says although the same core issues may resurface, often they’ve been redefined in some way.

“An issue that we’ve discussed a number of times is ‘driving while Black,’” Clark says. “When we first started talking about that, it was somewhat surprising to the white folks but certainly not surprising to the people of color. One of the things the DRT does is develop programming to educate the community on these issues.”

One of the programs facilitated by the DRT addressed implicit bias. Lynch, who co-led the training, would ask attendees how many of them had “the talk” with their children. Invariably, white attendees assumed “the talk” centered around sexual activity. Black attendees gave their children the “police talk.”

“Black people do not have the privilege of not educating their children about how to conduct themselves when they are engaged by a police officer, so they get home safe,” Lynch says. “White children are raised to believe the police will keep them safe. Whereas we’ve seen time and time again, Black people are afraid to even call the police because our loved ones may not live through that interaction.”

The depth of implicit bias is magnified through a video experiment shown in the training that posits two men of different races in the same scenario. In one instance, a white man is shown breaking into a car in broad daylight. In the other, the man breaking into the car is Black. The white man sets off the car alarm multiple times, fishing with a wire coat hanger for 30 minutes trying to pop the door lock. A police car drives by without stopping. When the Black man attempts to break into the car, a passerby begins filming him with a cellphone almost immediately and the police arrive within two minutes. The video ends with the Black man in handcuffs surrounded by five police officers.

“It’s assumed that the white guy is just locked out of his car,” Lynch says. “But the Black guy must be robbing that car. These are examples of the implicit biases we all live with.”

The difficulty of identifying implicit biases lies in the fact that we don’t always know we have them. These unconscious inclinations often operate outside of our awareness and can directly contradict a person’s espoused beliefs or values. The danger of implicit biases is how they affect our reactions and behaviors without our awareness. The goal of implicit bias training is to help attendees understand and acknowledge the systems of privilege in place that influence these unconscious prejudices.

These conversations are difficult to have, even among members of the DRT, who, by their very presence at meetings, are more inclined to be receptive to reframing their personal perspectives and committed to acknowledging and addressing DEI issues within the community.

“One of the things that keeps people coming month after month is that they can be honest and open at the DRT,” Clark says. “They feel safe talking about issues in a group where people have different perspectives because of their lived experiences.”

Another program offered by the DRT for the past few years centers around the book Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World by Layla F. Saad. The book operates as a workbook, outlining journaling exercises and conversation prompts that force white readers to reflect on the roots of their own unconscious bias, how they benefit from the systems in place and how white supremacy plays out in their everyday lives. Small cohorts of 20 to 25 people work through the book together, meeting for weekly discussions over the course of one month.

“It’s not really fair to expect people of color to educate white people on issues of diversity,” Clark says. “If white people care about diversity and want to make a change, they need to put some energy into educating themselves. That’s what Me and White Supremacy is all about. The journaling can be difficult. The conversations can be intense, but it’s all very worthwhile.”

Before the pandemic, approximately 30 people attended the monthly DRT meetings. After switching to virtual meetings last year, the DRT has seen a slight increase of participation with up to 50 attendees. Those numbers may seem small, but the impact of the DRT on the larger community is far greater.

“We’re not only touching the people who show up,” Lynch says. “The people who participate in the DRT are armed with information they can use when they encounter injustice at their job, in the community or in their family. That’s the beauty of what the DRT offers. If someone is serious about combatting injustice, DRT is a good place to start. We can inform and educate.” ★

To receive updates about the DRT and information about its monthly meetings, email 
diversitytippecanoe@gmail.com or visit diversitytippecanoe.org. 

BY RADONNA FIORINI
PHOTOS PROVIDED

For the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration, that common focus is providing space and resources for academic research and private industry to collaborate, with the goal of seeing discoveries and innovations regularly make it out of the laboratory and into the world.
The Convergence Center, a 145,000-square-foot, five-story building located west of Purdue University’s West Lafayette campus, is billed as “Private Industry’s Front Door to Purdue,” says David Broecker, chief innovation and collaboration officer for the Purdue Research Foundation, the non-profit entity that owns the building.

Companies want to collaborate with the university, Broecker says, because that partnership provides access to student talent, engagement with faculty and professors on the leading edge of research, and facilities such as established modern labs and innovation centers. PRF, through its Office of Technology Commercialization, also helps connect researchers with private industry to move inventions and discoveries out of the lab and into the marketplace, while protecting intellectual property with patents and licensing.

But collaboration can be difficult, expensive and time-consuming if a company is not physically located near campus. That’s where Convergence comes in, offering flexible workspace options for established companies, startups — even individuals needing office space away from home.

“We want (Convergence) to be the place where companies and external collaborators meet with their counterparts from Purdue University and PRF to solve problems and address the answer to the question, ‘What keeps you up at night regarding your innovation/business strategy?’” says Broecker. “We want to make it easy for companies and external collaborators to be successful.”

Construction on Convergence, located at 101 Foundry Drive, began in 2018, with the $32 million building opening in January 2020, says Wade Lang, PRF vice president and chief entrepreneurial officer. The building is already home to several PRF entities along with four agriculture and life sciences companies. Improvements continue in the tenant spaces on three of the five floors, and retail space is being developed.

This summer, the 5G Innovation Lab will open in Convergence, providing companies and researchers access to the latest wireless internet technology in a lab setting.

It is the second such lab in Indiana and will allow the private sector and the Purdue community a place to experiment with the cutting-edge technology.

PRF is actively looking for new tenants for Convergence, which is managed by Carr Workplaces, a company based in Washington, D.C. Carr is a national workspace provider that manages brick and mortar office space but also offers such services as mail management and phone answering for those who may work from home but want a professional address and help with administrative chores, says Michelle Mercado, Carr business development associate.

Carr Workplaces provides a step up from traditional co-working spaces in that clients who lease space in Convergence have access to a dedicated phone line, email, fax and binding machines, copiers, shredding and notary services, high-speed wireless internet, and onsite tech support. There is a fully stocked coffee bar and conference rooms with videoconferencing capability and digital white boards for virtual collaboration.

“It’s a beautiful space,” says Mercado. “It has all the bells and whistles, and it’s positioned to be close to the university, but far enough away from campus to be its own entity. We meet people where they are. We ask, ‘What do you need? What tools will help you?’”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have begun rethinking their office needs, Broecker says. While corporate headquarters are shrinking, PRF finds that companies want to expand in strategic locations, often near universities, to tap resources that can meet their innovation and business needs.

“Bayer Crop Science is a great example of this strategy,” Broecker says. “Bayer has relocated three of their employees to create their own ‘innovation hub’ at Convergence that will facilitate interactions with students and faculty, and provide access to the places and spaces they need to be successful. We believe all of these aspects of the Convergence Center make it extremely unique among other leading universities.”

Convergence is ticking all the boxes for Beck’s Superior Hybrids, says Brad Fruth, director of innovation for the family-owned, Indiana-based seed company that operates in 14 states across the corn belt and is the third-largest retail seed brand in America.

“I don’t think a lot of people understand what a treasure the center is,” Fruth says. “Our innovation team knew we needed to increase collaboration with different schools at Purdue. Having an office at Convergence means we have the opportunity to regularly connect with researchers and go to call-outs and make connections. All we had to do was show up and get our key. The Carr staff takes care of all the amenities.”

Headquartered in Atlanta, Indiana, Beck’s opened a Convergence office in summer 2020 and leases dedicated space that allows its innovation team to meet once a week in person, provides an office for team members to land as needed, and gives its intern a place to work. While the space might not be used every day, everything the team needs is available when it is on site.

And being close to Purdue means Beck’s team members are on campus more regularly. Companies have to be proactive about making campus connections, Fruth says, and he is always on the lookout for research and innovation going on at Purdue that can be applied in the real world to benefit Beck’s ultimate client, the American farmer.

While Beck’s is certainly connected with those doing agronomy research at Purdue, the company also is interested in leveraging data analysis, computer science and supply chain management research, Fruth says. His team’s goal is to be on campus regularly and make at least one new Purdue connection each week.

Fruth looks forward to the day, post-pandemic, when travel again becomes a bigger part of the Beck’s business model because the company can use space in other Carr Workplace sites around the country for a single-day meeting or extended conference.

Carr has about 35 sites throughout the United States, the closest being in Chicago, and this perk for anyone who leases from them is particularly useful for businesses doing recruiting or collaborative work, says Mercado, adding that the Carr team can even help with travel arrangements and event planning.

“Flexible lease terms and networking spaces around the country are some of the reasons why we’re (in Convergence),” Fruth says.

Those flexible lease terms are attractive because clients can rent private office suites that will accommodate a team of one to five people, share a private office between a few employees, or lease a dedicated desk in a shared work space that still offers access to all the office equipment and administrative help, says Ethan Kingery, Car’s general manager at Convergence.

Kingery works alongside Chelsea Hulbert, the local Carr community manager, who serves as receptionist and liaison between every tenant and each guest who walks in the door. Hulbert helps with shipping needs, answers phones and supports all the tenants in myriad ways
every day.

“We have a hospitality mindset that you could compare to the quality you would find at a luxury resort,” Kingery says. “We work with every tenant to see how we can support and amplify what they need.” And as a Purdue graduate and former university employee, Kingery has insight into Purdue’s unique culture and can work with Convergence tenants to help them make connections on campus.

While established companies such as Beck’s and Bayer Crop Science find Convergence a good place to land, startups also can lease dedicated or community space and have access to office equipment and administrative support. As an example, Kingery cites an entrepreneur who has leased space for her fledgling apparel company in Convergence and is in the building many evenings and weekends when she’s not working her day job.

“If you need 3,000 square feet or less of office space, we can work with you,” Kingery says.

While most Carr Workplace sites are in large cities and cater to white-collar tenants such as lawyers or lobbyists,

Convergence is unique in that it is the only Carr site near a top research university and attracts more scientists and researchers, says Mercado.

Convergence also plays a distinctive role within the Discovery Park District (DPD), a 400-acre, mixed-use development that broke ground in 2017. PRF, which owns and manages the land west of campus where the district is being developed, is partnering with Indianapolis-based Browning Investments, Inc. on the project.

“Over the next 10 years, we are projecting over $1 billion in development (at the Discovery Park District) comprised of business, research, residential, retail, advanced manufacturing and community spaces that will eventually attract upwards of 25,000 people living, working, playing and learning across the district,” says Broecker.

“With the 50,000+ students, faculty and staff at Purdue, Discovery Park District will become an incredible community in its own right on the campus of a leading research university … and the Convergence Center is the ‘business front door’ to the DPD.” ★

For more information about Carr Workplaces, go to:
carrworkplaces.com/locations/purdue_university/convergence

For more information about the Convergence Center,
go to: discoveryparkdistrict.com/the-convergence-center

BY RADONNA FIORINI
PHOTOS PROVIDED

While much of life slowed or was outright canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, city improvement and development projects continued, and many will come to fruition in 2021. From penguins to new planned neighborhoods, here’s a peek at what’s coming for our communities.

Columbian Park
Lafayette’s Columbian Park continues to be a beehive of activity with new attractions slated to open this spring and summer.

The recently constructed $20 million Loeb Stadium, located at the corner of Main and Wallace streets, will be dedicated at the end of January, says Lafayette Parks and Recreation Marketing Manager Samantha Haville. Some COVID-related delays pushed the project’s completion back a bit, but everything should be ready for Lafayette Jefferson High School’s baseball home opener in the spring.

The original Loeb Stadium, built in the 1940s of concrete, was long the site for Lafayette Jeff’s home games, the Colt World Series, and more recently the summer collegiate baseball team, the Lafayette Aviators, part of the West Division of the Prospect League. The new brick stadium, which will seat 2,600 people when suites and lawn seating opens later this year, is also designed as a multi-use space where concerts and family movie nights will be planned.

“We hope to make a big splash for the first Jeff home game and for the Aviators’ opener in early summer,” says Haville. “And we’re opening it up to community partnerships for a wide variety of events.”

The newest additions to the Columbian Park Zoo are scheduled to arrive before the zoo opens this spring. Nine African penguins will be shipped from California to inhabit the penguin house constructed in 2020. Their arrival was delayed because of travel restrictions, but the hope is that these warm-weather birds will feel at home and be ready for visitors by late April.

Another exciting addition, an updated blast from the past, will be a new carousel. Construction on a permanent building to house this family favorite has begun, located between the zoo and Tropicanoe Cove water park. The carousel will feature hand-carved and painted wooden animals that represent some of those found in the zoo, along with exotic species and traditional horses. Haville says no date has been set for the opening of this much-loved ride.

While some of these new projects will not be fully used until the pandemic is under control, several planned features in Columbian Park will be open for individual use this summer.

Phase three of the Memorial Island project is proceeding apace. A new amphitheater with upgraded sound system is planned. The lagoon was drained last year, and sea walls are being rebuilt. Lots of new elements are being added to make the area accessible for folks with disabilities including boardwalks, new bridges, and ADA fishing nodes that jut out into the lagoon and accommodate a wheelchair, Haville says. The parks department is working with Purdue University and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to choose fish that will be stocked in the refilled lagoon this summer.

“We are most excited about the fact that paddle boats are coming back!” Haville says. “The boats will be located on the south side of the lagoon near the train depot. We hope to have them available
in July.”

Cason Family Park
Keeping with the theme of public parks and outdoor spaces, West Lafayette has several projects in the works, says Erin Easter, director of development for the city.

Cason Family Park is a planned 14-acre prairie-style space being developed in two phases. The park, located on acreage donated by local farmer Lynn Cason at Cumberland Avenue and U.S. 231, is already home to the historic, one-room Morris Schoolhouse. Built in 1879, the school was moved to the property in 2017 and restored so it can be used for educational programs.

Construction on other park elements is slated to begin this year with completion set for 2022. Surrounding the schoolhouse will be outdoor play places, lawns and waterways. There will be picnic pavilions, public restrooms and several trails throughout the acreage.

“This will be a really fun, whimsical place to play that won’t feel forced,” Easter says. “There will be natural playgrounds with climbing rocks, wooden elements and rest areas.”

For bikers and walkers in West Lafayette, a planned 10-foot-wide pathway project will roll out this year. The path will run along Salisbury Street from Kalberer Road to Grant Street and end at Northwestern Avenue. The project will include shifting some traffic lanes and burying utilities, says Easter. Lighting and other amenities will be added during this two-year project, which will provide a safer way for pedestrians to move from the northern side of the city to the Purdue campus.

And the pathway will lead directly to the new Wellness Center just completed in Cumberland Park. This 73,000-square-foot facility houses a pool, gym, walking track, weight equipment and spaces for health classes, Easter says.

“A lot of our parks programming was put on pause in 2020,” she says. “It was difficult not to do those things last year, but we’ll have a beautiful new home (for those programs) when the time is right.” (See story on Page 22)

A New City Hall in West Lafayette

While anticipating summer activities, Easter and other city employees are spending these colder months settling into newly renovated office space at the Sonya L. Marjerum City Hall, formerly the Morton Community Center. Remodeling of the historic building began in 2019 and was largely completed in December when city workers began moving in.

The city offices have moved around for several years, but the more than $15 million renovations should allow the building on Chauncey Avenue to be a permanent home, says Easter. The name of the building was changed to honor the late Sonya Marjerum who served as West Lafayette mayor for 24 years.

“We moved into the building exactly two years to the date that construction began,” she says. “There are so many advantages to this space now. It’s ADA compliant and accessible. Four-fifths of the building space will be focused on parks or city programming and available to the community. And the new City Council chambers will serve as a true home for (the council’s) work. Before there was a sense of impermanence, but we hope this will be our final and forever home.”

City Hall’s first floor now has community space including two dance studios that can also host art programming and other activities. The first floor also houses the City Council chambers and other meeting space. The second floor is home to city staff including the mayor’s office, parks department, clerk’s office and other departments. A customer service desk is centrally located so visitors can easily get the help they need, Easter notes.

And additional community projects are planned between City Hall and the West Lafayette Public Library. Three public spaces will be added that include art pieces that also can serve as road barriers to temporarily block streets for festivals and large gatherings.

Lafayette projects

Lafayette also is completing some downtown projects and making plans for a new 70,000-square-foot public safety building and parking garage. The first public hearing concerning the facility design was held December 16, and the city hopes to begin construction this year with completion planned in 2023, says Lafayette Economic Development Director Dennis Carson.

The facility, which will be on property just east of City Hall at Sixth and Columbia streets, will house the police department and provide parking for city employees plus extra public parking spaces. The multi-story building will include open plazas for public use and be an asset to downtown living, Carson says.

Several Lafayette streetscape projects wrapped up in 2020 that have made downtown more pedestrian friendly and encouraged both investors and shoppers to see the businesses along Main Street as desired destinations. Paying attention to historic preservation and making the area more consumer friendly has paid off.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback and people say being downtown is now a better experience, in a safer environment that is more interactive,” says Carson. “We’ve encouraged outdoor dining, which has been so important during the pandemic, and we have more retail than we’ve had in decades.”

While the growth of brick and mortar stores is a surprise in this age of on-line shopping, Carson says there are more clothing and other retail stores downtown than have been seen in years. That trend shows that the investment in improving sidewalks, installing public art, and focusing on local businesses has paid off as people feel more comfortable lingering and shopping downtown.

“We’re very excited about it,” he says. “It’s a testament that people like to experience things (in person). We know it’s been challenging for some of these shops but we think they’ll hold up and do really well when things open up again.”

Provenance

Perhaps the biggest project coming to Tippecanoe County is back across the river on the west side of the Purdue campus. As part of the Discovery Park District, the city of West Lafayette, Purdue Research Foundation and Old Town Design Group from Indianapolis have launched a planned housing development called Provenance.

Work has begun on apartments at the southwest corner of State Street and Airport Road to be followed by condominiums, town homes and single family homes, says West Lafayette’s Easter, adding that commercial and retail spaces are also part of the mix.

According to information from Old Town Design Group, this multiphase project will eventually include walking paths that connect to nearby parks, golf courses, shops and restaurants. The development includes lots for 56 single-family homes and 30 townhomes.

So grab your mask and take a drive around our communities to see the changes coming. While it feels as if our lives are shrinking, there are brighter days ahead with much to celebrate. ★

BY JANE MCLAUGHLIN ANDERSON
MELISSA MORRIS PHOTOGRAPHY

As we happily flip over the calendar to 2021, discover a new place to pursue wellness for mind, body and spirit in Greater Lafayette. The West Lafayette Wellness Center opened in early January, just in time to pursue your New Year’s resolutions. Located in Cumberland Park on the north side of West Lafayette, it is open to everyone, regardless of residence. A recreation and indoor aquatic facility has been on the city’s bucket list for more than 30 years; the timing couldn’t be better to build a holistic center for health. The Wellness Center has something
for everybody.

Wellness Center Director Kevin Noe says, “This is much more than a gym or a fitness center; we are growing a community and building relationships with a wholesome family atmosphere. You can bring your kids in and drop them off at the Clubhouse while you take a class. You can work out while your kids are at basketball practice.” Having the space to create new programs and room to grow is exciting for the West Lafayette Parks Department, which most recently operated out of the former Happy Hollow Elementary School building.

The 7,300-square-foot fitness floor includes a full line-up of strength training and cardio equipment with a view. Wrap-around windows overlook the park, outdoor playground, pond and the adjacent Michaud-Sinninger Nature Preserve, teeming with wildlife. Inviting nature to indoor and outdoor activities sparks energy and wellness, reduces stress and gives people a place to connect with others the old-fashioned way – in person.

The large hybrid pool can accommodate swimmers of all abilities. There are three different ways to enter the pool: zero depth with water features for children, traditional stairs, and a wheelchair lift. The indoor aquatic facility features four lap lanes and areas for swim lessons and group exercise. There’s even a vortex section to walk with or against the current. Dive-In Movies in the pool area are just one of the fun programs in store. Parks Superintendent Kathy Lozano says, “Swimming is a lifelong exercise and something you can do well into your 80s or 90s.”

Like to play games? Great! There are plenty of opportunities to play sports in the two wooden floor basketball-sized gyms or the multi-purpose gym striped for pickleball. A four-lane running/walking track overlooks the gymnasium and is a great way to keep moving in the winter. If you like exercising in a group atmosphere, the Wellness Center has three studios for classes. The Wellness Center will hold youth and adult sports programs and summer camps in this space, but they are not included in the membership fee.

Membership includes unlimited use of the pool, open gym, strength and cardio equipment, indoor walking track, group exercise and wellness classes, and childcare while you work out. Members receive discounts on swim lessons and personal training, along with special member-only activities. Membership is open to everyone; however, households who pay West Lafayette property taxes and active military are exempt from the joiner’s fee.

Non-residents pay the one-time fee in addition to their membership package. No contracts are required, and members may put their accounts on hold for three months a year if needed. A variety of individual and family memberships are available, as well as daily passes. See the website for details, wl.in.gov/parks, or stop by the Wellness Center at 1101 Kalberer Rd., West Lafayette.
Integrating the Wellness Center within Cumberland Park provides opportunities to commune with nature and increase well-being. A marked 5K trail weaves around the grounds of the building and through the park. Eventually, the trail will lead to the new Margerum Government and Community Center.
In its very definition, recreation is the refreshment of one’s mind or body after work through an activity that amuses or stimulates; play. The Well-

ness Center is a prescription for attaining that refreshment.
“The Wellness Center has something for every health seeker,” says Wellness Coordinator Rachel MacDougall. “It’s no secret that exercise has many benefits. The Wellness Center will be a great tool for the community to focus on physical, mental and emotional health and well-being.”
Community rooms can be rented for meetings or gatherings with a nearby warming kitchen available. There’s even a party room by the pool to host children’s birthday parties. DogStudio is commissioned to create an interactive motion-sensing art piece in the lobby guaranteed to captivate and emotionally engage visitors. Check out West Lafayette Parks’ Facebook page for dynamic news, photos and videos of the Wellness Center and all parks and recreation activities. ★

“The Wellness Center will be a great tool for the community to focus on physical, mental and emotional health and well-being.”

BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY GREATER LAFAYETTE COMMERCE

When you think of Greater Lafayette, what comes to mind?
A growing startup culture and world-class manufacturing?
Accessible arts and recreation for varied interests? Friendly
neighbors and excellent public schools?

For the members of the Greater Lafayette Marketing Coalition (GLMC), these qualities and more boil down to this core message, which marketing professionals call a brand promise:
“Greater Lafayette is where progress, creativity and community thrive, so you can live expansively.”

More than two years in the making, the unmasking of the brand — unveiled in the Long Center in October to dispersed guests sporting an assortment of understated and glittered masks — includes new social media accounts, a video, a set of Greater Lafayette logos and a fresh website in a saturated palette of purple, green, orange, blue and teal. The stories that the visuals and the text tell are all designed to send the message that Greater Lafayette is not just a place that we come to; it’s a place where we want to stay.

Roots in the GE deal

Greater Lafayette’s brand is rooted in part in lessons learned from a major business development deal.
“We continue to hear stories of people who came here and thought they would stay for a while, but they never left,” says Cindy Murray, Lafayette city clerk. “When we were going through the process to bring in GE, what they used to choose our community, it really began to hit home that we needed to market ourselves to compete in a global economy for global talent.”
When the GE plant was built, she says, corporate officials stayed at the Holiday Inn Lafayette-City Centre and participated in a community scavenger hunt. Afterwards, the visitors met with Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski and remarked that they didn’t know the region had so much to offer. Murray says that the mayor and his staff realized that they needed to tell the Greater Lafayette story in an entirely new way. “It’s all about people, the quality of life for people that makes them give Greater Lafayette a chance,” she explains.

A phased process

In May 2018, Greater Lafayette officials invited firms to bid on developing a comprehensive strategy. Ultimately, they chose Ologie, a firm that has worked with Purdue University in the past.

“They are a true branding agency who helps companies with clear, compelling and consistent strategy,” says Emily Blue, senior manager of brand, advertising and sponsorships at Purdue, who has been intimately involved in Greater Lafayette’s branding process.

The firm completed a deep dive with both qualitative and quantitative research, including an audit of economic development plans and communications materials, discussion groups and interviews with key stakeholders, and an online survey of the community. Among the constituents queried: corporations, businesses, K-12 schools and higher education, community and nonprofit organizations and government organizations.

Strategy and creative

The Greater Lafayette Marketing Coalition formed in February 2019, bringing together representatives from the City of Lafayette, the City of West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Visit Lafayette-West Lafayette, Purdue University, the Purdue Research Foundation and Greater Lafayette Commerce. One of the group’s first decisions was to ask member organization Greater Lafayette Commerce to coordinate the project and brand management for the coalition. Greater Lafayette Commerce promoted its marketing director, Michelle Brantley, to the role of project leader and brand manager.

Once the discovery process was complete, it was time for phase two, strategy. Against the backdrop of its research report, and with GLMC in a collaborative role, the firm identified key audiences, outlined key messages and defined a brand personality — how that messaging should look, feel and sound.

As phase three, the creative, began, GLMC again engaged in a competitive process, choosing Toledo, Ohio-based Madhouse Creative for the video, and homegrown advertising firm Dearing Group for website development. Officials also began training a small group of Lafayette business professionals, executive directors and community leaders — “An ambassador group to generate excitement,” says David Byers, Tippecanoe County commissioner.

A community on the rise

Collectively, the identity is designed to meet three main goals: increasing the talent pool by retaining and attracting a citizen workforce; spurring economic growth by attracting business investments and elevating quality of life; and increasing positive perceptions of the Greater Lafayette region. All of that can be summed up in the nearly five-minute video, starring a former NBA dancer and her husband.

“We were challenged to tell our story as a community on the rise in an exciting way,” says Brantley. “We’re focused on prospective employees, businesses and others that we are seeking to attract to our area.” That required several messages, borne out of the constituent research: what kinds of value-addeds transplants get when they relocate here, how Greater Lafayette often exceeds newcomers’ expectations, and why the region is a great place to do business.

All that, and they were shooting during a pandemic.

True fiction

After crafting a narrative, the Madhouse Creative team decided to cast a couple living in the same household so that they could shoot up close and still adhere to infection control protocols. Strategic camera angles allowed the two main characters to be shot in view of others while socially distanced from them. Filmed in August, many of the scenes take place outside.

The main character, an advanced manufacturing professional from a big city, interviews with several local companies before joining the crew at Subaru. While out running one day at the Celery Bog, she meets an agricultural tech entrepreneur. From dates at the Bryant, to bike rides, to a city hall wedding and walks with a baby stroller, we see the couple meet, fall in love — with each other and the community — and set down roots here.

Even in its fiction, the story should ring true to those who are familiar with Greater Lafayette, from the many familiar sights and sounds to the feelings that it evokes. As the protagonist muses, “When I moved here, I was looking for change. But what I found was home. This is the rich, full life I’ve always wanted. Each of us, every single person in our community, is what makes this place… greater.”

The Greater Lafayette Brand Launch Event

Un-Masking the Greater Lafayette Brand

PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV

The Greater Lafayette Marketing Coalition held a scaled back brand launch event on Monday, Oct. 26, hosting a group of elected officials, corporate,
university and civic leaders, and brand ambassadors.

The event was planned in two parts to disperse guests and maintain COVID-19 protocol. GLMC partnered with restaurants and The Long Center for Performing Arts to provide a safe and entertaining brand premier event. Guests were asked to select their restaurant of choice and enjoy a four-course meal before the premier. Mixing and mingling at the restaurants was discouraged. Each venue was unique, providing guests with live entertainment and surprise swag bag deliveries during the dinner party experience.

After dinner, guests made their way to the Long Center for the brand premier, where they were treated to a red-carpet experience complete with a Greater Lafayette Walk of Fame. Again, mixing and mingling was minimized and guests were directed to their socially distanced seats. The program began with a dazzling performance of the Greater Lafayette brand narrative by Dance Dynamics. It was followed by short segments that revealed the elements of the new brand, including brand colors and logos, Greater Lafayette Magazine, the website and brand video.

We encourage readers to view the video at www.greaterlafayetteind.com,
the home page of the Greater Lafayette website.

Long Center for the Performing Arts
A quiet Long Center for the Performing Arts prior to guests arrival.

BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS

PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV (PAGES 11-17)

A longing for connection in a historic downtown. A desire to share a passion for the arts. The lure of a 19th century family homestead. From urban to rural, and from long-established to brand new, every small business in Greater Lafayette has a uniquely personal reason for putting down roots here. Here are the origin stories for five of them. 

Mad Love Boutique

210 N. Sixth St., Lafayette

store.madlovebb.com

Stephanie and Chris Deckard, owners of Velvet Lotus Photography, lived on Perrin Avenue for nine years before moving to a westside subdivision. “We immediately felt so detached, even with our studio still in town,” Stephanie says. 

Relocating their business from Kossuth Street to the heart of the city, the couple settled into their new digs. Then Stephanie had a brainstorm. “Having clothing to style my clients in felt like a natural shift, without being so overwhelming that I couldn’t work my photography as well,” she says. 

Nearly two years ago, Mad Love Boutique opened next door to the photography studio. In a space that the couple renovated themselves, Stephanie sells women’s clothing, jewelry and accessories among antique furnishings. 

Her favorite offerings: jewelry by Autumn Rose Designs, a mother-daughter team based in Greater Lafayette, and Hiptipico luxury bags, handmade in Guatemala. “All of the textiles and bags are made by female artisans, and that makes my heart happy,” she says. “I’m a proud supporter of BLM, LGBTQ+ and women’s rights.”

When businesses shut down in March because of COVID-19, the couple quickly moved all their inventory online. Chris took photos of Stephanie modeling the clothes, which range in size from extra small to 3XL.

Now that the store has started to reopen, Stephanie says she looks forward to expanding her hours again and seeing some familiar faces. “I love to talk, so if you come in to shop, you can expect a conversation,” she says. 

Wea Creek Orchard

5618 S. 200 East, Lafayette

weacreekorchard.com

Perry Kirkham and his brother were both working in Washington, D.C., when, in 2007, they each relocated to Indiana around the same time. While they got settled, the brothers lived on the family homestead. 

The farmland surrounding the house had been in their family since 1855, and they wanted to continue its agricultural legacy. But, “the fences here had been taken down and we no longer had access to any conventional farming equipment,” Kirkham says. 

“We discussed various options and landed on fruit trees. We formed the orchard in January of 2008, planted 400 fruit trees in April of 2008 and here we are!”

Co-owned by Kirkham and his wife, Lisa, Wea Creek Orchard is located on Lafayette’s south side and sells 19 varieties of apples, four varieties of peaches, and pumpkins. “I like the Akane apples the best,” Kirkham says. “It is a wonderful combination of sweet and tart and is full of flavor.” 

Inside the store are also jellies, preserves, salsas, butters and honey, along with succulents, hanging baskets and sunflowers. The orchard also hosts weddings, on average 27 a year, in the 1869-era barn. School kids also come on field trips. 

“We decided long ago we would never charge to come on the farm, so theoretically anyone can visit and enjoy the property without spending a dime,” Kirkham says. 

“Of course, we hope they don’t.”

Inspired Fire Glass Studio and Gallery 

2124 SR 25, Lafayette

inspiredfire.com

Sharon Owens, a Lafayette native and Indiana University art graduate, fell in love with glassmaking while taking a flame-working class at Purdue University in 1979. After studying the art around the United States and in Europe, she opened Inspired Fire Glass Studio and Gallery in 2002 to share her passion with her hometown.

Her shop, two miles off US 231 on the edge of Shadeland, promotes more than 30 local artists and provides a place for them to work and teach flame-working, fusing and furnace glass blowing to the Greater Lafayette community. Beginner and advanced classes are available, as well as field trips and custom parties. Due to the pandemic, the shop is open for limited hours. A gallery dog, Zing Zang, greets shoppers at the door. 

Since opening in 2002, the Inspired Fire building has undergone several remodels and expansions, including a recent upgrade to the façade and the addition of viewing windows in the gallery so that shoppers can watch artists at work. 

Owens’ personal specialty is crafting vibrantly colored vessels with techniques such as hand-pulled murrini, the making of patterns using long rods of glass that are cut into cross sections. “I draw inspiration from nature, and the glass vessels and jewelry I create are colorful interpretations of transparency and opacity swimming within layers of joy,” she says. 

Blooms and Petals Fresh Flowers & Event Concepts

848 Main St., Lafayette

bloomsandpetals.net

East Chicago, Indiana, native Paula Eve Davis came to Tippecanoe County for college, eventually settling down here with her husband. “I really felt that it was a great area to raise a family, and there were plenty of opportunities. I still feel that way,” says Davis, a master designer, certified balloon artist and founder of Blooms and Petals Fresh Flowers & Event Concepts. 

The Purdue University graduate began her floral career more than 20 years ago, growing and selling flowers at the Lafayette Farmers Market and craft shows. Then she branched out to weddings and proms. “I had flowers all over my home, and eventually my husband decided I needed a retail flower shop,” Davis recalls. “He secretly found the space and leased it. For our wedding anniversary, he brought me the keys to my new shop.”

Davis’ store makes fresh arrangements using flowers from all over the world. “We like dealing directly with our growers to get the most variety and the freshest product,” says Davis, whose business is 70 percent retail and 30 percent event florals. Among her favorite events are celebrations of life and funeral floral tributes. 

This spring, during the height of the shutdown, Davis founded the Good Samaritan Project to repurpose flowers she had preordered for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and prom. She donated bouquets and gift baskets to police departments, fire departments and nursing homes. 

Escape Velocity Brewing Company

405 Sagamore Parkway South, Lafayette

escapevelocitybrewing.com

Jason Behenna began homebrewing in 2007, and by 2015 he was winning awards. When his Irish Stout won Best in Show at the Indiana Brewers Cup in 2016, he and his wife, Heather Howard, began exploring the idea of their own brewery. 

More than two years after moving back to Lafayette, the Purdue grads found a suitable space. As they were readying to launch in March, COVID-19 grounded non-essential businesses. “We have impeccable timing,” Behenna says. 

After starting curbside pickup in April, the couple, along with managing partner Colin Jelliffe, finally opened their tap room doors in May.

Escape Velocity Brewing Company has a five-barrel Blichmann Engineering brewing system, which can produce around 200 gallons. Within the colorful, space-themed environment, patrons can choose from a variety of beers whose names are all space- or rocket-related. 

Their bestselling beer is the Drogue Chute IPA. Another favorite is Behenna’s award-winning Magnificent Desolation Dry Irish Stout. The all vegetarian/vegan menu includes curried chickpea salad on sourdough bread and grilled cheese with either Irish cheddar, pepper jack or Chao vegan cheese. 

It goes without saying that starting a new business during a pandemic is hard. But while Behenna continues to build a following, he hopes locals will support not only him but also his fellow restaurateurs and brewers.

“The pandemic is really hurting the industry, and local support is the only thing that will ensure there are restaurants and breweries to continue … for years to come,” he says.

BY CINDY GERLACH

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY VISIT LAFAYETTE – WEST LAFAYETTE

If someone had suggested 15 or 20 years ago that you take a drive down Wabash Avenue, that suggestion may have been met with hesitation — apprehension, even. 

And a suggestion to view the art? Laughable. 

Today, what was formerly a hidden neighborhood, a sort of secret enclave of life along the Wabash River, is now a bright spot. And much of the credit goes to Wabash Walls. 

This public art installation, a series of murals painted on the sides of buildings both residential and commercial, has breathed new life into this decades-old neighborhood, often considered on the fringe of Lafayette society. 

The project got started back in 2016 and 2017, says Tetia Lee, executive director of the Tippecanoe Arts Federation and one of the curators of Wabash Walls. 

“At the time, as an artist myself, I’m always looking around,” Lee says. “When I see a beautiful wall, I think a mural would look great there.”

Lee was struck by a retaining wall along Second Avenue; the wheels of inspiration started turning. She ran into Margy Deverall with the City of Lafayette at a Neighborhood Beautification Coalition meeting. She threw the idea at Deverall: Let’s do a mural festival.

“It was all very organic,” says Lee. “We were both ready to take a bigger next step.”

And, as they say, from small things, big things come. The conversation began to draw in others — Stephanie Bible with Habitat for Humanity, artist Cameron Moberg, and Dennis Carson with the City of Lafayette. A proposal was put together, and initial funding provided $50,000 for a project that would be transformative, uplifting and engaging.

The result is a project that has indeed reinvigorated and re-branded the neighborhood. Lee has seen buy-in from not just the artists, but from local businesses – Cargill Inc. came on early as a sponsor — and neighbors. Everyone has delighted in watching the neighborhood come alive with color. 

Wabash Avenue has long been considered a marginalized area. The working-class neighborhood, often referred to as the “lower part” of town, is a stronghold of a bygone era. And its reputation has suffered over the past several decades.

It’s a bad rap that seems undeserved, as a current drive through the area reveals tidy houses with well-kept lawns and a diverse population, with younger people gravitating there to live and work. Not to mention a neighborhood spirit that is evident.

“The most important part is that we established a trust with a neighborhood that is marginalized and over promised,” Lee says.

The Wabash Avenue residents were quick to get on board with the project. Early on, Lee says, they opened their doors, inviting her in as the early stages of the feasibility study kicked off. 

“They became the vital and most-important part of informing the neighborhood study,” Lee says. “That really demonstrates trust between the city and the neighborhood.”

People who live there can see the charm that others might not. And the murals helped highlight the beauty hovering at the surface.

“They got excited about having artwork in their neighborhood,” Lee says. And about the influx of visitors, as the artists and those who want to view the art descended on their once hidden part of town. 

“That’s the real reason it’s been so successful,” Lee says. 

Trent O’Brien and his wife, April, run Sacred Ground Coffee House. Like most of the neighborhood, they have seen nothing but positives come out of Wabash Walls. 

“It was definitely a really good thing,” O’Brien says. “The whole area has changed.”

O’Brien has seen people getting more involved in the neighborhood, becoming more welcoming. Last year, Sacred Grounds helped host a neighborhood Harvest Festival. Years ago, maybe a handful of people would have shown up, but this 2019 festival brought out hundreds of people.

“This never would have happened 15 years ago,” O’Brien says. “I do believe the art has helped.”

This opening up of the neighborhood, this newfound sense of community is a credit to the art and the artists, he says. 

“It brought people here who were out to see the art,” O’Brien says. “It has been very positive.”

In 2018, 10 murals were painted in the neighborhood; 2019 saw 11 more added. Artists featured were from all over — not just the United States, but from as far away as Australia. The onset of COVID-19 delayed the progress for 2020, but the project will expand to areas around the avenue, including crosswalk art to encourage more pedestrian-friendly zones. 

Funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and Indiana Department of Health have helped the project continue for a third year. 

The fun and funky murals are a boon for the neighborhood, providing beauty, conversation and a real sense of shared identity. Visitors have come from all over the city, the county, even the state, anxious to check out the project. 

But the real benefits are more far-reaching. Lee says they’ve seen property values increase as the art has helped improve the area, making it a better, healthier place for residents to live and interact with one another. Once-abandoned buildings have been reclaimed and now feature murals. The micro-economy in the neighborhood has improved as the area has rebranded. It’s a huge improvement in the quality of life. 

Working with the neighbors, watching the project come to life has been an amazing process, says Lee.

“Wabash Walls continues to be a highlight to my career,” she says. “I could not have asked for a better neighborhood to work in. They treat me like family. I’m an honorary resident — I love it.”

Because at the end of the day, it’s truly about people.

It’s about the artists who have spent time in the neighborhood, sharing their stories with folks who would stop to watch the work and visit for a bit. It’s about the residents who have opened their arms, welcoming and embracing both the artists and the patrons who come to see the art. It’s about businesses that have come alive and welcomed the partnership of the artists, encouraging the camaraderie among all involved.

It’s the story, Lee says, of the transformative power of art.

“More than ever, we are turning to the arts to remind us that we’re human.”

BY KEN THOMPSON

PHOTO BY CHRISTINE PETKOV

In a region that has more than its share of locally owned restaurants competing with national chains, it should be no surprise that Greater Lafayette has a mixture of long-time favorite donut shops, two others on the way to earning that status and a newcomer that is growing its clientele.

Mary Lou Donuts

Mary Lou Donuts opened for business in 1961, but the only thing about it that feels close to its age is its mid-century modern A-frame building on South Fourth Street.

That’s because owner Jeff Waldon is always thinking about the future while making the most of the present. What did Waldon see when he purchased Mary Lou’s in 2017?

“That it could be bigger than that little A-frame on Fourth Street,” says Waldon, a former teacher and Lafayette Jeff girls basketball coach. “The people who came before me – Mary Lou Graves, Keith Cochran and especially Brian Freed, who spent 37 years of his life there – 27 years as owner, 10 as a worker. They made that place. All we needed to do was not screw that up.”

Waldon and his son, Courtney, made sure of that by sticking to what makes Mary Lou’s so popular. They make their own glaze, whipped cream filling and icing. 

“It’s a fresher product,” Waldon says. “The more you can make it like home-made, the better it’s going to be.”

COVID-19 affected Mary Lou’s like it has virtually every business in the United States. Closing time is now at 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Mary Lou’s is closed Sundays, and that will remain in effect even when the pandemic guidelines are rolled back.

Mary Lou’s counter remains closed but the drive-thru is doing good business. Even the regulars have found a way to enjoy their coffee and donuts.

“I used to have a 9 o’clock group, a 10:30 group and I had my 1 o’clock guys, motorcycle riders who would come by and eat every day,” Waldon says. “My 4 o’clock group that was there until we closed, and we usually had to kick them out at 5, now some of those people are coming in the morning and sitting in their lawn chairs in the parking lot.”

One of Waldon’s innovations – the food truck – also has been mostly sidelined by COVID-19. The good news is he’s getting ready to roll it back out this fall in smaller communities.

When the food truck hits the road, demand will be high for Mary Lou’s apple fritter.

“It’s the best one ever, anywhere,” Waldon says. “No one makes one like it anywhere.”

Like elsewhere across the country, the glazed yeast donut is popular. So is Mary Lou’s blueberry cake donut. Waldon looks forward to when he can reopen the front doors so he can sell more iced sugar cookies and cut-out iced cookies. Waldon boasts of having sold 15,000 cut-out cookies at Christmas.

“We just started doing blueberry muffins, chocolate, chocolate chip and banana nut chocolate chip,” he says. “Not everybody loves donuts and when you get something for the family, we want to make sure everybody gets something.”

Mary Lou’s will get a boost when the Big Ten Network airs its third season of “Campus Eats.” The production team spent the weekend of Sept. 12 at Mary Lou’s.

If Waldon gets the chance, here’s the message he’d like to send to Big Ten country.

“Wherever you came from, you probably had a favorite donut. And if it’s unfortunate enough to have been one of the big chain donuts, you really missed out. If you have a favorite hometown donut, you are going to go to (Mary Lou’s) and you’re going to forget about all those other places. The thing about our product—and I hear it over and over and over again—is that people will say I’ve never had another donut like this anywhere. The taste, the texture, the size of donut I get, the quality and the price, it’s ridiculous.”

O’Rear’s

This mainstay of downtown Lafayette has been around since the 1920s when William O’Rear opened the bakery. O’Rear’s moved to its current location, 312 N. Ninth St., in 1957.

Greg and Judy Lintner have owned O’Rear’s since 2005, coming from a family that owned a bakery in Rensselaer for 47 years.

“When we came from Rensselaer … we were more of a breakfast roll and cake bakery but we did everything: cookies, brownies, pies,” Greg Lintner says. “You name it, we did it, just like here. The only difference is we do a few rolls compared to a ton of rolls we did in Rensselaer. We are more of a pastry shop with all our cookies, cupcakes and brownies. I like it a lot better.”

Lintner admits that competing with the likes of Mary Lou and Corlew Donuts is difficult since donuts are “90-some percent of their business.”

“Whereas when you come in here you see just a few pans of donuts we make,” he says. “Sometimes what’s so frustrating is you make six or seven pans and sell three. The next day you sell them out and customers ask where are your donuts.

“My mother and father told me from the get-go when I first got into the business, if you can figure out the American public, you have done something that we have not done yet. You don’t know from one day to the next who is coming through that door.”

When customers do come in to O’Rear’s, they ask for pastries, cupcakes, cut-out cookies and regular cookies. Two big sellers are the butter stars and tea cookies.

“Judy makes those two or three times a week,” Lintner says. “She’ll always tell me, ‘You’re not going to believe this but we have to make tea cookies again.’ Just to show you the difference between Rensselaer and here: the red star cookies that we do are a staple here. In Rensselaer, it was strictly a holiday cookie. 

In addition to closing six days a week at 1 p.m. (O’Rear’s is closed on Mondays), COVID-19 has affected business. With the churches being closed in the early days of the pandemic due to Indiana’s stay-at-home mandate, Sundays were no longer one of O’Rear’s most profitable days. 

But a couple of positives did come out of the COVID-19 regulations. 

“Since coming back now, our cakes are even fresher than they used to be,” Lintner says. “Now we make smaller batches, so they are even fresher and more moist.”

O’Rear’s also changed the way it displays its baked goods. 

“One good thing that’s immensely helped is everything is now packaged,” Lintner explains. “Whereas before people almost frowned on the fact that it was packaged. They wanted it from the pan, open aired. Now our shelf life has doubled or tripled because it stays fresher longer.”

Hammer Donuts

The West Lafayette bakery gets the word out to Purdue University students and the public about its product mostly through social media platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Owner Michael Cho, who started working at Hammer Donuts as a manager, says marketing was a lot easier before COVID-19 sent most of his clientele packing from Purdue housing.

“We lost a few orders due to the impact of this pandemic. We used to have weekly standing orders from a few churches and wedding orders from time to time. However, we are fortunate that we still have the order from Circle K convenience stores, which can keep our business running,” he says. 

The seven Circle K Stores in West Lafayette are now the only places to buy Hammer donuts. The pandemic forced Hammer to alter its sales from retail to a store-to-store business.

Cho believes in the potential for Hammer Donuts’ growth, so much so that he says he decided to take a risk and take over when the previous owner, a partner of Discount Den, was selling it.

Popular items include filled donuts, glazed yeast donuts and cereal topping donuts.

“We are a local business and we try our best to keep everything local,” Cho says. “Our employees are mostly Purdue students. Almost all of them are inexperienced and for many of them, this was their first job. We taught and trained them how to make donuts from scratch.

“We often support student events by donating free donuts. We are a new and growing company, but we are always trying our best to give back to our community.”

Mama Ines Mexican Bakery

Rosa Cornejo is one of 10 children raised by Maria Ines Cornejo in the small village of Salazares Tlatenango in Zacatecas, Mexico.

There, Rosa Cornejo developed her personal philosophy of “everyone else’s ‘can’t’ is my “I can.’”

After moving to Lafayette and establishing herself in the community, Cornejo likely heard people saying “she can’t” when opening the bakery named after her mother. 

What those doubters didn’t realize was that the decision to open a bakery was not made lightly. Rosa and her sister, Livier Alvarez, saw many Mexican restaurants in Greater Lafayette but not many bakers that were serving Mexican bread. That’s as much a staple in the Latino diet as donuts are to Americans.

From a modest beginning, a 1,000-square-foot location on Greenbush Street and Sagamore Parkway, Mama Ines made the big leap into an 11,000-square-foot building in 2014, once occupied by Ryan’s Grill, Buffet and Bakery.

Mama Ines’ authentic holiday Mexican fare of Day of the Dead bread and Sugar Skulls drew attention from the PBS show “A Few Great Bakeries” in 2015. In 2016, Cornejo was cited by the state of Indiana as the Latino Business Owner of the Year.

In addition to Mexican Sweet Bread, the bakery’s most popular items are tamales and burritos, cakes, flan and specialty desserts, cookies, fresh fruit and vegetable juices. Mama Ines also is proud of its wedding cakes, made with only fresh, all-natural ingredients.

Corlew Donut Co.

The apple fritter is also a popular item on the menu at Corlew Donut Co., which has been in business since 1999.

Debbie and Tom Corlew were among the first to see the potential for business along what is now Veterans Memorial Parkway. They’ve been rewarded with a loyal following that indulges in cinnamon rolls, tiger tails, cream-filled bismarcks and blueberry cake donuts.

Corlew Donut Co. is open Tuesday through Sunday from 5 to 11 a.m.

BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS

Street food in the United States dates back to the late 17th century, when vendors in East Coast cities began selling meals from carts and street kitchens. In the ensuing 300-plus years, food-truck offerings have grown from 19th century chuckwagons to 20th century ice cream trucks and hot dog carts and now to 21st century gourmet restaurants on wheels. 

Today, in towns like Greater Lafayette, a growing number of food trucks can satisfy all but the pickiest of eaters. Here, we feature six vendors along with a more comprehensive list for your culinary journey. Check each website for details.

EMT Food Truck

emtfoodtruck.com

Amber Davis grew up during what she calls the “quick food era, where most of what we consumed involved cans of cream of … boxes or jars of … frozen microwaveable things … powdery mixes of who knows what.” Thankfully, she learned where food really came from by picking vegetables and collecting eggs at her grandmother’s rural home. Now, since 2012, Davis’ EMT (Emergency Munchie Technicians) Food Truck has tended to locals’ homegrown food needs with gourmet vegetarian and vegan menu items, including salads, waffle sandwiches and lemonades crafted from homemade simple syrup and fresh pureed fruit. If you want to kick it up a notch, try the Mac Nugget Poppers, dusted in panko crumbs and fried. “I think mac and cheese is something everyone can get down with,” Davis says. Some menu items are gluten-free. Visit the truck at the West Lafayette Farmers Market, Brokerage Brewing Company and various Greater Lafayette neighborhoods.

Famous Frank’s

facebook.com/famousfranksPU

On most Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights during Purdue University’s academic year, around the corner from the line at Harry’s Chocolate Shop, you’ll find hungry college students waiting to feast on triple-layered grilled cheese, wonton wraps and other fried goodies that pair well with beer. Begun in 1995 as a push-cart business, Famous Frank’s first sold hot dogs, Polish sausages and Bratwurst outside the original Von’s Comic Book Shop. By 2005, owner Frank Farmer had acquired his first food truck, equipped with a fryer for expanding his offerings. Later, while cooking for hungry college men at a local fraternity, Farmer created his own version of Fat Sandwiches, which he describes as “some sort of concoction of mozzarella sticks, fries, steak and sauces all on a hoagie.” For people wanting a gluten-free and vegan option, Frank’s sells falafel wraps from a local restaurant.

The Guac Box

facebook.com/guacbox765  |  wherestheguac.com

Avocadoes seem to be one of those foods that you either love or hate. But even if you’re firmly entrenched in the latter group, you should find plenty to savor at the Guac Box. It’s owned by chef Matt Bestich, who tested his recipes at a Purdue fraternity before purchasing a truck “fully loaded and ready to go” in 2018. Bestich’s truck specializes in modern Tex-Mex tacos named after friends and family, including the Kelly, a taco with creamy queso and crispy shoestring potatoes, and the Nick, with street corn, cotija cheese and guac. All tacos can be made gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan; the chips – which you can get with hand-smashed guacamole – are made from gluten-free corn tortillas. Currently, the truck parks regularly at Brokerage Brewing Company and has been visiting local neighborhoods during the pandemic. “Food trucks are the original curbside service,” Bestich says. 

Gypsy Joe Coffee Shop

facebook.com/gypsyjoecoffeeshop  |  instagram.com/gypsyjoecoffeeshop

Working in a coffee shop years ago, Ashley Huff dreamed of opening up her own place where she could serve brewed drinks with a side of positivity. In 2019, when a deal fell through on a building she had her eye on, Huff decided to take her idea mobile. The aptly named Gypsy Joe Coffee Shop sells brewed coffee, lattes, chai tea, lemonade and freshly brewed iced tea. Sugar-free syrups and non-dairy milks such as soy and almond also are available. Unlike most coffeehouse social media accounts, Huff doesn’t post much about coffee at all, preferring instead to infuse her followers’ feeds with words and photos of affirmation. “You will find daily posts from my heart, so if I can’t reach you with coffee, I hope at least that starts your day off right,” she says. For some joe to go, visit her regularly on State Road 43 just outside Battle Ground.

Puritan Coney Island Express 

facebook.com/puritanconeyislandexpress

Gary Dowell has loved coney dogs since he was a child. Back then, while riding shotgun in his dad’s fuel truck, Dowell would disembark downtown at Lou’s Puritan Coney Island to pick up lunch while his father drove around the block. Later, when he was working at a local gravel pit, Dowell spent his winter months helping out at Main Street Coney, which had acquired the Puritan recipe. When that establishment closed, the owner gave Dowell the recipe for the savory sauce made of hamburger and several spices, which he used to open a food truck business in 2019. A café at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana followed in 2020. While coney dogs made with the 75-year-old recipe are still a specialty, nacho supremes are the number one seller. Customers needing a gluten-friendly option can ask for a hot dog without the bun. 

RTB Chefs

facebook.com/rtbfoodtruck  |  rtbchefs.com

Mac and cheese with pulled pork or brisket? Why not. For smoked-meat foodies – especially those who like to wash down their meals with a pint of local beer – RTB Chefs routinely parks next to Brokerage Brewing Company, selling sandwiches, wraps and salads, most with smoked meat. Owned and operated by Jordan and Krissy Mirick, the business, which launched three years ago, grew out of a catering company in Illinois. “Chef Jordan has worked in a variety of restaurants from high-end fine dining to a local bar and grill,” the couple says. “We always enjoyed creating food to bring people together.” The truck, which also can be found at Murphy’s USA gas station on Veterans Memorial Parkway, has some vegan and vegetarian options. The meats are gluten-free without barbeque sauce. 

Looking for more variety?

Here are some other food trucks in the area:

WoJo’s & MoJo’s Grilled Cheese & More, LLC: facebook.com/WoJo-MoJos-Grilled-Cheese-More

Whether you prefer sourdough bread or frosting-stuffed cupcakes, vegan cheesecake or flourless chocolate tortes, Greater Lafayette bakeries offer something for nearly every taste and dietary restriction. After contacting shop owners and asking locals for recommendations — and trying some on our own — we compiled a list of some of the best baked goods around.

Flour Mill Bakery, Rossville

facebook.com/flourmillbakery

Sandra Hufford and her sister, Sheryl, started the Flour Mill Bakery in 1996 in Hufford’s house, “literally in the middle of the cornfield,” she says. While the sisters had not intended to sell donuts, word had gotten around town that a donut shop was opening, and so they added them to the menu. “Donuts have always been our biggest seller,” Hufford says. “We sell approximately 450 dozen per week.” After Hufford’s sister moved on to other ventures, Hufford sold the business in 2016, only to repurchase it three years later. At its current location on State Road 26 in Rossville, the bakery sells donuts, pies, cookies and angel food cakes, along with homemade salads, soups, espresso drinks and deli meats and cheeses. 

Gigi’s Cupcakes, Lafayette

gigiscupcakesusa.com

As a young girl in Wolcott, Indiana, Brittany Gerber loved watching her mom decorate wedding cakes and began dabbling in the art as soon as she was old enough. After attending Purdue University and working in customer service for several years, Gerber purchased the Lafayette Gigi’s franchise in 2019, where she serves up cupcakes, cakes, cookies stuffed with frosting, macarons, cheesecakes, cake truffles and miniature cupcakes. Three gluten-friendly options are on the menu every day, including the GF Triple Chocolate Torte. Custom cakes and vegan options are also available by special order. An annual sponsor of the Cupcake Run/Walk for the Public Schools Foundation of Tippecanoe County, Gigi’s donated 1,248 cupcakes for race participants in 2019. 

Great Harvest Bread Company

greatharvestlafayette.com

Thirteen years ago, Jerry and Janet Lecy were working in a Christian non-profit organization when they decided to buy the local Great Harvest franchise. Within two years, the bakery’s sales had doubled, and the business has continued growing since then. Great Harvest specializes in made-from-scratch breads using flour that is ground in-house with a stone mill. The bakery also offers cinnamon rolls, muffins, scones, cookies and bars, along with fresh granola and sandwiches. “Most of our breads are vegan, the basic bread having five basic ingredients — fresh-milled flour, water, yeast, honey and salt,” Jerry Lecy says. All six of the couple’s children have worked at Great Harvest over the years. 

Mary Lou Donuts, Lafayette

maryloudonuts.com

Started in 1961 by Mary Lou and Steward Graves, Mary Lou Donuts changed hands several times before being purchased in 2017 by Jeff Waldon, who has seen a growth in sales and is considering expansion. The bakery specializes in donuts, cream horns, apple fritters and cookies, and also serves danishes, brownies and cupcakes. The cream horns are vegan. Mary Lou produces several thousand dozen donuts weekly, providing all the donuts for Purdue’s Universiy’s dining halls and retail locations on campus. This fall, the bakery — and its Donut Truck, which regularly visits campus — will be featured on the Big Ten Network’s program “Campus Eats.” 

Scones and Doilies, Lafayette

sconesanddoilies.com

After immigrating to the United States, Sergei Dhe and Natasha Vasili worked in the food service industry while crafting pastries and cakes on the side. In 2014, with their daughters’ encouragement, the couple launched their own business. They currently share a space with City Foods Co-op on Main Street in Lafayette. Scones and Doilies specializes in European-style baked goods using original recipes, including seasonal items such as decorated Easter cookies and Greek Easter bread. “Our goal is to share the same excitement and creativity we have for food with our community,” says Vasili. Signature items include scones, rugelach, biscotti, galettes and specialty cakes. Several gluten-free pastries are regularly available, and gluten-free cakes and vegan items can be made to order. The couple supports the International Center at Purdue University, participating in such events as 2019’s Summer Supper series. 

Smittybread, Lafayette

smittybread.com

If the name of this newish bakery sounds familiar to you, that’s on purpose: This artisanal bread shop pays homage to the old Smitty’s Foodliner, which served customers for five decades at the corner of Northwestern and Lindberg in West Lafayette before closing in 2005. As the story goes, when veteran Journal & Courier editor and reporter Dave Smith decided to turn his breadmaking hobby into a business, he received permission to use an updated version of the grocery’s logo. Ever the wordsmith, Smith gives his bread creations one-of-a-kind names like Amber Wave and Kalamata Olive Pain au Levain, and occasionally blogs on topics like friendship, travel and farmers markets. Along with breads, the shop offers a rotating selection of cinnamon rolls, croissants, Danishes and morning buns, noted on the daily schedule online. If you have your heart set on a particular goodie, however, the shop advises that you call ahead. Smittybread also serves up soups and sandwiches, including the B.E.S.T. (bacon, egg, spinach and tomato) and Farmers Market (ham, salami, provolone and veggies), all made on house-made bread.

Stone House Restaurant and Bakery, Delphi

facebook.com/stonehouserestaurantandbakerydelphi

Bacon-wrapped pastries, anyone? For the Stone House Restaurant and Bakery in Delphi, last year’s Indiana Bacon Festival was the perfect occasion for dispensing more than 800 crème-filled, maple-iced long johns covered in bacon — and that was despite the blistering hot weather. “We don’t let the heat stop us,” says owner Lisa Delaney, who opened the shop nearly 20 years ago after purchasing an existing bakery in town. On regular days, Stone House serves up more traditional offerings, such as cookies, pies and specialty brownies, many based on recipes from Delaney’s grandmother. Sugar- or dairy-free options are available with 24 hours notice. The bakery, which also offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, crafts all of its own sandwich buns, bread and rolls onsite, including its newest addition, dill pickle bread. 

Sweet Revolution Bake Shop, Lafayette

sweetrevolutionbakeshop.com

Passionate about baking since she was a child, culinary school graduate Sarah McGregor-Ray worked in the industry for more than a decade before joining forces with her brother, Jonathan, and her mom, Debbie, to launch a bakery of her own. After selling at local farmers markets and festivals, McGregor-Ray opened a brick-and-mortar bake shop in 2017 next door to the Knickerbocker Saloon. Sweet Revolution offers daily seasonal pastries, quiches and pies, baked fresh with all-natural ingredients. Gluten-free, keto and vegan options are available, including keto vanilla cheesecake, vegan and gluten-free apple cinnamon muffins and flourless chocolate torte. Customers can wash down their treats with cold brew coffee and chai tea, among other specialty drinks. 

Two Guys Catering and Bakery, Brookston and Lafayette

twoguyscateringandbakery.com

Randy Griffin and Chad McFally began their catering business by tailgating for Purdue football games, which eventually led to graduation parties and weddings and then to selling their goods at local farmers markets. When a commercial kitchen became necessary, “those two guys,” as their customers called them, began using the YWCA’s facilities. In late 2019, Griffin and McFally purchased the Klein Brot Haus Bakery in Brookston, where renovations are currently underway. Once reopened, the bakery will serve cinnamon rolls, cheesecakes, cookies, brownies and cakes along with pies and specialty breads made from original Klein Brot Haus recipes. Their specialty item is the Big Daddy, a peanut butter cookie stuffed with a brownie and a peanut butter cup and drizzled with chocolate. If you’re not so hungry, you can get the Little Mama, a smaller version of the same concoction.

BY CINDY GERLACH

For some, a visit to an international grocery store is about acquiring the proper ingredients to create authentic ethnic cuisine. Yet for others, it’s a way to feel at home. 

Jenny Hwang, manager of Hana Market in West Lafayette, says shopping at Hana Market evokes fond memories, where shoppers can be surrounded by the familiar sights and smells that remind them of home. 

“We try to carry lots of food for students,” she says. “They’re far away from home.”

The presence of Purdue University, and its population of international students – one of the highest for a major university in the country – means that grocery stores that cater to that population are plentiful. Yet the stores are also popular for people with an epicurean streak, as it’s possible to get the best possible ingredients for one’s culinary endeavors. The stores feature authentic items – some fresh, some frozen, some ready to eat – and right in your own backyard. 

ALDI

210 SAGAMORE PARKWAY, WEST LAFAYETTE
957 SAGAMORE PARKWAY, LAFAYETTE

Maybe you don’t know that shopping at Aldi is actually a German supermarket experience. This explains why you must pay a deposit, or pfand, when you pick up your shopping cart, which is refunded upon its return. Shoppers are encouraged to bring their own bags; Aldi does have plastic bags, but customers are charged for them – another German practice. 

Aldi, a no-frills supermarket, carries standard grocery items, but many of them are European brands. Its housewares are a hit, but as regulars at Aldi know, you can’t depend on finding items from one week to the next. At Christmastime, Aldi is the best place in town to find traditional German holiday treats, such as mulled wine, or Gluhwein, and chocolate advent calendars. 

ASIA MARKET

2400 YEAGER ROAD, WEST LAFAYETTE

Asia Market caters to multiple ethnic palates. Aisles are clearly labeled, noting food items from Africa, India, Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, China and Taiwan. Fresh and frozen meats, rice in bulk, and frozen items are all available, as are spices, sauces and easy-to-prepare foods. Dishes and housewares are also available. 

BETTER WORLD MARKET

402 BROWN ST., WEST LAFAYETTE

Better World Market is hidden just off the West Lafayette levee, tucked in behind Tapawingo Park and Wabash Landing. A fairly large supermarket, it carries a variety of items that cater to its Asian clientele. The store carries a variety of vegetables, from lotus root to Japanese yams. Customers can find everything they need to cook their dishes, such as bulk rice, fresh meat and spices, or they can find easy-to-prepare ramen noodles and frozen items. 

Some toiletries also are available, with translated labels, making it friendly for those unfamiliar with English. 

The store also offers local delivery and free pick-up.  

As a bonus, there is a small restaurant hidden in the back of the store, offering authentic Chinese cuisine. 

HANA MARKET

3457 BETHEL DRIVE, WEST LAFAYETTE

From its inauspicious frontage in a strip mall, Hana Market appears to be tiny. But upon entering, it’s a large space, filled with rows of items that cater to its audience. The store is about 80 percent Korean items, says Hwang, with some Japanese and Chinese items.

It’s a haven for those far from home, Hwang says, a place where they can find familiar items – especially for students, who long for the comforts of home.

“It’s a hangout for them,” Hwang says.

The store offers a variety of grocery items – from staples for cooking to quick items, easy to heat up and prepare, which are popular with students. People can pick up snack items or their daily supplies, such as rice and kimchi. 

The market also tries to keep up with what is trendy, Hwang says, which appeals to both students and U.S. customers, who, thanks to the Internet and social media, have often heard of particular items and are anxious to try them. Currently, very spicy items are en vogue – and Hana is sure to have them. 

People often come in and ask Hwang about particular items that are trending. And she is happy to lend assistance.

“If I’m not busy and someone asks about the recipe, I can explain how to make it,” she says. 

KHYBER SUPERMARKET

237 E. STATE ST., WEST LAFAYETTE

Khyber Supermarket offers a selection of Middle Eastern items. Located near the Purdue University campus, it’s convenient for students and faculty alike. Spices are readily available, as are ingredients for many beloved Middle Eastern dishes. 

OASIS MEXICAN GROCERY

2338 SAGAMORE PARKWAY, WEST LAFAYETTE

This store, on the edge of West Lafayette, offers everything one needs to make authentic Mexican food. From beans and rice to pre-made tortillas, Mexican food lovers can find everything they need. Beverages and specialty sweets are favorites.

Other international groceries:

INDIAN AND INTERNATIONAL GROCERY: 1070 SAGAMORE PARKWAY WEST, WEST LAFAYETTE

JALISCO GROCERY: 3315 MCCARTY LANE, LAFAYETTE

LA CHIQUITA: 1440 SAGAMORE PARKWAY NORTH, LAFAYETTE

LA PLAZA: 2100 VETERANS MEMORIAL PARKWAY, LAFAYETTE

LA VILLAGE FOOD MART: 208 SOUTH ST., LAFAYETTE

BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY SUBARU OF INDIANA AUTOMOTIVE

In 1994, Laurel, Mississippi, native Allen Hodge — who had relocated with his young bride back to her hometown of West Lafayette, Indiana — took a job at a burgeoning automotive factory on the outskirts of Dayton, Indiana. Twenty-five years later, just as Subaru of Indiana Automotive was celebrating the production of it’s 4 millionth Subaru vehicle, Allen’s son, Jon Hodge, followed in his footsteps by stepping onto the 820-acre campus for the first time as a contract worker.

“It was a combination of planning for my future and accounting for my needs at the time. I wanted a job that paid well and I could make a career out of,” says the 22-year-old Hodge, who works for CTI Personnel as a materials handler, delivering parts to the line for his fellow associates to attach to cars.

The young Hodge says that when his number comes up, SIA will transition him from a temporary job to a permanent one. That may happen sooner than he originally anticipated, given the plant’s recent announcement. In February, SIA released plans to invest $158 million in a new service parts facility and transmission assembly shop, which together will generate 350 new jobs for Greater Lafayette. Construction will begin this summer on the service parts facility, a stand-alone building, and the transmission assembly shop, an addition to the plant. “We’re proud to continue investing in Indiana,” says Scott Brand, senior vice president of administration and quality.

Ramping up production

For years now, local auto dealer and advertising icon Bob Rohrman has urged Greater Lafayette television viewers to “Buy Subaru and keep Lafayette driving.” The tagline has a lot of truth behind it: SIA is woven into the community’s fabric, churning out cars, jobs, customers and community service at a time when some automobile manufacturers are struggling to keep the lights on.

The Lafayette plant is Subaru’s only manufacturing facility outside of Asia and currently employs more than 6,000 associates, of which more than 5,000 work in production. When the plant opened in 1989, associates built the Subaru Legacy and Isuzu Pick-up. In the years that followed, SIA continued to produce Subaru models in addition to other vehicles, including the Isuzu Rodeo, Honda Passport and Toyota Camry.

Since June 2016, the plant has exclusively produced Subaru vehicles. Current cars rolling off the assembly line here are the Ascent, Impreza, Legacy and Outback models for North America.

SIA executives project that the plant will build 410,000 cars over the next year. Production levels, in fact, have tripled over the last 10 years, says Brand, and the announced expansion will help the company meet increased customer demand.

Loyal customers

When it comes to car buying, loyalty is key, according to the data analytics firm J.D. Power and Associates: Local drivers will return to buy or lease from the same manufacturer and will recommend the brand to friends and family members.

In the firm’s first-ever loyalty survey in 2019, Subaru ranked highest among mass market brands — and highest overall — with a loyalty rate of 61.5 percent, edging out even the highest-ranked luxury car, Lexus, which topped out at 47.6 percent.

Loyalty and popularity ratings underscore the support of local Subaru drivers like Drew Hallett, a web programmer at Purdue University who shares a Forester with his wife. “It was the best value midsize SUV and seemed to have the most spacious interior,” Hallett says of the car, which they purchased as a pre-owned vehicle.

Hallett, who recommended the Subaru Ascent to his parents when they were car-shopping recently, says he’s had “zero problems” with his SUV: “No single car can do it all, but the Forester comes close.”

For Purdue University graphic designer Sarah Anderson, who had a toddler when she purchased her Forester several years ago, safety was her top priority. “I had done a lot of research and narrowed it down to two options that I really liked,” she says. “We ended up going with the Subaru Forester because of the local reputation and resale value.”

Like many Subaru drivers, Anderson says she loves her car. “I’ve only had a couple small issues, and the team at Subaru have been fabulous to work with,” she says. “It’s a dependable car that gets my family where we want to go safely — with good gas mileage.”

When it came time for her parents to replace their SUV, Anderson convinced them to purchase an Outback. Now, she says, “They even come to Lafayette for service visits.”

Safety, Environment and Community

For safety-minded buyers like Anderson, features such as adaptive cruise control and pre-collision breaking are innovations that helped the company earn top honors in Kelley Blue Book’s most-trusted brand competition every year from 2015 to 2019. That focus on safety extends to the plant floor as well. In February, SIA was recognized with a Governor’s Workplace Safety Award from the state of Indiana for a 2019 internal awareness campaign that contributed to an 80 percent reduction in slips, trips and falls from the previous. year.

Over the past 30 years, the plant also has achieved several environmental milestones. SIA was the first U.S. auto plant to become smoke-free, earn an ISO 14001 Certification for Environmental Management, be designated as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, achieve zero landfill waste and earn an ISO 50001 Certification for Energy Management, according to Craig Koven, communications and external relations manager.

Those successes are likely routed in the strong work ethic of SIA’s employees, who undergo a stringent hiring process and rigorous training, and are governed through Kaizen, a system of continuous improvement that emphasizes personal discipline and teamwork.

Associates bring that team spirit into the community with them by volunteering with Wabash Center, the Imagination Station and other local causes. In turn, the SIA Foundation issues grants for capital projects in arts, culture, education, health and welfare in Tippecanoe County and beyond. Given that nonprofits help spur economic activity, that’s another way that SIA keeps Greater Lafayette driving.

By Angela K. Roberts.

More than a century and a half ago, when people rode their horses to town and brought baskets to hold their purchases, Greater Lafayette residents began gathering in downtown Lafayette to buy products such as cured meat and fresh fruit directly from farmers. Today, this historic downtown Lafayette Farmers Market, which has been in continuous operation since 1839, is one of our four seasonal retail marketplaces in Greater Lafayette. From bath salts to barbecue and from mushrooms to marigolds, local markets – just like the ones of the 19th century – offer farm-fresh and small-batch goodies along with the chance to meet the people who create them.

Lafayette Farmers Market

lafayettefarmersmarket.com

Fifth Street between Main & Columbia. Runs May through October, Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Organized by Greater Lafayette Commerce, the historic Lafayette Farmers Market is known primarily for its abundance of fresh produce, as well as flowers, plants, baked goods and to-go meals, along with specialty items such as wildflower honey, beer jelly, botanical bath salts, handcrafted jewelry, herbal medicinals and hand-sewn baby clothes. Bring your reusable bags and shop to the tunes of local artists playing folk, rock, country, blues and jazz. A vendor list can be found on the website, which also features a chart showing produce currently in season and a fruit-and-vegetables quiz for kids.

Purdue Farmers Market

lafayettefarmersmarket.com

Memorial Mall on the Purdue University Campus. Opens July 2.

Organized by Purdue Campus Planning and Sustainability in conjunction with Greater Lafayette Commerce, the Purdue Farmers Market features around 25 vendors each week, including the Purdue Student Farm, operated by the College of Agriculture. Pick up local fresh produce, herbs, plants, fresh-cut flowers, meat and baked items as well as prepared foods, and pick a comfortable spot to have your lunch. Through the market’s passport program, you can collect stamps when you visit market vendors and return to the Campus Planning and Sustainability booth to spin a wheel for zero-waste prizes. Email sustainability@purdue.edu or visit the market to sign up for a weekly newsletter.

West Lafayette Farmers Market

facebook.com/westlafayettefarmersmarket

Cumberland Park, 3001 N. Salisbury Street. Runs May through Octoboer, Wednesdays from 3:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Nestled among the ball courts of Cumberland Park, the dog-friendly West Lafayette Farmers Market is organized by the City of West Lafayette. It features around 50 vendors each week with fresh produce, baked goods, handmade items such as soap and jewelry, food trucks and wine from two local wineries. As you shop, sip and eat, listen to live music and visit information booths, where you can learn about community happenings.

Carnahan Hall Winter Market

lafayettefarmersmarket.com

Market Square Shopping Center, 2200 Elmwood Ave., A6, Lafayette. Runs November to April.

The new indoor market, which debuted in January and is sponsored by Carnahan Hall, Greater Lafayette Commerce and Market Square Shopping Center, brings together local shopping enthusiasts with merchants in chillier months. Some vendors are scheduled for the entire season, while others are only there on select days. Collectively, they offer faux leather earrings, barbecued meat, local honey and maple syrup, herbal medicinals, custom woodworking, natural skin care products, homemade dog treats, fresh bread, organic produce, art, jewelry, cosmetics, handmade baby items and vegan cheese.

BY CINDY GERLACH
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY TIPPECANOE ARTS FEDERATION

“Grow the arts”

It’s a simple motto — and one the Tippecanoe Arts Federation undertakes with the utmost gusto.

The Tippecanoe Arts Federation (TAF) serves as a regional arts partner, one of 11 in the state. As the center of a 14-county district, TAF is the umbrella organization and helps advocate for these 14 counties, many of which are rural, providing educational opportunities in visual, literary and performing arts, outreach programs for underserved communities and underserved youth, and funding for operational expenses for fellow arts organizations in the region.

TAF dates back to 1976, when it was determined broader support for the arts locally was needed, says Tetia Lee, TAF’s executive director. In its nascent period, TAF was actually just an arts calendar, a way to list everything that was happening in one place. 

“It was a way to support other arts organizations,” Lee says. 

As its mission and vision grew, the organization changed accordingly, supporting various types of programming. TAF found its home at the Wells Memorial Library, just north of downtown on North Street; at the time, the library was transitioning out of the building. 

The current board has adopted the simple mission statement — “It’s something short and sweet that the board members can remember,” says Lee. 

“We work within that mission,” she says. “We’re allowed to be creative, to think outside the box.”

“We can play to the resources in the community really well,” says Ann Fields Monical, TAF’s chief operating officer. 

The Regional Arts Partnership is a network of 11 regions throughout the state. Under the purview of the Indiana Arts Commission, the regional partners work to enhance the delivery of arts services and to move the decision-making closer to the community and its arts consumers. Region 4, the largest geographically, serves a population of more than 525,000 and has served in this capacity since 1997. 

And it’s a huge undertaking. With such a large geographic area, needs are widely variant, Lee says. 

“Rural counties’ needs are so much different than organizations in Tippecanoe County,” she says. 

The work focuses on engagement, education and sustainability. TAF helps groups assess their needs. But how those are addressed changes. 

Because, says Lee, every community benefits from the vitality of the arts. Whether it’s arts education, public art displays or performances that draw in tourism, the arts are vital to the survival of a community. 

TAF has more than 200 arts partners. These member organizations use TAF as their hub, as these are often small groups with no physical home — or the resources to have one — so TAF provides them with meeting space, a mailing address and help with marketing and publicity. 

“The majority of our organizations are smaller, with budgets less than $25,000 who are looking to expand,” Lee says.

Member organizations range from large groups such as the Lafayette Symphony, Carnahan Hall or the Indiana Fiddlers’ Gathering, to much smaller, more obscure groups and many individuals. Even a group of fly fishermen.

“That doesn’t sound like the arts,” says Monical. “But they make these beautiful lures.

“That tells you how much stuff is going on. So many different groups.”

One of the ways TAF is looking to the future is by the remodeling and expansion of its physical space. The nearly century-old Wells Community Cultural Center had been showing signs of age. So TAF undertook a major restoration project — a project that was handled very deliberately and thoughtfully. The timing had to be right in terms of financing the project and finding public support. It was a process that took nearly a dozen years.

The result is a stunning interior renovation of the old library. The stacks were removed to reveal an entire back wall of windows, opening up the space, allowing for a much-needed smaller performance venue, as well as updated gallery space and staff offices. 

The building’s footprint remains unchanged. But every inch of the building has been renovated, with the lower-level rooms being given the same treatment, with a full overhaul. Each of the four rooms has been redesigned with a distinct purpose — a dance studio, arts studio, recording studio, meeting room — yet each can be used for multiple purposes, to create, interact and learn. The smallest meeting room was given a wall of glass to make it feel less claustrophobic.

The state-of-the-art recording studio is a major coup. Funded by a grant issued to the Songwriters Association of Mid-North Indiana, the studio will serve as a teaching tool for both recording artists and engineers; it also will be a space for people to record projects, from interviews to podcasts to spoken word performances. It will open up opportunities for education and collaboration within the songwriting and recording community. 

The final touch to the building was when the stolen outdoor lights were returned. The bronze lights, stolen last summer and sold for scrap, were reconstructed, Monical says. A mold was  found to recreate a missing part, and the lights were completed and returned to their rightful home in front of the building, albeit with tighter security, in December.

Having more space is key to the future of TAF, Lee says. As the renovations progress — this was Phase I of a three-phase project — it will live in the space and evaluate how it works before progressing to the next steps. 

“We hope to expand,” says Lee. “What that looks like is changing.” 

Each year, TAF hosts its annual fundraiser, The Taste of Tippecanoe, which brings arts together with tastings from area restaurants. It shows off the best of the area, from food to visual art to performances of all kinds. 

TAF is instrumental in getting art to the people in the communities it serves. Currently, it oversees a variety of programs, including: 

As the umbrella organization, TAF has a broad mission and goals, as they help advocate for the benefit of public arts, for education. Every day, Lee says, they live that motto of “Grow the Arts” — in all the glorious ambiguity that wording allows.

BY CINDY GERLACH
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV

As colder weather sets in for an extended stay, our tastes turn toward a different type of cuisine. Gone are longings for cold salads, fresh fruit and meat straight off the grill, replaced with the sights and smells of winter. 

It’s comfort food time. Food that makes us feel special. 

Anything that makes people feel warm and cozy can be considered comfort food, says Ambarish Lulay, executive chef of East End Grill. 

“It’s a little bit indulgent, a little bit richer than what we normally eat on a day-to-day basis,” Lulay says. “It takes you to a happy place, makes you feel at home. 

“Usually there is some sort of a strong memory associated with it, that mom or grandma used to make. Those food memories are very important.”

Throughout Lafayette, different restaurants create comfort food in a variety of ways. 

Bistro 501

Comfort food is all about how the individual chooses to define it, says Bistro 501 co-owner and executive chef Cheyenne Buckley. 

“To me, comfort food is just the thing that no matter what you’re deciding on eating always sounds good,” she says, “For me, that would be my mom’s pot roast. It’s always in my mind.”

But for others, it will depend on where they grew up, or how they were fed growing up. Because comfort food is so ensconced with memory, with family and tradition. 

As winter sets in, Buckley infuses a little taste of Thanksgiving traditions into several of Bistro’s entrées. It’s subtle enough that people may not notice it right away. But as those dishes are so familiar, sneaking in a cranberry gastrique and cornbread stuffing with the duck helps evoke those memories of holidays past. 

“You take a bite and you’re transported,” she says. 

A popular cold-weather item is the duck poutine. Buckley puts the Bistro’s own spin on it, adding thyme, goat cheese and cherries soaked in cognac. 

“It’s rich and it satisfies and hits all the flavors,” she says. 

The brunch menu has familiar items, such as biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles. And the chicken pot pie — another popular comfort item — makes a return. 

“Everybody waits impatiently for that to come back,” she says. 

Everyone derives satisfaction from familiar flavors, from gravy, cheese and casseroles. This year, Bistro introduced cassoulet, a French casserole. 

“It’s fun to explore different cultures,” Buckley says.  

The dessert menu also offers some familiar flavors. Gone is key lime pie, replaced instead with bread pudding with caramel whiskey sauce, fruit cobbler and sticky toffee carrot cake — another perennial favorite.

The flavors may vary a bit, but the basic dishes will seem familiar enough.

“The comfort food we have resonates with us and my upbringing,” Buckley says. “We try to stay true to the Midwest. The regionality influences us for sure.”

East End Grill

When East End puts away the summer menu staples of tomatoes, grilling and crunchy salads, thoughts turn toward fall and winter, Lulay says.

“When I think of menus, I’m thinking of fall ingredients, fall flavors and fall methods,” he says. 

For East End, this means slow braising of meats, fall greens, butternut squash, parsnips and Brussels sprouts. 

Sauces get richer, and flavors are sweet and savory, using butter and capers, tarragon. 

Lulay likes to braise shanks, long and low.

“You sneak in things that work toward that,” he says. “Aromas of thyme, garlic and rosemary.”

Pastas remain on the menu, but they have a bit of a heavier, creamier sauce. Macaroni and cheese is a favorite. 

Desserts change with the season, as well, with fruit cobblers coming in to play. Flavors such as apple and cinnamon work well. 

Sometimes, it’s just taking a menu item and tweaking it a bit to change for cooler weather. Don’t worry — the signature shrimp and grits are not going anywhere.

“That’s truly the power of comfort food,” Lulay says. “There are summer memories of mac and cheese. Even if it’s heavy, it still works.”

Walt’s Pub and Grill and Walt’s Other Pub

Comfort food, says Walt Foster, evokes memories of how your grandmother used to cook. 

“It’s heavier, it’s usually potatoes, usually larger portions,” he says. “It’s feel-good.”

At Walt’s Pub and Grill and the Other Pub, it means country fried steaks, Manhattans, chicken and waffles. 

It’s also about heavier soups and stews.

“We’re probably one of the few restaurants in town that makes homemade soups and chowders,” Foster says. Thus, for winter, that translates into cream-based soups, chowders — seafood and clam chowder — and cream of mushroom soup. 

The Lafayette location is known for its signature white chili; in West Lafayette, it’s a red chili. Desserts change, too, with warm fruit desserts and bread pudding. 

“We get excited about football season and fall,” Foster says, and the menu reflects that change. 

There are fireplaces in both locations, and as the temperatures lower, sitting there, in the glow of the fireplace, “It’s warm and cozy,” he says. “That’s what we call comfort.”

Arni’s

Arni’s is a Lafayette institution. Arni Cohen opened the first restaurant at Market Square in 1965; it has since grown to several locations around the state. But for people who grew up in Lafayette or who attended Purdue University, a visit back to town means a chance to “Meet you at Arni’s.”

Thus, a visit to Arni’s is, in and of itself, a foray into comfort food.

“It’s a nostalgia thing, a family tradition from when they were younger,” says marketing director Liz Hahn.

The menu at Arni’s remains pretty consistent all year long. Items like pizza, salads, sandwiches and subs are always available and always popular with patrons. 

And people who make a visit to Arni’s at Market Square almost always want to peek into the Toy Room. The room has remained virtually unchanged for years, even after renovations that have updated the restaurant, says Hahn. But guests like to pop their head in, check if the toys are in the same place they remember from their childhood. There is one particular clown that people always wonder about. No worries, says Hahn. It’s still there. 

And for those who would like to send the special flavor of Arni’s pizza to someone who has moved away, fear not — Arni’s ships its pizzas all over the United States. Comfort mail delivered to the front door!

Nine Irish Brothers

“The first part of comfort food is that it’s literally warming as well as figuratively,” says Matt Rose, a partner in Nine Irish Brothers.

And nothing is as emblematic of comfort food as pub fare. Guinness stew, shepherd’s pie and corned beef and cabbage — meat and potatoes are the heart of comfort food. 

About three quarters of the Nine Irish Brothers menu doesn’t really change for winter, Rose says. But as fall comes around, they change things up a bit. They introduce a Manhattan — a beef sandwich with gravy — that clearly fits the mold. 

“For a lot of people, it’s ‘Oh, my mom used to make this,’ ” Rose says. 

Entrées that are heavier and more cream-based are more popular, items like fisherman’s pie, with fish, shrimp and mussels, with the requisite mashed potatoes and cheese. 

And for the pièce de résistance? Irish coffee: a combination of coffee, whiskey, sugar and whipped cream.

“It’s got all the important food groups,” Rose says. “Nothing makes you feel better. “I think it’s the very definition of comfort food.”

BY KARIS PRESSLER

Just inside the Northend Community Center, to the right of the main entrance, is a bulletin board with a spray-painted title that reads “Community @ Work.”  Guests and volunteers brush past the corkboard peppered with job announcements while heading toward meetings, the pool, the indoor PlaySpace, or any of the nonprofit organizations housed inside the building. The space around the board seems to inhale and exhale every time the automatic front doors swish open and front desk volunteers greet guests.

Several steps from the front desk Rod Hutton works in his office.  As director of Northend, Hutton sees the comings and goings of almost everyone who passes through the community center.

“If you want to see a happening place, you need to visit the Senior Center,” says Hutton, while pointing to a set of doors just around the corner.

On this morning at the Tippecanoe Senior Center, more than 25 seniors play bid euchre, where cards feverishly flutter toward the center of tables, and the sound of knuckles knocking on wood echoes as players signal their wish to pass.  While the groups play, several Meals on Wheels volunteers buzz about, preparing to serve the day’s lunch.

Meanwhile, tucked into a quiet corner, the Senior Center’s Art Expressions group creates.  Here, Barbara German paints a landscape of a rowboat resting on calm water, while Kay Pickett puts the finishing touches on a painted replica of the quilt square that hangs from her family’s barn in Michigan.

There’s life and light, color and sound in this space, and throughout many community centers in Greater Lafayette.

This is a community at work.

Faith East, Faith West and Northend community centers

“It’s one continual history,” explains Hutton, when considering the organic spread of Faith’s community centers throughout Greater Lafayette that started when Faith East opened in 2007, followed by Faith West in 2013, and the Northend Community Center in 2018.

Sharing a common connection through Faith Church, each Faith community center works to meet the unique needs of the surrounding neighborhoods.  Faith East caters to the recreational and childcare needs of those living on the east side of town, while Faith West offers housing and programs for Purdue’s students, faculty and international community.

Northend, the largest community center in Faith’s network, nurtures partnerships with 13 area organizations that have dedicated space either inside or next to the community center.

Hutton explains that being able to collaborate with established organizations that serve the community well — such as Bauer Family Resources, Hanna Community Center and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Lafayette — is “a big piece of what makes the Northend tick,” because it allows everyone to connect.

At Northend, a dedicated team of volunteers known as The Care Team spends more than 50 hours a week addressing the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of community members.  

“What they do is sit down and listen, hear the story, understand and build a relationship,” explains Hutton.  He continues, “We need to be able to understand where people are coming from.  The attitude of empathy and understanding is one of the best things we can do to actually help.”  Although the Care Team may not be able to fix needs immediately, team members work to connect individuals to resources, including the organizations inside of Northend that are equipped to help.

Hutton shares that there are no current plans to build additional Faith community centers.  “We want to grow what we have right now. … We will always continue to dream, but right now what we’ve been dreaming about is how can we grow and love the community with the facilities that God has blessed us with.”

River City Community Center

River City Community Center, located on Old U.S. 231, is the newest community center to open in Greater Lafayette.

“The question that I’ve gotten from many community members is, ‘Can I use this space?’  And the answer is, ‘Absolutely!’” says Terry Gilbert, director of the community center.

“This center is about reaching out to the community, it’s about engaging in partnerships both with individuals, nonprofits and businesses.  We hope that it will be like an intersection between those that are of faith, and the business and commerce world,” he explains.  

The center is currently collaborating with Purdue’s School of Nursing in a service grant that aims to assess healthcare needs, and also works with Food Finders to host a bi-monthly River City Market Food Pantry.  “We have the pleasure of serving 300 to 400 people out of this food pantry every month,” Gilbert says.

Whenever Gilbert needs a reminder of River City Community Center’s purpose, he recalls this story.

“This was maybe two years ago, it was summer,” he begins.  

“I was here with a group of Purdue students; they’re connected through (River City Church’s) program called Chi Alpha. They were here doing some landscaping work for us, pulling up weeds and stuff like that.” 

The building, a former grocery store that sat abandoned since 2005, had just been donated to River City Church, and Gilbert brought the students inside the cavernous space to share his vision for the future community center. Suddenly, a woman entered and exclaimed, “Who’s in charge of all this?”

Gilbert recalls introducing himself and gently asking the woman if there was anything he could help her with, as the 20 college students watched.

Then the woman began to cry.

She said, “I just want you to know that I’ve been living in this neighborhood for almost 20 years. And this place has been an absolute eyesore. And every time I look at it I was like, ‘This would be a great place for kids to come play.’… ‘I cannot thank God enough for you guys and what you’re doing in this community because this community really needs something like this.’” She then retrieved $1.26 from her pocket, handed it to Gilbert and said, “This is all I have right now. Can you use this?”

“That’s who we owe it to,” says Gilbert – the citizens of Lafayette’s south side who want to invest and see their corner of the city continue to develop and grow.

Lafayette Family YMCA

Walking into the Lafayette Family YMCA feels a little like walking into a town nestled within a town.  

The sprawling 120,000-square-foot space located on South Creasy Lane hosts a steady stream of people en route to exercise classes, the gym, the pool, IU Health and Franciscan healthcare appointments, child care and more.  More than 3,700 individuals enter the facility every day.

As Paul Cramer, president and CEO of Lafayette YMCA, gives a guided tour of the facility he opens a set of secure doors and enters Junior Achievement (JA) BizTown.  Here, storefronts of familiar local businesses such as PEFCU, Caterpillar, and Kirby Risk line a miniaturized main street.  Then, it suddenly becomes clear.  This really is a town inside a town.

“You may want to move off the grass there, you could get a citation from the city,” jokes Cramer.  He points to a painted patch of grass covering the cement floor and then motions toward the Lafayette City Government office several steps away.  “There’s city council, there’s the mayors, there’s the CEOs, they’re here for the whole day,” he says of the 12,000 students who will visit this JA BizTown space throughout the school year to learn in this virtual setting.

Cramer’s energy crescendos as he explains.  “So, they’re going to learn financial literacy in the preschool programs (at the YMCA), here they can learn it in the elementary, middle and high school.  Then Ivy Tech takes them through the college level.”   

This is the heartbeat of the YMCA – connecting people of all ages to positive programming whose long-reaching effects can spill over into successive generations.  Cramer explains that the mindset at Greater Lafayette YMCA is “Infants to infinity … we want to be multigenerational in reaching and experiencing.”

After opening in December 2018, this facility has become a shining example for YMCAs across the country.  “So, everything in this building was designed about partnerships and collaborations.  That’s why this is a new model for the country,” explains Cramer, who says that planning for this facility began over a decade ago when leaders from Ivy Tech approached the organization hoping to form a partnership.  

Building the new YMCA on a plot of land just steps from Ivy Tech’s Lafayette campus now gives Ivy Tech students everything from affordable childcare, access to the fitness center, and an invitation to join classmates in the gym when the school hosts athletic events with other Ivy Tech campuses.

In addition to working closely with Ivy Tech, the YMCA also partnered with Franciscan Health and IU Health to create space within the facility for healthcare services.  More than 300 patients a day visit the facility to receive physical and occupational rehabilitation, then are encouraged to continue exercising at the YMCA once their rehabilitation goals are met.

Collaboration is key, according to Cramer.  “Really I think what helped this move along so well was the wonderful relationship between the county and the city and how they work together in a collaborative way.  And that’s what this is.  Our theme here is, ‘We complete one another.  We don’t compete with one another’… It’s really a community that works together.”

Greater Lafayette YWCA

Greater Lafayette YWCA had a lot to celebrate as 2019 marked the 90th year of the organization’s presence in Lafayette, the 50th year of the YWCA Foundation, 40th year of the Domestic Violence Intervention and Prevention Program (DVIPP), and 25th year of the Women’s Cancer Program.  

The organization started at a critical point in history when the first meeting was held at the Community House Association, now Duncan Hall, just months before the stock market crashed in 1929. “When the YWCA was started by this fearless group of women, this was in one of our country’s most dire times… this was a period of time when our country was in a chaos and people weren’t starting new organizations,” explains director Allison Beggs.

Through it all, the YWCA has remained a steadfast force in the local community by working to empower women and eliminate racism.

“While women are the (primary) market we serve, there are male victims of domestic violence and those who identify as transgender or other.  We serve all of those populations.  It really doesn’t matter where you live, who you love, what you believe; we serve everyone,” says Beggs.

The organization’s impact has extended well beyond Tippecanoe County.  In 2018, the YWCA’s Women’s Cancer Program staffed by seven employees provided nearly 4,000 free breast and cervical cancer screening services to women in 41 Indiana counties.  That same year, DVIPP assisted in filing nearly 450 domestic violence protective orders and provided more than 9,000 nights of safe shelter in the 30-bed facility located in the historic Rachel and Levi Oppenheimer house on Sixth Street.

Beggs praises her staff for serving with heart.  “You can’t come to work every day in our domestic violence program and hear the stories, the horrible stories that these families have gone through.  Or be with a family if they’re diagnosed with Stage IV cancer… our staff has to internalize that each and every day as they’re working through our client needs.  It is tough work, and it takes a special kind of person to truly live out our mission.”

In addition to providing consistent comfort, shelter and support, the YWCA also provides opportunities for growth through its Culinary Incubator program, where food and catering businesses use the facility’s commercial kitchen to prep and cook.  Beggs hopes that the Culinary Incubator along with a new Dress for Success program will evolve to empower domestic violence victims with training and employment opportunities.

“Ultimately… when you help one family be able to overcome an obstacle, you’ve just created another healthy family in our community that will hopefully go out and pay it forward,” Beggs says.

When considering how the YWCA fulfills its mission, Beggs praises the local agencies who work with the YWCA, such as Food Finders, Mental Health America, Willowstone, Bauer Community Center and The United Way, along with support from the local community.  “In other places that I’ve been, while they were good communities, you just don’t see this kind of engagement and involvement from so many different areas of our community as you do in Lafayette…. We have a generous community.”

What spurs this generosity?  In Beggs’ opinion it’s Hoosier heritage.  “It’s hard working people who care about others and follow the Golden Rule, and I think they truly understand that they’ve been blessed, and they want to bless others.  It’s just that simple.” 

Fun Awaits

Below is a sampling of the events, programs and amenities offered within the community centers. For a complete list of services, as well as partnerships, please visit the following websites.

Faith East Community Center 
faithlafayette.org

Faith West Community Center

Northend Community Center

River City Community Center
cc.rivercity.info

Lafayette Family YMCA
lafayettefamilyymca.org

Greater Lafayette YWCA 
ywcalafayette.org

BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS

Lana Beck, a bright, inquisitive second-grader at Mintonye Elementary in Lafayette, was born into a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) family. Her parents are university administrators with degrees in science, and a grandfather and an uncle are biomedical engineers.

Between visits to family members’ research buildings and bedtime readings of books such as “Rosie Revere, Engineer,” Lana’s parents make a point of exposing her to all things STEM during her off-school hours. When it came time to schedule Lana for summer camp in 2019, it was only logical to mix in stints at Straight Arrow and Boiler Kids Camp with a week at Super Summer, sponsored by Purdue University’s Gifted Education Research and Resource Institute. 

As Lana and her classmates explored the theme of “Discovery through History,” examining the role of ancient civilizations on the modern world, they employed their STEM skills to develop a Mayan calendar, discover how a solar oven works, and create an aqueduct out of cardboard.

The verdict? Lana loved it. “I have wondered if it was the novelty of it, but it was certainly her favorite [of the three camps]. And she liked the other two,” says her mother, Kaethe Beck, operations director for the Purdue University Life Sciences Initiative. “She came home one day looking for us to translate her message that she wrote using hieroglyphs after they learned how to make their own paper. She was just thrilled to have a secret language and to know how paper is made.”

For several decades, the GERI program, part of Purdue’s College of Education, has provided enrichment activities for academically, creatively and artistically talented youth. Super Summer offers programming for kindergarten through fourth grade in not only STEM subjects but also social studies, art and language arts. The Summer Residential Camp has similar offerings for students in fifth through 12th grades. GERI is one of many programs in the Greater Lafayette area designed to open local students’ minds to the possibilities of STEM education, and ultimately, careers. 

A STEM-based economy

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics play a key role in our nation’s economy. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, employment in STEM occupations — which Pew broadly defines as including not only computer science and engineering, but also healthcare — grew from 9.7 million in 1990 to 17.3 million in 2016, outpacing the nation’s overall job growth. Those statistics are especially relevant in areas such as Greater Lafayette, where industry and healthcare reign. 

While Purdue University may be the top employer in Tippecanoe County, seven others on the top-10 list — including Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc., Caterpillar Inc. and Wabash National Corp. — are manufacturers. The other two are IU Health Arnett Hospital and Franciscan St. Elizabeth East. Search the online want ads for the area, and you’ll find postings for engineers, factory technicians, registered nurses and certified nursing assistants, all of which require various levels of STEM skills.

“The local economy here is heavily manufacturing based, and we’re trying to address that,” says Miranda Hutcheson, director of the new Greater Lafayette Career Academy (GLCA), which opened in August in the old Lafayette Life building on 18th Street across from Lafayette Jefferson High School. “Almost every industry right now needs employees; we hear that almost every day.”

Pathways to success

GLCA, a cooperative effort that includes Lafayette School Corp., Tippecanoe School Corp. and the West Lafayette Community School Corp., is designed to prepare students for both college and careers. Students attend their home schools for a half-day either in the morning or the afternoon and spend the rest of their time at the academy. Credits at the academy count toward a diploma from their home schools. 

Local schools offer some beginning career and technical education courses, says Laurie Rinehart, director of guidance and assistant principal at Lafayette Jeff. However, GLCA is providing “more advanced courses and more advanced experiences to connect them with the next step, whether it’s the workforce or going to trade school or college,” she says. Through such programs as advanced manufacturing, computer science and nursing, academy students can earn industry certifications, dual credits or both. 

Coursework aligns with the new Graduation Pathways program, approved by the Indiana State Board of Education in 2017, in which Hoosier students create their own roadmaps to preparing for life after high school. Those pathways took effect last fall for incoming high school freshmen.

Hutcheson describes the pathways as on- and off-ramps on an interstate. “Whatever your educational attainment goal is or career goal, you can get off the ramp if needed and then get right back on if that’s what you choose,” she says. Students with industry certifications can enter the workforce immediately or spend two or four years in college before using that certification on the job. Others may work for a while, then attend college. Those who earn dual credits can go right on to college or delay their postsecondary education for a while. 

All GLCA classes are designed to be as hands-on as possible, both on- and off-campus. Aspiring medical assistants, for example, will attend labs where they learn skills such as checking vital signs, giving injections and charting patient progress. After graduation, they will complete an externship at a local healthcare facility.

Some students may discover that they don’t enjoy what they’re studying. That’s actually a valuable learning experience, Hutcheson says: “It’s a win for us if a student says, ‘This is not for me.’ We’ve eliminated that from a student’s future career options.”

STEM competence and confidence

Beyond the career academy, many other local initiatives are designed to build STEM competence and confidence. Greater Lafayette Commerce, for instance, sponsors CoderDojo, a free computer science club in which kids aged 7 to 17 learn programming from computer science professionals. Programs average 30 students at each of the two locations, says Kara Webb, workforce development director. Last fall, GLC planned to add two more locations to the monthly lineup.

GLC’s annual Manufacturing Week showcases STEM career possibilities available here in the Greater Lafayette region. More than 3,34o students signed up for last year’s event, which ran Sept. 30-Oct. 4. High school students toured manufacturers, seeing the workforce in action and learning what type of training would prepare them for industry careers. Middle schoolers attended a daylong expo, exploring stations focused on design, production, distribution and support services, such as nursing and cybersecurity.

“We highlight that manufacturing has numerous career pathways, not just production,” Webb says. Elementary students attended a half-day manufacturing awareness workshop, learning about lean manufacturing, quality, teamwork and the effect of manufacturing on people’s lives. 

Across the river at Purdue University, K-12 STEM programs abound. Purdue’s Women in Engineering offerings, for example, include after-school programs such as Imagination, Innovation, Discovery and Design (I2D2) for kindergarteners through fifth graders and Innovation to Reality (I2R) for sixth to eighth graders.

“Children are being exposed to STEM education in their formal school settings already, so what we do is really intended to be a reinforcement of that exposure,” says Beth M. Holloway, assistant dean for diversity and engagement in the College of Engineering and the Leah H. Jamieson Director of Women in Engineering. A fundamental part of WIEP’s programming is engaging current engineering students, particularly women, to serve as role models to youngsters.

Starting early

“For our programs that are targeted to seventh to 10th grades, we also do sessions for parents that address ways to encourage their child’s interest in engineering in particular, and STEM in general,” Holloway says. “Course expectations are covered there as well.”

Middle school is an ideal time to begin planning for high school, Rinehart says. In fact, she and her colleagues at Jeff are talking to eighth grade parents about the career academy so that interested students can plan their schedules accordingly. 

“They’re over there a whole half day. Not all students can do that,” Rinehart says of the GLCA students. “These conversations have to start with our kids in middle school, in eighth grade and freshman year; we have many students who want to go but can’t fit it in their schedule.”

For parents like Kaethe Beck, it’s never too early to start preparing her children for the future. “I can expose her to many different things and let her choose what interests her, reinforcing that she can explore any one of these disciplines in a capable, confident way,” she says of her daughter Lana.

And regardless of whether Lana pursues a career in STEM or in another discipline, lessons like those at Super Summer are equipping her with important life skills, Beck says. 

“I think children are inherently curious,” she explains. “It’s the what, why, how that kids always want to ask about anyway. In my mind, STEM fields address those questions in a number of ways, but most importantly, give you the tools to think critically about any type of problem you’ll encounter in life.”

BY JANE MCLAUGHLIN ANDERSON
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY PURDUE RESEARCH FOUNDATION

The timing couldn’t be better. Just as Purdue University and Greater Lafayette were envisioning a new generation of high-tech companies for the Discovery Park District, Purdue alumnus Edmund Schweitzer III came back to campus. His original intent was to honor his alma mater with a $1.5 million endowed professorship in electrical and computer engineering, and to donate an additional $1.5 million to support Purdue’s power and energy research area, now named Schweitzer Power and Energy Systems. 

“Last fall Purdue Research Foundation and others honored Ed and his wife, Beatriz, for their contributions,” says factory manager Jake Church. “As that story unfolded, it inspired Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL) to build a facility near campus, and the project took off.” 

The 100,000-square-foot plant across from Rolls Royce is indeed taking off and will be up and running in early 2020.

Edmund O. Schweitzer III is truly a renaissance man. Having received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from Purdue in 1968 and 1971, he worked out West for the government for five years before deciding to pursue a doctorate degree. He received his Ph.D. from Washington State University in 1977 in Pullman. While teaching at WSU and raising a family, he founded Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in his basement in 1982 to build digital relay devices for power systems to replace the cumbersome and unreliable current mechanical devices. It was revolutionary engineering for electrical protection at the time; he received a patent for the first microprocessor-based digital relay, one of his 200 patents in the field. Because of it, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2019. Academic. Inventor. Entrepreneur. Philanthropist. He is a man of vision with the ability to make it happen.

“The mission for the company is to make electric power safer, more reliable, and more economical,” Church says. “With that goal, it opens the door to customers who need safe and reliable high-speed control of their power systems like electric utility companies, hospitals, universities, and virtually any entity that needs reliable power.” The West Lafayette plant will make recloser controls. These devices control reclosures that act as high-voltage electric switches that shut off the flow of electricity on a power line when trouble occurs due to wind, lightning, falling trees, animals, among other things. 

“We are excited to manufacture SEL technology so close to some of our Midwestern customers (Duke, Indianapolis Power & Light and Tipmont), but it’s also an opportunity to be close to Purdue University and collaborate with them,” says Church. “You can’t put a price on the synergy created by partnerships between the community and the university.” SEL’s manufacturing plants are located in Pullman, Washington; Lake Zurich, Illinois; Lewiston, Idaho; and now West Lafayette. SEL products are used by virtually every U.S. electric utility and are protected power systems in 164 countries around the world. Moving to West Lafayette is a game-changer for the growing Discovery Park District with win-win benefits for the company, community and university.

Church is among the first of 30 employees of the 100 percent employee-owned company to make the move to Indiana. “All volunteered and applied for the transition. They’re eager to come and are so excited to make Greater Lafayette their home,” he says. SEL will ramp up hiring from there with a projection of eventually 300 employees, with manufacturing jobs coming first and research and development and engineering to follow. 

“We’re thrilled to work with Greater Lafayette Commerce and others here to get the word out as needed. Purdue Research Foundation and GLC offered to help incorporate our people into the community, including our spouses,” Church adds. “It’s a testament to the community, with so many different parties involved at different points, whether it was PRF and staff, GLC helping with logistics, both mayors’ offices very supportive and eager to help us get a safe, good building constructed, and county commissioners to help with the workforce. Everyone has been topnotch — very welcoming, professional and supportive. We’re thrilled to be building this business here.”

BY CINDY GERLACH
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV

East End Grill feels right at home on Main Street, thanks to Purdue grad’s vision.

Upper Main Street in downtown Lafayette wasn’t always known as the hippest part of the block. But things change. And much of the credit must go to the neighborhood’s swankiest eatery, East End Grill. 

Located on the north side of Main Street, between 11th and 12th streets, East End occupies a building that was formerly a coffee shop and, prior to that, a health clinic. But you’d never know it — the building has been transformed, and its previous owners would likely not even recognize it. With its exposed ductwork, open ceiling, wood and metal accents, the interior is urban and chic, evocative of an urban loft. 

It’s a transformation that was all intentional, says owner Scott Trzaskus. He did a lot of research, looking into the needs and desires of the community.

“We really wanted to bring a more urban environment,” he says. “And hopefully add something to this end of the street. We have some really well-traveled people.”

Trzaskus moved to the area in the late ’80s to attend Purdue University, planning to study civil engineering. “I wanted to build bridges,” he says. But somewhere along the way, he lost interest in construction, while, at the same time, he became fascinated with his work in dining and hospitality as he worked part-time in local restaurants.  This, he decided, was where his passion lay. So, armed with a degree in hospitality and tourism management from Purdue, he set off to make his way in the world, working in high-end establishments in Houston, San Francisco, New York and Chicago, and learning everything he could.

He ended up back in the Lafayette area when he and his wife, fellow Purdue alum Erin, decided this was where they wanted to raise their family. And Trzaskus noticed immediately the possibility of opening a new eatery in downtown Lafayette — the business community would embrace it, he felt, as would Purdue.

“I always wanted to do something. I never thought it would be here, but it turns out it was,” he says. 

Teaming up with partners Bearing Point Developers — John Nagy, Pat Jarboe and Tim Balensiefer — they chose this spot on Upper Main Street, knowing it had potential. 

“We’re really happy to be on this part of the block,” he says 

Trzaskus wanted to create a space that was open to all sorts of possibilities — he didn’t want to limit the restaurant to either high-end dining or to sandwiches and beer. Instead, he focused on creating a space that is open to multiple uses — whether it’s just dropping in for drinks and snacks, a special event or burgers with the family. 

“It’s got some serious flexibility,” he says. “Whether it be a cheese reception, a wine reception or a business function, we want it to be what the guests want.”

And the space has been designed and configured to allow for this flexibility. The main dining area has standard tables that can be moved around to fit any size party, yet you’ll note they are not terribly close together, allowing for more private conversation space. The bar area has the same sorts of tables but also has a traditional bar area along with high-top tables. An area in the back can be closed off to allow for private space — perfect for either a family reunion or an off-site business gathering, complete with audio-visual hookups and a television that doubles as a screen. 

“We didn’t want to do anything that would feel dated in two years,” he says. 

The menu is designed around local, fresh ingredients. It’s seasonal; the focus is on what is fresh and full of flavor.

“We really focus on foods when they’re available,” he says, “Everything here is from scratch. Everything is produced in house.”

And proof of this commitment to fresh ingredients? The restaurant has only a refrigerator — no freezer. 

“It’s really important for us to eat seasonal foods when they’re at the height of the season and then wait for them to come back next year,” says executive chef Ambarish Lulay. “Why push it? I know I’m going to get good quality when it’s in season.”

Not only are items only served seasonally, but they are procured as locally as possible, from local farms. All steaks are cut in house. 

The same commitment applies to the bar menu, as bartender Thomas Gregg has created all signature cocktails. 

In the coming months, East End will be expanding this same ideology across the street. Trzaskus and his investors have purchased a space across the street, where construction has begun on a new venture, a multi-use facility. Upstairs will house an event space and outdoor patio; downstairs will feature a casual eatery with counter service — yet the cuisine will be higher end, echoing the sort of menu items that can be found across the street at East End. 

“What we’re trying to do is fill all the holes that East End didn’t,” Trzaskus says. “Counter service is the direction people want. We want to make it really easy to grab high-quality food.”

Trzaskus has worked very hard to create an open, welcoming environment. He is a hands-on owner, in the restaurant, paying attention to feedback from his customers.

“One of the things we try to do is listen,” he says. “And I don’t say that lightly.”

Case in point: When the restaurant opened, the noise level was much higher than anticipated. With the open ceiling and exposed ductwork, the acoustics were dreadful — people sitting across from one another could barely engage in conversation. 

The acoustics may have been dreadful, but Trzaskus did hear the complaints. Acoustic padding was added to the ceiling, helping the sound.

“You could literally feel the difference,” he says. 

The same can be said of the menu: They listen to customer input.

“When it comes to our specials, we play with them,” says Lulay. “And people tell us one way or another. We do our best to listen to what people are saying and respond accordingly.”

As Trzaskus sees his restaurant fill up night after night, watches as he expands across the street, he feels pretty satisfied about what he’s done. 

“We want people to feel very comfortable,” he says. “People need to know the story about what we do and why we do it. 

“We don’t do anything that’s terribly fancy, but we use high-quality ingredients. We don’t want to be pretentious, but we want to be highly informed.”

Clearly, it’s a recipe for success. Fresh vegetables and sides. Clean cooking. The kitchen is always open — that’s a key part of the integrity that he wants to foster. 

“It’s not that hard to do,” Trzaskus says. “It just takes some effort.”

This simple commitment to quality, to service, has proven to work well for his clientele. 

“The fun part is when people come in and say you’ve hit both sides, the food and the service,” Trzaskus says.

“I’m really happy here. Hopefully, this place will still feel in time in 10 years.”

BY CINDY GERLACH

That’s the message made loud and clear by the many cultural and welcome centers in the Greater Lafayette-West Lafayette community. You are welcome, and your culture is celebrated. One thing that every group makes known: These centers are not limited to the group whose name is used in the title. Each is open and inclusive — anyone is welcome to drop by and take part in activities. 

Asian American and Asian Resource & Cultural Center
905 Fifth St., West Lafayette
Purdue.edu/aaarcc

The Asian American and Asian Resource and Cultural Center opened in 2015, with the goal of providing educational and cultural resources for Purdue, as well as for the Lafayette-West Lafayette community.

Programs are in place to help provide academic support to students, with academic outreach being one of the core goals of the center. A number of courses and minors are available to students who want to pursue further study.

The center partners with other organizations across campus to sponsor programming, including speakers, movies, cultural events and panel discussions. 

A number of organizations are open to students, with academic, cultural or social missions, all related to Asian cultures. 

Black Cultural Center
100 Third St., West Lafayette
purdue.edu/BCC

Born during the tumult of the late 1960s, Purdue’s Black Cultural Center provides a place where the entire community can be educated and enlightened about the African-American experience.

The building is designed to reflect much of that experience. Many of the design elements reflect parts of African-American culture, from the portal entrance — symbolizing the entrance to African villages — to the layout of the building, which incorporates metaphors related to these same villages. The lobby is open, encouraging community rather than exclusion. And an upper wrought-iron balcony railing represents enslaved Africans of the 1700s, who often worked in metal trades and blacksmithing, says Director Renee Thomas.

The center provides a community for all Purdue and community members who have an interest in this culture. Of particular note are the performing arts groups that are part of the BCC, including:

The BCC features a library, a computer room and space for students to gather and be social. And its location between the academic center of campus and the residence halls makes it a convenient stop for students.

“Students who have a greater sense of belonging have stronger retention rates,” Thomas says. “We try to engage them through our programming and our performing arts ensembles.”

The BCC has two very distinct personalities. There’s the standard workday atmosphere between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., when it feels like an academic department. But in the evenings, the place comes alive with a vibrant, social vibe as students take over. 

“Lots of students take advantage,” says Thomas. “They really see it as their space as well.”

International Center of West Lafayette
523 N. Russell St., West Lafayette
Intlctr.org

The International Center focuses on education about various cultures. It offers a variety of foreign language classes and conversation groups in English, which is helpful for newcomers to the United States, says Executive Director Soo Shin.

“They love coming here so they can practice English with people with so many different accents,” she says. 

People come to attend language classes for a variety of reasons, from faculty planning to spend time overseas to people planning travel for leisure. The classes also focus on the cultural component and travel essentials. 

English as a Second Language classes also are offered, a popular option for newcomers to the area. 

Throughout the year, various social activities are held at the center. On Fridays, the Global Café is a free program featuring a speaker on a particular location. Sometimes they focus on life in the United States — how to foster pets, the rules on gun ownership — and other speakers focus on life and the culture in another country. 

“People want to hear the other side of the news they never hear about,” Shin says. “It’s so good to break those stereotypes.”

The International Center is proud to host the food bazaar at Global Fest each year, featuring cuisine from nearly 25 different countries. 

“When you enter this building, you get rid of the stereotypes and get to see what the real person is like,” Shin says. “This place has been a safe space regardless of where they are from. It’s amazing how word of mouth works; students go back to their home countries and spread the word.”

Latino Center for Wellness & Education
Northend Community Center, Lafayette
Latinocenter.orgspring.org

The Latino Center for Wellness and Education was organized to help integrate the Latino culture into the community. 

“We’re promoting our culture and want to highlight our culture,” says board president Cassandra Salazar. “We want to integrate cultures. That’s part of our mission.”

The group’s largest activity of the year is the Tippecanoe Latino Festival each fall. It also features a community resource fair, whose participants include schools, churches, businesses, arts and culture, groups like Greater Lafayette Immigrant Allies and the Mexican consulate. 

The event is the group’s largest fundraiser as well, providing support for its other outreach throughout the year.

But Salazar is quick to point out that the organization is not Mexican-centric — all Latino cultures are represented, with board members from all over Latin America.

The center provides resources and assistance to people, including academic scholarships, translation services (including providing translators at school events), referrals for those new to the community (doctors, lawyers, mortgage lenders), and other need-based services.

In December, a large holiday celebration is held, with activities, crafts and gifts for children. In April, Día de Niño is celebrated, a national holiday in many Latin American countries. Literacy is often a focus, with all children going home with a book. 

“All of our events are 100 percent free to the community,” Salazar says. “That’s something we strongly believe in. We just want to serve as a resource.”

Latino Cultural Center
426 Waldron St., West Lafayette
purdue.edu/LCC

A welcoming and inclusive community can be found at the Latino Cultural Center, which fosters meaningful dialogue and cultural understanding of all Latinx communities. 

Director Carina Olaru feels strongly about inclusion. 

“One of our founding mottos is ‘All are welcome,’” she says. Which is why the center has adopted the use of the Latinx, which, while somewhat controversial, is inclusive in ways “Latino” and “Latina” are not.

“We use it here because we want to show that it’s an inclusive space.”

The center offers study space and a computer lab, a place where students can drop in. The building itself is filled with artwork and color, a visual link that clearly illustrates a tie to Latin America. 

And not just Mexico, Olaru points out — the center is open to all, the campus community and the community beyond Purdue as well. 

The center has a library, which is a great resource for students who are just beginning to learn about their culture and want to explore. 

They have a pop-up food bank as a way to help combat food insecurity. And in back of the center is a garden, which can be a teaching tool as well as a place for relaxation. 

“It allows for us to think about being mindful,” Olaru says. “Through gardening or just reading.” 

The center sponsors speakers and discussions that will benefit students. Last year, for example, it partnered with the LGBTQ center on adoption of the term Latinx and all that entailed. 

“What happens at the center comes from what our students and faculty needs are,” Olaru says. “We support them in how creative they want to be.”

Each fall, an open house and research fair, El Puente, welcomes students to campus. A student retreat, Conexiones, invites students to come and build community, with a variety of workshops offered. 

“When people think of Latin culture they think of food, fun and fiesta,” Olaru says, “But really, we are the Latino Cultural Center, creating cultural understanding, creating a sense of belonging and creating a dialogue.”

LGBTQ Center
230 Schleman Hall, Purdue University
purdue.edu/lgbtq

Purdue’s LGBTQ center was organized in 2012 to help support the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students, faculty and staff at Purdue University. Director Lowell Kane is the center’s inaugural director. 

Because the center serves the LGBTQ community, it crosses over into all disciplines, all cultures and all walks of life, Kane says. 

“We try to show the intersectionality of the community, which is a very diverse group,” Kane says. “Our community is every community. We really are this incredibly diverse population.”

The center is open during the day, offering study space, a computer lab and tutoring for students. There also is a lounge where students can just hang out. 

Kane emphasizes the center’s opening and welcoming atmosphere. There is a collection of artifacts on display, illustrating the history and struggles of the LGBTQ community. 

The ultimate goal of the center is to help students be successful. The center works toward educating the university on how to create an inclusive campus environment, offering training to faculty and staff. This has created a “safe zone” network across campus, so students can find allies who will offer support. 

And because students can confidentially identify as part of the LGBTQ community with their enrollment — and can change that designation at any time — the center has access to a database of grades and demographic trends, seeing where their students most need academic support. 

Each fall, the Rainbow Callout is a resource fair for students; it has grown from nine tables in a room at the Stewart Center the first year to filling the Union ballrooms, with more than 1,300 attendees.  

And each spring the center offers a Lavender Graduation, which includes about 60 graduates, from undergraduate all the way up through doctoral students. 

“It’s very nice, coming together to celebrate the achievements of the community,” Kane says. 

The center partners with various groups across campus to sponsor educational programming throughout the year. Last year, it partnered with Convos in bringing the Tony-award winning musical “Rent” to campus. And through a partnership with the College of Liberal Arts and Women and Gender studies, it brought a visiting scholar to campus, Sasha Velour from “Ru Paul’s Drag Race.” She uses her platform to advocate for social justice causes, particularly for LGBTQ women’s rights, race/ethnicity and international issues. 

Native American Education & Cultural Center
903 Fifth St., West Lafayette
purdue.edu/naecc

The Native American Cultural Center is home to Native American, Alaskan Native and Hawaiian students, faculty and staff, with more than 60 tribal nations represented. 

The center is focused on providing academic support in order to foster student success. It also provides educational outreach about the United States’ indigenous cultures. 

Throughout the year, a variety of programs are sponsored by the center. An open house kicks off the year, with tours of the center and a preview of the fall’s events. Students also are   introduced to the various student organizations they can join that relate to their culture. 

Various programs are scheduled throughout the year, including film screenings and discussions, visiting artists and historical discussions.

Aloha Fridays are a popular event; on the Hawaiian Islands, it’s a farewell to the work week, and here, programming varies, from food to discussion to arts and crafts. 

Throughout November, Native American Heritage Month, the center sponsors a number of speakers on history, culture and education. 

Pride Lafayette
640 Main St., Lafayette
Pridelafayette.org

Pride Lafayette was organized 16 years ago to serve members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer community and its allies. The oldest advocacy group in the state of Indiana, says board president Ashley Smith, it hosts a variety of activities and speakers to help support its constituency. 

At its downtown Lafayette location, it hosts a variety of different activities, from support groups for teens or family members, to game and movie nights. 

The center is designed to provide flexibility: screens can be moved and arranged to provide privacy to support groups meeting inside; a back door is available for those who want to drop in but need or want to protect their identity as they enter — “Some people just aren’t ready to be out,” says Smith. “We respect their privacy.” 

Pride’s biggest and best-known event is its annual OUTfest, a festival that takes over downtown Lafayette each August. It started in 2008 as OUT-oberfest, but over the last 10 years, the event has grown and now features food, music, resources, more than 70 vendors and family-friendly activities. Several local churches and area politicians can be counted as supporters, including the mayors of both Lafayette and West Lafayette. The event always ends in a spectacular drag show; last year’s event included a Freddie Mercury tribute. 

Each November, Pride hosts a family weekend, coinciding with other Family Equality events. Families come from all the state to attend.

BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY GREATER LAFAYETTE COMMERCE AND TIPPECANOE ARTS FEDERATION

When Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, the first United States Patent Commissioner, published a booklet in 1838 touting the agricultural advantages of a new town in Indiana’s upper Wabash River valley, his efforts likely constituted the first-ever marketing campaign for Lafayette, Indiana, population 3,000.

“The county of Tippecanoe, in which Lafayette is situated … embodies and is immediately surrounded by some of the most beautiful prairies and plains of Indiana,” the Connecticut native wrote. “The rapid increase of the town of Lafayette, from a settlement of scarce ten years ago, is truly astonishing, and can be accounted for only by the extreme felicity of its position.”

In the 182 ensuing years, the combined population of Lafayette and its twin city across the river to the west — which began with the settlement of Chauncey in 1860 — has swelled to more than 194,000 residents, by latest estimates. Back then, agriculture was king; now the key industries are education, manufacturing and healthcare. And while both towns began with only a few streets and a handful of homes and businesses, today Greater Lafayette encompasses a vast area containing historic and brand-new neighborhoods, high-quality school corporations, parks and trail systems, two hospitals, a world-class university and a regional community college campus.

Now, a new coalition seeks to make Greater Lafayette even greater by bringing a unified approach to marketing efforts aimed at increasing the talent pool, spurring new business development and enhancing community pride.

Creating prospects

Seven local entities — the City of Lafayette, the City of West Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Visit Lafayette-West Lafayette, Purdue University, the Purdue Research Foundation and Greater Lafayette Commerce — have come together to form the Greater Lafayette Marketing Coalition (GLMC). Its aim is to promote the area as an ideal place to live, play and work.

 “We work very well as a community here, with the cities and the county and Purdue and Ivy Tech. Overall, we have a strong economic climate,” says Tony Roswarski, Lafayette’s mayor. “But we understood that to continue to be globally competitive, we needed to look at how do we market ourselves in a new way? How do we look at the world for attracting new businesses here, to keep existing businesses competitive, to finding skilled labor?”

The ultimate goal of the campaign is twofold, says Scott Walker, CEO of Greater Lafayette Commerce: one, attracting more residents to the community, and two, attracting more businesses.

“We’re not necessarily trying to create more visitors,” he explains. Instead, coalition members want to convert visitors to prospects. “How do we get them to think, ‘How do I bring my business here, because I see how businesses are growing and thriving here?  Or how can I move myself and my family here, because I’ve really enjoyed my time in the community?’” 

Work-live-play strengths

To lay the groundwork for a cooperative marketing effort, GLMC partnered with Ologie, a Columbus, Ohio, agency that spearheaded Purdue University’s “Makers, All” campaign several years ago. The agency conducted face-to-face meetings with more than 125 residents, business leaders, hiring managers, Purdue University faculty, administrators and students, area non-profits and city and county employees.  It also developed an online community survey that yielded responses from more than 1,500 individuals.   Local hiring managers and business owners also participated in online discussion boards. 

Among the key insights: A connection to family is often what draws residents to the area and what keeps Purdue University graduates here. Additionally, Lafayette and West Lafayette may have distinct personalities, but thanks to their collaborative spirit, the two cities are often seen as one. Finally, despite its challenges, Greater Lafayette has a variety of work-live-play strengths, including employment opportunities, shared public spaces and high-quality public schools. 

Where community thrives

All of this adds up to the core message that Ologie developed: “Greater Lafayette is where progress, creativity and community thrive, so that you can live expansively.” 

For job seekers, Greater Lafayette is a hub for diverse and state-of-the-art industries, which translates to unlimited professional opportunities, according to Ologie’s messaging guide. For visitors and residents looking for entertainment, the area offers a variety of arts, culture and tech opportunities, which provide memorable experiences. For people seeking a sense of belonging, Greater Lafayette is a close-knit and prosperous community, the Ologie team notes, which leads to greater personal fulfillment for its citizens.

The campaign’s optimistic messages resonate with officials like Tom Murtaugh, Tippecanoe County commissioner. Born and raised here, he’s been delighted with changes in recent years, particularly the revitalization of downtown areas.

“When I was in college, downtown was desolate. There was an adult bookstore on the courthouse square. At night there was nobody downtown. To think that in 30-some years, that has completely turned around: investment in the downtown corridor, the MARQ project and the project by City Hall,” he says of the renovation of the Morton Community Center for West Lafayette city offices. “There’s a great history and a great future for this community.”

Working well together

As the campaign progresses, coalition officials will track progress. They’ll be looking for positive changes in audiences’ perceptions of Greater Lafayette as well as positive economic outcomes, such as new residents and businesses. 

“A growing economy is a thriving economy. Property and tax values depreciate, so you’re constantly having to create new investment,” says Walker. “There’s no such thing as status quo. Alternatives to growth are decline.” 

Demand for new houses drives new residential development, Walker adds: “We know what happens when the capacity expands over demand. That’s what the Great Recession was. Fostering that demand is really important; it provides assurance for developers.”

As West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis notes, Greater Lafayette is already seeing a housing boom. “We just approved the Provenance development on State and Airport Road in August. These will have wonderful housing options including apartments, condos and single-family houses. West Lafayette and Greater Lafayette as a whole is clearly a popular place to live because houses don’t stay on the market for long, but more are being added and will continue,” Dennis says. 

Several new businesses have also announced moves to or expansion in Greater Lafayette in the past year, including Saab, SEL (Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories), Inari and Zeblok. 

“The reason this is a great place to do business is because it is a great place to live. Our schools from kindergarten through Ph.D. are some of the finest in the country, our arts scene is robust and innovative, we have a growing culinary culture, our housing stock is wide-ranging and within reach for our residents,” Dennis says. 

“And finally, one of the main reasons Greater Lafayette is so great is that we all work together. It sounds cliché, but it’s what makes us, on both sides of the river, such a great success.”