BY KAT BRAZ
Embodying an industrious spirit and incorporating advanced technology, small manufacturers contribute significantly to Greater Lafayette’s economic vitality and workforce identity. With an emphasis on innovation, adaptability and craftsmanship, small manufacturers represent a spirit of ingenuity, entrepreneurship and resilience. Here are some of the businesses contributing to the region’s economic growth and promoting a sense of community pride that extends far beyond their workshop floors.
Antique Candle Co. | antiquecandleco.com
Founder Brittany Whitenack took a leap of faith when she left a demanding job, unsure of where life would lead her next. Searching for a creative outlet, she began making candles in her kitchen and gifting them to family and friends. In 2014, she started Antique Candle Co., armed with a business plan and $200 worth of supplies. Over the past decade, the company has grown to a nationally known maker of vintage-inspired artisan soy candles available online and in stores across the U.S. and Canada. From her kitchen stovetop to a 10,000-square-foot facility in Lafayette’s north end staffed with 50 employees, Whitenack remains committed to producing quality hand-poured candles and creating a positive work culture for the Antique Candle Co. crew. In 2022, the company ranked No. 20 on Fortune’s list of Best Workplaces in Manufacturing and Production (Small and Medium).
Industrial Plating | industrialplatinginc.com
When Bill Uerkwitz started Industrial Plating in 1955, the metal finishing industry was undergoing a boom. Although the process of electroplating — using electricity to deposit a thin layer of metal onto a base metal object — was first developed by Italian chemist Luigi Valetino Brugnatelli in 1805, the introduction of chemical processes in the mid-1900s led to a surge of electroplating facilities around the country. In response to the global push to reduce the use of environmentally unsafe practices, the industry has become more heavily regulated, and many facilities have closed. Industrial Plating continues to thrive, thanks to the installation of a state-of-the-art waste treatment system and adoption of efficient commercial plating technologies. Industrial Plating’s facility houses nickel, tin, zinc, silver and copper lines. The family-owned business spans three generations with Bill’s son, Darrell Uerkwitz, serving as president for more than 20 years. Once Darrell retires, his daughter, Angela Uerkwitz-Gibson, currently executive vice president, will take charge.
Kirby Risk | kirbyrisk.com
Established as the Keiffer-Risk Battery Company in 1926 in an old blacksmith shop on N. Second Street in Lafayette, Kirby Risk Corporation now encompasses six distinct business operations with more than 40 locations throughout Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Georgia. A well-respected name in electrical supply and manufacturing, Kirby Risk Corporation remains committed to the concept of sacrificial service embraced by its founder, J. Kirby Risk, and carried on by his son Jim Risk, now chief executive officer. The company also strives to create an environment for employees that encourages both personal and professional growth. It is consistently named as a Top Workplaces winner by the Indianapolis Star. The Risk Family Foundation supports many local organizations, including Junior Achievement and encourages community volunteering across its workforce. The company has shown a long-standing commitment to Greater Lafayette Commerce, United Way of Greater Lafayette and the Greater Lafayette Community Foundation.
Lafayette Instrument | lafayetteinstrument.com
The world’s leading manufacturer of polygraph instrumentation and equipment, Lafayette Instrument also makes scientific instruments for the life sciences and human evaluation industries. It’s also the sole distributor of the Clegg Impact Soil Tester used before every NFL game. The company celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2022 and welcomed a new CEO, Benjamin Mangrich. In April, Lafayette Instrument announced the acquisition of Aurora Scientific, an Ontario-based scientific instrument manufacturer. As a result of the acquisition, Lafayette Instrument expanded its scientific instrumentation line of products providing world-leading academic institutions with the most innovative and high-performance solutions and services in the industry.
SDI Innovations | sdiinnovations.com
SDI Innovations is the engine behind multiple companies and brands. With educational products in more than 30,000 schools and a reputation as the go-to company for agricultural genetic and chemical compliance, the company constantly evolves to uncover the next great innovation. STEM Education Works, a division of SDI Innovations, provides standards-aligned STEM curricula to cultivate the technical competencies and employability skills necessary for student success within regional workforce ecosystems. The company started as School Datebooks in 1985 at Sharon Powers’ kitchen table, which is something company president Tim Powers never forgets. SDI Innovations thrives on a corporate culture centered on “kitchen table values,” including positivity, family spirit, resourcefulness, driving change, comfortable innovation and always doing what’s right.
Steiner Enterprises | steineronline.com
Billed as a one-stop shop for all your original equipment manufacturing (OEM) needs, Steiner Enterprises can make pretty much anything a client can dream up. With more than 25 years in business, the company holds fast to its streamlined production model, which allows for a flexible and customized approach to every project. The company was built on a founding principle of finding a better way to source the right components from the right manufacturers to develop the right product. Its vast network comprises expert local and Far East partners that specialize in a wide range of skills, including mold tooling, injection molding, sheet metal, fabrication, machining, plating, finishing and CNC and Swiss machining. From assessment, design and prototyping to final assembly, product testing and quality control to packaging, shipping and logistics, Steiner Enterprises helps its clients get quality products into customers’ hands safely, efficiently and cost-effectively.
Oscar Winski Company | oscarwinski.com
Oscar Winski, a Polish immigrant who sailed to the United States on a 17-day steerage boat, was inspired to start a scrap metal company while walking the beat as a reserve policeman in Lafayette circa 1900. Noticing the amount of scrap metal generated by businesses and homes throughout the city, Winski spent his off-duty hours pushing a cart around town to collect all the scrap metal he could find. He sorted it by alloy in his garage and sold the material by the truckload to regional mills and foundries. Nearly 125 years and five generations later, the family business has transitioned from a successful metals recycling business to a vertically integrated diversified metals company. Lafayette Steel and Aluminum, a division of Oscar Winski Company, supplies steel and aluminum sheets, coils, plates and structural tubing as well as fabrication services. The company’s success is rooted in the belief that people matter most, and doing the right thing has its rewards. ★
BY JILLIAN ELLISON
In 2020, during the thick of the COVID shutdown and the shift to working from home, it wasn’t uncommon for employees across the United States to look at their remote work situations and wonder if they could find a better job fit elsewhere. Freed from the confines of their cubicles, for thousands of workers the idea of relocation to a new city was planted.
The Greater Lafayette area found itself the destination for many job seekers as the two cities began to receive accolades for their entrepreneurial atmosphere, world-class Purdue University and affordability. Among those accolades: a recent Wall Street Journal report that ranked Lafayette as the fifth best place to live for remote workers. That ranking was based on a poll that identified 10 factors people said they most cared about in a remote-work setting. Key factors included high-speed internet, housing prices, cost of living, employment and arts and entertainment venues and parks.
An additional lure for remote workers arose in April 2022 when Purdue University announced a first-of-its-kind program, not only inviting remote workers to move to the Greater Lafayette area, but to pay them to move as well.
If a $5,000 moving stipend wasn’t appealing enough, a few other perks were included: a Purdue ID card, permitting access to campus libraries and free rides on City Bus; free membership to care.com;
a 50 percent discount to the Convergence co-working space on campus and a discounted membership to Parkwest Fitness. The program ended in February after seeing a significant wave of applicants, but the program’s success signaled to stakeholders just how desirable the Greater Lafayette area is for remote workers.
Vanessa Hughes and her husband, both post-production television editors from Burbank, California, saw what the Wall Street Journal wrote about after just one brief visit.
The couple’s first experience in Greater Lafayette came in May 2022, when they stayed in the area while attending the famed Indianapolis 500.
“Before we left for the trip, my husband joked that I might fall in love with Indiana and we’d have to move here,” Hughes says. “Once we got here, I really liked the area and started looking for rentals, out of curiosity.”
It wasn’t long before she began seeing social media ads promoting work-from-home opportunities in the Greater Lafayette area with appealing incentives for remote workers to pick up their belongings and make the leap from the West Coast to the Midwest.
Once Hughes and her husband identified a viable time to make the move, she says they jumped on Zillow.com, cruising for a rental that fit their needs. Despite Tippecanoe County’s tight housing market, the couple was able to find a rental home in West Lafayette in just a few weeks.
Though they’ve only been in the area since November, Hughes says the vast amount of entertainment, access to university and community libraries, green spaces and friendly neighbors have made them feel at home in no time.
“I really appreciate the events calendar that Purdue Research Foundation puts out,” she says. “It’s daunting to move to any new place, and having an easy way to network and meet people is wonderful.”
For Ben Carson, however, the decision to move to West Lafayette as a remote worker was different: it was choosing to come back home.
Carson, a competitive debate coach and product developer for online academic competitions, moved from the Greater Lafayette area to New Jersey five years ago as a full-time debate coach, but as the pandemic shifted work online for many employees, Carson was looking for a change.
“With changing jobs, it made my ability to be remote, and to do that from anywhere was freeing, and I didn’t feel tied down to New Jersey anymore,” he says. “I was looking for different settings, but at that time coming back home made sense.”
Carson made his move in November, and like Hughes and her husband, he found himself in a lucky spot. He landed an available one-bedroom apartment at the Provenance Apartments in Purdue’s Discovery Park.
In five years’ time, Carson says one of the most visible changes he’s seen in the Greater Lafayette area has been the rapid development of the Discovery Park District, an area of the university’s campus that has seen more than $1 billion in development through the addition of housing, research facilities and commercial properties.
“At the time when I left, none of what is there now existed,” he says. “Now, it’s completely unrecognizable having not seen the growth in real time, but seeing that area being taken advantage of to its fullest extent is really great to see.”
Moving back to Indiana, Carson says he didn’t expect many surprises having lived here most of his life. Knowing Tippecanoe County has been a hotbed for development over the last decade, he expected to see some businesses he didn’t recognize and some buildings to look a bit different, but he was reminded of one thing as the seasons changed.
“I kind of forgot how windy it is here,” he says. “I didn’t really realize it and didn’t think much about it when I moved to New Jersey, because for the most part the weather is the same. But man, getting hit with that wind kind of took my breath away.”
Moving from California to Indiana, Hughes says her biggest surprise came after seeing the state’s famed breaded pork tenderloin sandwich.
“I am surprised by just how large a pork tenderloin sandwich can actually be,” she says. “I respect it, but I will stick to a spicy chicken sandwich instead.” ★
BY PURDUE UNIVERSITY HEALTH EQUITY INITIATIVES
In 2021, Purdue University recruited Dr. Jerome Adams, the 20th Surgeon General of the United States, as the university’s first ever Director of Health Equity initiatives (HEI). Dr. Adams was hired to leverage Purdue’s many unique assets to ensure more communities have opportunities to make healthy choices and live healthy lives. Based on guidance from faculty members, three thematic areas of focus were identified in early 2022: Food for Health, Infectious Diseases, and Mental Health and Substance Use. Faculty felt these thematic areas would give us space to learn, grow, engage, and create an impact in the health equity space across Indiana and beyond. Further, Purdue’s strengths in education and research, technology and data, engagement and entrepreneurship, and communication and policy provide a strong foundation for making a difference in these initially identified areas of opportunity.
Dr. Adams and his team are working aggressively to engage faculty, students, and staff across Purdue’s ecosystem to maximize the University’s impact in the Health Equity space both internally and with external partners. The end goal is to help fulfill Purdue’s land grant mission by promoting community health and success through ongoing partnerships and engagement. As an example of this work, the HEI Office recently released a seed funding opportunity to Kathleen Abrahamson, associate professor of nursing from the College of Health and Human Sciences. Her project is exploring the mental health challenges that exist within a local nursing facility.
Abrahamson’s project will consist of semi-structured interviews conducted by a nursing doctoral student with staff members and leaders to assess perceptions of facility climate, wellness needs, and ideas for change. Staff members will then be sent a validated survey instrument to provide a baseline measure for staff before intervention design. Lastly, a team of undergraduate students will conduct a faculty-led assessment of potential areas for quality improvement. The Purdue chapter of IHI Open School has committed to assisting the facility in implementing quality projects related to the mental health environment of the facility.
Abrahamson anticipates that two evidenced-based reports will be provided to the facility in May 2023 and September 2023 regarding the current mental health climate of the facility and that the data collected through this seed funding opportunity will be utilized to apply for additional funding to design an expanded project to address the quality of life and mental health and well-being among nursing home residents.
The Purdue HEI team would love to engage with your organization to work on additional projects which can improve health equity in the Lafayette community. To connect with any of our faculty members or learn more about our work, please visit our website: https://www.purdue.edu/provost/health
BY KEN THOMPSON
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
The largest deal with an industry partner in Purdue University history is bringing $75 million to West Lafayette over the next 10 years.
That the agreement is with Rolls-Royce makes it a natural fit for Purdue, which has had a more than 70-year relationship with the global corporation that has customers in more than 150 countries.
“We have collaborated on many aerospace research projects, worked with numerous Purdue experts and have established a pipeline of talent from the university to our company,” says Warren White, Director of Assembly & Test-U.S., Rolls-Royce Defense. “In fact, over 700 Purdue grads work for Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis.
“With the aerospace expertise on campus, the strong support from Lafayette and West Lafayette officials, and the comfort level between the university and the company, it made perfect sense to invest there.”
The agreement funds testing and research in the areas of gas turbine technology and electrical and digital technology. Purdue’s Zucrow Laboratories, the largest academic propulsion laboratory in the world, will be the primary site for research in sustainable power systems through advanced technology in electrification, turbines, compressors and combustion with sustainable fuels.
Just weeks before unveiling the Rolls-Royce deal, Purdue announced it would construct a $73 million high-speed propulsion laboratory for hypersonic technologies in the Discovery Park District. The laboratory will span 55,000 square feet.
At the time the agreement was announced in May 2022, then-Purdue President Mitch Daniels said, “Purdue’s research partnership with Rolls-Royce will address some of the greatest technology challenges facing the U.S. Our faculty and students will work on advanced technology capabilities to ensure long-term national security. This will enhance the university’s role as a world leader in engineering research.”
White says, “Indiana is very lucky to have an educational institution like Purdue University as a pillar of research and a true leader in the world of aerospace. Not just the astronauts – although that history is fantastic – but there are so many other areas where Purdue has been in the forefront of technology advancement.
“At Rolls-Royce, we are very proud to be partnering with Purdue and continuing that great history of cutting-edge aerospace development.”
White says Rolls-Royce has a number of projects
underway in various stages at West Lafayette, including some of the hybrid-electrical testing work. New facility construction also is taking place, but he says it probably will be a couple of years before Rolls-Royce begins operation of test facilities in other areas.
Purdue President Mung Chiang, who began his tenure on Jan. 1, 2023, says, “Purdue has become the epicenter of hypersonic research and testing in the U.S. We are excited across three tracks: first, our own investment for federal and industry projects, such as the wind tunnel and manufacturing facility announced in 2021, and the high-speed propulsion facility in 2022 that Rolls-Royce will be able to use; second, private sector’s investment to grow their presence in the Discovery Park District at Purdue; and third, a nonprofit consortium of industry members for ground testing hosted at Purdue.”
One of those projects is aimed toward the company’s goal to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions in its operations by 2030.
“Our hybrid-electrical testing will help move aviation to a more sustainable future by reducing reliance on fossil fuels,” White says.
“High-altitude testing capability will enable us to make our engines more efficient in challenging operating environments. Hypersonic testing will help develop engines to help aircraft reach extremely high speeds. All of these are important aerospace ‘giant leaps’ and we are proud to be working with Purdue to advance these efforts.”
White says research and development projects are the primary focus for Rolls-Royce in West Lafayette. Side benefits to these projects are modest job growth in Greater Lafayette as well as enhancing the learning potential of Purdue students and faculty.
The roots of Purdue’s relationship with Rolls-Royce date back to a partnership with a company owned by one of the founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
James A. Allison founded the Allison Engine Company more than a century ago, and Purdue’s close proximity to Indianapolis led to Allison Engine hiring many Purdue engineering graduates. Rolls-Royce purchased Allison Engine Company in 1996.
“Since that time, hundreds of Purdue engineers have worked for Rolls-Royce, collectively making a major impact on our company’s products and designs,” White says. “The relationship is as strong as ever. We continue to perform research on and off campus and continue to hire Purdue grads every year.”
White, who earned his bachelor’s degree in aero/astro engineering and a master’s degree in industrial administration from Purdue, credits his time in West Lafayette for creating a solid foundation for his professional career.
“We have more Purdue engineers working at Rolls-Royce than from any other university,” White says. “My personal background at Purdue didn’t play a role in the company’s decision to invest in West Lafayette, though. All the business factors involved made it the right decision. I’m happy it turned out that way, and I enjoy making trips to campus.”
White has noticed the many changes in Greater Lafayette since his undergraduate and post-graduate days. He praised the unique partnership between Purdue and the cities of Lafayette and West Lafayette.
“We have been happy to witness the economic redevelopment taking place in West Lafayette and Tippecanoe County as a whole,” White says. “The credit goes certainly to mayors, city council members, community leaders and the redevelopment commission — their vision and commitment to the current and future residents of Greater Lafayette.
“This vision along with the investments and growth spurred by the success of Purdue during the Mitch Daniels era and now with President Mung Chiang have been very impressive. Rolls-Royce is proud to be part of the community. It’s a great place to live and work.” ★
BY CINDY GERLACH
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
Not-for-profit organizations were designed to fill a niche between services offered by the government and the private sector. Their not-for-profit status allows any proceeds to be funneled back into the organization to help in fulfilling the mission, rather than be shared with investors or other stakeholders. Hence running a not-for-profit requires a special set of skills, as executive directors are tasked with running programs and staffing, as well as with development, fundraising and donor relations, all working under the guidance of a volunteer board of directors.
Several of these organizations in Tippecanoe County are run by women. Here is a look at just a few of the women who are at the helm of local not-for-profit agencies.
Chief Executive Officer
Bauer Family Resources
Comegys developed a strong devotion to the nonprofit sector — and specifically youth serving organizations — early in her life, having benefited from youth development programming. Today her adopted daughter, Harley, has grown through her participation in similar programming. Her personal experiences led her to serve Bauer, an organization that empowers children and their families to thrive. She is a graduate of Purdue University with a B.A. in communications with a focus in advertising.
How did you become involved with this organization?
I originally became involved in the organization when I was serving as the CEO of a neighboring organization. We worked alongside Bauer in the community. When the previous CEO was set to retire, I was recruited to the organization.
What are your top three priorities?
• Enhance program delivery and accessibility: Embrace opportunities and create systems that allow for programs to replicate, expand, operate and innovate as dictated by the needs of the families and communities we serve.
• Amplify organizational impact: Communicate the difference that we are making, how we made that difference and why it is important in a way that elevates the organization.
• Proactively develop and strengthen our workforce: Become a sought-after employment destination with a culture that retains employees.
What change do you hope to effect during your tenure?
Bauer is one of the best-kept secrets in the community; often the work we do is in the background. With my team, I want Bauer, and the impact we make throughout the community, to be more apparent. We serve thousands of people every single year and have deep connections with families. We need to highlight that work to increase the number of families we are able to reach.
Public Schools Foundation of Tippecanoe County
Isbell is a graduate of Jefferson High School and Purdue University (1989, political science). She and her husband Dan have four adult children and five grandchildren. This is their 10th consecutive year with a child attending Purdue University.
How did you become involved with the organization?
My reintroduction to public education came when my first-born entered kindergarten in 1997 and I volunteered as “room mom.” As our other children entered school, my involvement increased with PTO leadership roles and special projects. When my youngest daughter entered preschool I decided to re-enter the work force and found a job listing in the newspaper for part-time director of PSFTC. In January 2023 I’ll begin my 21st year with the organization.
Our top three priorities are to:
• Provide resources that innovate classrooms and engage students in a tangible way.
• Create valuable classroom experiences for both students and teachers.
• Showcase the extraordinary effort and dedication that teachers, administrators and support staff exhibit in schools every day.
What changes do you hope to effect during your tenure?
I hope that during my tenure, rather than operate with a narrow focus, PSFTC will forge new partnerships with businesses and other philanthropic organizations to leverage resources and offer quality educational experiences to all students, and that we will continue to provide teachers with resources that provide varied instruction and materials to engage an audience with vastly different academic, economic and social backgrounds.
Chief Executive Officer
The Arts Federation
Lee has impacted the cultural landscape of Indiana for more than 25 years. She has degrees from the School of the Art Institute, American Academy of Art, Florence Academy of Art, Indiana State University and Texas Tech. She is a classically trained artist and a dedicated advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion.
How did you become involved with the organization?
A member of the search committee reached out to my former boss who encouraged me to apply. After he asked three times, I sent in my resume, and the rest is history.
What are your top three priorities?
• Increase the accessibility of the arts to all people and communities.
• Continue to build The Arts Federation’s reputation as one of the strongest and best arts organizations in the nation.
• Cement the importance and role of the arts in community and economic development.
What change do you hope to effect during your tenure?
Increase the diversity of the arts, artists and communities that are represented and celebrated in our present and future.
President and Chief Executive Officer
YWCA Greater Lafayette
Involved in violence prevention work with domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, Mickler is a versatile, highly adaptable, results-oriented professional with proven nonprofit leadership and management skills. During the summer of 2022, Mickler embarked on an eight-week embodied racial justice cohort for white leaders with fellow YWCA CEOs. She has a B.A. in psychology and a Master of Public Management from Indiana University, Kokomo.
How did you become involved with YWCA?
Like many, I have a connection to YWCA. In Kokomo, I attended YWCA as a child and was a swim instructor during college. When I was appointed as the CEO in August of 2021, it felt like an opportunity to continue to serve a mission that I was passionate about — four simple words that are challenging, but necessary: eliminate racism, empower women. I am honored to serve in this capacity and be entrusted with this community treasure.
What are your top three priorities?
• Develop bold initiatives that will allow us to drive our mission forward.
• Tell our story of one YWCA! We are an umbrella agency, with pillar programs that collectively support our mission and meet the needs of the community.
• Embrace collaboration — we know that the lift to effectively serve our mission will require action from both YWCA Greater Lafayette and the community.
What change do you hope to effect during your tenure?
Amidst a pandemic that has resulted in an increase in domestic violence, exposed inequities in access to health care, emphasized necessity for workforce development, and highlighted need for racial and social justice initiatives, our work is more important now than ever.
We will continue to strengthen collaborative opportunities and solidify YWCA Greater Lafayette as the leader in violence prevention efforts and social and racial justice initiatives.
YWCA Greater Lafayette has provided needed services for 92 years, and we will continue to lead the charge towards equality. Together, we shall continue to add to the legacy of YWCA Greater Lafayette. We will continue to foster empowerment in action through our events, our collaborations and our pillar programs that we extend to each of the communities we serve.
YWCA Greater Lafayette will continue to do our work until injustice is rooted out, until institutions are transformed and until the world sees women, girls, and people of color the way we do. Equal. Powerful. Unstoppable.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Mental Health America, Wabash Vally Region
Christiansen is a U.S. Navy Veteran with an associates degree in law enforcement and B.A. in anthropology from the University of Iowa. She is a former semi-pro women’s football player and is the vice chair of the Indiana National Guard Relief Fund and a Certified Suicide Prevention Instructor (QPR Gate Keeper).
How did you become involved with this organization?
I was previously the executive director of Mental Health America-North Central Indiana based in Kokomo when I learned of this open position and was encouraged to apply. I did, and we merged with my old region last January.
What are your top three priorities?
• Staff/volunteer development
• Sustainable funding
• Innovative response to a mental health crisis.
Without the first two priorities, we remain in reactionary mode and the crisis grows.
What change do you hope to effect during your tenure?
I hope to offer systemic opportunities for individuals and their families struggling with mental health and addiction who have not been successful in the current mental health care and legal systems to get relief and empowerment so that they do not pass the trauma on to the next generations. I hope to take a tactical approach to youth mental health challenges and normalize early treatment and prevention of mental health and substance use disorders. I hope to challenge stigma in all its forms.
Katy O’Malley Bunder (right) passes the torch to Kier Crites Muller (left)
President and Chief Executive Officer
Food Finders Food Bank
(Note: Bunder announced her retirement as this issue of Greater Lafayette Magazine went to press. Long-time Food Finders staff member Kier Crites Muller was named the new CEO upon Bunder’s retirement.)
Bunder joined Food Finders Food Bank in 2008 as the executive director. Under her direction, Food Finders increased food distribution from 2.5 million pounds to 14 million pounds, expanded the Backpack Program and added the Mobile Pantry Program. In 2014, Food Finders conducted a capital campaign that enabled the food bank to move into two newly renovated buildings. The Food Resource and Education Center teaches life skills and nutrition classes and offers resource coordination for food insecure households. In 2020, in response to increased demand resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Food Finders opened a grocery store. The Fresh Market, open five days a week, distributes high-quality nutritious food to low-income households and served more than 17,500 individual households in 2020.
Before joining Food Finders, Bunder worked for Purdue University from 1985 until 2008 and founded the nonprofit organization New Chauncey Housing, Inc.
Originally, from Arkansas, Bunder earned her bachelor’s degree at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College. She completed her master’s degree at the University of Virginia. Bunder and her husband, Peter, moved to West Lafayette in 1985. They have two grown daughters and three grandchildren.
How did you become involved with this organization?
In 2008 Food Finders conducted a search to find a new executive director, and I applied. I had previously founded a nonprofit and wanted to return to nonprofit work.
What are your top three priorities?
• Providing food to those who are food insecure.
• Running programs that help people overcome the root cause of hunger: poverty
• Making sure everyone in our community knows that people around us are hungry and those who can help donate or volunteer.
What change do you hope to effect during your tenure?
I am retiring in December 2022 and I have increased food distribution, added programs and moved Food Finders from an industrial park on the edge of Lafayette to the center of the city. It is much easier for those who need help to find it and easier for volunteers to help the food bank.
Tippecanoe County Senior Services
Earnst is the executive director of Tippecanoe Senior Services and has been in this position for three years. Her past work includes being the executive director of a family homeless shelter and program. She also has experience in social work, elementary education and early intervention for young children with special needs. Earnst has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of North Carolina Greensboro and a Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership from Indiana University. She is originally from Elkhart and has lived in the Greater Lafayette area for 14 years. She is married and has five adult children and one granddaughter.
How did you become involved with this organization?
I became involved in this organization after a colleague suggested that I apply. I enjoy working with the senior population and being able to provide the services and resources they need to live a healthy and happy life.
What are your top three priorities?
• Raise more awareness of our agency
• Raise awareness of the services we provide to seniors
• Strive to continue to bring in the programming and services that will benefit the seniors we serve.
What change do you hope to effect during your tenure?
I hope to change the way our society regards the senior population by promoting value, respect and honor within my organization and within our community.
Tippecanoe Senior Services operates Tippecanoe Senior Center, Meals on Wheels Greater Lafayette and SHARP (Senior Home Assistance Repair Program)
Junior Achievement serving Greater Lafayette
A graduate of Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in communications, Edwards has a background in supporting local businesses, as well as local and national nonprofits.
She also currently serves as a Greater Lafayette Connector, on the Leadership Lafayette Selection Committee, Community Foundation of Greater Lafayette 100+ Women Who Care Steering Committee and President of the Jefferson High School Golden Broncho Club.
A connector at heart, Edwards’ leadership skills and community involvement has taught her that investing in people, organizations and workplaces helps keep our communities strong and vibrant. It is about empowering people by providing opportunities to grow, change and give back.
How did you become involved with this organization?
My love for education and workforce development come together at Junior Achievement. Serving my community through preparing students to succeed in a global economy is important to me. I truly believe our mission is truly making a difference in Greater Lafayette.
What are your top three priorities?
• Always be learning and growing as an individual
• Serve my community well
• Have fun
What change do you hope to effect during your tenure?
I hope to create a culture where staff feels appreciated and wants to invest in the organization. Additionally, I want to leave a legacy for the organization, that the work being done today will be appreciated in the years to come.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Lafayette Transitional Housing Center
Layton has worked for LTHC Homeless Services, formally Lafayette Transitional Housing Center, for the past 28 years. She began her tenure after graduating from Ball State University with a B.S. in public relations. She started as a case manager at LTHC thinking that the job would be relatively simple — to help homeless families. But what began as a job has turned into a lifelong passion.
For the last 22 years, Layton has been the executive director, now President/CEO, of LTHC. She has overseen significant growth in the ongoing effort to meet the changing needs of the homeless population of our community. During this time, the agency has grown from one program to seven, from serving nine families to helping over 250 families in 2021. Such programs include: Coordinated Entry, Day Resource Center, Night Shelter, Interim Housing, Medical Respite, Permanent Supportive Housing, Rapid Re-Housing and Supportive Services for Veteran Families.
How did you become involved with this organization?
In 1994, when I started my career with this organization, I thought it would be easy for me to connect homeless families to housing options. I was from this area and could help navigate housing solutions. What I learned, very quickly, was there was a lack of affordable housing options for single-parent households. The families who needed help also needed employment, child care, transportation assistance and more. There were many barriers associated that I did not understand.
What are your top three priorities?
• End homelessness for individuals, families and veterans.
• Educate the public about people who are experiencing homelessness and how they need a community response to help.
• Build additional housing units and collaborate with additional partners to ensure housing success.
What change do you hope to effect during your tenure?
I want to be part of the advocacy work across the state of Indiana to provide housing to all Hoosiers who are experiencing homelessness. This is not an issue just in Tippecanoe County. There is much work to be done.
President and Chief Executive Officer
North Central Health Services, Inc. (NCHS)
Long has 20 years of health care administration experience in various leadership roles. Before joining NCHS in 2015, she was the chief executive officer of Indiana University Health White Memorial Hospital. Long has a B.S. in nursing and a master’s in business administration. Long is a fellow of the American College of Health Care Executives.
How did you become involved with the organization?
Long joined the organization in 2015 as the president and CEO. NCHS owns and operates River Bend Hospital, an inpatient psychiatric hospital. NCHS also provides grants for eligible nonprofit organizations in an eight-county region.
What are your top three priorities?
The top three priorities of NCHS are based on the Community Health Needs Assessment, completed for our eight-county region every three years. The 2021 Community Health Needs Assessment identified the following critical health needs as our priorities:
• Mental/behavioral health and adverse childhood experiences
• Substance abuse
• Our community’s overall health and well-being
What change do you hope to effect during your tenure?
We are fortunate to live in a community where individuals truly care and are willing to work together for the greater good. I hope to remove barriers and support the mental health needs of our community, including access to care, social services and prevention programs for all ages. In addition to providing mental health services at River Bend Hospital, the goal of NCHS is to provide funding partnerships to expand and strengthen nonprofit organizations that improve health outcomes and develop healthy communities.
Leslie Martin Conwell
Tippecanoe County Historical Association (TCHS)
Conwell is an anthropologist and historian who did undergraduate work at Purdue University and graduate work at Indiana University. She has been employed in various capacities with the Tippecanoe County Historical Association for 40 years.
How did you become involved with this organization?
After going to my first Feast of the Hunters’ Moon in 1975, the Feast sparked the development of a strong love for the history and archaeology of Fort Ouiatenon. The historical association hired me originally as a tour guide and gift shop manager while I was in college, and after graduation, they hired me as a museum professional. I was very fortunate to work with people there who recognized my interest and encouraged me all through these years to be the best I could be in the museum field. I’ve had incredible mentors.
What are your top three priorities?
• TCHA is dedicated to collecting, preserving and
sharing Tippecanoe County’s diverse history.
• A major priority is to keep the Feast financially viable, inclusive and relevant, so that it continues to
contribute to the quality of life in the community.
• Ensuring TCHA’s fiscal viability through grants,
community connections and interpersonal relationships.
What change do you hope to effect during your tenure?
My time as executive director has been all about ensuring the historical association’s survival and viability. I came on board in June of 2020 — the height of the COVID pandemic. I worked in tandem with the board, staff, membership, sponsors, granting agencies, donors and volunteers to ensure the survival of the Tippecanoe County Historical Association through the significant challenges posed by the COVID pandemic and the subsequent cancellation of the 2020 Feast of the Hunters’ Moon. TCHA met its mission during the most challenging time the association has ever endured, and we accomplished much toward ensuring the future financial security of TCHA. I will be retiring from the executive director position in the very near future, and it has been an honor to serve TCHA and my community. ★
The pot Conwell is holding was found in the area of the archaeological site of Fort Ouiatenon It is constructed of copper, and is identified by experts as a cooking pot dating from the second quarter of the 18th century (roughly 1725-1750). The construction and style is identified as French.
BY KEN THOMPSON
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
Nestled near the Wabash River and tucked away from Greater Lafayette’s other industrial complexes, Evonik Industries’ Tippecanoe Laboratories is preparing for the next global pandemic.
During the summer of 2022, Evonik announced it would build a Lipid Innovation Center on the sprawling grounds of its Shadeland plant. The United States government, through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), is contributing up to $150 million toward the estimated $220 million project. BARDA’s goal is to promote the “advanced development of medical countermeasures” to protect Americans and respond to 21st century health security threats – such as COVID-19. Lipids played a crucial role for vaccine production during the pandemic.
“Certainly, the project is a boost to the image of Evonik in the Greater Lafayette community,” says Daniel Fricker, vice president and site manager for Tippecanoe Labs, one of the world’s largest contract manufacturing facilities in the pharmaceutical industry.
Customers big and small
Companies such as Evonik offer pharmaceutical companies comprehensive services ranging from drug development to manufacturing. In Shadeland, Evonik makes drugs for more than 20 industry clients.
“Customers big or small, the well-known pharma names or startups come to us with requests to produce a molecule,” Fricker says. “We have a deep knowledge of producing pharmaceutical products and hold up the standards of good manufacturing practices.”
These skills also will be applied in the innovation center for lipids, products that almost became household names during the COVID-19 pandemic because of their crucial role in delivering novel mRNA vaccines to millions worldwide. Germany-based Evonik provided lipids to the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from a facility in its home country.
Greater Lafayette was picked as the site for the new Lipid Innovation Center after a global search process.
“It made the most sense here,” says Yvonne Hurt, a leading project manager for the facility. “Tippecanoe has a strong infrastructure and a highly skilled workforce.”
‘A secret weapon’
Fricker believes the decision went in Greater Lafayette’s favor partially due to the Midwest’s reputation for hard workers.
“The Midwest is a secret weapon,” says Fricker, who previously worked for Evonik in Saudi Arabia, Germany and Louisiana. “This speaks of people, society, and government realizing that the Midwest has the necessary capacities for such a strategic development. You are building on a proven Silicon Valley model.”
Modeled on California’s information technology cluster Silicon Valley, Indiana has become a home to a large, highly specialized and diverse health science industry.
The new facility is expected to add 80 highly paid jobs to the Greater Lafayette community when production begins.
That’s a significant boost to a current workforce of nearly 680 employees – plus an additional 150 contractors that assist with maintenance, logistics, catering and security on site.
The only larger Evonik facility in the U.S. is in Mobile, Alabama.
Groundbreaking is set for 2023, with production expected to begin in 2025.
“It will open up a lot of potential and a lot of growth for the local economy,” Hurt says.
What exactly is a lipid?
In layman’s terms, lipids protect a molecule called messenger RNA (mRNA), which was the key ingredient in the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. The mRNA, produced in a lab, carries genetic information to teach our cells to make proteins. Those proteins then trigger an immune response inside the body.
Several different lipids form a lipid nanoparticle that encases the mRNA molecules.
In other words: Lipids are fundamental to producing highly effective mRNA-based vaccines.
“Without those lipids, mRNA wouldn’t work,” Hurt says.
The lipid nanoparticles are too small to be seen with the naked eye or a conventional microscope. “Think of them as tiny bubbles of fat protecting the mRNA so that it can get to where it needs to go,” says Hurt. “Without the lipids, the mRNA would break down in the body and never reach its target area.”
The potential of mRNA-based medicines seems limitless. “We’re working on every imaginable infectious disease,” says Drew Weissman, professor of vaccine research at the University of Pennsylvania. The list includes hepatitis C, HIV and malaria. But mRNA technology also can help treat diseases such as cancer.
Evonik’s lipid center in Tippecanoe County will ensure that there are enough lipids available for these new applications.
“In Tippecanoe, we are not only helping to prepare for future pandemics, but we’re also preparing for the fight against many other diseases,” Hurt says. “Our new facility has the capacity to meet global demand.”
Just three years ago, COVID was a word people couldn’t use in Scrabble. Now, it’s a reminder that a virus can cause worldwide deaths and serious damage to global economies.
Preparing a pipeline for lipids
When there is a next pandemic — and chances are there will be another in our lifetimes — how will Evonik Tippecanoe Laboratories be prepared to produce the lipids for a vaccine?
“We cannot foresee what’s coming, but we are working with a lot of partners, including many different universities, to build a pipeline ahead of time,” says Hurt, who grew up in Granger, Indiana, and graduated from Purdue University — just a couple of miles away from Tippecanoe Labs, on the other side of the Wabash River.
Purdue is an important partner for Evonik. “I’m thrilled with Purdue University, especially with their Alliance for the Advanced Manufacturing of Pharmaceuticals,” Fricker says. “It exactly meets our needs. I don’t see a better partnership than this one.”
The Lipid Innovation Center is planned with an eye toward flexibility and quick adaptability to future needs.
“We are one of the key factors for the preparedness of the United States in case of a future pandemic by adding our assets, our competencies,” Fricker says. “The facility is also designed for different processes, so we can easily transfer a not-yet-known product into this plant.”
Evonik produced lipids within its Health Care business well before the COVID outbreak.
The inside of two dryers for pharmaceutical powders at the Tippecanoe site.
Right, top: An operations employee connects the fill spout to a tote bag for packaging. The process is contained to ensure that employees are shielded from potent pharmaceutical compounds.
Right, bottom: Evonik employee inspects the operation of a centrifuge isolating a pharmaceutical product at the Tippecanoe Laboratories.
“We have been working on mRNA and lipid technology for many years,” Fricker says. That capability was crucial for the quick reaction to the COVID outbreak and the strategic partnership with the German biotechnology company BioNTech.
“Using our ‘A’ team of engineers, we set up the lipid production in Germany in only eight weeks – months earlier than originally planned.”
The project’s name, “Speed of Light,” stated its mission to support the development of a COVID-19 vaccine in record time. Evonik played a pivotal role in that effort.
This success helped convince the United States government to make a significant investment with Evonik. The $150 million buys the U.S. a 10-year period of priority access to lipids in case of another pandemic.
History of innovation
The history of the Tippecanoe Labs facility goes back to 1953 when the Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company completed its construction. Evonik, one of the largest specialty chemicals producers in the world, purchased the plant in 2010.
Brett Giltmier, an engineer and senior manufacturing manager at Tippecanoe, has been on site for 19 years. He witnessed its transformation from a facility serving only one company (Eli Lilly) to one that now collaborates with more than 20 customers – producing highly potent medicines for chemotherapy, for example.
“I’ve been here long enough to appreciate this trajectory. It’s wonderful to see a place with our history of innovation taking the next step into the future,” says Giltmier, who pointed to the innovation buzz in the Greater Lafayette community created by Purdue’s Discovery Park District, the massive mixed-use multidisciplinary research and business park. “We fit in very well with that as we have been doing similar things for a long time.”
Tippecanoe Labs, therefore, has deep community roots.
“The community involvement and support from our employees is our bedrock,” Giltmier says.
With an annual budget of $75,000 for community outreach, Evonik aims to make an impact on the Greater Lafayette community. Evonik’s focus for these funds is education, social services and youth activities.
Among the programs it funds are Partners in Education, Drug Abuse Resistance
Education (D.A.R.E.), and the Wizard Science Program. Evonik employees also take part in United Way, Greater Lafayette Honor Flight, Junior Achievement, food drives, Taste of Tippecanoe, Clothe-A-Child and blood drives.
“We want to extend the partnership with the community,” Fricker says.
Next for Tippecanoe Labs
The groundbreaking for the Lipid Innovation Center will take place in late March. But executives are already looking at what might be next for Tippecanoe Labs.
“The master plan always foresees an expansion,” Fricker says. These decisions depend on market opportunities, scientific advances and smart business decisions, of course. The announcement of the new Lipid Innovation Center that made global headlines last summer is a case in point.
“A few years ago, nobody was thinking about a pandemic, and I don’t think a whole lot of people knew what messenger RNA was. But Evonik and a few other companies were already working on this – otherwise, the COVID-19 vaccine wouldn’t have been created so fast.” ★
BY KAT BRAZ
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
Before the start of every NFL game, the stadium’s grounds crew uses a Clegg Impact Tester to determine the hardness of the field and to ensure the playing surface is safe for athletes. Developed in the 1970s in Australia by Baden Clegg, a geomechanical engineer and a lecturer at the University of Western Australia, the instrument contains an accelerometer, or hammer, that is dropped from a predetermined height to measure how quickly weight stops upon impact.
NFL rules dictate the reading must produce a score under 100 before a game can be played. The higher the number, the harder the playing surface and the higher the risk for a player to suffer a concussion if his head hits the ground. And every Clegg Impact Tester used by the NFL is manufactured by Lafayette Instrument Company, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.
“People drive by the building and see the word ‘instrument’ and they think we make musical instruments,” says Brian Brown, sales manager for Lafayette Instrument. “We actually make and sell scientific instruments in more than 100 different countries, working with corporate clients such as the NFL, American Airlines and FedEx.”
In addition to being the sole distributer of the Clegg, Lafayette Instrument is the world’s leading manufacturer of Polygraph instrumentation and equipment and offers innovative technologies to support neuroscience research and instruments for human evaluation used in education, temporary staffing, human resources, occupational medicine, rehabilitation and other professions.
“For the past 75 years, we’ve been able to reinvent ourselves to meet customers’ needs,” says Jennifer Rider, president and CEO of Lafayette Instrument. “What started as a partnership with Purdue University expanded to partnerships with numerous universities, government agencies and other organizations around the world. Our product line and massive reach sets us apart from other businesses in the area, and even in the state.”
Lafayette Instrument was founded by Purdue electrical engineering graduate Max Wastl in 1947. What began as a small operation in a shed with one employee has grown into an international leader in scientific instrumentation manufacturing with the Lafayette-based headquarters and primary manufacturing facility that employs 48 people, and a second location, Camden Instruments, acquired in 1998 and located about one hour northeast of Birmingham, England, that employs around 20.
“Our Camden Instruments subsidiary focuses on neuroscience products exclusively,” Rider says. “They do some machining and a lot of their own assembly. They have their own engineering and tech teams, much like Lafayette, just on a smaller scale.”
Rider’s father-in-law, Roger McClellan, bought the company with two partners and restructured it in the 1990s with a focus on vertical integration, a business model that became critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Lafayette Instrument has the capability to not only conceive product ideas and iterate on them but also build them out in full-scale production within our own facility,” Rider says. “Over the past 10 to 20 years, vertical integration isn’t quite as critical as it used to be. We have many options available to us, using providers around the state and sourcing equipment internationally. We still do as much as we can in-house because it saves money and it certainly saves us time. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when other companies were waiting on vendors and suppliers, we were able to fulfill orders.”
The orders Lafayette Instrument fills range from simple instruments such as a pegboard used to test fingertip dexterity and gross movement of the hand in an ergonomics lab or basic calipers used for physical ability testing, to sophisticated computerized instruments used in health care, law enforcement and research facilities that can communicate instantaneous results digitally.
The Polygraph is one such instrument that Lafayette Instrument continues to innovate. The paper readouts depicted in the movies have been replaced with a computerized system that connects to a digital interface.
“The need for credibility assessment solutions has remained steady and increased,” Rider says. “The organizations that use Polygraph know it’s the best tool and technology available today, outside of basic interview and interrogation techniques, to try to determine if a person is being deceptive. But it doesn’t mean it is the exclusive technology that will always be used forever.
“There are academic endeavors, institutional endeavors and our own research and development to find ways to make it better. But the need for products like these aren’t going away. Whether it’s cybercrimes or terrorism or criminal investigations, the data acquired through these types of instruments is incredibly valuable.”
Customers approach the company with ideas for specific instruments they need. Occasionally those will be large-scale custom manufacturing orders, but most often they are tools that Lafayette Instrument can bring to market.
“We’re very ingrained in the industries we serve,” Brown says. “People recognize the Lafayette Instrument name and come to us for solutions. The confidence our customers have in our company to be on the leading edge of innovation and provide instrumentation that is going to benefit them is what keeps me excited.”
As Lafayette Instrument looks to its next 75 years, capitalizing on the strength of its employees — many are long-tenured like Brown — and its drive for ingenuity will propel its growth for years to come.
“To reach 100-year-plus milestones, you can’t be afraid of change and disruption,” Rider says. “We don’t want to be complacent and think we’ll have another 75 years of success doing exactly what we’ve been doing. We have to understand the value that we bring to the market and to our customers and build on that. We have to know ourselves. When you stray too far from your core strengths, that’s when a company starts to falter.”
Whether it’s working with governmental agencies, neuroscience researchers and industry, health care practitioners or the NFL, Lafayette Instrument offers solutions that advance safety, security, science and medicine.
“Every product that goes out our doors is helping someone or protecting someone,” Rider says. “There’s a lot of purpose in that work that gives meaning to what you’re doing. It’s easy to be fulfilled by that.” ★
BY KEN THOMPSON
A large number of Tippecanoe County residents cannot remember a time when Caterpillar Inc., wasn’t a major part of Lafayette’s east side landscape.
The Deerfield, Ill.-based company is the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, off-highway diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives.
Caterpillar is celebrating its 40th anniversary in Lafayette, a partnership that Tippecanoe County commissioner Tom Murtaugh says is beneficial to both.
“Caterpillar has played an essential role in the growth of this community and the region,” Murtaugh says. “In addition to creating great employment opportunities for hundreds of families over the past few decades, Caterpillar has been a generous community partner and supporter of the United Way and countless other community initiatives.”
In 2021, employees and the Caterpillar Foundation provided approximately $548,000 through the United Way for their communities, according to Joe Markun, Large Power Systems Operations vice president for Caterpillar Inc. The Caterpillar Foundation also provided grant funding of more than $290,000 to non-profits in 2021.
Additionally, the Lafayette Drive Team – an employee-led advocacy group, makes donations to local sports teams, food banks, scout troops, transitional housing centers, Habitat for Humanity efforts, the YWCA, and other organizations.
Caterpillar is stepping up its community involvement with a 40 Days of Giving program that launched in early August.
“This is a facility-wide initiative to engage our employees and give back to the communities that have supported us continually over the past four decades,” Markun says.
“Teams across engineering, supply chain, human resources and more are finding needs in our communities and providing their time and resources to address them. While we have much to celebrate internally with the 40-year milestone, none of this would be possible without our community partners.”
It was big news in 1977 when rumors began to circulate that Caterpillar was interested in building a plant in Lafayette.
Murtaugh’s family played an important role in the plant’s location. His was one of four families who sold a combined 425 acres to Caterpillar in 1977. The deal was so top secret that Murtaugh remembers “company X” buying his family’s farm.
Even after officially announcing the land purchase on Sept. 22, 1977, at the downtown branch of Lafayette National Bank, Caterpillar chairman William L. Naumann had little to say publicly about the decision to bring the manufacturing of its new Series 3500 diesel engines to Tippecanoe County.
That morning, members of those four families — James Murtaugh, Richard Smith, Donald Lecklitner and Paul Hamman — learned who “company X” really was.
Journal & Courier business writer Judy Horak reported that Naumann cited four factors that attracted Caterpillar to Lafayette. First was the site not only being large enough for a Caterpillar facility, but it also had excellent access to I-65, railroad transportation and good utility services.
“We find a strong spirit of community pride and cooperation here,” Naumann said of the second reason. He was just as succinct with the other two factors.
“The quality of local government and community services is excellent. Finally we are attracted by the quality and character of the Lafayette-West Lafayette-Tippecanoe County area.”
While the courtship was completed, it would be five years – November 1982 – before employees began pre-assembly work on parts for the Series 3500 high-powered diesel engine. The first Series 3500 engines were assembled in December 1982.
Tony Roswarski was on the verge of beginning a career in law enforcement 40 years ago. Today, he’s approaching 20 years as mayor of Lafayette.
“Caterpillar has been an important piece of our economic foundation for the past 40 years,” Roswarski says. “Its global presence helps put Lafayette on the worldwide economic map. Closer to home, it creates great paying jobs, pays taxes that help fund the police, fire and parks department along with great schools.
“Caterpillar helps families build their future and have a high quality of life. They have been a wonderful corporate citizen, giving back through the company and its employees. Thousands of people a year enjoy CAT Park, and more now will have the opportunity as the new all-inclusive sports field will be finished soon. Caterpillar truly has made a positive impact on Lafayette over the past 40 years.”
Look no further than these numbers to measure Caterpillar’s impact on Lafayette’s economy. When it announced in early January 1982 that it was taking applications for 40 maintenance positions, the company received approximately 600 resumes.
As more job openings were posted, Caterpillar’s local post office box overflowed with resumes. More than 3,400, in fact, by March. As Lafayette celebrated the new year 1983, approximately 300 management, salaried and production workers were in place.
Today, Markun says the Lafayette Engine Center machines and assembles diesel and natural gas engines that power the world – the 3500, the 3600 and the C175 engines.
“When our facility opened, we were developing and manufacturing 3500 engines,” he says. “Over the 40 years, this engine platform grew to be the industry standard for heavy-duty diesel and gas engines worldwide, and we introduced two more platforms – the 3600 and C175. These units are custom-built to ensure our customers get exactly what they need.
“The 3500 engine primarily helps support the electric power, oil and gas, rail and marine markets around the globe. The 3600 is a huge player in the oil and gas segment, and the C175 is largely utilized in mining and electric power applications.”
These engines power mining trucks carrying ore to be processed, tugboats guiding ships to harbor, drill rigs tapping oil and gas reserves, and generators bringing electricity to communities, hospitals and data centers.
Caterpillar may be celebrating its 40th birthday locally but it also is looking ahead to the next decade. The Lafayette facility will play a key role in Caterpillar’s effort to “integrate sustainability” into its core business.
The company website boasts how Lafayette’s facility is meeting the goal of recycling power into the day-to-day operations.
“When a new engine or component is offered, it is important that we conduct many testing hours on each product to provide confidence to our customers that they are buying the highest quality engine available.
“The amount of energy created by the testing process is tremendous. Rather than waste it, the team explored various options to harness the energy. Understanding that endurance testing is a necessary and critical means to assure product quality, they looked for a way to use the electricity-generated power to support facility operations which would otherwise have been wasted.”
Caterpillar states that the electricity generated by the endurance test pad provides supplemental energy to power the Lafayette plant. With roughly 130,000 metric tons of CO2e emissions avoided over the last five years, Caterpillar has saved more than $11 million.
“Harnessing the power from their endurance testing is just one example of the Lafayette facility’s sustainability journey. Through their continuous improvement projects, the team has implemented several programs resulting in general reductions in greenhouse gases, water usage and waste.” ★
BY KEN THOMPSON
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic made working from home mandatory for many workers, the concept of coworking spaces was beginning to take root.
The cofounders of MatchBOX Coworking Studio – Jason Tennenhouse, Dennis Carson and Mikel Berger – saw a need for a professional space for early stage entrepreneurs, according to Amanda Findlay, managing director of MatchBOX.
“The cofounders … were inspired to bring a coworking space to Lafayette because of their own involvement and interests in local entrepreneurship,” Findlay says. “The coworking model is loosely based on the concept of hackerspaces, or shared, community-run spaces for tinkering and tech.”
MatchBOX, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was ahead of its time in Indiana. Findlay says the concept of shared and community-focused workspaces started to emerge in larger cities during the late 2000s.
“Even before the recent and necessary rise in remote work, MatchBOX saw a need … founders growing their businesses, freelancers and contractors operating in the gig economy, and anyone dissatisfied with their home office.”
Breanna Benn, whose responsibilities as client relations and facilities support manager include The Purdue Railyard coworking space, has heard the dissatisfaction stories from some of its clients.
“They’ve worked from home, they’ve got small children and that’s been a distraction while they’re home,” Benn says. “They are coming to The Railyard for a place to go to concentrate and get out of their home.”
Both MatchBOX and The Railyard occupy large buildings. MatchBOX is located in downtown Lafayette and occupies a 12,000-square-foot space that once belonged to a car dealership. The Railyard’s site – inside Herman and Heddy Kurz Purdue Technology Center — is 26,140 square feet, which Purdue boasts is one of the largest single coworking spaces in the United States.
Each coworking space offers convincing arguments to lure potential clients.
“As an extroverted armchair anthropologist, I find community to be the most compelling value of a coworking space,” Findlay says. “Entrepreneurs, freelancers and remote workers are all susceptible to professional loneliness. Research has shown that a sense of belonging is a fundamental human need, and having ‘work friends’ has a positive impact on professional happiness, motivation and productivity. For someone without an office full of colleagues, there are few opportunities to build friendships in the workspace outside of coworking.”
Findlay adds that a coworking membership is much less expensive than rent for a private office. Access to shared resources such as printers, meeting rooms and fast, reliable WiFi are benefits included in MatchBOX’s membership. So is a coffee bar, phone booths and a reserved desk area. There’s also free access to the MatchBOX Makerspace and acceleration programs for members.
The Railyard’s amenities include a café, a mailbox and a business address at the Research Park.
“Being a member of The Railyard you also have access to our networking events,” Benn says. “We just started up a network event called ‘The Mix.’ We invite, essentially, anybody who wants to come. It’s a good opportunity for startup companies, entrepreneurs to really network with people in their industry.
Findlay says the most popular service MatchBOX provides is meeting rooms.
“For professionals interacting with clients face-to-face, the meeting rooms are a standout resource,” she says. “Renting rooms as needed or meeting in coffee shops or other public spaces can be expensive or distracting. Our members enjoy access to spaces that are accessible but professional to host and facilitate meetings.
“For entrepreneurs starting or growing businesses, our office hours program has proven helpful in getting more complex questions answered, especially for the first-time entrepreneurs who are still learning the ropes.”
Now that Greater Lafayette is moving out of the pandemic, Findlay believes MatchBOX will continue to grow.
“There will always be jobs that are more or less amenable to remote work,” Findlay says. “I think that the infrastructure for remote work was already decent and has recently been improved out of necessity. In-person or on-site work perhaps is no longer the default or assumed way that employees will get their jobs done.”
Another side effect of the pandemic was people coming to the decision that maybe their current job isn’t satisfying or paying enough to continue.
“One exciting potential outcome for MatchBOX and Greater Lafayette is that we might start to see that a person changing their career or employer won’t necessarily need to relocate and build an entirely new network,” Findlay says. “We’ve had several MatchBOX members change jobs while working in the studio, and their new employer is on the other side of the country, but their office and their routine and their ‘work friend’ circle all stayed the same. It’s a much less disruptive experience that allows people to detach the town they live in from the location of their employer and stay in a community they love while growing professionally.”
Membership numbers are beginning to grow at The Railyard, approaching 100.
“Before the pandemic we were probably within the 80s,” Benn says. “It hasn’t grown to a huge increase quite yet, but everybody I’ve talked to wants this for the same reasons, so we believe we’re going to grow even more.
“I’m planning to have more events and more networking opportunities. A lot of people are looking for that now. They’ve been in their houses and haven’t met new people. We’re just trying to come up with new ways to have people interact with one another.”
The Railyard has something else in common with MatchBOX, a tie to transportation.
There’s a homage to the Purdue Schenectady No. 1, the first full-scale locomotive used in the Purdue Locomotive Testing Plant in the late 1880s and early 1900s.
The Railyard boasts antique railroad memorabilia as well.
“It’s funny that a lot of people don’t know the whole story,” Benn says. “It is interesting to a lot of people.”
MatchBOX isn’t just a home for business professionals. It also appeals to artists, creative writers, podcast hosts, gamers and cosplayers.
“We’re definitely here for the hobbyists,” Findlay says. “For the makerspace specifically, the cosplay and gamer crowd enjoys building props for their costumes or game play. Custom mini-figures and carrying cases seem to be popular in the boardgaming community.”
MatchBOX also provides scholarship opportunities and programming in place to support early stage entrepreneurs and members of the Greater Lafayette community, Findlay says. ★
To find out more about MatchBOX, visit its website at mbx.studio or call 765.588.9295.
To learn more about The Purdue Railyard or to become a member, contact Breanna Benn at 765.588.3470 or email PurdueRailyard@prf.org
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 KAT BRAZ
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
Everyone deserves a second chance. But for individuals in recovery from addiction, second chances can be hard to come by. A grant-funded partnership between Phoenix Recovery Solutions, a division of Phoenix Paramedic Solutions, and Valley Oaks Health provides peer-based recovery support to individuals struggling with issues related to substance abuse, mental health or homelessness.
“Our certified peer recovery coaches have lived experience and are in recovery from mental health or substance use themselves,” says Jason Padgett, the director of marketing solutions for Phoenix and one of the founding members of its quick response team (QRT), which facilitates the second chance program with support from the statewide Indiana Workforce Recovery Initiative. The QRT, which includes a warm line staffed 24/7, services nine counties: Tippecanoe, White, Jasper, Cass, Carroll, Benton, Newton, Fulton and Pulaski.
“As a person in recovery myself, I didn’t have many choices when I entered recovery 16 years ago for alcoholism,” Padgett says. “Alcoholics Anonymous has saved millions of lives, but recovery is not a one-size-fits-all journey. The beauty of peer support is that unlike saying ‘this is how I did it, you’re going to follow my same path,’ a peer recovery coach takes the view that your journey is your journey. We’re here to help show you your options and support you on your journey by connecting you to community resources. It’s up to you to decide what route to recovery you want to explore.”
One of the biggest challenges for persons in recovery is maintaining employment. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act protects addicts in recovery from a substance use disorder, relapses — not uncommon on the path to recovery — can lead to a positive drug screen, tardiness or missed work, which can lead to dismissal. Embracing a Second Chance Workforce, a new program offered by Phoenix QRT and Greater Lafayette Commerce, seeks to educate and empower businesses on how to support employees through addiction recovery.
“Our goal is to partner with local corporations, particularly manufacturing but any industry, to refer employees who test positive on a drug screen or are having trouble with mental health or substance abuse issues,” Padgett says. “The companies would contract with us to assign a peer recovery specialist to support that individual on their recovery journey. That allows the company to retain the individual on its workforce, which is much cheaper than hiring and training a new employee. There are tax incentives for companies that embrace second chance policies.”
A Lunch and Learn panel discussion held in April featured representatives from companies that embrace second chance policies geared toward people in recovery as well as individuals with felony records. As a follow up, a second chance career fair is scheduled from 1-7 p.m. May 18 at the Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds. In addition to showcasing companies embracing second chance policies, the career fair will also have representatives from community social service organizations.
“We want everyone who comes to the career fair to have access to every community resource they could possibly need,” Padgett says. “From peer support to treatment to ongoing education, they can even get help creating a resume or practice interviewing to make them comfortable speaking with potential employers.”
Holding a job is a large part of an individual’s recovery capital, the internal and external resources that can initiate and sustain long-term recovery. Phoenix, which embraces felony-friendly hiring and employs several individuals in recovery in addition to Padgett, will be among the employers represented at the career fair.
“I’ve had a relapse in recovery and I was supported by my employer,” Padgett says. “It meant the world to me. A bump in the road doesn’t have to mean going all the way back down to the bottom and starting at zero again.” ★
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:
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:
“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 ANGELA K. ROBERTS
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.”
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
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
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.
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 ANGELA K. ROBERTS
As a student office staff worker in Cary Quadrangle, a century-old, sprawling residential complex on Purdue University’s West Lafayette campus, Michaela Hixson is continually steeped in dormitory culture.
Romance blossoming on the graveyard shift. Mysterious snack food deliveries with unknown recipients. Guys in boxers parading out the doors during nighttime fire drills.
And then there was the time a student showed up in the basement simply wrapped in a bath towel. “No shoes, water on him, dripping, and he said, ‘Can I please have the key to my room?!’” Hixson exclaims, laughing.
For the West Lafayette, Indiana, resident, these adventures in collegiate life started long before the SATs were even on her radar. During her sophomore year at Harrison High School, while Hixson was working at a local ice cream shop, her mom shared a summer job opening — no undergraduate experience necessary.
“It was fun for me to see how college worked, to already be in that college environment in high school, dip my toe in for what was to come,” says Hixson, who just completed her sophomore year in Purdue’s College of Science. After beginning as a seasonal employee four years ago, Hixson has expanded to year-round employment, gaining important skills in teamwork, responsibility and time management along the way.
As adults, we may joke about our summers flipping burgers or blowing a whistle at the neighborhood pool. But in truth, these experiences typically offer far more than a paycheck or a bullet point on a college application. As summer heats up in Greater Lafayette, we present a sampling of paid and volunteer opportunities for your favorite teenagers, along with a few of the life lessons that the jobs may impart.
From serving as day camp counselors to prepping residence halls for fall, Purdue University typically has offered a plethora of summer jobs to local high schoolers and undergraduates. With a pause on staff hiring, the university has fewer openings for 2021. At press time, we found postings for such positions as custodians, groundskeepers, network operators and Purdue Surplus Store workers, some of which required applicants to possess a high school diploma or GED or be currently enrolled at Purdue.
Located just a mile up the road from Mackey Arena, Café Literato is a brick oven pizza and espresso bar located in the Faith West complex of apartments, a fitness center, church facilities and a daycare. With both indoor and outdoor seating, the restaurant serves as a gathering spot and study hub.
Eric Black, a West Lafayette Junior/Senior High School graduate who started there at 19, was promoted to manager a few months later; now, two years in, he hopes to return to Ivy Tech soon to pursue a career in the restaurant industry.
He says that teen workers aged 17 and up can take orders, prep toppings and make beverages while honing communication and customer service skills.
“The owners say that we are in the business of people,” Black says.
“You won’t find a lot of environments to work in where you can tell that the people genuinely care and are friendly and social.”
A nice perk on top of the paycheck and all the friendliness: A free drink on each shift, along with a substantially discounted meal.
Copper Moon Coffee Company
Lafayette & West Lafayette
Lafayette, Indiana-based Copper Moon Coffee Company boasts four café locations in the area, with more likely coming soon. Nick Thompson, vice president of sales and marketing, says the retail locations hire workers starting at age 16 to take orders, clean, and prepare food and beverages.
“There’s a lot of opportunities to be creative with our cafés,” he adds. “We encourage our team to come up with new creations, new drinks, new flavors.” In fact, one of Copper Moon’s seasonal specialties, the Lunar Fog — an Earl Grey tea latte with vanilla, similar to a London Fog — emerged out of an employee competition.
Even if teen baristas don’t win a design-a-drink challenge, they will gain skills in face-to-face communication, collaboration and sales. Additionally, says Thompson, “I think it would be pretty impressive, a cool, fun party trick, that they know how to make really good coffee drinks and maybe even do some art with the lattes.”
Get Air Trampoline Park
Adolescents who couldn’t wait for PE class to start when they were in elementary school might feel right at home at Get Air Trampoline Park, located in a strip mall on the south side near Noble Roman’s Craft Pizza and Pub.
Teenage workers (typically 16 years and older) begin as lifeguards — “patrolling the park to make sure that everyone is being safe and having fun,” says Tyler Dubea, general manager. “Sometimes this would be refereeing dodgeball games, making sure that only one person is going in the foam pit at a time, or just engaging in small talk with parents.”
Dubea delights in teaching his charges the fundamentals of business success, such as teamwork and leadership. Beyond that, “I strive to learn about all of our employees, and figure out what they want to do after school, and teach them as much as possible about that aspect of our business,” he says. “I have had someone that wants to be a graphic designer, so we have discussed some of our park advertising, our target demo, and let them use their skills to design something
McAllister Recreation Center
Outdoorsy types can enjoy fresh air and sunshine while chaperoning kids at McAllister Recreation Center’s summer day camp, located near 18th and Greenbush streets in the former Longlois Elementary School. The facility features a gymnasium, rec room, ball fields and lots of green space.
From late May through early August, counselors 16 and up plan theme weeks, attend development sessions and supervise youngsters on field trips to Lafayette pools and parks. Adolescents aged 13 to 15 can enroll in the Head Camper program, training for future summers.
“We pride ourselves on summer camp being a fun and rewarding experience both for kids and counselors,” says Ashley Conner, seasonal camp counselor with the City of Lafayette. “Counselors learn how to effectively communicate with children, peers and parents. They also learn strategies for managing children in a group setting.” While camp staff are typically hired by May, local teens can set their sights on jobs for 2022.
Pooch Palace Resort
Lafayette & West Lafayette
With two locations in Greater Lafayette offering boarding services, doggie day care, grooming and group training classes, Pooch Palace Resort is a delightful get-paid-to-do-what-you-love opportunity for teens who can’t get enough of canines. “The biggest part of what makes this place fun is just being able to work/play and care for dogs all day long,” says owner Paul Whitehurst. Teen employees assist in the daycare and overnight areas by feeding dogs, taking them on breaks and cuddling and playing with their furry clients.
Emily Chubb works at Pooch Palace when she’s not attending class at Harrison High School or performing on Turning Point Academy’s dance team. “The dogs all have different personalities and there are no two dogs that are alike. This makes the day a lot more fun,” she enthuses. Along with discovering characteristics of different breeds, Chubb says she’s also learned about communication, time management and teamwork on the job. “The people around me always have a positive attitude,” she says. “It’s been a great learning experience.”
Whitehurst sees another proficiency that the teen has developed: leadership. Chubb is “one of our most dedicated and hard-working staff members,” he says. “She came to us as a very quiet and shy teen and has blossomed to where she is now training other staff members.”
Columbian Park Zoo
From a Galapagos Tortoise to prairie dogs to the Laughing Kookaburra, the Columbian Park Zoo showcases wildlife from around the world in exhibits that teach visitors about conservation and biodiversity. For adolescents contemplating animal-related careers, the facility offers the immersive Zoo Teens opportunity.
Volunteers aged 14 to 17 who are accepted into the program perform non-dangerous tasks under the supervision of professional zookeepers and educators, such as cleaning and food preparation. Zoo Teens also interact frequently with humans as well, gaining confidence in public speaking and small-group communication, says Courtney Nave, zoo assistant education coordinator. “I’ve seen such growth, not just in interpersonal skills, but being leaders, through this program,” she says.
Applications have already closed for this summer; but check the website for late openings and other opportunities. ★
BY KAT BRAZ
The Spinning Axe
Barbara Huddleston spent years growing her catering and event business. At the start of 2020, her calendar was booked with weddings, parties and corporate events. When the pandemic forced the cancellation of large gatherings, Huddleston watched her business evaporate almost overnight. During a trip to Bowling Green, Kentucky, over Labor Day weekend, she discovered a new passion — axe throwing.
“We actually went to visit Mammoth Cave, but it was closed due to COVID,” Huddleston says. “Looking for other things to do we found an axe throwing place near our hotel. About four throws in, I realized I loved it. I knew I needed to bring this sport back to Lafayette.”
That’s right. Urban axe throwing is a worldwide sport growing in popularity. The World Axe Throwing League, formed in 2017 by representatives from Canada, the United States, Brazil and Ireland, holds sanctioned tournaments year-round. Budding future champions could reside right here in Tippecanoe County and get their start at Huddleston’s latest enterprise, The Spinning Axe, 351 South St., Lafayette. After returning from her trip, Huddleston leased the location and took about seven weeks transforming a former sushi restaurant into an axe throwing venue and bar serving wine, beer, liquor and snacks such as nachos, pizza, soft pretzels and popcorn.
The family-friendly venue (they recommend ages 10 and up, depending on the physical ability of the child) accepts walk-ins and reservations, which are encouraged for large groups and on Saturdays. After signing a waiver, guests are assigned to a lane and an axe coach reviews safety precautions, gives pointers and explains different types of games that can be played. At the end of the lane, a large round bullseye painted on wooden boards serves as the target.
“I’ve been surprised at the number of women who’ve shown interest in axe throwing,” Huddleston says. “They want to do a girls night out, they want to schedule a date night. That’s been a really cool thing. Axe throwing isn’t as scary as it sounds. Our trained axe coaches will show you how to do it safely. We’re going to help you have a great time.”=
The Spinning Axe is open seven days a week. Cost per hour: Adults $22; Children $15. Military, fire and police personnel receive a discounted rate of $17/hour.
Learning to Thrive
Struggling to take your vitamins? Thrive IV Lounge, 1343 Sagamore Pkwy N, Lafayette, offers a relaxing and hydrating infusion of vitamins, minerals and nutrients directly into your bloodstream for maximum effect. Administered by registered nurses using the same medical grade supplies found in hospitals, the medspa offers an array of therapy treatments to boost immune function, bring migraine relief, reduce inflammation and even recover from a hangover.
Owner Sarah Kurtz was inspired to open an IV lounge after learning about the rising popularity of drip spas in other parts of the country. As an emergency room nurse for the past seven years, Kurtz wanted to offer preventative care that might help keep chronic condition patients out of the ER.
“There’s just not enough information out there for people to understand the importance of how to prevent getting sick,” Kurtz says. “By building the immune system, getting a lot of sleep, staying, hydrated, taking the correct vitamins and eating healthy you can prevent a lot of things from being a lot worse. After all these years in medicine, I’m just taking a different approach to help people get there.”
Once a client fills out paperwork covering medical history, medications, allergies, height and weight, the Thrive IV nursing staff checks vital signs before discussing available drip treatments. Once the IV is started, it takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to complete the infusion. There are three private treatment rooms as well as a large communal lounge which Kurtz hopes to open up as the pandemic slows down.
Afraid of needles? Thrive IV offers a numbing spray to help ease the discomfort. Or you can skip the IV and order an injection instead. The biggest seller is the skinny shot, a special blend of hydrating fluids and vitamins to boost metabolism. Pair it with a Beauty Blend IV treatment for a fully rejuvenating experience. Not ready to leave the house? Thrive IV’s mobile concierge service brings wellness to the comfort of your living room.
“One liter of IV fluids that we give you is equivalent to drinking two gallons of water,” Kurtz says. “Results vary depending on the type of treatment and an individual’s metabolism, but the benefits of IV therapy usually last about five days to a week.”
Memberships are available for clients who want to make Thrive IV a regular part of their wellness routine. Though Thrive IV offers a relaxing, calming atmosphere, all IV medspas are regulated by the state of Indiana and must maintain the same safety standards as medical clinics and hospitals. All medications, vitamins and supplies are FDA approved. An ER physician serves as medical director, overseeing the lounge. IVs are administered by experienced ER nurses with the critical care skills to identify anything abnormal in a client’s session and refer clients to the ER or urgent care if necessary.
Thrive IV is open Thursday through Monday. Follow them on social media for daily deals and monthly specials.
Big Woods Restaurant and Bar | 516 Northwestern Ave., West Lafayette
Originating in Nashville, Indiana, in 2009, the opening of a Big Woods Restaurant and Bar in West Lafayette marks the Big Woods Village’s 10th
location — and the farthest north. With its focused menu of signature pizzas and a selection of burgers and sandwiches, Big Woods offers a cozy sports bar environment in the location formerly occupied by The Stacked Pickle on Purdue’s campus. Cocktails of the month feature spirits crafted by Hard Truth Hills, a division of the Big Woods brand also based in Nashville. Craft beer lovers will devour the Big Woods Quaff ON! beers, such as Busted Knuckle, Hare Trigger and Yellow Dwarf.
Copper Moon Coffee | 351 Sagamore Pkwy & 225 S. University St., West Lafayette
Brothers Brad and Cary Gutwein purchased Copper Moon Coffee (originally founded in the late 1960s) in 2007 and relaunched the business in Lafayette. Now with four locations throughout Tippecanoe County and a booming retail business, Copper Moon is the largest family-owned coffee company in the Midwest. The latest two locations include a spot on Purdue’s campus inside the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Building and a standalone café in the former Salin Bank building next to Dog n Suds on Sagamore Parkway.
“We are delighted at the opportunity to continue expanding our reach into West Lafayette,” says Brad Gutwien, CEO of Copper Moon Coffee, in a January 2020 press release. “We think this in an ideal location that will be easy to access for most of the West Lafayette community.”
Reveille Coffee Bar | 835 Main St., Lafayette
The inviting French-inspired décor of Reveille Coffee Bar creates a warm and welcoming ambiance the moment you step in the door. This cozy spot with friendly baristas churns out all manner of gourmet coffees, specialty teas, decadent hot chocolates and iced brews. Featuring a rotating selection
of locally made pastries, Reveille is the ideal spot to lounge away a morning.
Ritual Cocktail Bar | 211 N. Second St., Lafayette
The intimate, classy lounge vibe at Ritual Cocktail Bar quickly garnered a reputation for one of the coolest spots in town. A streamlined food menu features upscale snacks such as almond breaded duck tenders and roasted whole cremini mushrooms. But here, craft cocktails are the main attraction. Mixologists reimagine classic drink recipes and combine house-made syrups, bitters and juices; specialty spirits and unusual ingredients to create memorable concoctions that are meant to be savored, like a ritual. Feeling extra swanky? Stop by for Rat Pack night to sip your libation while listening to Sinatra, every Tuesday before 9 p.m.
Ripple & Co. | 1007 Main St., Lafayette
Fans of East End Grill have eagerly awaited the opening of Ripple and Co., a fast-casual dining concept located across the street from the high-end restaurant and run by the same executive leadership team. The new multilevel eatery features a spacious second floor with outdoor dining and a private event space. Downstairs, the atmosphere of the lively counter-service restaurant is reminiscent of a food hall. Executive chef Ambarish Lulay brings the same elevated sensibilities found at East End to Ripple & Co.’s menu. Smoked meats, pork belly and “really good tofu” are just a few of the crave-inducing items available. With both cocktails and beers on tap, Ripple & Co. is an exciting addition to upper Main Street. Plus, a partnership with Greyhouse Coffee means you can pick up your favorite cup of joe while you’re there.
Rusty Taco | 3209 Builder Drive, Lafayette
Serving up authentic street tacos at affordable prices, Rusty Taco’s festive ambience encourages friends and family to linger over margaritas while enjoying boldly flavored tacos. With more than 30 locations around the country, each one emulates a neighborhood taco stand. An array of breakfast tacos is available all day. The handmade street taco menu features roasted pork, brisket, baja shrimp and fried chicken. Rusty’s commitment to high-quality ingredients and making food fresh-to-order ensures satisfaction in every bite. Wash it down with an ice-cold margarita and experience bliss.
Wolfies Northern Woods Grill | 352 E. State St., West Lafayette
Scott and Nyla Wolf opened their first Wolfies location in 2004. Designed for the “seeker in all things sports, nature and food,” Wolfies offers a casual sports-themed environment in the Wabash Landing site formerly occupied by Scotty’s Brewhouse. The West Lafayette location is the eighth in the state and the first to venture away from the Indianapolis area. The expansive menu is packed with sharable starters, salads, wings, ribs, seafood, sandwiches, tacos and burgers. Thirsty? Try one of the 30 local and regional beers on tap, along with a full bar featuring craft cocktails. One thing is certain, you won’t go hungry at Wolfies.
► wolfiesgrill.com/West-Lafayette ★
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit diversitytippecanoe.org.
BY RADONNA FIORINI
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
“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:
For more information about the Convergence Center,
go to: discoveryparkdistrict.com/the-convergence-center
Parkside | 1902 Scott St.
A Columbian Park staple for decades, Parkside reopened under new ownership just last year. The recently constructed patio opened in September and is nonsmoking, just like the reimagined restaurant. Outfitted with reclaimed lumber, polished concrete and a hanging garden, the stylish outdoor ambiance is a welcome respite. With dinner specials, smoked meats and “the coldest beer in town,” we don’t need an excuse to stop by and stay a while.
Digby’s | 113 N. Fourth St.
Tucked between two tall buildings, Digby’s patio may feel like an exclusive hideaway, and spaciously positioned tables along serpentine pathways dotted with trees lend an air of privacy. Its casual atmosphere belies what is arguably the best patio view in town. Gaze at the Tippecanoe Courthouse soaring overhead as local music emanating from the outdoor stage wafts over you. Reservations accepted, and your pup can come, too.
East End Grill | 1016 Main St.
A seasonally inspired scratch menu, creative cocktails and a modern, urban vibe have earned East End Grill a reputation as one of the hottest spots in town. The restaurant has become an anchor of upper Main Street since it first opened five years ago. Weekend nights, tables are hard to come by without reservations, even more so for the few available on the small dog-friendly patio. Reservations encouraged.
Lafayette Brewing Co. | 622 Main St.
The first brewery to receive Indiana’s small brewers permit back in 1993, Brew Co. — as it’s known to locals — brews traditional ales and lagers on site. The kitchen sends out generous portions of unique pub fare that would satiate any appetite. Whether you stop by on Pint Night (Wednesday), Flight Night (Monday), Seven Buck Sunday or any other night, a good time is certain.
Red Seven | 200 Main St.
Watch the world go by from your patio seat in the heart of downtown. From small plates to seafood to steaks, this new American restaurant offers an upscale urban dining experience for everyone. The extensive line up of seasonally crafted cocktails and local brews are enough to make you linger for an evening. Dogs welcome. Red Seven accepts reservations; although patio seating can be requested, it is not guaranteed.
Sgt. Preston’s of the North | 6 N. Second St.
Is there a more popular patio in town than Sgt. Preston’s on a sunny day? The Canadian-themed bar has been a staple in downtown Lafayette for decades, serving up delicious grub backed by a full bar with weekly dinner and drink specials. Often featuring live music on weekends, your best bet is to head over early to snag a table or visit on Monday for Schooner Night. 21+ only.
Rusty Taco | 3209 Builder Dr.
Relatively new on the scene, Rusty Taco quickly impressed with its diverse menu of street tacos that pack bold flavors. With its festive umbrellas and charming string lights, the Rusty Taco patio gives off the mellow vibe of a place where you want to kick back, relax and forget about your worries for a while. Rusty says, “Tacos are the most important meal of the day,” and we can’t disagree.
Teays River Brewing and Public House | 3000 S. Ninth St.
This comfortable outdoor patio bedecked with picnic tables maintains a communal feeling even with sufficient social distancing. An extension of the laid-back scene that permeates inside, outdoor dining at Teays River features the same unique pub fare and tasty local brews. Bring Fido along; the patio is pooch friendly.
Walt’s Other Pub | 3001 S. Ninth St.
Not only does Walt’s Other Pub have a patio, you might even be lucky enough to score a seat on the balcony. Its immense menu with family-friendly options is sure to please. With 12 beers on tap, a robust wine list and a full bar, you have plenty of choices to accompany your meal. And if you go for lunch you might get served by the friendliest, most outgoing waitress in town. Everyone’s welcome at Walt’s patio, even the dog.
The Bryant | 1820 Sagamore Pkwy W
When The Bryant first opened its doors in November 2018, it already sounded familiar to longtime residents. The restaurant’s name harkens back to the much-beloved Morris Bryant Smorgasbord, which occupied the site from 1951 to 1994. After only a few years, the Bryant has quickly gained a place in our hearts, too. Its upscale, contemporary atmosphere and ever-evolving menu are enticing enough. Throw in one of the most inventive cocktail menus around? We’re sold.
Town and Gown Bistro | 119 N. River Road
Don’t overlook this gem of a place. Although located on a busy thoroughfare, the landscaped patio has been outfitted with numerous pots and planters filled with lush greenery that transform this cozy patio into a delightful oasis. Billed as “unfussy American eats” the chef-driven menu features familiar fare exquisitely executed. In addition to lunch and dinner, Town and Gown also is open for brunch and features a variety of vegetarian options. As if we needed another reason to love it.
Whittaker Inn | 702 W 500 N
The Whittaker Inn’s picturesque country setting is the ideal location to enjoy a relaxing meal artfully crafted with locally sourced ingredients. Not just for out-of-towners, the Whittaker Kitchen is the heart of this inviting B&B just minutes from Purdue. The ever-changing menu offers new delights with each season, though we’re glad to see the scrumptious butterhorn bread rolls have become a mainstay. We could fill up on those alone. Reservations required.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
210 N. Sixth St., Lafayette
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.
5618 S. 200 East, Lafayette
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.”
2124 SR 25, Lafayette
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.
848 Main St., Lafayette
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.
405 Sagamore Parkway South, Lafayette
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 RADONNA FIORINI
They build the roads. They construct the houses. They care for the elderly. They put out fires. They keep your car running. They are the thousands of Tippecanoe County residents who make a living in industry and trade professions, and there is a growing need for more of them.
Current economic drivers make it critical for the community to attract and keep carpenters, bricklayers, electricians, plumbers and others in the construction and building trades, says Stephen Snyder, president of the Tippecanoe Building Trades Council, which represents 17 trade associations and unions in nine central Indiana counties.
And many students are suited for careers in such fields as culinary arts, information technology or nursing that require technical training or certification, but they may not be aware of the available options, says Miranda Hutcheson, director of Career and Technical Education at the new Greater Lafayette Career Academy.
Trades and technical jobs are plentiful and critical to any community’s economic health and Snyder and Hutcheson’s organizations, in cooperation with others, are creating opportunities for students to explore different career paths and have hands-on experience by the time they graduate from high school.
Some students want to get first-hand experience before committing to a university program, and others want to get into the work force as soon as possible, says Hutcheson. Apprenticeships through the trades council and classes and training through the career academy provide those opportunities, and come at a critical time.
A “perfect storm” of circumstances has led to the current need and cooperative push to interest students in such careers, Snyder says:
• The population is aging, and many skilled professionals such as plumbers, roofers and sheet metal workers are retiring.
• The construction market is hot and in need of skilled workers.
• Families and students are increasingly concerned about the cost of a college education and paying back student loans.
“A lot of parents, students and high school counselors are excited about our apprenticeship programs that will lead to a good job without a mountain of debt,” says Snyder. Students willing to work hard can complete a three- or four-year apprenticeship and get a job that pays a living wage, allowing them to buy a home and raise a family.
And students can get a leg up on an undergraduate degree by taking college-level courses for free through the career academy while still in high school, says Hutcheson. She estimates that college-bound students in some fields can save from a few hundred dollars to $10,000 in university tuition costs, and the academy allows students to explore different careers before committing to a course of study after high school.
The first phase of the academy opened last August in the former Lafayette Life Insurance building on South 18th Street in Lafayette. Indiana has long been home to such career centers, and local educators and industry representatives talked about opening one for several years. The pieces fell into place when the building became available and all three county school districts decided to work together to get it up and running, Hutcheson says. Snyder sits on the advisory board of the career academy, as do a number of other local industry partners who help review community needs and determine what programs are offered.
There are 187 students from four local public high schools currently enrolled in half-day academy programs. These juniors and seniors attend regular classes at their schools in the morning and are bused to the academy each afternoon for specialized training. Training in health science, auto service technology, cosmetology, engineering/manufacturing, communications and TV/radio, construction/architecture, culinary arts, information technology, education and public safety currently is offered.
Some also are placed in the community and get hands-on training with local businesses in such areas as civil engineering, electrical contracting, clinical positions and building and contracting. While the academy is developing lab space for technical training, community partners provide a number of valuable resources, Hutcheson says. For example, students interested in firefighting are able to use the county fire training facility.
“These kids are my trailblazers,” says Hutcheson. “Scheduling is a challenge, but these students can pick up 17 dual credits and three industry certifications,” through the academy before leaving high school.
Lamont Johnson and Tucker Bogue are two of those trailblazers. Both 18 and seniors at West Lafayette High School, the young men will graduate in May with a high school diploma and a Certified Nursing Assistant certificate, after passing the state certification test. They hope to continue their education and become physical therapists.
“I knew I wanted to help people since I was little,” Johnson says. “I found out about this from my school counselor who knew what I wanted to do in college. Tucker and I have similar passions.”
Bogue became interested in physical therapy after suffering a series of knee injuries playing basketball in junior and senior high and going through rehab.
“I was 100 percent sure what I wanted to do with my life, but (the academy program) boosted my confidence and ignited what was already there,” says Bogue. “Taking these courses in high school gives you a different outlook earlier in life.”
As part of the program, Johnson, Bogue and more than 25 other students interested in health sciences spend several hours a week at the Indiana Veterans Home. They help the residents with small tasks, visit with them and help out in other ways. They also are learning about the different areas of service at the home, such as the pharmacy and rehabilitation programs.
“I would never have spent this much time with older people otherwise,” Johnson says. “I’m really learning to respect them and getting to know their unique personalities. We’re helping people who served our country.”
Going to the academy has meant some sacrifice for these young men. While they still have morning classes at WLHS, each afternoon is spent at the academy or the Veterans Home, and they miss eating lunch with friends and hanging out after school.
“But the trade-off is worth it,” says Bogue. “If you have any hunch about what you want to do (after high school) just act on it. I recommend it to anyone interested in these courses.”
The Tippecanoe Building Trades Council also is committed to encouraging the exploration of a career in the trades, says Snyder. Last summer the council and 10 professional trade associations sponsored a free, multi-week summer construction camp for anyone 14 and older.
Each day participants worked alongside a skilled professional on such tasks as operating heavy equipment, laying brick, welding, finishing cement, installing drywall and painting. Some students signed up for multiple weeks and explored a number of careers. Free lunch and appropriate protective gear is provided, as well. The expo will be offered again this June and July.
The council also cooperates with local agencies such as the United Way of Greater Lafayette, Greater Lafayette Commerce and Region 4 Work Force Development Board. The promotion of 14 apprenticeship programs offered by area trade associations and unions also is a priority. Those apprenticeship classes are accredited by Ivy Tech Community College and taught at local facilities designed for the specific trade.
“We have first-rate training facilities for these three- to four-year apprenticeships that include benefits,” and hands-on training, says Snyder. “No one wants to talk about working hard and doing anything but getting a college degree, meanwhile the infrastructure is crumbling. We provide the practical end of things,” he says, adding that without skilled trades and construction workers, a community’s roads will fall into disrepair, new homes won’t be built, buildings will not be maintained and the tools required to keep a community thriving will be missing.
The council is committed to help train a competent, drug-free, skilled, local workforce to Tippecanoe County businesses and to encourage those professional trades people to be actively involved in community life, Snyder says.
Josh Kiger, who owns a small home renovation company with his wife, Sarah, agrees that the availability of reliable workers is critical to his success. The Kigers opened New View two years ago and specialize in window, door and garage door installation and repair, and general home renovation. While Josh Kiger had experience in those areas before starting the company, he and Sarah obtained some certifications to make sure they could offer their customers the best service possible.
The family-owned company employs two people in the winter when demand slows down and five people as the weather warms and outdoor work picks up. The Kigers emphasize clear communication with each of their clients and work to maintain a good relationship throughout each project, Josh Kiger says. But finding quality employees has been a challenge.
“It’s been really difficult,” he says. “Even finding people who are teachable has been hard. We can teach anyone if they’re willing, if they’ll make themselves presentable. Really we’re looking for the simple things.”
Such concerns have been voiced by other business owners, says Hutcheson, and local educators are offering a new certification program to help students learn life skills that will help lead to success in any career.
The Governor’s Work Ethic Certificate (GWEC) program is a state initiative run by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, says Jay Davis, assistant director/career counselor at the Greater Lafayette Career Academy.
The program, open to all juniors and seniors, began in Tippecanoe County last fall and more than 320 students signed up. A trial run of the program in 2018-19 yielded 45 students who earned the GWEC, he says. Students must become competent in nine academic and work-related areas. Some are subjective — such as persistence, respectfulness and dependability. Some are objective — such as grade point average, few disciplinary issues and meeting all graduation requirements. Students also must complete six hours of community service.
“The GWEC looks great on resumes and job applications and can increase (a student’s) chance of getting job interviews and job opportunities,” Davis says.
The program’s stated goals include:
• Providing students with an understanding of necessary skills that will help make them employable for in-demand jobs and giving them opportunities to demonstrate those skills while in high school.
• Providing local employers with potential workers who understand the values and importance of responsibility and perseverance in the workplace.
A community advisory council collaborates with local school districts to maintain the program and reward students who obtain the certificate. For example, cooperating businesses might guarantee job interviews to students with the certificate or provide an incentive such as professional mentoring and possible reimbursement of college tuition, according to the program website.
“The response from the community has been positive to this point,” says Davis. “I believe a realistic goal would be to eventually involve as many as 100 community partners for the GWEC program in Tippecanoe County.”
Interested in any of these programs or opportunities? Learn more at:
• Work Ethic Certificate: glcareeracademy.com/work-ethic-certification
• Greater Lafayette Career Academy: glcareeracademy.com
• Tippecanoe Building Trades Council: unionsbuilditbetter.com
• New View: newview-gdw.com
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.