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 KEN THOMPSON
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY PURDUE RESEARCH FOUNDATION
David Ross’ impact upon Purdue University goes far beyond the football stadium that has had his name for nearly a century.
Ross, a president of the Purdue University Board of Trustees and a prolific inventor, noticed that industry did not have access to Purdue’s knowledge and aid like farmers were provided through the Purdue University Extension Service.
So in the fall of 1930, Ross found a way to get around the limitations created by Purdue’s status as a public institution. With board member Josiah K. Lilly, of Eli Lilly and Co., matching Ross’ $25,000 in starter money (nearly $363,000 in today’s dollars), the nonprofit Purdue Research Foundation was created on Dec. 30, 1930.
“I think the bottom line is he wanted to make it easier for businesses to interact with the university,” says Greg Deason, Senior Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Place Making for the Purdue Research Foundation.
“I think the essence was that he thought this could be a vehicle that would allow the foundation to make and take actions that would benefit the university but could do it rapidly at the speed of business.”
Ross died in 1943 but Deason believes much of today’s PRF was part of his original vision. Deason notes that Purdue Research Park was the third great research park in the world in 1961, following the path of Stanford in 1952 and the Research Triangle Park (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina) in 1959.
“It is most likely he was concerned about creating the framework for which great things could occur,” Deason says. “I think he could have easily, based on the efforts he was making, conceived of clusters of businesses that began to operate near the university so they could benefit from these relationships that he had conceived. In many, many ways I think he could have conceived of (research parks) and I think in addition because of his background as an inventor and an entrepreneur it’s quite likely he could have conceived of a key function that we do where we license our patents. I think he would have come up with many of the things we are doing.”
The Purdue Research Foundation may be celebrating its 90th birthday in 2020 but it has changed with the times. The impetus for change began when former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels became university president in 2013.
“I believe because President Daniels brings the experience he’s had in both government and industry, he has been very helpful and supportive of making sure that the foundation did move into the direction of focusing in on the commercialization of Purdue’s technologies,” says Brian Edelman, who became president of the Purdue Research Foundation in 2017.
“Before President Daniels’ administration, the foundation really was somewhat of a real estate trust. We still are but … what we do as far as real estate and making building places is no longer the focal mission. We do it to make sure we have what’s needed to commercialize Purdue’s technologies.”
Simply put, the PRF’s mission is focused on improving the world through its technologies and graduates.
“That is why the office of technology commercialization is so core to our mission,” Edelman says. “It’s why The Foundry that helps create the startups around Purdue technologies is so critical.”
The Purdue Foundry’s mission statement says its existence is to help Purdue students, faculty and local alumni move ideas to the marketplace more quickly.
One of those startups is Akonacure Pharmaceuticals, which developed a platform to produce natural cancer therapies.
Sherine Abdelmawla, a Purdue pharmacy alumnus who earned her Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology in 2007, founded that startup with her husband; both work with The Purdue Foundry.
“They helped us at the beginning to learn all aspects of the business,” Abdelmawla says. “They helped us transition from a technical team to a management team. Perfecting the investors’ pitch. Putting together a business plan. It’s a great resource.”
Abdelmawla says Akonacure’s original investors were all from The Purdue Foundry and it continues to help the startup. “The Foundry doesn’t just connect me with people within the boundary of PRF, they will connect us with all the Purdue alum network,” she explains. “PRF has a big network of investors they can connect you to. They will be helpful throughout the life of the company.
“The best thing about the PRF is you’re almost immediately treated like you’re a part of the family. It feels a lot more personal than a business relationship. We’ll always feel very grateful, very loyal to The Foundry and Purdue.”
Johnny Park calls himself “a major beneficiary” professionally and personally of the Purdue Research Foundation. Park earned bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering at Purdue. He became a research assistant professor in the school as well.
With the PRF’s investment and a grant from the United States Dairy Association in 2008, Park started Spensa Technologies in 2009 with the vision of agricultural innovation that will reduce reliance on manual labor, foster eco-friendly farming and enhance crop production efficiency.
“As a young faculty member who had never started a company and really did not understand many aspects of the business, The Foundry and PRF was extremely helpful in not only mentoring me as an entrepreneur but also connecting the company to all the relevant customers, stakeholders, potential partners and investors,” Park says. “All those connections were very, very helpful.”
Spensa was acquired in 2018 by DTN, which continues to operate Spensa in Purdue Research Park. Meanwhile, Park remains in West Lafayette as CEO at the Wabash Heartland Innovation Network.
“I didn’t think I’d still be here but the opportunity Purdue provided us in this ecosystem was very wonderful,” Park says. “What Purdue has built in this town, the Purdue Research Park and all the office spaces that are available is incredible. At the cost, we’re getting quality. It’s not often talked about but it’s a tremendous value for a startup to have the infrastructure to take advantage of.”
Dr. Byron Pipes, the John L. Bray Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Purdue, had experience in the business world decades before coming to West Lafayette in 2004. As co-founder and director of the Center for Composite Materials at the University of Delaware, Pipes developed an industrial consortium of more than 40 corporate sponsors from nine different nations. Pipes also was president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York from 1993-95.
Pipes’ research, involving composite materials used in aviation and technology, is patented through the PRF’s Office of Technology Commercialization. He also took the lead in creating the Indiana Manufacturing Institute (based in Research Park), and is executive director of the Composites Manufacturing and Simulation Center.
“It was mutually beneficial for the relationship to happen,” Pipes says. “From my perspective from all the years I’ve spent in leadership and research is that having a place that is almost off campus gave the industry a view that maybe we weren’t so ‘ivory tower.’ Companies are attracted to us because we’re out in Research Park. We’re accessible.
“Whenever I get a company where the high-level people are coming to see me, I make a quick appointment with the president of the Purdue Research Foundation. He explains all about Research Park and what we’re doing to build relationships. It has an effect on them. ‘Wow, you guys are different.’”
One of the PRF’s newest partnerships is with the city of West Lafayette. Mayor John Dennis uses one word to describe his relationship with PRF.
“OUT-STANDING, with capital letters all the way through,” Dennis says.
Dennis remembers in his first term getting a lesson in what he calls “PRF 101” from then-PRF executive director Joe Arnett.
“It wasn’t just enlightening to me as a newly elected guy, it was enlightening for me as a tool to better understand how to improve relationships with Purdue,” Dennis says. “That was sort of the precursor to some of the great things we’ve been able to do over the past five or six years, including annexation and the explosion of development in the Research Park.”
Dennis uses the recruitment of Saab as an example of how the collaboration between the Purdue Research Foundation and the city has benefited Greater Lafayette.
“We were looking at a way to have an incentive package that would make us stand out amongst all the communities that were competing for a high-end development,” he says. “Purdue was in a position to provide some incentivization, and the city of West Lafayette was in a position to provide incentivization. Also, which is completely unheard of, the city of Lafayette participated in the recruitment of Saab financially. If you look anywhere else in the country, you will never find two cities that are going to do the same thing to benefit one city.”
The State Street Project had modest beginnings before a conversation between Dennis and Mitch Daniels changed the scope of the project.
“We had an urban corridor that looked like it hadn’t been touched since the days of the horse and buggy,” Dennis says. “It basically excluded anything involving Purdue University. The storefronts were ignored, parking was ignored, traffic flow was ignored. It basically inhibited any type of business development.
“Our original plan was to take State Street from University down to the riverfront. Basically, we would spend a few million dollars on it, dress it up pretty and make it more accessible. Hopefully improve our business corridor so that people would be more inclined to utilize it.”
Dennis felt obligated to share that plan with Daniels and his staff. It must have been some presentation because Daniels wanted Purdue to be a part of the State Street Project.
“OK, sure, bring your checkbook,” was Dennis’ response. “By golly, he did.”
“That’s when the project changed from being a local project to being a project that incorporated the university all the way to the point of its furthest west barrier, out to connect what was eventually going to be (U.S) 231.”
Daniels’ enthusiasm for the State Street Project led to Purdue’s annexation by West Lafayette, which when the students are on campus swells the population to more than 80,000.
“Which makes us one of the most densely populated cities in the state of Indiana,” Dennis explains. “That allowed us to give a lot of assurances to developers at getting a quick return on their investment.”
Edelman says Purdue’s nearly $100 million obligation to the State Street Project prompted the PRF to make a $40 million land swap with the university to be able to develop the Discovery Park district and the aerospace district.
“But we should have been doing that on our own,” he says. “The reason we should have been doing that is because having the land open has led to the expansion that is going on right now at the Rolls Royce building, the building of the Saab plant, the Schweitzer Engineering Labs. The real jobs that are coming to the Greater Lafayette area through that development is huge.”
Those jobs will bring in people looking for high-end housing, which PRF is providing with Provenance, a single-family home development planned for the former Black and Gold athletic fields.
“When we look to get a development, if we have a developable parcel somewhere in the city or on the west end at Purdue Research Park, people line up because they know they are going to be in good company,” Dennis says. “It makes the recruiting really easy. When it comes to hiring, they will get really high-quality workers.
“We’ve got advanced manufacturing, we’ve got one of the best universities in the country. We’ve got great leadership, Tony Roswarski on the east side and Mitch Daniels as president. We all have a unified understanding of what’s best for this community, not on just the short term but long term. We share resources and work collaboratively together. The Purdue Research Foundation has been pivotal in that.”
Dennis’ vision fits hand in hand with Edelman’s outlook for the future.
“I hope that we can get more captains of industry and captains of capital to land their G-IV jets at the Purdue Airport and visit what we’re building,” Edelman says. “I believe that the very expensive costs of starting a business and having employees on the East and West coast, maybe the false views that the only good ideas come out of the Bay Area or Boston would be shattered if we could get these captains of capital and industry to see what is going on in our part of the prairie at Purdue.
“What I want to do is get them to land their jets instead of flying over that so-called ‘flyover’ state of Indiana and see what we’re building in the Greater Lafayette area.”
BY JANE MCLAUGHLIN ANDERSON
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
The U.S. Census predicts that the world population will grow to more than nine million people by 2050. To keep up with the growing demand for food with fewer farmers and shrinking farmland acreage, it is estimated that agricultural production will need to double in the ensuing years. Smart farming is not only a good idea; it is imperative. Precision agriculture is the answer to become more efficient, productive, sustainable and affordable to both producers and consumers. Technological advances continue to evolve in agriculture, from fertilizer and irrigation systems, soil mapping and more efficient farm machinery, GPS systems and programmable tractors, to drones and genetic seed engineering. Necessity is the mother of innovation.
Inari is a privately held company founded in 2016 by Flagship Pioneering, a life sciences innovation firm. Headquartered outside of Boston in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Inari’s goal is to use genetic technology and computational tools to generate step-change products for independent seed companies and, ultimately, farmers. Its business is to provide the best parent seed through gene editing to independent seed companies who, in turn, can create hybrids or varieties for farmers. Inari’s product development center of excellence at the Purdue Research Park was established in November of 2018 and is the world’s first Seed Foundry.
Gene editing is different from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in that it does not necessarily introduce foreign genes into the seed. Targeted gene editing using the diversity of a plant species’ genome can enable farmers to select specific crop varieties that have features to enhance production.
Since agriculture is a critical industry, Inari continued working during COVID-19. It made recommended social distancing accommodations in labs and the office, but research and development continued. “If anything, COVID-19 reinforced the need for more products to feed the world; products which are better for the environment in terms of being more efficient in their water or fertilizer intake,” says CEO Ponsi Trivisvavet. “We are fortunate to serve during this period of time.”
“Our seed foundry approach is unique to Inari,” Trivisvavet says. “We start with a computational algorithm to gain genetic knowledge. The second step is gene-editing, and the third step is creating the parent seed that we will provide to independent seed companies. The deep knowledge from the very start gives us a continuous feedback loop from the lab and greenhouse to the field. Together with advanced genomic tools, this allows us to cut down the development time by 70 percent, and the economic costs down 90 percent.”
This process shortens the time for product development by about two-thirds as compared to traditional breeding products that can take about 10 years to commercialize, saving both time and money. The goal is to give independent seed companies, and ultimately farmers, a way to maximize yield and profit with products that are friendlier to the environment by designing them to be less dependent on fertilizer and water.
Inari’s expansion to the Midwest was intentional to be closer to the corn and soybean belt. It did a broad search and ultimately chose West Lafayette because of its proximity to Purdue University regarding collaborations with other scientists, technology groups and talent pools. Inari started with 26,000 square feet of space and in one year increased its footprint to about 80,000 square feet, with a greenhouse at Purdue Research Park, plus 80 acres of prime farmland in West Lafayette with two additional greenhouses. Corn, soybeans and wheat are the focus now, with other crops within its sights in the future.
Hoosiers may not realize that these staple crops provide products that are essential for everyday life, way beyond corn syrup, tofu and bread. Components within the corn plant are found in baby food, beer, bricks, cleansers, coated aspirin, cosmetics, diapers, gas and oil, glues, hand soap, jelly beans, matches, paint and varnish, pharmaceuticals, toothpaste, tires, Windex and whiskey.
Soybean components are found in AstroTurf, paintballs, candles, chewing gum, crayons (1 acre of soybeans can produce 82,368 crayons!), fire logs, ink and wood stain. Wheat components are found in adhesives, beer, cosmetics, hair conditioners, liquid laundry detergents, moisturizers, paper and particle board. Life in America depends on these versatile plants.
The whole process begins in Cambridge with computerized models of the plant’s genetic code. Through computational design, it can go through generations of breeding in minutes. Through technology, it can make changes in the genome. What started on the computer is then created in the lab, then taken to the field for more testing and research. The West Lafayette facility specializes in making precise changes in the plant genome in the lab and regenerating those plants to test in the field. Information is continuously fed back into the process to inform the best changes to make the plant exhibit the desired characteristics that are valuable to farmers. This method significantly speeds up the traditional plant breeding process because farmers don’t have to wait a season to gain knowledge.
Inari has a third facility in Ghent, Belgium, that specializes in plant research. It is closely affiliated with Ghent University and the VIB life sciences research institute. Altogether, the company employs 160 people. The West Lafayette location has 70 employees and anticipates hiring more in the next three to five years. Inari is a female-friendly company with a female CEO, Trivisvavet, and a balanced leadership team.
“We are grateful to Purdue President Mitch Daniels and Dean of Agriculture Karen Plaut for their support,” Trivisvavet says. “They have been very helpful, as has the entire community.” Inari hosts Purdue graduate courses for tours and career discussions and science-focused open houses at one of its Purdue Research Park facilities. On their own time, several Inari employees go to local schools to share science and technology with kindergarteners through high schoolers. Inari’s goal is not just to occupy space in the region but also to be an integrated, contributing part of the community.
“I am very excited about the Inari employees in West Lafayette, their experience, commitment and desire to make an impact in agriculture,” says Trivisvavet. “I’m extremely encouraged by the positive people committed to the company, the industry, and the community.”
BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
Crown Point, Indiana, native Elizabeth Dimos was pursuing a career in front-of-the-house hospitality management. Andrew Whittaker, who hailed from a small town outside Canterbury, England, was passionate about the culinary arts.
When they met in 1999 during a graduate accounting class at Purdue University, the two discovered that while their career aspirations varied, they shared a common interest in serving others. Twenty years later, they opened the Whittaker Inn in West Lafayette.
Tucked away on a wooded drive near State Road 43, the 25-acre property is equal parts boutique hotel and bed and breakfast, a suburban retreat just slightly down a road less traveled. As Andrew noted during the inn’s groundbreaking ceremony in 2019, “What’s not to love about this site? The Whittaker is just so secluded from everything, yet so close to Purdue University and downtown Lafayette.”
Seven years in the planning, the Whittaker Inn is now thriving as what the couple calls a “Midwestern oasis” and what reviewers have described on Facebook as “spacious, romantic and comfortable;” “top-notch” and “outstanding.”
After Elizabeth completed her bachelor’s degree and Andrew completed his master’s, both from Purdue’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, they each found jobs on the East Coast. Andrew worked in food and beverage finance in New York city properties, beginning with The Waldorf Astoria. Elizabeth started in front office management, then transitioned into revenue management for several different hotels and chains, including five years in Times Square properties.
While they both enjoyed successful careers, by 2012, they were ready for a change. The couple had a long talk about their future while staying at a B&B in Connecticut and decided they had strayed too far from the service side of the hospitality industry.
When they dreamed up the idea of an inn, it was only natural that they return to the root of both their careers and their relationship: Greater Lafayette.
After nearly a year of searching, the Whittakers discovered the wooded site where deer grazed and blue herons bred. Located near both I-65 and Purdue, it was an ideal location for football weekends, corporate retreats and romantic getaways. In 2018, they broke ground, and in May 2019, the red-roofed, yellow farmhouse-style inn opened for business.
Just as a travel-loving family furnishes its home with objects from around the world, the Whittakers have outfitted their establishment with 15 themed rooms and suites, each representing a city, region or country. Every continent except Antarctica is represented.
“Andrew and I have always had a great passion for travel and learning about different cultures and the perspective you gain while traveling,” Elizabeth says. “We chose the destinations for each of the rooms based on places we have been to, places we have family ties to, and places we would like to go to someday.”
Instead of room numbers outside each door, small placards depict the flag of the room’s representative country. Inside, the theme carries through in furnishings and decor. In the Tuscany Room, named after the region of Italy known for its terra cotta villas and sunflower fields, the contemporary bed is adorned with a quilted sunflower-themed scarf made by Elizabeth’s mother. The flowers also sprout from wall art and from the crocheted blanket draped over a chair in the sitting room. The coffee table holds books about Vatican City and Tuscany, and a guest book invites visitors who have been to Italy to leave recommendations for future travelers. Above each nightstand is a pendant light made from Murano glass – the famed glassware that has been manufactured on a Venetian island for 1,500 years.
Similarly, the England Room features Andrew’s homeland, with a framed photo of Canterbury Cathedral and a red phone booth-styled floor statue, given to the couple by Andrew’s mom. Down the hall, looming over the Indiana-themed board room is a 500-plus pound table carved from Douglas fir into the state’s characteristic shape. Shadow boxes on the wall contain memorabilia from Elizabeth’s grandfather, P.L. Owens, the room’s namesake, who was a civil engineer, a Sagamore of the Wabash recipient and the first family member to graduate from Purdue University.
The entire creation of the inn was a family affair. Along with many quilted pieces, Elizabeth’s mom crafted handmade soaps and crocheted washcloths for the bathrooms. She also bakes the cookies that overnight guests receive upon arrival. Elizabeth’s dad donated his pool table. Many of the Whittakers’ friends supplied original artwork.
Despite these B&B touches, the inn looks like an upscale hotel, with a two-story gathering room and spa-like amenities such as plush bathrobes and rainfall showerheads. Elizabeth says that she and Andrew planned this juxtaposition of the comfortable and the chic from the beginning, borrowing the best elements from the various places they’ve stayed. Even the check-in is designed to evoke a feeling of comfort; instead of standing behind a desk, Elizabeth registers her guests with an electronic tablet.
Elizabeth’s dad came from Greece, and his ancestry is reflected not only in the Greece Room with its characteristic blue-and-white decor, but also in many of the recipes that chef Andrew cooks up in their kitchen. Among them: a mouth-watering white rice cooked in butter and chicken broth; a roasted fingerling potato salad lightly tossed with olive oil; and the rustic Greek Village Salad, a lettuce-free concoction of tomatoes, peppers, olives and feta.
Other globally inspired dishes include beer-battered fish and chips, served with both tartar sauce and malt vinegar; and Mojito chicken, marinated in mint, rum, lime and sugar. Andrew incorporates locally sourced ingredients into dishes whenever possible.
The house specialty is Andrew’s crab cakes. “He has spent several years perfecting the recipe, and it has become a fan favorite,” Elizabeth says.
The Whittaker Kitchen is open for breakfast only to overnight guests, but to everyone for dinner on select evenings. The 690-square-foot dining room seats up to 50, with additional seating on the patio.
Equipped with flat screen TVs and conference call capabilities, the inn can be rented out for corporate retreats, business gatherings and family reunions. The dining room itself can also be used for everything from 50th anniversary celebrations to a private English afternoon tea for 7-24 of your closest friends. Event space has been more limited, of course, during the pandemic.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Elizabeth says she and Andrew were fortunate that their inn opened nine months before the pandemic hit. In recent months, they have adapted their approach in response to changing market factors.
When restaurants were closed by Indiana executive order, the couple put together a to-go menu. Pickups were still available in early September, even though the patio and dining room had both reopened.
“Carryout literally and figuratively carried us through the pandemic shutdown. It has been very well received by the community, as they wanted a way to continue to support us and the Whittaker while travel was all but shut down except for essential travel,” Elizabeth says. “Andrew’s culinary offerings have always been a big draw to the inn.”
BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
Sporting stained concrete floors, exposed brick, glass-walled conference rooms, and a mixture of bar stools and table seating, MatchBOX Coworking Studio is, as its website says, a “coffee shop mashed up with an office park in an old garage.” It’s also a cross between an open office rental space, a maker studio and a business incubator, all designed to grow Greater Lafayette’s entrepreneurial economy.
Launched in 2014 in an old car repair shop west of downtown Lafayette’s Tippecanoe County Public Library, MBX boasts 11,000 square feet with reserved and open office spaces, conference rooms and a lot of support for its members, including training and networking opportunities.
“MBX offers a pretty unique vibe and environment for our members,” says Amanda Findlay, MatchBOX managing director. “We also offer members access to the MBX Maker LAB, with laser cutters, 3D printers, and tools and kits for making, prototyping and small-scale manufacturing.”
MatchBOX has evolved over the last six years, says Jason Tennenhouse, executive director. “When we opened the doors, we didn’t know if anyone would come, so at the beginning we were just trying to cast a wide net and educate and survive — classic startup style,” Tennenhouse says. “We have been increasing our acceleration work and productivity steadily since then, and doing some pretty amazing things I think a lot of people don’t realize are happening in Lafayette.”
MBX may still be a best-kept secret among some locals, but not Kirsten Serrano, who co-owns La Scala Italian Restaurant in downtown Lafayette and joined the studio three years ago. “I needed to have a place where I could concentrate on finishing school – nutrition – and do some political advocacy work,” says Serrano, who was pursuing a degree from Bauman College at the time.
As part of her internship, Serrano conducted a series of nutrition workshops in MatchBOX conference rooms. After graduation, she began seeing clients in the facility. Since then, her nutrition business, Small Wonder Food, has expanded beyond consultations. In 2018, she launched the Food Smarts podcast with local marketing strategist Amie Mullikin. In mid-2020, she published the book “Eat to Your Advantage.”
MBX has been instrumental in that growth, Serrano says.
“I have made many key connections at MatchBOX, from my podcast partner to my book publisher and even the person who built my new membership site. I have also attended many great workshops and learning events,” she says. “The staff is just incredible. Every one of them has inspired me or connected me in some way or another.”
Seasoned entrepreneur Mikel Berger says that MatchBOX is the kind of place that he wished had existed when he started his first company, DelMar Software Development. “I worked from home at first, and it felt like a big leap to sign a one-year or multi-year lease, especially when I occasionally needed another office,” says Berger, a co-founder of MBX.
Berger’s latest project is Little Engine Ventures, a private investment partnership he started in 2016 with fellow MBX member Daryl Starr.
Starr, the founder and former CEO of an agricultural company, joined the coworking studio before it officially opened. While Little Engine Ventures has a private office a few blocks away, both men retain memberships at MBX.
“My membership at MatchBOX has secured several partnerships during the founding phase of Little Engine Ventures. As many members can attest, an invite to meet a prospective person at MatchBOX has a cool factor that makes working with a scrappy startup somewhat less crazy, and more fun,” he says.
Starr describes MBX members as “quirky and great.” Berger echoes those thoughts, adding, “We at MatchBOX like to think of ourselves as the right kind of misfits. We’re like the junk drawer of economic development projects. Isn’t all the cool stuff that you don’t exactly know where to put in your junk drawer?”
Indianapolis transplant Polly Barks says that MatchBOX helped her integrate into Greater Lafayette when she moved here in 2017. Barks, who had launched the website PollyBarks.com while living in Indy, was in the early stages of developing a zero-waste education and consulting business. After taking a five-week course for new and pivoting entrepreneurs, she joined the studio. She now supplements her freelance income as part-time marketing manager for MBX.
“Doing 100 percent freelance work meant I was constantly at home — too often that meant I was unfocused, and to be honest, probably watching YouTube videos. It was really nice to have a space so I could separate my work life from my home life,” Barks says. “I also really enjoyed the workshops since I could learn — for free — from other members or outside speakers.”
Two other newcomers to Lafayette, Tyler Knochel and Steven Sauder, participated in the first iteration of MBX’s Acceleration Program. Now, they use their MatchBOX membership for meeting with clients of their web development and digital strategy business, HustleFish.
“The ability to meet with clients in a professional space instead of at a coffee shop or our living room — we wouldn’t do that — is invaluable to us. Beyond that, the community has been huge,” Knochel says. “We’ve been able to do better work thanks to MatchBOX, we’ve gotten new clients thanks to MatchBOX, we’ve clarified our business model thanks to MatchBOX, we’ve been more creative and had better ideas thanks to MatchBOX, we’ve drunk gallons and gallons of coffee thanks to MatchBOX. We have benefited from MatchBOX in so many ways, but ultimately the most important thing MatchBOX provides is community.”
Much like the Great Recession of 2008, which sparked the coworking movement in the United States, the first half of 2020 has already been a time of economic upheaval. Findlay notes that some MBX members have been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including restaurateurs and professionals who rely on in-person instruction. To respond, MatchBOX staff have added educational programs on concepts such as pivoting and product expansion.
They’ve also shifted to online instructional models. In early March, when cities and states began issuing stay-at-home orders, MBX staff decided to take their Entrepreneur Development Acceleration program online and open applications to participants across the state. The program yielded a record number of applicants, which Findlay attributes to layoffs, furloughs and uncertainty in the job market. The 12-week Venture Development summer acceleration program also was offered online this year.
“Times of crisis and uncertainty are ripe for innovation. When 9 to 5 jobs are threatened by furloughs, or the future of certain industries are unknown, or consumer behaviors shift significantly, people tend to embrace their entrepreneurial ideas or freelancing talents a bit more,” Findlay says.
“Greater Lafayette will need coworking communities, workshops and acceleration programming now more than ever. Small businesses will need community support, new founders will need guidance. I think MatchBOX is positioned to be a valuable resource for our members and our community businesses as we move forward. We’re really focused on being there for them, for supporting them in what’s next.”
BY KEN THOMPSON
Decades after his parents lived in Married Student Housing while attending Purdue University, Rich Michal is playing a role in a “once in a century” project that will turn the complex into a memory.
Michal, vice president of the Purdue Research Foundation, is excited to talk about Provenance, part of the $1.2 billion, long-term Discovery Park District project that will transform the west side of campus with the creation of a walkable urban neighborhood.
Provenance is the latest offshoot of the State Street Project, a combined effort of Purdue and the city of West Lafayette. The $120 million project has, during the past four years, changed traffic patterns from the Wabash River, through downtown West Lafayette and Purdue University out to U.S. 231. Purdue President Mitch Daniels saw an opportunity for the Discovery Park District to take advantage of the State Street work to find industry that would be a good fit with the university’s strengths and then
build housing and amenities for those workers.
“The original genesis was to help finance and help pay for that State Street investment but the bigger picture is this is an opportunity to attract the best student minds and faculty and to retain some of those,” Michal says. ”We’ve got 40,000 students a year, and the majority of those are gradually moving elsewhere. We want to give them a reason to stay in West Lafayette. It’s about providing that live, work, learn, play opportunity.
“Saab and Schweitzer (Engineering Laboratory) love the fact we’re going to have those homes right there where folks can ride their bikes to work in addition to all the educational, cultural and athletic opportunities the university provides.”
Old Town Design Group of Carmel has come up with a plan that will feature a combination of 500 single-family detached homes, townhomes and apartments. Justin Moffett, a partner of Old Town, says the design will hearken back to early 1900s homes with the majority of home lots having garage access through alleys. That eliminates front driveways and enhances the walkability of the neighborhood.
“They’ve done similar projects in midtown Carmel and we loved their product,” Michal says. “They are more of a traditional looking craftsman-style home. They do the front porches and the alley-loaded garages. We felt like their semi-custom product was more appealing and more original.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Old Town’s construction plans remain on schedule to begin this summer according to Erin Easter, director of development for the city of West Lafayette. Old Town hopes to have a model home ready by February and begin selling lots this fall.
“This is the first new neighborhood in the city limits in quite some time,” Easter says. “PRF, the city and the university worked closely on the design aesthetic for the neighborhood.”
Provenance is targeting an upscale clientele with single-family homes starting in the low $400,000 range, and townhomes starting at $350,000. By spring 2021, the first families will be able to move into two- and three-story townhomes that will have a private outdoor living area and a two-car garage.
Single family detached homes will be available this spring as well, ranging in size from 1,600 to 3,536 square feet. These semi-custom homes will have the option of master bedrooms upstairs and downstairs, as well as ranch design.
By summer 2021, Old Town anticipates the completion of 142 apartments spread out over four buildings. The following year, 108 more units will be available over five buildings. Studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units will be available.
That won’t be all of the change coming to the west side of campus.
“Between the Aerospace District and Discovery Park District, we anticipate a lot of growth in the southwest side of the city,” Easter says. “Businesses typically follow residents, so once we have a residential base, you will start to see other amenities popping up in the area,” Easter says.
Michal hopes those amenities include health care and a large grocery store, which could lead to the end of another long-standing complex.
“What I’m hoping is two things: one, work with the university to put in a micro-hospital or health care facility,” he says. “The other thing … we’d love to get a 20-30,000-square-foot grocery right there off the corner of State and McCormick. With Purdue and access to students, plus 500 rooftops, we think our chances of landing a grocery will increase substantially.
“Purdue West has been a great facility. It was a great complex and it’s helped us generate a lot of revenue over its lifetime. But it’s old, tired and there may be a better use of the land there. We’d love to have a health care facility there and right across the street, just south of Hort Park, have a grocery and some retail. And all of that will help us attract more students, staff, faculty and corporations.”
Saab, which will be manufacturing military training aircraft, is the latest corporation to buy into the long-term vision. It won’t be the last in Purdue’s effort to retain its best and brightest.
“There are folks working right now with the PRF and the university to try to attract similar businesses to Saab, aerospace and aviation companies,” Michal says. “We’ve got a great partnership with Rolls Royce. We’re also trying to re-establish a commercial service with the airport. We’re hopeful on that.
“We’re trying to help promote and support the university as it changes the world through its faculty, students and technology. We’re attracting corporations here to help them in recruiting our students and tapping into our research institutions. We want them to come here, establish roots and plant a flag on campus.”
Years from now, Michal envisions Provenance being a desirable place to live like another West Lafayette neighborhood.
“Look at Hills and Dales and how beautiful a neighborhood that is,” Michal says. “Something like that.”
BY HANNAH HARPER
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
When Lafayette native Brittany Whitenack started making candles in her spare time, she had no idea that in five years, she would be the founder and CEO of a thriving company on the verge of expansion. In fact, she didn’t even anticipate having more than five employees. But with support from the community (in person and online) and a lot of hard work, Antique Candle Co. has grown to 34 employees who develop, market, make and ship candles all over the United States and Canada.
A graduate of McCutcheon High School and the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University, Whitenack has always loved candles.
“I would always buy a candle when I went to the grocery store,” she says.
As a young professional, she bought a $100 candle-making kit as a creative outlet and admits that her first few batches of candles weren’t quite the high-quality products she sells today. “It’s as much a science as an art,” she explains. “I just kept making them and getting better and better.”
Once she had honed her candle-making skills, she used the business skills she’d learned at Purdue to create a five-year plan for a company; she reached her five-year goal in just over two years.
“I didn’t plan on all the growth,” Whitenack says. “It just happened. We kept hiring the right people.”
Due to exponential growth, Antique Candle Co. will be moving to a new facility, hopefully by the beginning of 2021. The company’s new home will be located at 1611 Schuyler Avenue in Lafayette in an old dairy factory built in 1950. At 10,000 square feet, the building is ideal for manufacturing and will provide Antique Candle Co. with a proper loading dock, air conditioning in the warehouse and office space. The $1 million renovations are scheduled to begin as soon as all permits are approved.
“This new home for the business — right here in Lafayette — will be the very first space that’s all ours, built just for us with everything we need so we can continue to grow in the town we love,” says Jaycie Tierney, brand manager for Antique Candle Co.
Tierney began as a part-time candle maker while still a student at Purdue. Her part-time job became a full-time job after graduation, and she now has the opportunity to use her degree working for a company she loves.
“It has been a blessing to grow with this company and work with some of the most kind-hearted people I’ve ever had the pleasure to be friends with,” she says.
“This journey has made me fully understand the importance of supporting small businesses and the hardworking individuals behind the scenes.”
According to Whitenack, the employees at Antique Candle Co. are a constant source of the company’s success.
“Every single employee here, maybe their job isn’t to make candles, but they know how to make a candle,” she says. “They know the process. They know the product in and out. This helps with customer experience, social media, all marketing.”
One of Whitenack’s long-time employees is customer service specialist Ed McQuinn.
“I was Brittany’s first employee, so I have seen us manually stamping a few labels, and making candles on a stove, all the way to where we are now making thousands of candles every day,” he says.
The thousands of soy candles are each imprinted with a label that says “Made in Lafayette, IN” and include scents such as clean cotton, lavender vanilla, momma’s kitchen and many seasonal scents, including tree farm and pineapple coconut. Antique Candle Co. candles are sold in 400 retail locations in the United States and Canada, including The Homestead in West Lafayette.
Now entering its sixth year, Antique Candle Co. has seen much success through wholesale and retail business.
When looking toward the future, McQuinn says he “can’t wait to see what we will do in regards to wholesale, and branching into other markets.”
Whitenack also attributes a large part of the company’s growth to e-commerce and direct marketing through social media platforms. Antique Candle Co. has a robust Instagram presence where employees post to stories at least 10 times a day to help build relationships with customers.
“As an e-commerce business and a small business, creating those relationships is so important when we can’t always see everyone face-to-face,” Tierney says. “Despite not meeting most of them in person, many friends get to know our team as individuals through Instagram and other social media.”
And the company treats the relationships they build with candle friends, their customers and social media followers, like those they have with friends they know in their personal lives.
“At Antique Candle Co., we cherish our community so much and always have their interests in our hearts,” explains Tierney. “Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
The relational approach to business seems to correlate with Antique Candle Co.’s growth. According to Whitenack, the company has seen the most e-commerce growth in the years where their followers have grown on social media.
“Our social media is engaging and genuine,” she says.
Even as many retailers have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Antique Candle Co. has remained true to the value it places on taking care of employees by paying employees throughout the pandemic. The company makes sure that paying employees well is factored into its business plan.
“I always knew I wanted to pay our employees well,” says Whitenack. “Paying good employees well creates a higher quality product and better work environment.”
That work environment is something Whitenack and Antique Candle Co. employees hold in high regard.
“The best part of owning a business is cultivating a work culture that I would want to work in,” she says.
As Antique Candle Co. prepares to renovate and eventually move into its new space, it will continue to value its employees, customers and quality in its products as the business grows and shines light on the members of the Lafayette community who work hard and find joy in sharing their candle-making talents.
BY CINDY GERLACH
PHOTO BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
Sure, Isaac Childres played some board games as a kid — who didn’t? He may have played games like Sorry or Clue. He even has memories of playing some of these games by himself.
“I have vivid memories of playing Monopoly by myself, moving all the different characters,” he recalls.
“I was very bored as a child.”
But neither those simple activities, nor his foray into high school board games, could have foretold his future in games.
Childres is the mastermind behind the popular board game Gloomhaven, described on the game’s official website as “Euro-inspired tactical combat in an evolving campaign.” The game involves collaboration in order to clear out dungeons and ruins in this corner of the world; the game evolves based on players’ decisions and their skills, which change as the game progresses. It has swept the market by storm, with rave reviews from users on sites such as boardgamegeek.com
It might be worth mentioning, too, that prior to designing and developing this game, Childres had another sideline as a career option; he had a few opportunities afforded him when he finished up his doctorate in physics at Purdue University.
So where did this passion come from? Because it was not instilled in him by weekends playing Dungeons and Dragons when he was in high school, as so many teenagers do. Some kids are self-proclaimed board game nerds; Childres was not really one of those kids.
Growing up in California, Childres did play — some — but it wasn’t his primary hobby. His friends were the ones with the characters and the dice, though Childres may have managed a dungeon or two.
“My parents were pretty conservative,” he says. “It took some convincing.”
It was during his time at Purdue that Childres became interested in role-playing games. He joined a group that met at the Purdue Memorial Union on Thursday nights, opening his eyes to this world of games.
After spending time with friends playing these sorts of games, he began to think about what it might be like to create his own game.
“I started thinking about my ideal board game,” he says. “It started as a challenge — can I develop a board game?”
As it turns out, the short answer was yes. The product of his first attempt was a game called Forge War, which its website describes as a game where players are blacksmiths in a kingdom “rife with marauding harpies, cursed dungeons and fire-breathing dragons.” Players must gather ore from mines and create weapons, which they will use on quests.
Childres launched a Kickstarter campaign, a crowd-funding platform that helps fund creative projects. The game took a fair amount of work — perhaps more work than he had first imagined, as it went through several iterations. It took lots of preparation, and he realized at one point that he would need to hire out the art and design work.
“How hard can cards be?” he laughs now, recalling his mindset when he started — before he brought in the pros.
And yet, in the meantime, he still finished his doctorate, knowing that he might not end up using that degree. But he also knew it was something to fall back on.
“My philosophy was this is going to be a degree that says that I’m smart,” he says; he knew he could always find a job if he needed to.
When he ventured out with that first attempt into game design, he knew it was a risk. But he wanted to give it a try. He and his wife had that difficult conversation. His first game netted a profit, but not enough to live on.
“Let’s do this for a year, see if I can be successful at it,” he told her. “Then I kind of hit the lottery and came out with the perfect game at the perfect time.”
Board games are nothing new; evidence of prehistoric board games predate the written word. Some games come and go; others — games like Clue, Yahtzee, Monopoly and Risk — have been around for the better part of the last century. These mass-market games are widely popular and commercially successful, available in every big box store.
But thousands of board games are released each year to more niche markets. These games often require hours to play and have elaborate, complex rules and procedures. Dungeons and Dragons was one of the early examples of these role-playing games, popular among teenagers ever since.
More complex games, adventures that take five to six hours to play, have become more commercially successful over the past several years; the popularity of mass-market games like Catan and its offshoots show that the market is not yet saturated.
Yet dig deeper, and there are dozens of possibilities, games with elaborate set-ups and back stories.
“Sometimes you feel like you are in your own secret society,” Childres says.
After his first attempt, he decided to try again. The result was Gloomhaven, a board game that has been met with glowing reviews. The goal, Childres says, was to create a game that was self-contained, one where users would not have to continually purchase expansion packs in order to continue playing.
“I don’t like that business model, kind of nickel and diming your customers,” he says.
The first Kickstarter raised $400,000; his second Kickstarter, three years ago, raised $4 million in just 30 minutes. Clearly, Childres was onto something.
“It’s been a lot more successful than I ever anticipated.”
In the meantime, he lives a quiet life in his Lafayette home with his wife, who is finishing up her degree in creative writing at Purdue. He is working on several other ideas for board games, playing with ideas, seeing what comes of them.
Childres has been known to pop into Merlin’s Beard, a local shop for board game aficionados, and he still visits the Thursday night group at the Union. These days, the group is made up of mostly Purdue students, with few of his friends still in town. But that’s OK, he says; the group will change, with new people coming and going.
As will he. When his wife finishes her degree, Childres suspects they, too, will move on from Lafayette. They’ll find a new place to call home, and he’ll find another board gaming group.
For now, he is pleased with the success of Gloomhaven, happy that he can take his hobby, his passion, and share them with others.
“It’s been the best job I could imagine,” he says. “I can’t imagine a better fit for me, doing something I love.”
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
BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY SUBARU OF INDIANA AUTOMOTIVE
In 1994, Laurel, Mississippi, native Allen Hodge — who had relocated with his young bride back to her hometown of West Lafayette, Indiana — took a job at a burgeoning automotive factory on the outskirts of Dayton, Indiana. Twenty-five years later, just as Subaru of Indiana Automotive was celebrating the production of it’s 4 millionth Subaru vehicle, Allen’s son, Jon Hodge, followed in his footsteps by stepping onto the 820-acre campus for the first time as a contract worker.
“It was a combination of planning for my future and accounting for my needs at the time. I wanted a job that paid well and I could make a career out of,” says the 22-year-old Hodge, who works for CTI Personnel as a materials handler, delivering parts to the line for his fellow associates to attach to cars.
The young Hodge says that when his number comes up, SIA will transition him from a temporary job to a permanent one. That may happen sooner than he originally anticipated, given the plant’s recent announcement. In February, SIA released plans to invest $158 million in a new service parts facility and transmission assembly shop, which together will generate 350 new jobs for Greater Lafayette. Construction will begin this summer on the service parts facility, a stand-alone building, and the transmission assembly shop, an addition to the plant. “We’re proud to continue investing in Indiana,” says Scott Brand, senior vice president of administration and quality.
For years now, local auto dealer and advertising icon Bob Rohrman has urged Greater Lafayette television viewers to “Buy Subaru and keep Lafayette driving.” The tagline has a lot of truth behind it: SIA is woven into the community’s fabric, churning out cars, jobs, customers and community service at a time when some automobile manufacturers are struggling to keep the lights on.
The Lafayette plant is Subaru’s only manufacturing facility outside of Asia and currently employs more than 6,000 associates, of which more than 5,000 work in production. When the plant opened in 1989, associates built the Subaru Legacy and Isuzu Pick-up. In the years that followed, SIA continued to produce Subaru models in addition to other vehicles, including the Isuzu Rodeo, Honda Passport and Toyota Camry.
Since June 2016, the plant has exclusively produced Subaru vehicles. Current cars rolling off the assembly line here are the Ascent, Impreza, Legacy and Outback models for North America.
SIA executives project that the plant will build 410,000 cars over the next year. Production levels, in fact, have tripled over the last 10 years, says Brand, and the announced expansion will help the company meet increased customer demand.
When it comes to car buying, loyalty is key, according to the data analytics firm J.D. Power and Associates: Local drivers will return to buy or lease from the same manufacturer and will recommend the brand to friends and family members.
In the firm’s first-ever loyalty survey in 2019, Subaru ranked highest among mass market brands — and highest overall — with a loyalty rate of 61.5 percent, edging out even the highest-ranked luxury car, Lexus, which topped out at 47.6 percent.
Loyalty and popularity ratings underscore the support of local Subaru drivers like Drew Hallett, a web programmer at Purdue University who shares a Forester with his wife. “It was the best value midsize SUV and seemed to have the most spacious interior,” Hallett says of the car, which they purchased as a pre-owned vehicle.
Hallett, who recommended the Subaru Ascent to his parents when they were car-shopping recently, says he’s had “zero problems” with his SUV: “No single car can do it all, but the Forester comes close.”
For Purdue University graphic designer Sarah Anderson, who had a toddler when she purchased her Forester several years ago, safety was her top priority. “I had done a lot of research and narrowed it down to two options that I really liked,” she says. “We ended up going with the Subaru Forester because of the local reputation and resale value.”
Like many Subaru drivers, Anderson says she loves her car. “I’ve only had a couple small issues, and the team at Subaru have been fabulous to work with,” she says. “It’s a dependable car that gets my family where we want to go safely — with good gas mileage.”
When it came time for her parents to replace their SUV, Anderson convinced them to purchase an Outback. Now, she says, “They even come to Lafayette for service visits.”
For safety-minded buyers like Anderson, features such as adaptive cruise control and pre-collision breaking are innovations that helped the company earn top honors in Kelley Blue Book’s most-trusted brand competition every year from 2015 to 2019. That focus on safety extends to the plant floor as well. In February, SIA was recognized with a Governor’s Workplace Safety Award from the state of Indiana for a 2019 internal awareness campaign that contributed to an 80 percent reduction in slips, trips and falls from the previous. year.
Over the past 30 years, the plant also has achieved several environmental milestones. SIA was the first U.S. auto plant to become smoke-free, earn an ISO 14001 Certification for Environmental Management, be designated as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, achieve zero landfill waste and earn an ISO 50001 Certification for Energy Management, according to Craig Koven, communications and external relations manager.
Those successes are likely routed in the strong work ethic of SIA’s employees, who undergo a stringent hiring process and rigorous training, and are governed through Kaizen, a system of continuous improvement that emphasizes personal discipline and teamwork.
Associates bring that team spirit into the community with them by volunteering with Wabash Center, the Imagination Station and other local causes. In turn, the SIA Foundation issues grants for capital projects in arts, culture, education, health and welfare in Tippecanoe County and beyond. Given that nonprofits help spur economic activity, that’s another way that SIA keeps Greater Lafayette driving.
BY CINDY GERLACH
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY TIPPECANOE ARTS FEDERATION
“Grow the arts”
It’s a simple motto — and one the Tippecanoe Arts Federation undertakes with the utmost gusto.
The Tippecanoe Arts Federation (TAF) serves as a regional arts partner, one of 11 in the state. As the center of a 14-county district, TAF is the umbrella organization and helps advocate for these 14 counties, many of which are rural, providing educational opportunities in visual, literary and performing arts, outreach programs for underserved communities and underserved youth, and funding for operational expenses for fellow arts organizations in the region.
TAF dates back to 1976, when it was determined broader
support for the arts locally was needed, says Tetia Lee, TAF’s executive director. In its nascent period, TAF was actually just an arts calendar, a way to list everything that was happening in one place.
“It was a way to support other arts organizations,” Lee says.
As its mission and vision grew, the organization changed accordingly, supporting various types of programming. TAF found its home at the Wells Memorial Library, just north of downtown on North Street; at the time, the library was transitioning out of the building.
The current board has adopted the simple mission statement — “It’s something short and sweet that the board members can remember,” says Lee.
“We work within that mission,” she says. “We’re allowed to be creative, to think outside the box.”
“We can play to the resources in the community really well,” says Ann Fields Monical, TAF’s chief operating officer.
The Regional Arts Partnership is a network of 11 regions throughout the state. Under the purview of the Indiana Arts Commission, the regional partners work to enhance the delivery of arts services and to move the decision-making closer to the community and its arts consumers. Region 4, the largest geographically, serves a population of more than 525,000 and has served in this capacity since 1997.
And it’s a huge undertaking. With such a large geographic area, needs are widely variant, Lee says.
“Rural counties’ needs are so much different than organizations in Tippecanoe County,” she says.
The work focuses on engagement, education and sustainability. TAF helps groups assess their needs. But how those are addressed changes.
Because, says Lee, every community benefits from the vitality of the arts. Whether it’s arts education, public art displays or performances that draw in tourism, the arts are vital to the survival of a community.
TAF has more than 200 arts partners. These member organizations use TAF as their hub, as these are often small groups with no physical home — or the resources to have one — so TAF provides them with meeting space, a mailing address and help with marketing and publicity.
“The majority of our organizations are smaller, with budgets less than $25,000 who are looking to expand,” Lee says.
Member organizations range from large groups such as the Lafayette Symphony, Carnahan Hall or the Indiana Fiddlers’ Gathering, to much smaller, more obscure groups and many individuals. Even a group of fly fishermen.
“That doesn’t sound like the arts,” says Monical. “But they make these beautiful lures.
“That tells you how much stuff is going on. So many different groups.”
One of the ways TAF is looking to the future is by the remodeling and expansion of its physical space. The nearly century-old Wells Community Cultural Center had been showing signs of age. So TAF undertook a major restoration project — a project that was handled very deliberately and thoughtfully. The timing had to be right in terms of financing the project and finding public support. It was a process that took nearly a dozen years.
The result is a stunning interior renovation of the old library. The stacks were removed to reveal an entire back wall of windows, opening up the space, allowing for a much-needed smaller performance venue, as well as updated gallery space and staff offices.
The building’s footprint remains unchanged. But every inch of the building has been renovated, with the lower-level rooms being given the same treatment, with a full overhaul. Each of the four rooms has been redesigned with a distinct purpose — a dance studio, arts studio, recording studio, meeting room — yet each can be used for multiple purposes, to create, interact and learn. The smallest meeting room was given a wall of glass to make it feel less claustrophobic.
The state-of-the-art recording studio is a major coup. Funded by a grant issued to the Songwriters Association of Mid-North Indiana, the studio will serve as a teaching tool for both recording artists and engineers; it also will be a space for people to record projects, from interviews to podcasts to spoken word performances. It will open up opportunities for education and collaboration within the songwriting and recording community.
The final touch to the building was when the stolen outdoor lights were returned. The bronze lights, stolen last summer and sold for scrap, were reconstructed, Monical says. A mold was found to recreate a missing part, and the lights were completed and returned to their rightful home in front of the building, albeit with tighter security, in December.
Having more space is key to the future of TAF, Lee says. As the renovations progress — this was Phase I of a three-phase project — it will live in the space and evaluate how it works before progressing to the next steps.
“We hope to expand,” says Lee. “What that looks like is changing.”
Each year, TAF hosts its annual fundraiser, The Taste of Tippecanoe, which brings arts together with tastings from area restaurants. It shows off the best of the area, from food to visual art to performances of all kinds.
TAF is instrumental in getting art to the people in the communities it serves. Currently, it oversees a variety of programs, including:
As the umbrella organization, TAF has a broad mission and goals, as they help advocate for the benefit of public arts, for education. Every day, Lee says, they live that motto of “Grow the Arts” — in all the glorious ambiguity that wording allows.
BY JANE MCLAUGHLIN ANDERSON
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY PURDUE RESEARCH FOUNDATION
Built so they would come, Purdue University-affiliated Discovery Park District landed Swedish-based Saab as a major aeronautic manufacturing facility in May. It’s a perfect match.
Saab, an acronym meaning Swedish Aeroplane Company Limited, has been making fighter planes since 1937 and is heavily invested in the defense and security industry. According to Saab’s website, its strategy for growth in new markets is to pursue excellence through technology, research and cooperation.
Purdue President Mitch Daniels had the vision to capitalize on Purdue’s strength in aerospace engineering research, intellectual capital and the university’s airport to create an ecosystem that would bring in industry-related businesses.
Saab will invest $37 million and hire up to 300 employees to make fuselages (the central body of an aircraft) for T-X advanced jet trainers developed by Boeing and Saab for the U.S. Air Force. Hiring will start in 2020, Job ramp-up will occur between 2021-2026.
Paul Moses, assistant vice president at Purdue Research Foundation, helps serve as matchmaker for major corporate and university partnerships. “Each company has its own reasons for wanting to engage with Purdue. Usually, it’s tied to some desired technical expertise or workforce development,” he says.
“We work to help them build bridges to the many experts on campus, our licensable intellectual property or patents, and of course, the bright young minds who will become their employees. We also help international companies and their employees assimilate into our community.”
When asked why Greater Lafayette was attractive to Saab, Moses cited that Saab appreciated that the community (Purdue, Purdue Research Foundation, and city, county and state leaders) all worked together to answers its questions, provide meaningful incentives, and helped them understand and acquire its needed workforce. Supported by the cooperation of Indiana’s pro-industry ecosystem, Saab found the perfect partners for its next chapter. As an added bonus, West Lafayette reminded Saab officials of Linköping, the Swedish city in which Saab currently does most of its airframe manufacturing.
Initially, Saab will focus on building airframes to fulfill the U.S. military contract of producing at least 351 jet trainers for the Air Force. According to a Purdue press release, Saab will also collaborate with the university to expand research and development within possible areas of sensor systems, artificial intelligence and autonomous systems. Purdue also has areas of expertise in trusted microelectronics, hypersonics and cybersecurity that Saab or other interested companies can consider employing.
“A lot of communities claim to be focused on the needs of business, but this community proves it,” Moses says. “When companies come, they feel the sincerity of our local leaders. They experience how truly collaborative we are. They see the quality of our existing workforce and our commitment to developing it further. They learn about the expertise available and the bright young minds being turned out by our world-leading educational institutions. When you combine all that with the affordability of our great quality of life, it makes our community among the most compelling of places to consider locating a business.
BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
Lana Beck, a bright, inquisitive second-grader at Mintonye Elementary in Lafayette, was born into a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) family. Her parents are university administrators with degrees in science, and a grandfather and an uncle are biomedical engineers.
Between visits to family members’ research buildings and bedtime readings of books such as “Rosie Revere, Engineer,” Lana’s parents make a point of exposing her to all things STEM during her off-school hours. When it came time to schedule Lana for summer camp in 2019, it was only logical to mix in stints at Straight Arrow and Boiler Kids Camp with a week at Super Summer, sponsored by Purdue University’s Gifted Education Research and Resource Institute.
As Lana and her classmates explored the theme of “Discovery through History,” examining the role of ancient civilizations on the modern world, they employed their STEM skills to develop a Mayan calendar, discover how a solar oven works, and create an aqueduct out of cardboard.
The verdict? Lana loved it. “I have wondered if it was the novelty of it, but it was certainly her favorite [of the three camps]. And she liked the other two,” says her mother, Kaethe Beck, operations director for the Purdue University Life Sciences Initiative. “She came home one day looking for us to translate her message that she wrote using hieroglyphs after they learned how to make their own paper. She was just thrilled to have a secret language and to know how paper is made.”
For several decades, the GERI program, part of Purdue’s College of Education, has provided enrichment activities for academically, creatively and artistically talented youth. Super Summer offers programming for kindergarten through fourth grade in not only STEM subjects but also social studies, art and language arts. The Summer Residential Camp has similar offerings for students in fifth through 12th grades. GERI is one of many programs in the Greater Lafayette area designed to open local students’ minds to the possibilities of STEM education, and ultimately, careers.
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics play a key role in our nation’s economy. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, employment in STEM occupations — which Pew broadly defines as including not only computer science and engineering, but also healthcare — grew from 9.7 million in 1990 to 17.3 million in 2016, outpacing the nation’s overall job growth. Those statistics are especially relevant in areas such as Greater Lafayette, where industry and healthcare reign.
While Purdue University may be the top employer in Tippecanoe County, seven others on the top-10 list — including Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc., Caterpillar Inc. and Wabash National Corp. — are manufacturers. The other two are IU Health Arnett Hospital and Franciscan St. Elizabeth East. Search the online want ads for the area, and you’ll find postings for engineers, factory technicians, registered nurses and certified nursing assistants, all of which require various levels of STEM skills.
“The local economy here is heavily manufacturing based, and we’re trying to address that,” says Miranda Hutcheson, director of the new Greater Lafayette Career Academy (GLCA), which opened in August in the old Lafayette Life building on 18th Street across from Lafayette Jefferson High School. “Almost every industry right now needs employees; we hear that almost every day.”
GLCA, a cooperative effort that includes Lafayette School Corp., Tippecanoe School Corp. and the West Lafayette Community School Corp., is designed to prepare students for both college and careers. Students attend their home schools for a half-day either in the morning or the afternoon and spend the rest of their time at the academy. Credits at the academy count toward a diploma from their home schools.
Local schools offer some beginning career and technical education courses, says Laurie Rinehart, director of guidance and assistant principal at Lafayette Jeff. However, GLCA is providing “more advanced courses and more advanced experiences to connect them with the next step, whether it’s the workforce or going to trade school or college,” she says. Through such programs as advanced manufacturing, computer science and nursing, academy students can earn industry certifications, dual credits or both.
Coursework aligns with the new Graduation Pathways program, approved by the Indiana State Board of Education in 2017, in which Hoosier students create their own roadmaps to preparing for life after high school. Those pathways took effect last fall for incoming high school freshmen.
Hutcheson describes the pathways as on- and off-ramps on an interstate. “Whatever your educational attainment goal is or career goal, you can get off the ramp if needed and then get right back on if that’s what you choose,” she says. Students with industry certifications can enter the workforce immediately or spend two or four years in college before using that certification on the job. Others may work for a while, then attend college. Those who earn dual credits can go right on to college or delay their postsecondary education for a while.
All GLCA classes are designed to be as hands-on as possible, both on- and off-campus. Aspiring medical assistants, for example, will attend labs where they learn skills such as checking vital signs, giving injections and charting patient progress. After graduation, they will complete an externship at a local healthcare facility.
Some students may discover that they don’t enjoy what they’re studying. That’s actually a valuable learning experience, Hutcheson says: “It’s a win for us if a student says, ‘This is not for me.’ We’ve eliminated that from a student’s future career options.”
Beyond the career academy, many other local initiatives are designed to build STEM competence and confidence. Greater Lafayette Commerce, for instance, sponsors CoderDojo, a free computer science club in which kids aged 7 to 17 learn programming from computer science professionals. Programs average 30 students at each of the two locations, says Kara Webb, workforce development director. Last fall, GLC planned to add two more locations to the monthly lineup.
GLC’s annual Manufacturing Week showcases STEM career possibilities available here in the Greater Lafayette region. More than 3,34o students signed up for last year’s event, which ran Sept. 30-Oct. 4. High school students toured manufacturers, seeing the workforce in action and learning what type of training would prepare them for industry careers. Middle schoolers attended a daylong expo, exploring stations focused on design, production, distribution and support services, such as nursing and cybersecurity.
“We highlight that manufacturing has numerous career pathways, not just production,” Webb says. Elementary students attended a half-day manufacturing awareness workshop, learning about lean manufacturing, quality, teamwork and the effect of manufacturing on people’s lives.
Across the river at Purdue University, K-12 STEM programs abound. Purdue’s Women in Engineering offerings, for example, include after-school programs such as Imagination, Innovation, Discovery and Design (I2D2) for kindergarteners through fifth graders and Innovation to Reality (I2R) for sixth to eighth graders.
“Children are being exposed to STEM education in their formal school settings already, so what we do is really intended to be a reinforcement of that exposure,” says Beth M. Holloway, assistant dean for diversity and engagement in the College of Engineering and the Leah H. Jamieson Director of Women in Engineering. A fundamental part of WIEP’s programming is engaging current engineering students, particularly women, to serve as role models to youngsters.
“For our programs that are targeted to seventh to 10th grades, we also do sessions for parents that address ways to encourage their child’s interest in engineering in particular, and STEM in general,” Holloway says. “Course expectations are covered there as well.”
Middle school is an ideal time to begin planning for high school, Rinehart says. In fact, she and her colleagues at Jeff are talking to eighth grade parents about the career academy so that interested students can plan their schedules accordingly.
“They’re over there a whole half day. Not all students can do that,” Rinehart says of the GLCA students. “These conversations have to start with our kids in middle school, in eighth grade and freshman year; we have many students who want to go but can’t fit it in their schedule.”
For parents like Kaethe Beck, it’s never too early to start preparing her children for the future. “I can expose her to many different things and let her choose what interests her, reinforcing that she can explore any one of these disciplines in a capable, confident way,” she says of her daughter Lana.
And regardless of whether Lana pursues a career in STEM or in another discipline, lessons like those at Super Summer are equipping her with important life skills, Beck says.
“I think children are inherently curious,” she explains. “It’s the what, why, how that kids always want to ask about anyway. In my mind, STEM fields address those questions in a number of ways, but most importantly, give you the tools to think critically about any type of problem you’ll encounter in life.”
BY JANE MCLAUGHLIN ANDERSON
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY PURDUE RESEARCH FOUNDATION
The timing couldn’t be better. Just as Purdue University and Greater Lafayette were envisioning a new generation of high-tech companies for the Discovery Park District, Purdue alumnus Edmund Schweitzer III came back to campus. His original intent was to honor his alma mater with a $1.5 million endowed professorship in electrical and computer engineering, and to donate an additional $1.5 million to support Purdue’s power and energy research area, now named Schweitzer Power and Energy Systems.
“Last fall Purdue Research Foundation and others honored Ed and his wife, Beatriz, for their contributions,” says factory manager Jake Church. “As that story unfolded, it inspired Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL) to build a facility near campus, and the project took off.”
The 100,000-square-foot plant across from Rolls Royce is indeed taking off and will be up and running in early 2020.
Edmund O. Schweitzer III is truly a renaissance man. Having received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from Purdue in 1968 and 1971, he worked out West for the government for five years before deciding to pursue a doctorate degree. He received his Ph.D. from Washington State University in 1977 in Pullman. While teaching at WSU and raising a family, he founded Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in his basement in 1982 to build digital relay devices for power systems to replace the cumbersome and unreliable current mechanical devices. It was revolutionary engineering for electrical protection at the time; he received a patent for the first microprocessor-based digital relay, one of his 200 patents in the field. Because of it, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2019. Academic. Inventor. Entrepreneur. Philanthropist. He is a man of vision with the ability to make it happen.
“The mission for the company is to make electric power safer, more reliable, and more economical,” Church says. “With that goal, it opens the door to customers who need safe and reliable high-speed control of their power systems like electric utility companies, hospitals, universities, and virtually any entity that needs reliable power.” The West Lafayette plant will make recloser controls. These devices control reclosures that act as high-voltage electric switches that shut off the flow of electricity on a power line when trouble occurs due to wind, lightning, falling trees, animals, among other things.
“We are excited to manufacture SEL technology so close to some of our Midwestern customers (Duke, Indianapolis Power & Light and Tipmont), but it’s also an opportunity to be close to Purdue University and collaborate with them,” says Church. “You can’t put a price on the synergy created by partnerships between the community and the university.” SEL’s manufacturing plants are located in Pullman, Washington; Lake Zurich, Illinois; Lewiston, Idaho; and now West Lafayette. SEL products are used by virtually every U.S. electric utility and are protected power systems in 164 countries around the world. Moving to West Lafayette is a game-changer for the growing Discovery Park District with win-win benefits for the company, community and university.
Church is among the first of 30 employees of the 100 percent employee-owned company to make the move to Indiana. “All volunteered and applied for the transition. They’re eager to come and are so excited to make Greater Lafayette their home,” he says. SEL will ramp up hiring from there with a projection of eventually 300 employees, with manufacturing jobs coming first and research and development and engineering to follow.
“We’re thrilled to work with Greater Lafayette Commerce and others here to get the word out as needed. Purdue Research Foundation and GLC offered to help incorporate our people into the community, including our spouses,” Church adds. “It’s a testament to the community, with so many different parties involved at different points, whether it was PRF and staff, GLC helping with logistics, both mayors’ offices very supportive and eager to help us get a safe, good building constructed, and county commissioners to help with the workforce. Everyone has been topnotch — very welcoming, professional and supportive. We’re thrilled to be building this business here.”
BY CINDY GERLACH
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
Upper Main Street in downtown Lafayette wasn’t always known as the hippest part of the block. But things change. And much of the credit must go to the neighborhood’s swankiest eatery, East End Grill.
Located on the north side of Main Street, between 11th and 12th streets, East End occupies a building that was formerly a coffee shop and, prior to that, a health clinic. But you’d never know it — the building has been transformed, and its previous owners would likely not even recognize it. With its exposed ductwork, open ceiling, wood and metal accents, the interior is urban and chic, evocative of an urban loft.
It’s a transformation that was all intentional, says owner Scott Trzaskus. He did a lot of research, looking into the needs and desires of the community.
“We really wanted to bring a more urban environment,” he says. “And hopefully add something to this end of the street. We have some really well-traveled people.”
Trzaskus moved to the area in the late ’80s to attend Purdue University, planning to study civil engineering. “I wanted to build bridges,” he says. But somewhere along the way, he lost interest in construction, while, at the same time, he became fascinated with his work in dining and hospitality as he worked part-time in local restaurants. This, he decided, was where his passion lay. So, armed with a degree in hospitality and tourism management from Purdue, he set off to make his way in the world, working in high-end establishments in Houston, San Francisco, New York and Chicago, and learning everything he could.
He ended up back in the Lafayette area when he and his wife, fellow Purdue alum Erin, decided this was where they wanted to raise their family. And Trzaskus noticed immediately the possibility of opening a new eatery in downtown Lafayette — the business community would embrace it, he felt, as would Purdue.
“I always wanted to do something. I never thought it would be here, but it turns out it was,” he says.
Teaming up with partners Bearing Point Developers — John Nagy, Pat Jarboe and Tim Balensiefer — they chose this spot on Upper Main Street, knowing it had potential.
“We’re really happy to be on this part of the block,” he says
Trzaskus wanted to create a space that was open to all sorts of possibilities — he didn’t want to limit the restaurant to either high-end dining or to sandwiches and beer. Instead, he focused on creating a space that is open to multiple uses — whether it’s just dropping in for drinks and snacks, a special event or burgers with the family.
“It’s got some serious flexibility,” he says. “Whether it be a cheese reception, a wine reception or a business function, we want it to be what the guests want.”
And the space has been designed and configured to allow for this flexibility. The main dining area has standard tables that can be moved around to fit any size party, yet you’ll note they are not terribly close together, allowing for more private conversation space. The bar area has the same sorts of tables but also has a traditional bar area along with high-top tables. An area in the back can be closed off to allow for private space — perfect for either a family reunion or an off-site business gathering, complete with audio-visual hookups and a television that doubles as a screen.
“We didn’t want to do anything that would feel dated in two years,” he says.
The menu is designed around local, fresh ingredients. It’s seasonal; the focus is on what is fresh and full of flavor.
“We really focus on foods when they’re available,” he says, “Everything here is from scratch. Everything is produced in house.”
And proof of this commitment to fresh ingredients? The restaurant has only a refrigerator — no freezer.
“It’s really important for us to eat seasonal foods when they’re at the height of the season and then wait for them to come back next year,” says executive chef Ambarish Lulay. “Why push it? I know I’m going to get good quality when it’s in season.”
Not only are items only served seasonally, but they are procured as locally as possible, from local farms. All steaks are cut in house.
The same commitment applies to the bar menu, as bartender Thomas Gregg has created all signature cocktails.
In the coming months, East End will be expanding this same ideology across the street. Trzaskus and his investors have purchased a space across the street, where construction has begun on a new venture, a multi-use facility. Upstairs will house an event space and outdoor patio; downstairs will feature a casual eatery with counter service — yet the cuisine will be higher end, echoing the sort of menu items that can be found across the street at East End.
“What we’re trying to do is fill all the holes that East End didn’t,” Trzaskus says. “Counter service is the direction people want. We want to make it really easy to grab high-quality food.”
Trzaskus has worked very hard to create an open, welcoming environment. He is a hands-on owner, in the restaurant, paying attention to feedback from his customers.
“One of the things we try to do is listen,” he says. “And I don’t say that lightly.”
Case in point: When the restaurant opened, the noise level was much higher than anticipated. With the open ceiling and exposed ductwork, the acoustics were dreadful — people sitting across from one another could barely engage in conversation.
The acoustics may have been dreadful, but Trzaskus did hear the complaints. Acoustic padding was added to the ceiling, helping the sound.
“You could literally feel the difference,” he says.
The same can be said of the menu: They listen to customer input.
“When it comes to our specials, we play with them,” says Lulay. “And people tell us one way or another. We do our best to listen to what people are saying and respond accordingly.”
As Trzaskus sees his restaurant fill up night after night, watches as he expands across the street, he feels pretty satisfied about what he’s done.
“We want people to feel very comfortable,” he says. “People need to know the story about what we do and why we do it.
“We don’t do anything that’s terribly fancy, but we use high-quality ingredients. We don’t want to be pretentious, but we want to be highly informed.”
Clearly, it’s a recipe for success. Fresh vegetables and sides. Clean cooking. The kitchen is always open — that’s a key part of the integrity that he wants to foster.
“It’s not that hard to do,” Trzaskus says. “It just takes some effort.”
This simple commitment to quality, to service, has proven to work well for his clientele.
“The fun part is when people come in and say you’ve hit both sides, the food and the service,” Trzaskus says.
“I’m really happy here. Hopefully, this place will still feel in time in 10 years.”