BY CINDY GERLACH
Historically low unemployment rates in Tippecanoe County should mean that most people who are searching for work have multiple opportunities to return to the workforce. There are, however, other factors that might keep someone from taking the job of their dreams: child care.
And with chronically understaffed businesses, employers feel the pinch every bit as much as parents.
Openings for children can be difficult to find, says Tammey Lindblom, co-CEO of Right Steps Child Development Centers. In Tippecanoe County, there are only 5,604 openings in regulated child care centers for children from birth to age 5. And that means there is a shortage of high-quality programs.
In Tippecanoe County, there are 117 regulated child care programs, says Grant Britzke, County Engagement Specialist for the Child Care Resource Network, a regional child care coalition builder and advocacy group. With more than 11,800 children under the age of 5, many parents are not able to find care for their children.
“Only 64 percent of those children can access a regulated program,” says Britzke. And only 3,798 of the available spots are considered high quality.
Needs are further complicated by non-traditional working hours; of the child care agencies in this county, only 11 offer overnight care and only four or five are staffed over the weekend. And to further complicate matters, staffing is difficult to find, particularly for those non-traditional hours.
The bottom line?
“For Tippecanoe County, we know we don’t have enough spaces,” Lindblom says.
However, “There’s overwhelming support for child care. Over 60 to 70 percent of the population is in support of policies that support child care access and affordability,” Britzke says. And there are conversations happening, he says.
In Tippecanoe County, there are people looking at early childhood initiatives, looking to address child care capacity and the growing workforce, with the understanding that child care plays a role in economic development. In May, Right Steps co-CEO Victoria Matney addressed Greater Lafayette Commerce on child care, presenting a proposal on a $14 million project that would, early on, offer care for 206 children, from birth to age 5, during traditional hours, and care would also be offered for second and third shifts. The proposed center would be located on an eight-acre site, thus offering room for expansion.
Matney says that Right Steps has conducted a feasibility study for the project and is in the process of identifying and adding partners who can contribute to making the project a reality.
“We have been actively engaging with the community by organizing several meetings to gather input and feedback regarding the project. These community meetings have been instrumental in shaping our approach and ensuring that we align with the needs and expectations of the local residents,” she says.
“Additionally, we have been meeting with local employers to assess their interest and willingness to invest in the project. We are pleased with the level of interest and engagement we have received thus far, and we are confident in the potential impact this project can have on the community.”
High-quality child care
What defines high-quality child care? Organizations that get this rating observe health and safety practices (first aid/CPR, child development, nutrition, cleaning/sanitation and universal precautions), observe proper ratios for children to caregivers, and have staff who meet proper education and training qualifications.
Such centers will typically have limited screen time, age-appropriate (and approved for safety) toys and equipment, and offer outside time; children are observed to make sure they are meeting developmental milestones and get age-appropriate, individualized developmental support.
At Right Steps, the goals are to “provide safe, consistent, nurturing child care that prepares each child for a lifetime of learning and success,” according to its literature. It supports healthy habits for children through nutrition, and it focuses on child development and early childhood education with its care.
The steps necessary to become a high-quality program are defined by Indiana’s Paths to QUALITY Rating System, which is a tool parents can use to see how each center fares. Accredited program meet the highest standards of care.
Many of these benchmarks on what is an appropriate environment have changed over the years. Playground equipment that was deemed “ideal” 25 years ago is not necessarily considered a best practice today.
“The trend is toward a natural environment,” Britzke says. “It’s more about the quality.”
Meeting community needs
For many communities, a focus on high-quality child care serves to meet multiple needs. From an educational standpoint, early childhood education benefits all children; making more child care centers that can help meet those needs for children will have long-term benefits, as studies show consistently that children who have early access to high-quality care perform better in school, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Studies show that with access to high-quality early childhood education:
Availability of child care is also seen as an economic issue, says Britzke.
“You can’t go to work if you don’t have good child care,” he says.
And it’s critical for communities that wish to attract both employers and young people, says Lindblom. As people are evaluating jobs and the prospect of relocation, child care is one of many factors to consider.
“They’ll choose places that have that child care component,” she says. “Studies consistently show that children perform better in school if they’ve had better early education.”
Britzke and Lindblom stress that this is a bipartisan issue. “We are seeing a strong will to collaborate in each county and many are coming to the table with solutions.”
“Even though it’s complicated and there’s a lot to work out, I’ve never heard this much conversation about child care,” Britzke says. “It doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s good that we’re all talking about it.”
Britzke is the coordinator of the regional program Supporting Our Families, a Greater Lafayette READI funded activity that will add 430 additional child care seats in the Greater Lafayette Region. The program will build Child Care Coalitions in each of the five counties in the READI region (Benton, Fountain, Tippecanoe, Warren and White), consisting of business, industry, child care centers and community leaders, to build support for solutions that increase child care capacity in each county. Supporting Our Families also will award micro-grants to child care centers to meet high-quality standards.
What can parents do?
Parents should know to get on a waiting list early – as soon as they know they might need care, especially for infants and toddlers, where there are the least spots.
“Parents don’t always understand how important it is to get on a wait list,” Lindblom says. “We have families with one child at one center and one at another to get those children in.”
And these programs are expensive. Care for infants and toddlers – where the ratio of adults to children is much higher – can cost more than $300 a week, even on a sliding scale. And this, Lindblom says, has a gap in actual costs. With grants and United Way funding they are able to bridge that gap. But they are always looking for ways to generate other funding.
Britzke is optimistic that, with conversations starting, parents and children will get the care they so desperately need.
“Ideally, what we’d like to have happen is that the child care offerings are so robust that each parent can choose what works best for their families,” he says. “Parents are currently sacrificing quality for the sake of a program that meets their work hours.” ★
In Tippecanoe County, there are 117 regulated child care programs. With more than 11,800 children under the age of 5, many parents are not able to find care for their children.
“Only 64 percent of those children can access a regulated program. And only 3,798 of the available spots are considered high quality.” — Grant Britzke, County Engagement Specialist for the Child Care Resource Network.
BY JILLIAN ELLISON
In 2020, during the thick of the COVID shutdown and the shift to working from home, it wasn’t uncommon for employees across the United States to look at their remote work situations and wonder if they could find a better job fit elsewhere. Freed from the confines of their cubicles, for thousands of workers the idea of relocation to a new city was planted.
The Greater Lafayette area found itself the destination for many job seekers as the two cities began to receive accolades for their entrepreneurial atmosphere, world-class Purdue University and affordability. Among those accolades: a recent Wall Street Journal report that ranked Lafayette as the fifth best place to live for remote workers. That ranking was based on a poll that identified 10 factors people said they most cared about in a remote-work setting. Key factors included high-speed internet, housing prices, cost of living, employment and arts and entertainment venues and parks.
An additional lure for remote workers arose in April 2022 when Purdue University announced a first-of-its-kind program, not only inviting remote workers to move to the Greater Lafayette area, but to pay them to move as well.
If a $5,000 moving stipend wasn’t appealing enough, a few other perks were included: a Purdue ID card, permitting access to campus libraries and free rides on City Bus; free membership to care.com;
a 50 percent discount to the Convergence co-working space on campus and a discounted membership to Parkwest Fitness. The program ended in February after seeing a significant wave of applicants, but the program’s success signaled to stakeholders just how desirable the Greater Lafayette area is for remote workers.
Vanessa Hughes and her husband, both post-production television editors from Burbank, California, saw what the Wall Street Journal wrote about after just one brief visit.
The couple’s first experience in Greater Lafayette came in May 2022, when they stayed in the area while attending the famed Indianapolis 500.
“Before we left for the trip, my husband joked that I might fall in love with Indiana and we’d have to move here,” Hughes says. “Once we got here, I really liked the area and started looking for rentals, out of curiosity.”
It wasn’t long before she began seeing social media ads promoting work-from-home opportunities in the Greater Lafayette area with appealing incentives for remote workers to pick up their belongings and make the leap from the West Coast to the Midwest.
Once Hughes and her husband identified a viable time to make the move, she says they jumped on Zillow.com, cruising for a rental that fit their needs. Despite Tippecanoe County’s tight housing market, the couple was able to find a rental home in West Lafayette in just a few weeks.
Though they’ve only been in the area since November, Hughes says the vast amount of entertainment, access to university and community libraries, green spaces and friendly neighbors have made them feel at home in no time.
“I really appreciate the events calendar that Purdue Research Foundation puts out,” she says. “It’s daunting to move to any new place, and having an easy way to network and meet people is wonderful.”
For Ben Carson, however, the decision to move to West Lafayette as a remote worker was different: it was choosing to come back home.
Carson, a competitive debate coach and product developer for online academic competitions, moved from the Greater Lafayette area to New Jersey five years ago as a full-time debate coach, but as the pandemic shifted work online for many employees, Carson was looking for a change.
“With changing jobs, it made my ability to be remote, and to do that from anywhere was freeing, and I didn’t feel tied down to New Jersey anymore,” he says. “I was looking for different settings, but at that time coming back home made sense.”
Carson made his move in November, and like Hughes and her husband, he found himself in a lucky spot. He landed an available one-bedroom apartment at the Provenance Apartments in Purdue’s Discovery Park.
In five years’ time, Carson says one of the most visible changes he’s seen in the Greater Lafayette area has been the rapid development of the Discovery Park District, an area of the university’s campus that has seen more than $1 billion in development through the addition of housing, research facilities and commercial properties.
“At the time when I left, none of what is there now existed,” he says. “Now, it’s completely unrecognizable having not seen the growth in real time, but seeing that area being taken advantage of to its fullest extent is really great to see.”
Moving back to Indiana, Carson says he didn’t expect many surprises having lived here most of his life. Knowing Tippecanoe County has been a hotbed for development over the last decade, he expected to see some businesses he didn’t recognize and some buildings to look a bit different, but he was reminded of one thing as the seasons changed.
“I kind of forgot how windy it is here,” he says. “I didn’t really realize it and didn’t think much about it when I moved to New Jersey, because for the most part the weather is the same. But man, getting hit with that wind kind of took my breath away.”
Moving from California to Indiana, Hughes says her biggest surprise came after seeing the state’s famed breaded pork tenderloin sandwich.
“I am surprised by just how large a pork tenderloin sandwich can actually be,” she says. “I respect it, but I will stick to a spicy chicken sandwich instead.” ★
BY PURDUE UNIVERSITY HEALTH EQUITY INITIATIVES
In 2021, Purdue University recruited Dr. Jerome Adams, the 20th Surgeon General of the United States, as the university’s first ever Director of Health Equity initiatives (HEI). Dr. Adams was hired to leverage Purdue’s many unique assets to ensure more communities have opportunities to make healthy choices and live healthy lives. Based on guidance from faculty members, three thematic areas of focus were identified in early 2022: Food for Health, Infectious Diseases, and Mental Health and Substance Use. Faculty felt these thematic areas would give us space to learn, grow, engage, and create an impact in the health equity space across Indiana and beyond. Further, Purdue’s strengths in education and research, technology and data, engagement and entrepreneurship, and communication and policy provide a strong foundation for making a difference in these initially identified areas of opportunity.
Dr. Adams and his team are working aggressively to engage faculty, students, and staff across Purdue’s ecosystem to maximize the University’s impact in the Health Equity space both internally and with external partners. The end goal is to help fulfill Purdue’s land grant mission by promoting community health and success through ongoing partnerships and engagement. As an example of this work, the HEI Office recently released a seed funding opportunity to Kathleen Abrahamson, associate professor of nursing from the College of Health and Human Sciences. Her project is exploring the mental health challenges that exist within a local nursing facility.
Abrahamson’s project will consist of semi-structured interviews conducted by a nursing doctoral student with staff members and leaders to assess perceptions of facility climate, wellness needs, and ideas for change. Staff members will then be sent a validated survey instrument to provide a baseline measure for staff before intervention design. Lastly, a team of undergraduate students will conduct a faculty-led assessment of potential areas for quality improvement. The Purdue chapter of IHI Open School has committed to assisting the facility in implementing quality projects related to the mental health environment of the facility.
Abrahamson anticipates that two evidenced-based reports will be provided to the facility in May 2023 and September 2023 regarding the current mental health climate of the facility and that the data collected through this seed funding opportunity will be utilized to apply for additional funding to design an expanded project to address the quality of life and mental health and well-being among nursing home residents.
The Purdue HEI team would love to engage with your organization to work on additional projects which can improve health equity in the Lafayette community. To connect with any of our faculty members or learn more about our work, please visit our website: https://www.purdue.edu/provost/health
BY KAT BRAZ
Students who previously thought college might not be an option for them can now envision a future employed in the manufacturing industry while simultaneously pursuing a degree, thanks to a new program launched in fall 2022 by Greater Lafayette Commerce.
Supported by two grants from the Indiana Department of Education, Career+ aims to place more graduating high schoolers in locally available in-demand, high-wage jobs with full-funded post-secondary education. The initial grant specifically focused on manufacturing pathways. Several industry partners, including Cook Biotech, Evonik, Kirby Risk, Oscar Winski, Primient, Radian Research, Rea Magnet Wire Company, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Terra Drive Systems, Wabash National and WWS, have joined the Career+ ecosystem.
“Career+ serves the schools in our economic development region by training K-12 students in the 18 employability skills identified by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development as the key workplace skills for all jobseekers regardless of experience or occupation,” says Kara Webb, workforce development director at Greater Lafayette Commerce. “It also helps the manufacturers in our region find local talent for their workforce.”
Of the regions 1,800 high school graduates in 2023, only 900 students will be heading to college. Only 600 of those 900 who start college will complete their degrees. That means there are 1,200 potential candidates for manufacturing pathways. With hundreds of available jobs across manufacturing — the largest sector in the region — industry partners are eager to establish a pipeline of local talent.
“We need workforce,” Webb says. “And we’re not seeing it coming from anywhere else, so we need to grow our own workforce. That is what Career+ is designed to do.”
Career+ students who start working in manufacturing roles straight out of high school will have an opportunity to pursue post-secondary education at no cost to them because the grant also funds tuition assistance and reimbursement for all participating employers. The manufacturing pathways provide a career ladder for employees as they complete education while working at the company.
Greater Lafayette Commerce contracted Skyepack, a West Lafayette-based company that specializes in developing custom course content, to create digital modules that cover the 18 employability skills and 140 related competencies. There are video interviews with people who have careers in manufacturing and virtual tours of manufacturing facilities. As students complete modules, they are awarded badges that can collectively build a pathway within the program.
“The badges are verification that the student can show their potential employer they have demonstrated these skills in a classroom setting,” says Eric Davis, CEO of Skyepack. “The different pathways align with the skills employers are looking for in specific entry level jobs. So if a student wants to become a CNC operator or an assembler, there is a specific pathway that relates to each position.”
The online curriculum is complemented by activities and lesson plans that participating teachers facilitate in class. Currently, the program has been adopted by eight schools across the nine-county region. Career advisors and connect coaches within each school manage implementation of the program.
Additionally, two microcredentials have been developed as part of the work readiness program. Workplace Communication trains students in workplace communication skills such as working effectively in groups and giving and receiving feedback. Student Success, designed primarily for eighth graders, helps students build their four-year high school plan and think beyond graduation. Students and parents gain a better understanding of graduation requirements, the Core 40 diploma and dual credit opportunities.
The microcredentials are designed to be embedded into teachers’ current curricula. Program developers are also collaborating with Ivy Tech to align with the community college’s course offerings so students could earn college credits upon completion of their certificate programs.
“Earning a bachelor’s degree straight out of high school is not accessible for a lot of students,” Davis says. “There’s a new movement in education, tearing the paper ceiling, which is all about finding alternative routes to gateway opportunities outside of earning a bachelor’s degree. A large portion of students need better access to career opportunities. This program is designed to put students on a career pathway and connect them to an ecosystem of opportunities.”
Greater Lafayette Commerce continues to recruit more industry partners and schools to participate in manufacturing pathways. Next up, it plans to work with Skyepack to develop curricula for healthcare pathways.
“The whole goal of these pathways is to help students see that there are plenty of opportunities for successful careers in good paying jobs here in our region and they can still pursue post-secondary education, too,” Webb says. “We’re excited to expand to more schools in the counties that we serve and continue to grow our talent pipeline efforts in this community.” ★
BY KAT BRAZ
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
Before the start of every NFL game, the stadium’s grounds crew uses a Clegg Impact Tester to determine the hardness of the field and to ensure the playing surface is safe for athletes. Developed in the 1970s in Australia by Baden Clegg, a geomechanical engineer and a lecturer at the University of Western Australia, the instrument contains an accelerometer, or hammer, that is dropped from a predetermined height to measure how quickly weight stops upon impact.
NFL rules dictate the reading must produce a score under 100 before a game can be played. The higher the number, the harder the playing surface and the higher the risk for a player to suffer a concussion if his head hits the ground. And every Clegg Impact Tester used by the NFL is manufactured by Lafayette Instrument Company, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.
“People drive by the building and see the word ‘instrument’ and they think we make musical instruments,” says Brian Brown, sales manager for Lafayette Instrument. “We actually make and sell scientific instruments in more than 100 different countries, working with corporate clients such as the NFL, American Airlines and FedEx.”
In addition to being the sole distributer of the Clegg, Lafayette Instrument is the world’s leading manufacturer of Polygraph instrumentation and equipment and offers innovative technologies to support neuroscience research and instruments for human evaluation used in education, temporary staffing, human resources, occupational medicine, rehabilitation and other professions.
“For the past 75 years, we’ve been able to reinvent ourselves to meet customers’ needs,” says Jennifer Rider, president and CEO of Lafayette Instrument. “What started as a partnership with Purdue University expanded to partnerships with numerous universities, government agencies and other organizations around the world. Our product line and massive reach sets us apart from other businesses in the area, and even in the state.”
Lafayette Instrument was founded by Purdue electrical engineering graduate Max Wastl in 1947. What began as a small operation in a shed with one employee has grown into an international leader in scientific instrumentation manufacturing with the Lafayette-based headquarters and primary manufacturing facility that employs 48 people, and a second location, Camden Instruments, acquired in 1998 and located about one hour northeast of Birmingham, England, that employs around 20.
“Our Camden Instruments subsidiary focuses on neuroscience products exclusively,” Rider says. “They do some machining and a lot of their own assembly. They have their own engineering and tech teams, much like Lafayette, just on a smaller scale.”
Rider’s father-in-law, Roger McClellan, bought the company with two partners and restructured it in the 1990s with a focus on vertical integration, a business model that became critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Lafayette Instrument has the capability to not only conceive product ideas and iterate on them but also build them out in full-scale production within our own facility,” Rider says. “Over the past 10 to 20 years, vertical integration isn’t quite as critical as it used to be. We have many options available to us, using providers around the state and sourcing equipment internationally. We still do as much as we can in-house because it saves money and it certainly saves us time. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when other companies were waiting on vendors and suppliers, we were able to fulfill orders.”
The orders Lafayette Instrument fills range from simple instruments such as a pegboard used to test fingertip dexterity and gross movement of the hand in an ergonomics lab or basic calipers used for physical ability testing, to sophisticated computerized instruments used in health care, law enforcement and research facilities that can communicate instantaneous results digitally.
The Polygraph is one such instrument that Lafayette Instrument continues to innovate. The paper readouts depicted in the movies have been replaced with a computerized system that connects to a digital interface.
“The need for credibility assessment solutions has remained steady and increased,” Rider says. “The organizations that use Polygraph know it’s the best tool and technology available today, outside of basic interview and interrogation techniques, to try to determine if a person is being deceptive. But it doesn’t mean it is the exclusive technology that will always be used forever.
“There are academic endeavors, institutional endeavors and our own research and development to find ways to make it better. But the need for products like these aren’t going away. Whether it’s cybercrimes or terrorism or criminal investigations, the data acquired through these types of instruments is incredibly valuable.”
Customers approach the company with ideas for specific instruments they need. Occasionally those will be large-scale custom manufacturing orders, but most often they are tools that Lafayette Instrument can bring to market.
“We’re very ingrained in the industries we serve,” Brown says. “People recognize the Lafayette Instrument name and come to us for solutions. The confidence our customers have in our company to be on the leading edge of innovation and provide instrumentation that is going to benefit them is what keeps me excited.”
As Lafayette Instrument looks to its next 75 years, capitalizing on the strength of its employees — many are long-tenured like Brown — and its drive for ingenuity will propel its growth for years to come.
“To reach 100-year-plus milestones, you can’t be afraid of change and disruption,” Rider says. “We don’t want to be complacent and think we’ll have another 75 years of success doing exactly what we’ve been doing. We have to understand the value that we bring to the market and to our customers and build on that. We have to know ourselves. When you stray too far from your core strengths, that’s when a company starts to falter.”
Whether it’s working with governmental agencies, neuroscience researchers and industry, health care practitioners or the NFL, Lafayette Instrument offers solutions that advance safety, security, science and medicine.
“Every product that goes out our doors is helping someone or protecting someone,” Rider says. “There’s a lot of purpose in that work that gives meaning to what you’re doing. It’s easy to be fulfilled by that.” ★
BY KEN THOMPSON
A large number of Tippecanoe County residents cannot remember a time when Caterpillar Inc., wasn’t a major part of Lafayette’s east side landscape.
The Deerfield, Ill.-based company is the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, off-highway diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives.
Caterpillar is celebrating its 40th anniversary in Lafayette, a partnership that Tippecanoe County commissioner Tom Murtaugh says is beneficial to both.
“Caterpillar has played an essential role in the growth of this community and the region,” Murtaugh says. “In addition to creating great employment opportunities for hundreds of families over the past few decades, Caterpillar has been a generous community partner and supporter of the United Way and countless other community initiatives.”
In 2021, employees and the Caterpillar Foundation provided approximately $548,000 through the United Way for their communities, according to Joe Markun, Large Power Systems Operations vice president for Caterpillar Inc. The Caterpillar Foundation also provided grant funding of more than $290,000 to non-profits in 2021.
Additionally, the Lafayette Drive Team – an employee-led advocacy group, makes donations to local sports teams, food banks, scout troops, transitional housing centers, Habitat for Humanity efforts, the YWCA, and other organizations.
Caterpillar is stepping up its community involvement with a 40 Days of Giving program that launched in early August.
“This is a facility-wide initiative to engage our employees and give back to the communities that have supported us continually over the past four decades,” Markun says.
“Teams across engineering, supply chain, human resources and more are finding needs in our communities and providing their time and resources to address them. While we have much to celebrate internally with the 40-year milestone, none of this would be possible without our community partners.”
It was big news in 1977 when rumors began to circulate that Caterpillar was interested in building a plant in Lafayette.
Murtaugh’s family played an important role in the plant’s location. His was one of four families who sold a combined 425 acres to Caterpillar in 1977. The deal was so top secret that Murtaugh remembers “company X” buying his family’s farm.
Even after officially announcing the land purchase on Sept. 22, 1977, at the downtown branch of Lafayette National Bank, Caterpillar chairman William L. Naumann had little to say publicly about the decision to bring the manufacturing of its new Series 3500 diesel engines to Tippecanoe County.
That morning, members of those four families — James Murtaugh, Richard Smith, Donald Lecklitner and Paul Hamman — learned who “company X” really was.
Journal & Courier business writer Judy Horak reported that Naumann cited four factors that attracted Caterpillar to Lafayette. First was the site not only being large enough for a Caterpillar facility, but it also had excellent access to I-65, railroad transportation and good utility services.
“We find a strong spirit of community pride and cooperation here,” Naumann said of the second reason. He was just as succinct with the other two factors.
“The quality of local government and community services is excellent. Finally we are attracted by the quality and character of the Lafayette-West Lafayette-Tippecanoe County area.”
While the courtship was completed, it would be five years – November 1982 – before employees began pre-assembly work on parts for the Series 3500 high-powered diesel engine. The first Series 3500 engines were assembled in December 1982.
Tony Roswarski was on the verge of beginning a career in law enforcement 40 years ago. Today, he’s approaching 20 years as mayor of Lafayette.
“Caterpillar has been an important piece of our economic foundation for the past 40 years,” Roswarski says. “Its global presence helps put Lafayette on the worldwide economic map. Closer to home, it creates great paying jobs, pays taxes that help fund the police, fire and parks department along with great schools.
“Caterpillar helps families build their future and have a high quality of life. They have been a wonderful corporate citizen, giving back through the company and its employees. Thousands of people a year enjoy CAT Park, and more now will have the opportunity as the new all-inclusive sports field will be finished soon. Caterpillar truly has made a positive impact on Lafayette over the past 40 years.”
Look no further than these numbers to measure Caterpillar’s impact on Lafayette’s economy. When it announced in early January 1982 that it was taking applications for 40 maintenance positions, the company received approximately 600 resumes.
As more job openings were posted, Caterpillar’s local post office box overflowed with resumes. More than 3,400, in fact, by March. As Lafayette celebrated the new year 1983, approximately 300 management, salaried and production workers were in place.
Today, Markun says the Lafayette Engine Center machines and assembles diesel and natural gas engines that power the world – the 3500, the 3600 and the C175 engines.
“When our facility opened, we were developing and manufacturing 3500 engines,” he says. “Over the 40 years, this engine platform grew to be the industry standard for heavy-duty diesel and gas engines worldwide, and we introduced two more platforms – the 3600 and C175. These units are custom-built to ensure our customers get exactly what they need.
“The 3500 engine primarily helps support the electric power, oil and gas, rail and marine markets around the globe. The 3600 is a huge player in the oil and gas segment, and the C175 is largely utilized in mining and electric power applications.”
These engines power mining trucks carrying ore to be processed, tugboats guiding ships to harbor, drill rigs tapping oil and gas reserves, and generators bringing electricity to communities, hospitals and data centers.
Caterpillar may be celebrating its 40th birthday locally but it also is looking ahead to the next decade. The Lafayette facility will play a key role in Caterpillar’s effort to “integrate sustainability” into its core business.
The company website boasts how Lafayette’s facility is meeting the goal of recycling power into the day-to-day operations.
“When a new engine or component is offered, it is important that we conduct many testing hours on each product to provide confidence to our customers that they are buying the highest quality engine available.
“The amount of energy created by the testing process is tremendous. Rather than waste it, the team explored various options to harness the energy. Understanding that endurance testing is a necessary and critical means to assure product quality, they looked for a way to use the electricity-generated power to support facility operations which would otherwise have been wasted.”
Caterpillar states that the electricity generated by the endurance test pad provides supplemental energy to power the Lafayette plant. With roughly 130,000 metric tons of CO2e emissions avoided over the last five years, Caterpillar has saved more than $11 million.
“Harnessing the power from their endurance testing is just one example of the Lafayette facility’s sustainability journey. Through their continuous improvement projects, the team has implemented several programs resulting in general reductions in greenhouse gases, water usage and waste.” ★
BY CINDY GERLACH
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
The Lafayette Life Insurance building on the corner of Teal Road and 18th Street in Lafayette has been transformed. The building, vacant since 2011, now houses a modern center for learning, for exploring. Students from all area high schools get career training that will prepare them for either postsecondary education or to enter the workforce.
The idea for a career academy was the inspiration of area school superintendents. Les Huddle, Lafayette School Corp. superintendent, took a look one day at the building, which sits conveniently across the street from Jefferson High School, and had an idea. So he made phone calls to Rocky Killion and Scott Hanback, his counterparts in West Lafayette and Tippecanoe County respectively, to discuss the potential for that property and what it might do for students.
“The original vision was for the three school corporations to partner together and build a facility that would serve the students from all three corporations,” says Huddle.
And the Greater Lafayette Career Academy was born. It provides opportunities for students in their junior and senior years to seek training and certification in a variety of areas, all of which will help prepare them for their future, says Miranda Hutcheson, director, Career Technical Education at GLCA.
The vison grew, with partnerships from Ivy Tech, Purdue University and area industry.
“Once GLCA entered into a design stage, the partnership was expanded to include others as [Greater Lafayette Commerce], Ivy Tech and local businesses and manufacturers,” Huddle says. “This inclusive model provided the design team with the ability to match the students’ needs with the community needs. The result of the multiple partnerships resulted in a quality facility that offers quality career pathways for students in our county to explore and succeed in.”
The courses vary in their offerings, their style, and their ultimate goals. In some cases, the courses are more introductory, giving students an idea of what to expect in certain fields, helping them decide if they want to continue in that career path. In other programs, students will leave with a certification or dual credit.
As a public school building, the Career Academy is held to those same requirements as the home schools, Hutcheson says. Students with an Individualized Education Plan or who need classroom accommodations will receive any assistance they require.
The fully remodeled building boasts 65,000 square feet of space — about 20,000 square feet were added to house the construction, automotive and manufacturing spaces. The result of the $30 million project is state-of-the art classrooms, labs and workspace, all of which help students achieve their goals of workforce preparedness.
Students who enroll at the GLCA remain enrolled at their home schools. They will take courses on that campus in the morning and then move to the GLCA for the afternoon session. Students drive themselves or, in some cases, transportation is provided.
The programs offered are designed to help students prepare for the future. Current offerings may include automotive services, aviation operations and flight, aviation maintenance, computer science, construction trades, cosmetology, criminal justice, culinary arts and hospitality, education careers, emergency medical technician, engineering design and development, fire and rescue, manufacturing, medical assistant, networking and cybersecurity, precision agriculture, pre-nursing (CNA), radio/TV, and welding.
Program offerings will vary. And not all programs are offered every year, Hutcheson says. They will differ based on student enrollment and staffing.
Purdue has been a partner in some programming, and industry partners have already stepped up; some are offering incentives — which can include guaranteed job interviews, increased base pay and signing bonuses — to students who complete the Governor’s Work Ethic Certificate, a statewide competency-based program that rates competency in categories such as persistence, respectfulness, initiative, dependability, efficiency, academic readiness and discipline.
Because the courses are so different, the work in each varies. Much of it is hands-on — students in culinary arts work in a test kitchen, while students in the automotive program work on cars.
And the result, at the end of the year, is that some students take their skills to actual customers. In construction, the students build — and sell — playhouses. In the culinary program, the group opened and operated a lunch bistro for three weeks.
Not to mention fun perks for students: When it was time to test out auto detailing, students got to bring in their own cars for that custom service.
Each Friday is Life Skills Friday. Students have a chance to rotate through all he programs, seeing what each offers, learning skills and touring the building. Each program will offer a different activity — students learned about personal finance, how to hang a picture, and how to change a tire.
Most instructors bring some real-life experience to the role. Lafayette Police Department officers help teach the criminal justice classes, for example. But there can be challenges for instructors in this environment, Hutcheson says. In a new facility with a new program, they may be the only instructor in that area, without any colleagues to directly work with. Thus, she says, the administration works to help provide resources and networking, such as the statewide conference it hosted in the spring. Because, Hutcheson says, she knows the instructors want to bring the best they can to these students.
“They are committed to education,” Hutcheson says. “Most of them have industry experience. Their knowledge is invaluable to these students.”
Goals for the students will vary, Hutcheson says. Some will gain enough knowledge or earn a certification that will allow them to find employment in their field after high school graduation. Other students will go on to seek a two or four-year degree. And some students, having tried out a program, will determine that it is not the best fit and move in a different direction. Which, she says, are all successful outcomes.
Because, she says, there is a bit of a misconception about the students who attend GLCA. It is not a repository for students who lack motivation or drive; it’s quite the opposite.
“We serve all students who are interested in a career, with all abilities and all interests,” she says. “Kids choose to be here. The programs are competitive. They know that to be here is a privilege and not a right.”
Enrollment continues to increase; Hutcheson is seeing a 50 to 70 percent increase each semester. The facility is designed to house about 950 students, but Hutcheson says they can be flexible and creative, using sone offsite locations.
The goal is to help all students find their passion — whatever it may be. But it is, Hutcheson says, about the whole student. This is a place where they can spend some time figuring out and exploring who they want to be as they move into their postgraduate life.
“It’s a safe space to transition to adulthood,” she says. And in the halls of the GLCA, there are no limits.
“Now that the GLCA has been operating for several years and the pandemic has slowed, we are seeing more and more students enrolling in a variety of career pathways,” Huddle says. “Many of the GLCA students will continue on to some form of higher education, and many will leave the GLCA with skills that will allow them to enter the local workforce.”
And, Huddle says, it has truly been a boon to the entire area.
“The GLCA success is due to the local school corporations and our community partnering together to provide a unique educational opportunity for all of our students,” he says. “With the school and community partnering together, the GLCA can now be looked upon as a valuable community resource for our entire county.”
The students, though, truly benefit, and they say it best. Harrison student Elijah Froiland shared his thoughts in a Tweet in February 2021:
“Choosing to go to the GLCA has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The instructors are extremely kind and you can tell that they really want you to succeed. This has really made my senior year special.” ★
For more information, go to: glcareeracademy.com
BY KAT BRAZ
[ INVESTING IN THE FUTURE WORKFORCE ]
Arconic Foundation, the philanthropic arm of one of the largest manufacturing companies in the region, invests in skill-building learning experiences that enhance individual opportunity, specifically within STEM education and manufacturing workforce development.
One initiative the foundation supports is Manufacturing Month, held in October. The interactive online portal launched by Greater Lafayette Commerce (GLC) teaches K-12 students about manufacturing and the wealth of career options available to them in the manufacturing sector.
The virtual experience complements Manufacturing Week, which includes in-person workshops, an expo at the Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds and tours of local manufacturing facilities, all geared to educate K-12 students about the vast opportunities and career pathways available to them.
“Arconic is a big supporter of Manufacturing Week,” says Scott Greeson, community advocate for the Arconic Foundation. “A number of years ago, the manufacturing industry began to see a shortage in the number of skilled workers. GLC and the mayor’s office wanted to develop a program to educate youth about careers in manufacturing, and Arconic jumped on board right away. Not only supporting Manufacturing Week but providing funding to convert those resources to an online format that instructors can access and integrate into their curriculum.”
Greeson held a number of jobs at Arconic before retiring in 2018 as a tool and die design engineer and transitioning to his role as community advocate for the foundation.
“I am very passionate about getting kids to realize that manufacturing is a respectable career path,” Greeson says, “that it is a good way to earn a living for your family, support your community as well as the entire state. With a little bit of planning, you can launch your career right out of high school and make an outstanding income from the get-go.”
Greater Lafayette Career Academy received funding from Arconic Foundation to outfit its makerspace, and the Lafayette Crossing School of Business and Entrepreneurship based in the Northend Community Center used grant money to furnish a computer lab.
“It’s not just about igniting a spark that leads someone to a career in manufacturing,” Greeson says. “It’s allowing kids to have access to the skills they need at the earliest possible age. Helping them to understand that they can use their hands and mind to create and build things that will make a difference in their community.”
[ PREVENTING YOUTH SUICIDE ]
In December 2021, North Central Health Services (NCHS) announced its commitment of more than $1.1 million in Preventing Youth Suicide grants and support to 12 school corporations throughout North Central Indiana. The grants will support schools in six counties launching evidence-based youth suicide prevention programs, reaching an anticipated 35,000 students by the 2024 school year.
“The schools will be working with an entity called Education Development Center (EDC), a global nonprofit that advances lasting solutions to improve education, promote health and expand economic opportunity,” says Stephanie Long, president and CEO of NCHS. “EDC is a national leader in the field of social and emotional learning, mental health and suicide prevention.”
In addition to grant funding for the program, participating school and district teams will receive support from EDC on how to integrate mental health within their education systems as well as technical assistance to provide schools with training and systems support to build robust evidence-based suicide prevention efforts. The program has six key components:
According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24 in Indiana and the second leading cause of death for ages 25 to 35. Centers for Disease Control data indicate that Indiana suicide rates have increased along with suicidal ideation for youth 10 to 24.
“We looked at not only national data, but Indiana data and some local data from our schools indicating that students have felt extra stress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Long says. “Our community needs health assessment completed in 2021 identified mental wellness as an area that could use some impact.”
The Preventing Youth Suicide grants expand on work many of the schools have done to implement social-emotional competency, drug resistance and mental well-being curriculums. Coupled with the Resilient Youth Initiative grants, NCHS has granted more than $7.3 million back into community schools to support their efforts to maintain a protective culture for children and youth.
“We’ve got excellent schools and educators in our community who are always striving to grow what they are doing,” Long says. “The Preventing Youth Suicide grants are an opportunity to provide them with necessary funding to support their work and connect them with experts in the mental health field.”
[ EXPANDING ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY ]
Students throughout the region have benefited from a three-year e-learning project that Wabash Heartland Innovation Network (WHIN) launched in November 2020. Coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic when many students were learning from home, the project has improved internet access in homes across WHIN’s 10-county service region to enhance e-learning opportunities.
“WHIN allocated $5 million from our Regional Cultivation Fund (RCF) to enhance e-learning throughout the region,” says Pat Corey, vice president of engagement for WHIN. “Thus far, we’ve awarded more than $1.3 million in grants, impacting about 27,000 students. And we expect to fund a whole lot more.”
Established five years ago through a nearly $40 million grant from Lilly Endowment, WHIN is a consortium of 10 counties in north-central Indiana (Benton, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Fountain, Montgomery, Pulaski, Tippecanoe, Warren and White) leading the adoption of digital technology with the aim of becoming the first recognized smart region in the nation.
“WHIN’s 10 counties form a living laboratory for advanced technology,” Corey says. “It’s a unique organization. There’s no other 501(c)(3) in the country that has accepted the challenge of accelerating digitalization. Indiana has a 20 percent gap in productivity in its advanced industry sector, and the country as a whole has an 80 percent gap in productivity in its agriculture sector. Closing those gaps is what’s going to keep Indiana competitive.”
Community Schools of Frankfort were awarded $157,000 from the RCF in February to equip school buses with hotspots, add hotspots to outdoor learning areas and help students with MiFi devices at home.
A $10,000 grant to Frontier School Corporation turned FFA land plots managed by partner school districts into digital agriculture testbeds and living labs for students, area farmers and ag businesses to experiment with data collection in practice.
MSD of Warren County School Corporation received a $105,000 planning grant to create a Department of Education-approved, dual-credit precision agriculture course and externship program for high school juniors and seniors. The curriculum will be made available to all WHIN school districts.
Another grant in the works at Benton Central Jr.-Sr. High School will develop coursework in sensor-based technologies to get students excited about careers in data. Once the pilot career builder program is complete, all the school corporations in the region will have access to the new resource for their students.
“Students don’t realize that the world of big data is here, and they need to be ready for it,” Corey says. ★
BY CINDY GERLACH
Teledyne FLIR’s slogan is “Everywhere You Look”.
For 20 years, this company in Purdue’s Research Park has been improving technology, “helping people around the world save lives, protect the environment and enhance productivity. We’re building more than innovative technologies; we’re striving to build a more sustainable, more efficient, safer future.”
Teledyne FLIR, a company started by two Purdue graduates who worked with Dr. Graham Cooks, is owned by parent company Teledyne, a large multinational conglomerate. FLIR is a leader for its applications in thermal imaging and chemical detection, says Clint Wichert, director; site operations.
The company is best known for its highly specialized chemical detection instruments. There are broad applications for these instruments, which use mass spectrometry, allowing for very specific chemical identification. They can separate specific chemical mixtures, allowing the identification of minute amounts of potentially hazardous chemicals.
“Our instrument is really the best to use in these applications,” Wichert says.
This highly specialized equipment can be used by the military, first responders and by hazardous materials units.
It can, for example, detect fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is highly addictive and possibly fatal when taken in high doses. It is often mixed with other drugs on the black market; this technology can detect fentanyl at even 2 or 3 percent, when it is mixed with acetaminophen — a dangerous and potentially lethal combination.
Improvements in technology have made these instruments smaller and more compact over the years, and they are now portable, meaning they can now be transported to a site. With a three to nine-month backlog in some modern forensics labs, this means less time to identify a substance, and less chance that substance will be contaminated during transport.
“This technology is really the gold standard for chemical identification,” says Wichert.
The instruments are sensitive and complex. For years, they were large; with the computer required, pumps and the power source, they took up a great deal of space. But the same technological progressions the world has seen in all other areas have helped make this technology more portable and accessible.
“We’ve worked progressively over the past 20 years to miniaturize the technology,” says Wichert. “Something that used to weigh 120 pounds is now down to under 40 pounds. This same kind of tech progression has happened and been pioneered in West Lafayette.”
The company employs around 50 people and hires many Purdue graduates but also gets talent from Indiana University and Rose Hulman. Employees are drawn to the Lafayette area and working in the Research Park, with its proximity to the Purdue campus and ability to continue the collaboration with Dr. Cooks.
As the company continues to grow and expand, it looks forward to expanding these life-saving technologies, Wichert says.
“It’s been great over the last 20 years to really have the support of the community and of Purdue,” he says. “We work with experts, and we like to be able to tap into this talent pool, both technology and manufacturing. We’re happy to be part of this community.” ★
BY KAT BRAZ
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
Everyone deserves a second chance. But for individuals in recovery from addiction, second chances can be hard to come by. A grant-funded partnership between Phoenix Recovery Solutions, a division of Phoenix Paramedic Solutions, and Valley Oaks Health provides peer-based recovery support to individuals struggling with issues related to substance abuse, mental health or homelessness.
“Our certified peer recovery coaches have lived experience and are in recovery from mental health or substance use themselves,” says Jason Padgett, the director of marketing solutions for Phoenix and one of the founding members of its quick response team (QRT), which facilitates the second chance program with support from the statewide Indiana Workforce Recovery Initiative. The QRT, which includes a warm line staffed 24/7, services nine counties: Tippecanoe, White, Jasper, Cass, Carroll, Benton, Newton, Fulton and Pulaski.
“As a person in recovery myself, I didn’t have many choices when I entered recovery 16 years ago for alcoholism,” Padgett says. “Alcoholics Anonymous has saved millions of lives, but recovery is not a one-size-fits-all journey. The beauty of peer support is that unlike saying ‘this is how I did it, you’re going to follow my same path,’ a peer recovery coach takes the view that your journey is your journey. We’re here to help show you your options and support you on your journey by connecting you to community resources. It’s up to you to decide what route to recovery you want to explore.”
One of the biggest challenges for persons in recovery is maintaining employment. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act protects addicts in recovery from a substance use disorder, relapses — not uncommon on the path to recovery — can lead to a positive drug screen, tardiness or missed work, which can lead to dismissal. Embracing a Second Chance Workforce, a new program offered by Phoenix QRT and Greater Lafayette Commerce, seeks to educate and empower businesses on how to support employees through addiction recovery.
“Our goal is to partner with local corporations, particularly manufacturing but any industry, to refer employees who test positive on a drug screen or are having trouble with mental health or substance abuse issues,” Padgett says. “The companies would contract with us to assign a peer recovery specialist to support that individual on their recovery journey. That allows the company to retain the individual on its workforce, which is much cheaper than hiring and training a new employee. There are tax incentives for companies that embrace second chance policies.”
A Lunch and Learn panel discussion held in April featured representatives from companies that embrace second chance policies geared toward people in recovery as well as individuals with felony records. As a follow up, a second chance career fair is scheduled from 1-7 p.m. May 18 at the Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds. In addition to showcasing companies embracing second chance policies, the career fair will also have representatives from community social service organizations.
“We want everyone who comes to the career fair to have access to every community resource they could possibly need,” Padgett says. “From peer support to treatment to ongoing education, they can even get help creating a resume or practice interviewing to make them comfortable speaking with potential employers.”
Holding a job is a large part of an individual’s recovery capital, the internal and external resources that can initiate and sustain long-term recovery. Phoenix, which embraces felony-friendly hiring and employs several individuals in recovery in addition to Padgett, will be among the employers represented at the career fair.
“I’ve had a relapse in recovery and I was supported by my employer,” Padgett says. “It meant the world to me. A bump in the road doesn’t have to mean going all the way back down to the bottom and starting at zero again.” ★
BY RADONNA FIORINI
What does it take to score almost $35 million in federal and state grants designed to bolster long-term economic health and student-to-workplace success? For officials in six area counties and six cities within those counties, plus representatives from several educational institutions, it took joining hands and working collaboratively.
Two, multimillion-dollar grants have been awarded to Greater Lafayette Commerce that will be used to address quality of life issues, economic development and student readiness in a six-county region around Lafayette, says Greater Lafayette Commerce President and CEO Scott Walker.
Greater Lafayette Commerce spearheaded the arduous process of applying for the grants, working in partnership with regional elected officials and education professionals to obtain $30 million through the Indiana Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, or READI, and a $4.9 million Student Learning Recovery grant.
READI split the state into 17 regions and requires neighboring counties and communities to create governing boards that represent each region. The Greater Lafayette region, as defined by the state, encompasses Benton, Carroll, Fountain, Tippecanoe, Warren and White counties.
While Lafayette/West Lafayette comprise the most populace cities in the region, collaboration between all counties and municipalities is critical for success, says Ben Dispennepp, economic development director for Warren County.
“Collaboration among regional counties and cities is necessary because people desire a diversity of living, recreational and employment options,” he says. “If we share in efforts to build up the region and promote across these invisible boundary lines, this region will offer a higher quality of life and provide more opportunities to thrive in the long run.”
Just applying for the grants was a challenging process that started last May. Creating a final action plan to be implemented in the next four years is the current challenge.
“It’s complicated and we have to follow all the federal procurement and accounting guidelines,” Walker says. “The ultimate benefit will be fostering regional collaboration in a way that hasn’t been done before. It’s complex, it’s challenging. Over the long term, we’ll work to create more vibrancy and more economic development with regional partners in ways that are strategic.”
Here’s a look at each grant:
After local officials learned of the grant in 2021, the Greater Lafayette Regional Board of Representatives was established. This 20-person group is comprised of six county commissioners; the mayors of Attica, Covington, Delphi, Lafayette, Monticello and West Lafayette; representatives from area economic development organizations; and representatives from Purdue University and Ivy Tech Community College, Walker says.
The board worked together to draft the more than 70-page Lafayette Regional Development Plan
which was approved by the state. The $30 million grant was announced in December.
The plan calls for unprecedented collaboration between the urban and rural areas of the region with a goal of retaining and expanding businesses, including high-tech and advanced manufacturing companies. It addresses the need for a well-trained, diverse workforce, and the importance of addressing quality-of-life issues such as safe, affordable housing; a strong labor market; recreational and cultural opportunities; plentiful child care options; vibrant city centers; and sound infrastructure.
“The process has been very enlightening,” says board member John Dennis, West Lafayette’s mayor. “Bringing together several communities with different population dynamics, different economic drivers, and different needs and priorities has been a real eye opener for all of us.”
Dennis describes Indiana as a diverse state with influences from around the world and an equally diverse and unique economic base.
“Collaborating with our regional partners opened the doors for further collaborative opportunities and opened our eyes to the fact that although we might not share a ZIP code, we all share a great love for our communities and our state,” he says.
The regional board currently is identifying specific projects to be funded by the grant.
Some projects being considered include:
“At the risk of sounding hokey, all the projects submitted have a purpose and greatly benefit the region,” says Dennis, adding that he doesn’t have a favorite. “We’re very blessed here in Tippecanoe with two economically strong cities and county. Having a world-class university in our community doesn’t hurt, either.”
Warren County’s Dispennepp concurs that all the proposed projects are important in attracting and retaining a robust workforce. Adequate and affordable housing, however, stands out as one of the keys to long-term economic health.
“In talking with area businesses, they see housing availability as a concern for their workforce and their ability to expand,” he says. “And I would agree that low supply of housing impacts the cost of living, quality of life, and is a barrier to growing our workforce. Our READI project, focused on increasing housing in the region, would help accelerate the efforts that are already being made to address housing needs.”
Projects ultimately chosen must meet federal and state guidelines and be sustainable, long after the grant money runs out, Walker says. The stimulus money, he adds, will help leverage new private/public partnerships to sustain and grow the regional economy and quality of life.
“The READI funding will provide much-needed capital for economic development throughout our region,” says Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski, also a board representative. “We have an opportunity to accomplish several quality-of-life initiatives that have been part of our collective conversations for years.”
Student Learning Recovery Grant Program
This $4.9 million grant, which was awarded to Greater Lafayette Commerce in January, is aimed at addressing issues related to education and the workforce, says Greater Lafayette Commerce Workforce Development Director Kara Webb.
The federal and state stimulus money is designed to help students make up for learning losses experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen the quality of education. Local leaders are focusing much of their efforts on creating strong connections between area manufacturing partners and schools.
In the last few years, Greater Lafayette Commerce and local governments have partnered with companies to develop programs that introduce students to careers in industry and manufacturing. Those efforts have included tours of area manufacturing plants, and summer camps that offer hands-on opportunities to learn about careers in advanced manufacturing, logistics, coding, robotics and more, Webb says.
Lafayette’s Roswarski touts collaborative work on such projects as the Greater Lafayette Career Academy, Greater Lafayette Commerce Manufacturing Week/Month and serving as a pilot city for Make IN Move, a statewide advanced manufacturing and logistics initiative.
“These partnerships — along with our work with local businesses, industries and building trades — have built a strong foundation to maximize the use of these (grant) funds,” he says.
The grant also provides funding for the creation of a curriculum that imbeds manufacturing principles into student coursework. Area manufacturers will work with Skyepack, a West Lafayette company that creates digital learning courses and pathways, and Ivy Tech to develop coursework that will help students obtain credentials and certifications before they graduate high school. Those credentials can help students land a job or get an early start on a college degree.
“The Student Recovery Grant will help close learning gaps and prepare students for a career right after graduation,” Roswarski says. “Financial resources to schools and community partners will provide students with access to career opportunities and resources as they prepare to join the local job market.”
And the curriculum will emphasize lifelong skills that will serve students well, no matter what college
or career they choose, Webb says. The teaching of such life and character qualities as attention to detail, confidence, independence and problem solving will be included in the curriculum for each grade level.
Area educators are excited that the curriculum will be made available to them on their own timeline, she says. Participating schools will use their own discretion in how to incorporate the teaching into different instructional areas.
The almost $5 million grant must be used by June 30, 2023, so some of the money will go to help participating schools hire additional staff and tutors to roll out the curriculum.
Eight schools have signed on, and Greater Lafayette Commerce is offering the program to many more in the region. There is the potential to impact more than 12,000 students in the six-county area, Webb says.
And local industry will benefit from having access to a well-trained workforce, prepared to fill new, high-tech jobs in the region.
“These programs will allow students to earn credentials and build a portfolio before employment,” Webb says. “We are building a talent pipeline and providing access to a talent pipeline. This will help students recover from the loss (during the pandemic) and have access to local jobs.”
Two other Student Recovery grants were awarded locally:
Purdue University’s College of Education received a $1.1 million grant and will be working with students in kindergarten through third grades in the Tippecanoe, Lafayette and Frankfort school districts.
“We are partnering with district leadership and K-3 grade classrooms … to expand literacy clinics to support emergent readers and writers; expand language clinics to support emergent bilinguals; and offer release time for teachers through our grant,” says Christy Wessel Powell, a Purdue assistant professor.
Purdue also is offering professional development for teachers and partnering school districts using online resources, related workshops and a lending library.
Lyn Treece Boys and Girls Club of Tippecanoe County received a $383,813 grant to extend current programming. ★
BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
The Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration –
a contemporary, light- and glass-filled structure in the Discovery Park District of West Lafayette – provided a fitting backdrop last August for the announcement of an innovative, collaborative facility that will investigate the latest in hypersonic technologies.
The planned Hypersonic Ground Test Center (HGTC), revealed to a crowd attending a Hypersonics Summit hosted by Purdue
University and the National Defense Industrial Association, will be located in the Purdue Aerospace District adjacent to the university campus. The new facility is part of ongoing, long-term economic development plans for Greater Lafayette and Indiana.
“Creating this first-in-the-nation center is possible because we have industry partners that aren’t just on the cutting edge but are reinventing where the edge is. Couple that with the many thriving communities in Tippecanoe County, and a gushing pipeline of top talent at Purdue including researchers, students and graduates [that are] prepared to make the next giant leaps in both aerospace and hypersonic
i“It’s because of days like today that our economy remains strong and Indiana reigns as one of the best places in the world to do business.”
Paving the way
Driving along the western gateway of the Purdue campus where State Street meets the U.S.
231 bypass, you’ll notice a much different landscape from 10 or even five years ago. Rising from the flatlands are multi-story office buildings, R&D facilities, apartment complexes and $450K-plus single-family homes – all part of the $120 billion Discovery Park District development from Purdue Research Foundation and Indianapolis-based Browning Development LLC.
The planned community is designed to attract everyone from startup founders to corporate executives with luxurious homes surrounded by green spaces a short distance from where they work. The transformation, however, began with infrastructure made possible with the help of Greater Lafayette officials.
In 2013, a $46 million Indiana Department of Transportation project to reroute U.S. 231 was completed, bringing the road parallel to the southern edge of the Purdue campus, with its northwest leg meeting up at State Road 26 near the intersection with Newman Road. This rerouting opened up new possibilities for business development adjacent to Purdue, and later in the year, the West Lafayette City Council voted to annex 3,997 acres including the Purdue University campus and the properties adjoining the U.S. 231 Highway Corridor.
Two years later, with the consent of the West Lafayette City Council, Mayor John Dennis and his staff applied to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to certify part of the land as an aerospace district.
Then, in 2019, work wrapped on the $123 million State Street Redevelopment Project, a joint venture between the City of West Lafayette and Purdue University. No longer a state highway for through-traffic, the revamped corridor boasts wider sidewalks, bicycle racks, public art and landscaping from the Wabash River up the hill through Purdue.
That same year, crews completed two other critical projects: construction of a roundabout at the intersection of State Road 26 and Newman Road, and the rebuilding of a railroad bridge with a wider, higher underpass. A collaboration of Purdue University, the City of West Lafayette, the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Purdue Research Foundation, the projects were designed to improve traffic safety and accommodate larger commercial trucks for the anticipated arrival of industry clients.
All of these improvements paved the way for the Aerospace District and the Hypersonic Ground Test Center.
The next frontier
Hypersonic weapons are missiles that can travel at Mach 5 or higher – at least five times faster than the speed of sound. The United States, Russia and China are all racing to develop hypersonics, seen as the next frontier in national security.
Purdue University boasts a large team of hypersonic researchers in a number of subspecialty areas, along with expertise in systems-engineering research – the ability to bring these experts together in order to solve complex problems.
The Aerospace District capitalizes on these capabilities as well as Purdue’s legacy in the broader discipline of aerospace education and research. To date, the university has had 27 graduates in space, and its aeronautical and astronautical engineering program consistently ranks among the top in the United States.
Aerospace and national security is one of four strategic focus areas of Discovery Park District. Boilermakers – and by extension, Greater Lafayette residents – are seen as an essential mix of its burgeoning workforce.
“At Purdue, we’re committed to research at the very frontiers of science, especially when it can contribute to the national security of Americans,” said Purdue President Mitch Daniels at the announcement of the new hypersonic center. “Becoming home to the nation’s premier hypersonics facilities can make such a contribution, while providing enormous new opportunities for our researchers, aspiring entrepreneurs and job-seeking graduates.”
HGTC will further expand the district’s capabilities by offering a central shared facility supporting multiple laboratories. Rolls-Royce is the founding member of a new nonprofit consortium of national defense industry partners that will manage capital and operational costs for the facility.
The unveiling of plans for the Hypersonic Ground Test Center came last summer on the heels of two other major announcements.
In July, Purdue University and Purdue Research Foundation officials reported on the planned construction of a 65,000-square-foot Hypersonic Applied Research Facility, which will house a hypersonic pulse (HYPULSE) shock tunnel and the only Mach 8 quiet wind tunnel in the world.
Then, in early August, Rolls-Royce announced a significant expansion at Purdue, with new test facilities for high-altitude and hybrid-electric engines that are expected to power the next generation of U.S. military aircraft. The company, which notes that it has more engineers from Purdue than any other university, already has a jet engine facility located in Purdue Technology Center Aerospace, the first new building that was constructed for the Aerospace District.
Purdue University and Purdue Research Foundation will fund the construction of the HGTC. But, as with the infrastructure improvements ahead of the Aerospace District’s development, its expansion is the result of a team effort.
“That investment from Rolls-Royce, the university and PRF, along with support from the state, West Lafayette, Lafayette and Tippecanoe County, laid the foundation for creating the HGTC,” said Purdue Research Foundation President and CEO Brian Edelman. ★
BY KEN THOMPSON
A major presence in the Greater Lafayette economy since 1985, Wabash National has positioned itself to prosper during one of the toughest periods in our nation’s economy. The manufacturer is a leader of engineered solutions in transportation, logistics and distribution.
Instead of fighting for survival during the nearly two years of COVID-19 and its side effects, Brent Yeagy, president and CEO, saw this time period as a chance to regroup and make plans to take advantage of the post-pandemic business world.
“I think it has given us the opportunity to look at the world a little differently,” says Yeagy, whose degrees include a bachelor’s in environmental engineering science and a master’s in occupational health and safety engineering from Purdue University.
“Anytime we have something as disruptive as a national pandemic, things begin to change the world around us. Some for the negative and ultimately there’s things that have a positive nature to it, or at least an opportunity.”
Decreed an essential business due to the economic impact of its semi-trailer and tank trailer production, Wabash National and the more than 6,500 employees nationwide successfully met the social challenges that came with COVID-19.
“The biggest challenge was the initial speed of change and the uncertainty that would be provided by the national government in how best to manage the situation,” Yeagy says. “That gave businesses an unclear footing as to how best to take care of their employees, how to navigate the downturn in the economy and how to forecast what would come next.”
Yeagy had to balance critical decisions with both the Wabash National shareholders and his employees’ best interests.
Fortunately, the methods to protect those 6,500-plus employees were a far more simple task.
“We did an excellent job across the country in managing everything from how to use PPE, contact tracing and all those things that go around it,” he says. “What was hard is that underlying social impact that occurs. How do you manage a 6,000-plus workforce with schools closed? You don’t have child care. We really had to think of a very innovative way to manage those needs during a really hard time for our employees.”
Wabash National has altered its thinking to the new economic reality that puts more and more emphasis on e-commerce.
“For us, commerce has been a driving force in new opportunities for new products, new customers and new markets that we can position Wabash going forward,” Yeagy says. “We have altered our strategy to what we call ‘First to Final Mile,’ where we look at products and services that span across all logistics, including e-commerce.”
Among those new opportunities was the purchase of Supreme Industries, a Goshen, Ind.-based truck body business.
“We’re launching new products to meet the needs of these changing logistics accordingly. So we think for us, this is a sustainable change that will drive future growth for Wabash over the next decade.”
A noticeable change coming to the company is its name. Recently, it dropped the National part of its brand to become simply “Wabash.”
“We want to tell a story that we’re not the same Wabash,” Yeagy says. “We’re not Wabash National, we’re Wabash. We stand for something different. It’s a reflection of the dramatic organizational and structural changes that we have completed over the last two years that position us to truly grow across the company, to become the visionary leader across a growing transportation and product solution state.”
Greater Lafayette and Purdue University want to play a role in Wabash’s future. With $70 million in investments planned for its two Lafayette plants during the next two years, Wabash and the city of Lafayette agreed to a $25 million tax abatement during that period.
“I think first and foremost it shows trust in Wabash by the city of Lafayette and its leadership,” Yeagy says. “That allows us as a corporation that spans the entire country in terms of operating facilities to continue thinking of Lafayette as a place that we can invest as well.
“Specifically, it allows us to think about job creation opportunities that we have here in Lafayette to support some of the more high-tech product applications that we are bringing to market. As we think about re-capitalizing the equipment in Lafayette that’s been around in some cases for the last 20 years, it allows us to go deeper into the roots we have here. Which means that we can continue to be a contributing part of the community for some time.”
Lafayette is home to about 3,000 of Wabash’s employment force.
Greater Lafayette is also home to Purdue, whose resources are going to play a key role in Wabash’s future. Yeagy cites an unprecedented relationship forged with the Board of Trustees and Purdue President Mitch Daniels.
“We have connected with Purdue in a way that has never occurred in Wabash’s history,” Yeagy says. “We are now a major athletic partner. We are directly reaching Purdue students to the nature of technical skills we are trying to bring into Wabash as we execute our strategic plan.”
Wabash has a direct partnership with Purdue’s Data Mine, which is aiding the company’s multiple data science-related projects. Wabash also holds office space both at the Convergence center and the Railyard. An even longer term relationship with Purdue centers on welding safety and health-related research.
“It allows us to have a significant portion of our workforce to be closer to Purdue as well as we now have space for students, interns and other related academic project work to be done on campus,” he says.
“We are extremely excited about what it means, not only for Wabash but the Greater Lafayette community.”
As Yeagy points out, Wabash’s reach is nationwide. Just look at any highway or road and it’s a matter of time before one drives past a semi-trailer, tanker or truck body manufactured by Wabash.
“There’s the absolute pride you feel when you see something that you’re attached to so intimately as the product you produce on our nation’s highways and roads,” Yeagy says. “But as a CEO, being able to step back, you know the people that produced them. You know the work. You know the challenges that were faced to get that product on the road, especially the last two years. You know peoples’ stories that went into building that product. When I see it, I think of all that.
“People should understand they have a corporate entity in their community that builds the safest, most sustainable products in commercial transportation. I think that’s lost at times.” ★
BY CINDY GERLACH
Greater Lafayette has been named Community of the Year by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. The award recognizes the community’s growth over the past decade and how it has prospered and thrived in a variety of areas, from infrastructure and jobs to beautification and quality of life.
This year’s award looked, too, for a municipality that was a shining example during a year of weathering the pandemic.
A large part of the credit for being chosen for this award goes to the various components that define our community, says Scott Walker, president and CEO of Greater Lafayette Commerce, and their ability to communicate, to plan, and to work together. As the application was assembled and written, Walker says, it became evident just how much planning had gone into the progress of the past 20 years.
“We looked back at where we’d been over the course of two decades, the evolution of the community, the trajectory, and why we should be considered for this award,” Walker says.
Back at the start of the 21st century, the community looked very different. And community, Walker says, is defined as the entirety of the area, with both cities and the county governments all working together. All these governing bodies were collaborating on a vision of what they wanted to see over the coming years. Hence Lafayette Urban Enterprise, Vision 2020 and the Downtown Development Corp. all played a role, as well as incorporating input from all three school corporations, leaders in industry, the arts and recreational facilities.
Back in 2000, the population of Tippecanoe County was at 149,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Walker said leadership could see that the community was poised for potential growth, but it wanted to be prepared and for the growth to be intentional.
The result was these various entities examining where the community was at the time, what the trends were, and what Greater Lafayette wanted to accomplish. A clear goal was attracting business and industry that would provide good-paying jobs that would contribute to the economy and would enhance quality of life for residents. The area has a strong manufacturing workforce, and the focus on talent and workforce retention has resulted in more than 3,800 jobs being added in the past five years. This is thanks to companies as diverse as Caterpillar, Antique Candle, Copper Moon Coffee and Schweitzer Engineering Labs, to name a few.
And along with that, Greater Lafayette needed a community that would attract these businesses; needed neighborhoods, restaurants, parks, schools, and arts and culture that would make life attractive for families. This investment came in various forms, from public projects such as Lafayette Downtown Development Plan, the Hoosier Heartland Development Plan, the Five Points Development Plan and the Wabash River Development Plan.
Quality of life projects also contributed to the community’s revitalization, including a new Loeb Stadium, upgrades to the Columbian Park Zoo and Tropicanoe Cove water park, as well as other updates to Columbian Park. The Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds underwent a major renovation, and the Wabash Riverfront is looking at a $150 million investment, including the Riverfront Promenade, which was completed in 2020.
Ultimately, Walker says, all groups came together to work toward this common goal. Today, with the 2019 population at 195,732, the growth clearly did occur. And because of the planning, the communication, the collaboration, the county was prepared to absorb and accommodate that growth. As evidence? Many school districts in Indiana are seeing a decline in sizes of incoming kindergarten classes; in Tippecanoe County, schools have all seen significant growth and kindergarten class sizes have increased, says Walker. The area is clearly a destination; the $250 million investment in education over the past five years — including the implementation of the Greater Lafayette Career Academy — has paid off.
For Walker, this award speaks, in great part, to a process. And it’s a process that involved the input of so many entities — from the cities, the county, parks departments, Purdue and the public schools, and business and industry — partnering and working together.
“It appears that the city, the county, we’re all on the same page with the same goals and objectives,” Walker says. “We’re at a point where people are working together, collaboratively. We’re all pulling on the rope in the same direction. This is a well-run region.
“It’s that planning element that we’ve embraced in this community that works so well.” ★
The Greater Lafayette Region is on the cusp of something big!
On December 15, at 4 p.m., at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation Board Meeting, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that Greater Lafayette will receive $30 million to fund projects in the Regional Economic Development Plan created this past summer. You can find the plan and more information here: greaterlafayetteind.com/READI
The $30 million awarded to Greater Lafayette was part of the READI announcement of $500 million allocated across the state of Indiana. The governor’s plan is to increase quality-of-place and quality-of-life spending to enable regions around the state to compete for talent from across the United States and around the world.
As a destination for talent, Greater Lafayette has a head start. With Purdue University and the great companies that are well established in our region, people already make their way here from around the world. The Regional Development Plan with the READI Funds will accelerate that trend and help all of the participating counties — Benton, Fountain, Warren, Carroll, White and Tippecanoe — capture some of that growth.
While the ultimate decision on project funding will reside with the Greater Lafayette Regional Board of Representatives and has yet to be finalized, these were a few of the top ranked projects:
► Runway for Growth: LAF airport expansion to bring commercial air service to Greater Lafayette;
► Supporting Our Families: Expanding high-quality childcare across the region;
► Smart Relocations and Welcoming Veterans: Two projects to attract talent to Greater Lafayette;
► A Place to Call Home: Greater Lafayette Residential Development Plan; and
► Wabash River Greenways: Investments in trail systems around the Wabash River.
The process to create the Regional Development Plan over the course of the summer was the first time that the regional mayors and representatives from each county commission worked together.
Greater Lafayette Commerce was proud to serve as the organizer. It was an unprecedented level of collaboration, and the group will continue to work over the next four years to bring the projects in the plan to life and work together to make this place, this region, Greater! ★
Scott Walker is the president and CEO of Greater Lafayette Commerce. He can be reached at 765.742.4044
BY KAT BRAZ
Lafayette Urban Ministry (LUM) established its Immigration Clinic in 2014. That year, the clinic saw 70 clients, providing assistance with various issues such as citizenship, consideration for DACA, applying for emergency visas, asylum or green cards.
Over the past seven years, the program has continued to grow, offering services to clients looking to legally immigrate into the United States. These are people who have already relocated to the Greater La-fayette community and are seeking legal assistance to acquire a visa, green card or gain citizenship status.
“It’s the only clinic offering immi-gration services of its kind within the surrounding eight-county area,” says Rev. Wes Tillett, executive di-rector of LUM. “We provide aid to a variety of people of different status-es, refugees, asylum seekers, people needing a work visa or a green card. Our clients could be feeling violence in their home country or just trying to get a better start for their family in the United States.”
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 12 percent of Tippecanoe County’s population are foreign-born—that’s more than 23,000 residents. Of those, around 18,000 individuals are non-citizens, which include some people who do not consider themselves true immigrants, such as international students and expatriates from other countries.
In 2020, the LUM Immigration Clinic provided help in 120 different cases, down from 256 in 2019. Due to the pandemic, LUM was not able to hold its popular citizenship class-es in partnership with the Lafayette Adult Resource Academy. Still, a dedicated group of about a dozen trained and accredited volunteers has pressed on, under the leadership of the clinic’s two paid positions
— a full-time director and half-time assistant director — to keep the clinic operating under COVID-19 protocols.
“A lot of the work is just listening and learning the person’s story,” Tillett says. “We have to understand who the person is in front of us, where they are at and how they got here. And sometimes, the stories are just heartbreaking to hear what they are up against, what they are trying to flee or what they are working toward.”
Immigration Clinic Director Christian Gallo grew up in Bue-nos Aires, Argentina. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Cole-gio Champagnat, master in laws degree from Indiana University, and JD from Universidad Católica Argentina. Gallo has many years of experience in immigration law and speaks four languages: Spanish, English, Italian and Portuguese. His first-hand experience as an immi-grant himself enables him to quickly build rapport with many clinic clients.
“I understand what these peo-ple go through to immigrate to the U.S.,” Gallo says. “Some of them went through a lot of dangers to get here. And even if they didn’t, they arrive here and can feel kind of lost. Sometimes receiving a little help with something simple can mean so much to a person who is new to the country and doesn’t understand how bureaucracy works here.
“We are not just helping people get a better job or more income. We are changing their lives. We are giving them opportunities for themselves and for their families, for their children.”
For Gallo, every case is person-al. The needs to be met can vary immensely. Some clients might be looking for a better job or higher income, others might be trying to re-unite with a wife or child or perhaps it’s a trailing academic spouse who followed their partner to the area and now wants to establish citizen-ship or apply for a work visa.
“It’s very rewarding work,” Gallo says. “When you see the looks on their faces, that sensation of extreme happiness, it means so much. Sometimes they don’t have words, they just repeat ‘thank you’ over and over. In that instant, their life just changed for the better.”
Whether a person entered the country legally or illegally, they can still be entitled to certain benefits under the law. The mission of the clinic is to help people who are already in the area —encompassing Tippecanoe and surrounding counties — get access to those benefits, regardless of their immigration status. It’s work that aligns with LUM’s overall mission as an organization with a Judeo-Christian heritage.
“Our organization has strong Judeo-Christian roots,” Tillett says. “Harkening back to the Exodus story, there is definitely a command to be hospitable to the sojourner in your midst, because you, too, were once foreigners in Egypt. That command is still pertinent to Jews and Christians trying to obey those scriptures. From a core theological standpoint, that’s part of who we are and part of what we’re trying to do.
“On a more humanitarian level, we are simply trying to be good neighbors. We especially want
to fill the gaps in the community where no other organization is able to meet that need. Immigration is one of those areas, especially seven years ago, that LUM identified as something we could do to help our neighbors from other parts of the world who are having a difficult time navigating through the bureaucracy and getting the legal status that they need.”
The impact of the clinic is summed up by a note of thanks Jaqueline Valera wrote to LUM expressing gratitude for the assistance she and her husband, Ricardo, received from the clinic.
“Since obtaining the LUM Immigration Clinic’s help with our immigration process, my husband was able to obtain his work permit. His income has helped me out with my family and school debt. I no longer have to work two or three jobs. I no longer have to miss important family moments. I no longer have to choose work over my health. We would not be where we are today without your help.” ★
BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
As a student office staff worker in Cary Quadrangle, a century-old, sprawling residential complex on Purdue University’s West Lafayette campus, Michaela Hixson is continually steeped in dormitory culture.
Romance blossoming on the graveyard shift. Mysterious snack food deliveries with unknown recipients. Guys in boxers parading out the doors during nighttime fire drills.
And then there was the time a student showed up in the basement simply wrapped in a bath towel. “No shoes, water on him, dripping, and he said, ‘Can I please have the key to my room?!’” Hixson exclaims, laughing.
For the West Lafayette, Indiana, resident, these adventures in collegiate life started long before the SATs were even on her radar. During her sophomore year at Harrison High School, while Hixson was working at a local ice cream shop, her mom shared a summer job opening — no undergraduate experience necessary.
“It was fun for me to see how college worked, to already be in that college environment in high school, dip my toe in for what was to come,” says Hixson, who just completed her sophomore year in Purdue’s College of Science. After beginning as a seasonal employee four years ago, Hixson has expanded to year-round employment, gaining important skills in teamwork, responsibility and time management along the way.
As adults, we may joke about our summers flipping burgers or blowing a whistle at the neighborhood pool. But in truth, these experiences typically offer far more than a paycheck or a bullet point on a college application. As summer heats up in Greater Lafayette, we present a sampling of paid and volunteer opportunities for your favorite teenagers, along with a few of the life lessons that the jobs may impart.
From serving as day camp counselors to prepping residence halls for fall, Purdue University typically has offered a plethora of summer jobs to local high schoolers and undergraduates. With a pause on staff hiring, the university has fewer openings for 2021. At press time, we found postings for such positions as custodians, groundskeepers, network operators and Purdue Surplus Store workers, some of which required applicants to possess a high school diploma or GED or be currently enrolled at Purdue.
See current opportunities at careers.purdue.edu. The Center for Career Opportunities shows jobs available at Purdue and beyond for current Purdue students and alumni; visit cco.purdue.edu/Home/myCCO
Located just a mile up the road from Mackey Arena, Café Literato is a brick oven pizza and espresso bar located in the Faith West complex of apartments, a fitness center, church facilities and a daycare. With both indoor and outdoor seating, the restaurant serves as a gathering spot and study hub.
Eric Black, a West Lafayette Junior/Senior High School graduate who started there at 19, was promoted to manager a few months later; now, two years in, he hopes to return to Ivy Tech soon to pursue a career in the restaurant industry.
He says that teen workers aged 17 and up can take orders, prep toppings and make beverages while honing communication and customer service skills.
“The owners say that we are in the business of people,” Black says.
“You won’t find a lot of environments to work in where you can tell that the people genuinely care and are friendly and social.”
A nice perk on top of the paycheck and all the friendliness: A free drink on each shift, along with a substantially discounted meal.
Copper Moon Coffee Company
Lafayette & West Lafayette
Lafayette, Indiana-based Copper Moon Coffee Company boasts four café locations in the area, with more likely coming soon. Nick Thompson, vice president of sales and marketing, says the retail locations hire workers starting at age 16 to take orders, clean, and prepare food and beverages.
“There’s a lot of opportunities to be creative with our cafés,” he adds. “We encourage our team to come up with new creations, new drinks, new flavors.” In fact, one of Copper Moon’s seasonal specialties, the Lunar Fog — an Earl Grey tea latte with vanilla, similar to a London Fog — emerged out of an employee competition.
Even if teen baristas don’t win a design-a-drink challenge, they will gain skills in face-to-face communication, collaboration and sales. Additionally, says Thompson, “I think it would be pretty impressive, a cool, fun party trick, that they know how to make really good coffee drinks and maybe even do some art with the lattes.”
Get Air Trampoline Park
Adolescents who couldn’t wait for PE class to start when they were in elementary school might feel right at home at Get Air Trampoline Park, located in a strip mall on the south side near Noble Roman’s Craft Pizza and Pub.
Teenage workers (typically 16 years and older) begin as lifeguards — “patrolling the park to make sure that everyone is being safe and having fun,” says Tyler Dubea, general manager. “Sometimes this would be refereeing dodgeball games, making sure that only one person is going in the foam pit at a time, or just engaging in small talk with parents.”
Dubea delights in teaching his charges the fundamentals of business success, such as teamwork and leadership. Beyond that, “I strive to learn about all of our employees, and figure out what they want to do after school, and teach them as much as possible about that aspect of our business,” he says. “I have had someone that wants to be a graphic designer, so we have discussed some of our park advertising, our target demo, and let them use their skills to design something
McAllister Recreation Center
Outdoorsy types can enjoy fresh air and sunshine while chaperoning kids at McAllister Recreation Center’s summer day camp, located near 18th and Greenbush streets in the former Longlois Elementary School. The facility features a gymnasium, rec room, ball fields and lots of green space.
From late May through early August, counselors 16 and up plan theme weeks, attend development sessions and supervise youngsters on field trips to Lafayette pools and parks. Adolescents aged 13 to 15 can enroll in the Head Camper program, training for future summers.
“We pride ourselves on summer camp being a fun and rewarding experience both for kids and counselors,” says Ashley Conner, seasonal camp counselor with the City of Lafayette. “Counselors learn how to effectively communicate with children, peers and parents. They also learn strategies for managing children in a group setting.” While camp staff are typically hired by May, local teens can set their sights on jobs for 2022.
Pooch Palace Resort
Lafayette & West Lafayette
With two locations in Greater Lafayette offering boarding services, doggie day care, grooming and group training classes, Pooch Palace Resort is a delightful get-paid-to-do-what-you-love opportunity for teens who can’t get enough of canines. “The biggest part of what makes this place fun is just being able to work/play and care for dogs all day long,” says owner Paul Whitehurst. Teen employees assist in the daycare and overnight areas by feeding dogs, taking them on breaks and cuddling and playing with their furry clients.
Emily Chubb works at Pooch Palace when she’s not attending class at Harrison High School or performing on Turning Point Academy’s dance team. “The dogs all have different personalities and there are no two dogs that are alike. This makes the day a lot more fun,” she enthuses. Along with discovering characteristics of different breeds, Chubb says she’s also learned about communication, time management and teamwork on the job. “The people around me always have a positive attitude,” she says. “It’s been a great learning experience.”
Whitehurst sees another proficiency that the teen has developed: leadership. Chubb is “one of our most dedicated and hard-working staff members,” he says. “She came to us as a very quiet and shy teen and has blossomed to where she is now training other staff members.”
Columbian Park Zoo
From a Galapagos Tortoise to prairie dogs to the Laughing Kookaburra, the Columbian Park Zoo showcases wildlife from around the world in exhibits that teach visitors about conservation and biodiversity. For adolescents contemplating animal-related careers, the facility offers the immersive Zoo Teens opportunity.
Volunteers aged 14 to 17 who are accepted into the program perform non-dangerous tasks under the supervision of professional zookeepers and educators, such as cleaning and food preparation. Zoo Teens also interact frequently with humans as well, gaining confidence in public speaking and small-group communication, says Courtney Nave, zoo assistant education coordinator. “I’ve seen such growth, not just in interpersonal skills, but being leaders, through this program,” she says.
Applications have already closed for this summer; but check the website for late openings and other opportunities. ★
BY RADONNA FIORINI
For the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration, that common focus is providing space and resources for academic research and private industry to collaborate, with the goal of seeing discoveries and innovations regularly make it out of the laboratory and into the world.
The Convergence Center, a 145,000-square-foot, five-story building located west of Purdue University’s West Lafayette campus, is billed as “Private Industry’s Front Door to Purdue,” says David Broecker, chief innovation and collaboration officer for the Purdue Research Foundation, the non-profit entity that owns the building.
Companies want to collaborate with the university, Broecker says, because that partnership provides access to student talent, engagement with faculty and professors on the leading edge of research, and facilities such as established modern labs and innovation centers. PRF, through its Office of Technology Commercialization, also helps connect researchers with private industry to move inventions and discoveries out of the lab and into the marketplace, while protecting intellectual property with patents and licensing.
But collaboration can be difficult, expensive and time-consuming if a company is not physically located near campus. That’s where Convergence comes in, offering flexible workspace options for established companies, startups — even individuals needing office space away from home.
“We want (Convergence) to be the place where companies and external collaborators meet with their counterparts from Purdue University and PRF to solve problems and address the answer to the question, ‘What keeps you up at night regarding your innovation/business strategy?’” says Broecker. “We want to make it easy for companies and external collaborators to be successful.”
Construction on Convergence, located at 101 Foundry Drive, began in 2018, with the $32 million building opening in January 2020, says Wade Lang, PRF vice president and chief entrepreneurial officer. The building is already home to several PRF entities along with four agriculture and life sciences companies. Improvements continue in the tenant spaces on three of the five floors, and retail space is being developed.
This summer, the 5G Innovation Lab will open in Convergence, providing companies and researchers access to the latest wireless internet technology in a lab setting.
It is the second such lab in Indiana and will allow the private sector and the Purdue community a place to experiment with the cutting-edge technology.
PRF is actively looking for new tenants for Convergence, which is managed by Carr Workplaces, a company based in Washington, D.C. Carr is a national workspace provider that manages brick and mortar office space but also offers such services as mail management and phone answering for those who may work from home but want a professional address and help with administrative chores, says Michelle Mercado, Carr business development associate.
Carr Workplaces provides a step up from traditional co-working spaces in that clients who lease space in Convergence have access to a dedicated phone line, email, fax and binding machines, copiers, shredding and notary services, high-speed wireless internet, and onsite tech support. There is a fully stocked coffee bar and conference rooms with videoconferencing capability and digital white boards for virtual collaboration.
“It’s a beautiful space,” says Mercado. “It has all the bells and whistles, and it’s positioned to be close to the university, but far enough away from campus to be its own entity. We meet people where they are. We ask, ‘What do you need? What tools will help you?’”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have begun rethinking their office needs, Broecker says. While corporate headquarters are shrinking, PRF finds that companies want to expand in strategic locations, often near universities, to tap resources that can meet their innovation and business needs.
“Bayer Crop Science is a great example of this strategy,” Broecker says. “Bayer has relocated three of their employees to create their own ‘innovation hub’ at Convergence that will facilitate interactions with students and faculty, and provide access to the places and spaces they need to be successful. We believe all of these aspects of the Convergence Center make it extremely unique among other leading universities.”
Convergence is ticking all the boxes for Beck’s Superior Hybrids, says Brad Fruth, director of innovation for the family-owned, Indiana-based seed company that operates in 14 states across the corn belt and is the third-largest retail seed brand in America.
“I don’t think a lot of people understand what a treasure the center is,” Fruth says. “Our innovation team knew we needed to increase collaboration with different schools at Purdue. Having an office at Convergence means we have the opportunity to regularly connect with researchers and go to call-outs and make connections. All we had to do was show up and get our key. The Carr staff takes care of all the amenities.”
Headquartered in Atlanta, Indiana, Beck’s opened a Convergence office in summer 2020 and leases dedicated space that allows its innovation team to meet once a week in person, provides an office for team members to land as needed, and gives its intern a place to work. While the space might not be used every day, everything the team needs is available when it is on site.
And being close to Purdue means Beck’s team members are on campus more regularly. Companies have to be proactive about making campus connections, Fruth says, and he is always on the lookout for research and innovation going on at Purdue that can be applied in the real world to benefit Beck’s ultimate client, the American farmer.
While Beck’s is certainly connected with those doing agronomy research at Purdue, the company also is interested in leveraging data analysis, computer science and supply chain management research, Fruth says. His team’s goal is to be on campus regularly and make at least one new Purdue connection each week.
Fruth looks forward to the day, post-pandemic, when travel again becomes a bigger part of the Beck’s business model because the company can use space in other Carr Workplace sites around the country for a single-day meeting or extended conference.
Carr has about 35 sites throughout the United States, the closest being in Chicago, and this perk for anyone who leases from them is particularly useful for businesses doing recruiting or collaborative work, says Mercado, adding that the Carr team can even help with travel arrangements and event planning.
“Flexible lease terms and networking spaces around the country are some of the reasons why we’re (in Convergence),” Fruth says.
Those flexible lease terms are attractive because clients can rent private office suites that will accommodate a team of one to five people, share a private office between a few employees, or lease a dedicated desk in a shared work space that still offers access to all the office equipment and administrative help, says Ethan Kingery, Car’s general manager at Convergence.
Kingery works alongside Chelsea Hulbert, the local Carr community manager, who serves as receptionist and liaison between every tenant and each guest who walks in the door. Hulbert helps with shipping needs, answers phones and supports all the tenants in myriad ways
“We have a hospitality mindset that you could compare to the quality you would find at a luxury resort,” Kingery says. “We work with every tenant to see how we can support and amplify what they need.” And as a Purdue graduate and former university employee, Kingery has insight into Purdue’s unique culture and can work with Convergence tenants to help them make connections on campus.
While established companies such as Beck’s and Bayer Crop Science find Convergence a good place to land, startups also can lease dedicated or community space and have access to office equipment and administrative support. As an example, Kingery cites an entrepreneur who has leased space for her fledgling apparel company in Convergence and is in the building many evenings and weekends when she’s not working her day job.
“If you need 3,000 square feet or less of office space, we can work with you,” Kingery says.
While most Carr Workplace sites are in large cities and cater to white-collar tenants such as lawyers or lobbyists,
Convergence is unique in that it is the only Carr site near a top research university and attracts more scientists and researchers, says Mercado.
Convergence also plays a distinctive role within the Discovery Park District (DPD), a 400-acre, mixed-use development that broke ground in 2017. PRF, which owns and manages the land west of campus where the district is being developed, is partnering with Indianapolis-based Browning Investments, Inc. on the project.
“Over the next 10 years, we are projecting over $1 billion in development (at the Discovery Park District) comprised of business, research, residential, retail, advanced manufacturing and community spaces that will eventually attract upwards of 25,000 people living, working, playing and learning across the district,” says Broecker.
“With the 50,000+ students, faculty and staff at Purdue, Discovery Park District will become an incredible community in its own right on the campus of a leading research university … and the Convergence Center is the ‘business front door’ to the DPD.” ★
For more information about Carr Workplaces, go to:
For more information about the Convergence Center,
go to: discoveryparkdistrict.com/the-convergence-center
BY HANNAH HARPER
Follow the leader. Lead by example. Take the lead. It’s safe to say that the concept of leadership has left an unmistakable imprint on the American vernacular, and rightly so, as it determines the course of everything from our countries to our businesses. Cultivating this vital skill in younger generations is an important part of ensuring our mutual success, and it is something in which Greater Lafayette continues to invest and value in the community.
Tippy Connect Young Professionals provides young professionals ages 21-39 in Greater Lafayette an opportunity to discover their community and build lasting relationships with their peers and neighbors. With 151 members and several programs focused on the values of engagement, development, opportunity and service, the Greater Lafayette Commerce leadership program strives to be a connecting force within the community.
As a young professional, David Teter, a member of the Tippy Connect Young Professionals Steering Committee, has enjoyed the behind-the-scenes process of helping to organize opportunities for his peers.
“Knowing the community is the first step to making a difference, and I’m thrilled to know so many people with a passion for the community and developing new leaders and cultivating talent,” Teter says.
Programs such as Adulting 101 and Taproom Takeover are two such opportunities for young professionals to get to know the community.
Adulting 101 partners with local organizations to help young professionals learn or brush up on important life skills such as financial planning or changing a tire. Taproom Takeover allows Tippy Connect members to learn about the local restaurant scene through discussions with the business owners who operate them.
“Adulting 101 helps create those roots in Greater Lafayette because once you know [the community], you feel more at home, less out of place,” says Rebecca Jones, Quality of Life Coordinator and Tippy Connect Liaison for Greater Lafayette Commerce. “[Taproom Takeover] is another way for these individuals to grow roots.”
For Lafayette transplant Tyler Knochel, creating that sense of community for all young professionals is an important part of his involvement with the organization.
“Through my work at Tippy Connect, I want other people like me, young professionals and emerging leaders, to see Greater Lafayette the way I do,” he says. “I want to see more of us rally around our community and continue to make it great.”
In addition to community events, Tippy Connect Young Professionals also offers leadership training through its Success in 60 program and leadership conference. Success in 60 is delivered as a workshop where Tippy Connect members can learn personal and professional development skills that will equip them to become better leaders. Examples of past workshop topics include confidence and StrengthsFinder.
New to the programs offered through Tippy Connect is a leadership conference. The conference is tailored to young professionals and includes opportunities for networking, professional development tracks and keynote speakers.
“As long as you want to professionally develop yourself and personally grow with your peers, we have programming for you,” Jones says.
Although Tippy Connect Young Professionals caters the majority of its programming to a subset of the community, anyone who believes he or she may benefit from the organization’s programming is invited to reach out to attend an event. As a result of partnerships and connections to community organizations, Tippy Connect Young Professionals also gives members an opportunity to continue to serve the community through volunteerism and board representation even after they no longer fall into the designated young professional age range.
“We can talk about our community as a whole as it all relates to Greater Lafayette,” says Jones. “The end point for someone’s professional development isn’t when they’re 39 and aging out of Tippy Connect. It should be never.”
For more information or to join, please visit tippyconnect.com.
Since 1982, Leadership Lafayette has cultivated leadership potential in the citizens of Greater Lafayette to enrich the community in government, business and nonprofit sectors. The organization is an application-based leadership development program that prepares its cohorts through experiential learning and community engagement.
“Beginning with our Opening Retreat, we focus on identifying personal strengths as well as skills, abilities and passions that make each individual uniquely positioned to give back to our community,” says Kitty Campbell, executive director of Leadership Lafayette.
Each session focuses on a different area of the community to teach them about opportunities available in sectors such as civics, education and youth advocacy, human services, the arts and nonprofits. Participants also learn valuable leadership skills such as conflict resolution and team development.
For Knochel, who was a member of Class 46, several of the sessions gave him a greater understanding of challenges, talents and systems that exist within the community.
“My favorite session was all about building systematic support in our communities – how does the mission and reach of one organization or program connect and build into the mission and reach of another?”
The organization takes a unique approach to leadership training, focusing on servant leadership to provide exposure to opportunities where alumni can serve the community after completing the program. Through the Leadership Lafayette Volunteer Expo, the organization provides resources for alumni to get involved.
Knochel learned about leadership opportunities from his Leadership Lafayette experience in which he continues to take part.
“I serve on a committee for United Way and Tippecanoe Arts Federation (TAF), I serve on the steering committee for Tippy Connect Young Professionals, and I’m on the board of directors for an X-District and The American Advertising Federation in Lafayette,” he says.
“Leadership Lafayette was the first step I took in really getting involved in our community and helping build a greater Lafayette.”
Although the program is open to people of all ages, the organization has created partnerships to reach young professionals in the community.
“We collaborate with community partners, including Tippy Connect Young Professionals, to encourage businesses and nonprofit organizations to invest in the personal and professional development of their emerging talent, and to encourage young professionals to learn how they can get involved in our community and better our shared quality of life,” says Campbell.
Teter, a member of Class 49, gained insight into how community leaders work together to contribute to the overall success of Greater Lafayette.
“Leaders from various organizations collaborate and think of new events and activities that benefit the community, which is incredible,” he says. “I saw the start of some new ideas and collaborations during Class 49, and I’m sure Leadership Lafayette will continue to be an accelerator for the development of the community and leaders to move our community forward.”
For more information or to apply, visit leadershiplafayette.org.
Providing a new and personalized twist for young professionals to build leadership skills, The People Business 2.0 is a personal and professional development organization owned by Sharlee Lyons. Certified as a Gallup Strengths Coach, Growing Leaders Master Trainer, and Fascinate Certified Advisor, among other qualifications, Lyons began the People Business 2.0 in 2020 after a career in multiple leadership and training roles.
“The People Business 2.0 is the collection of the personal and professional development best practices I’ve experienced in my professional career, and now I am blessed to share them with others,” Lyons says.
The leadership coaching provided by Lyons is customized to each individual client, making the leadership development experience personalized to the client’s unique needs and challenges. However, leadership coaching follows the same seven steps: (1) relationship development, (2) leadership competencies overview and assessment, (3) curiosity and learning about leadership competencies, (4) client setting goals for development, (5) assessments that lead to self-discovery, (6) coaching that leads to goal setting, and (7) client-driven action planning.
“I consider myself a ‘guide on the side’ as the client works through self-discovery, development, action planning and goal attainment,” says Lyons.
While leadership coaching is available to clients of all ages, Lyons offers coaching for young leaders through use of the Growing Leaders Habitudes curriculum, which was developed to teach leadership habits and attitudes to youth and young professionals through images.
“Our hope for the future depends on how well we train our young leaders, and it doesn’t happen by chance, it must be intentional,” she says.
Also intentional is Lyons’ choice to use The People Business 2.0 to bring leadership coaching to the Greater Lafayette community.
“My husband and I have lived in Greater Lafayette for 20 years,” she says. “It’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere, and that is intentional. I love this
Additional leadership opportunities for young professionals:
• Evergreen Leadership: evergreenleadership.com
• United Way Emerging Leaders United: uwlafayette.org
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 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.”