BY CINDY GERLACH

If you are hoping to sell your house, good news: It’s a great time to put your house on the market. But if you’re a first-time home buyer, be prepared. It might be tough for you to get your offer accepted in a tight market.

Properties that are priced in that “sweet spot” — properly priced and in reasonable condition — are seeing single-digit days on the market and multiple offers, says Charlie Shook, broker and co-owner of Coldwell Banker Shook. Right now, that “sweet” price is from $150,000 to $350,000. Prices that might have once been considered fairly expensive are now seen as the norm. It’s a reflection of the economy, of supply and demand.

“It sounds exciting, but it’s really just a reaction to the economy,” Shook says. “Brokers don’t want that. It makes prices go up. There are more buyers than product.”

Inventory in Tippecanoe County is at historic lows, says Stacy Grove, a broker and owner of the Russell Company. On one day in early March, active listings for single-family houses were at 67. But when filtered for those that had offers, that number dropped to 46. Of those listings, 12 were in West Lafayette. The prices ranged from $79,900 to $1.5 million. And of those 46, only 19 listings were under $300,000.

“People don’t understand the crisis that is our inventory shortage,” Grove says. “We just don’t have the new construction to back up the inventory demand.”

For sellers, this means a potential profit. People used to have to hold onto a house for several years before they could see making any money with a sale; now, Grove says, properties can appreciate up to 1 percent a month; one need only own their home for a short time before they can recoup their costs and see a return. 

For those trying to buy their first home, the process might be an arduous one. Most listings for houses under $300,000 are seeing multiple offers, many above the asking price. 

“We’re seeing multiple offers over the list price,” says Grove. “The list price used to be our ceiling, now it’s our floor.”

Buyers are waiving inspections and writing offers without contingencies. Some buyers are able to write cash offers, getting temporary loans to avoid financing. And they are adding what is known as an escalation clause, offering to beat the best offer up to a certain amount. 

“It’s a valid strategy,” says Shook. “Those intangibles are becoming more and more popular.”

And when prices are not reflecting the appraisal, buyers are offering to pay the difference in the appraisal gap, says Grove, essentially taking an advance on their equity. 

“It’s the Wild West out here,” Grove says. “It is crazy.”

Thus it’s a great time to sell your house — if, that is, you have someplace to go. Because the story for buyers, especially first-time buyers, is not so rosy. 

Getting your offer accepted may be a path fraught with disappointment and frustration.

But even though it seems abnormal, some buyers are seeing their offers accepted. One just has to be ready and prepared to make an offer — there probably isn’t a lot of time to consider your options. Look at a house and be ready to act immediately. Write your best offer. And be prepared for little to no negotiating. 

The best advice for a buyer? Use an agent, says Markus Jamison, team leader at Keller Williams.

“If you’re just googling properties, by the time you get on there, it probably already has an offer. And get prequalified.”

It is, Shook says, a great time to invest in real estate. The uptick in prices certainly is evident. In 2019, 40 homes in Tippecanoe County sold for more than $500,000; in 2021, that number was 116. For homes in the $400,000-500,000 range, 2021 saw 136 sales, compared to 82 in 2019.

“Our market has been undervalued for years,” Shook says. “My gut feeling is people are feeling more confident about investing in real estate.”

People who think they may build a house instead are likely in for a surprise — and a wait. With supply chain issues, materials are more expensive. The estimate to build a ranch house, on a slab, is around $450,000, Grove says. Add a basement, and the price jumps to $650,000.

With interest rates predicted to go up in the coming months, the market could change. But it may not be to a buyer’s advantage, says Grove. 

“At some point, with inflation going up, people will be spending more on necessities,” she says. “At some point, they won’t have the money for a mortgage they once did. The buyer pool will shrink because they won’t have the liquidity they once did.”

Jamison says it’s anyone’s guess what will happen. But with rates at historic lows, buyers could still be in a good position. 

“That’s the plus side,” he says. “In the long run, you’re not paying as much. It’s a tug-of-war, and we don’t know where it’s going.”

Shook encourages buyers to not get too frustrated. It may take some time, but your dream house is out there. He projects that 2022 will look a lot like 2021 did, but some of the pent-up demand will abate. 

“The professional real estate community understands the angst, the pain a buyer has to go through,” he says. “It’s hard to call a buyer four or five time and tell them they didn’t get it. But I’m always amazed at how often the next house is better.”  ★

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 KAT BRAZ
PHOTOS PROVIDED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BY RADONNA FIORINI 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a look at each grant:
READI Grant 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some projects being considered include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Student Learning Recovery Grant Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two other Student Recovery grants were awarded locally:

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

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

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

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

BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS
PHOTOS PROVIDED

The Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration – 

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

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

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

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

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

Paving the way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The next frontier

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

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

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

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

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

Team effort

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

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

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

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

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

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

BY KEN THOMPSON
PHOTOS PROVIDED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

ACADEMIA

Purdue University
West Lafayette
purdue.edu

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

HOSPITALITY

Cafe Literato
West Lafayette
literatocafe.com

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

coppermooncoffee.com

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.”

RECREATION

Get Air Trampoline Park
Lafayette
getairsports.com

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
for us.”

McAllister Recreation Center
Lafayette
lafayette.in.gov

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. 

ANIMAL CARE

Pooch Palace Resort
Lafayette & West Lafayette
poochpalaceresorts.com

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
Lafayette
columbianparkzoo.org

From a Galapagos Tortoise to prairie dogs to the Laughing Kookaburra, the Columbian Park Zoo showcases wildlife from around the world in exhibits that teach visitors about conservation and biodiversity. For adolescents contemplating animal-related careers, the facility offers the immersive Zoo Teens opportunity.

Volunteers aged 14 to 17 who are accepted into the program perform non-dangerous tasks under the supervision of professional zookeepers and educators, such as cleaning and food preparation. Zoo Teens also interact frequently with humans as well, gaining confidence in public speaking and small-group communication, says Courtney Nave, zoo assistant education coordinator. “I’ve seen such growth, not just in interpersonal skills, but being leaders, through this program,” she says.

Applications have already closed for this summer; but check the website for late openings and other opportunities. ★

BY KAT BRAZ
PHOTO BY CHRISTINE PETKOV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BY RADONNA FIORINI
PHOTOS PROVIDED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BY HANNAH HARPER
PHOTOS PROVIDED

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.

TC Young Professionals

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.


Leadership Lafayette

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?”
he says.

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.


The People Business 2.0

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
community.” ★

Additional leadership opportunities for young professionals:

• Evergreen Leadership: evergreenleadership.com

• United Way Emerging Leaders United: uwlafayette.org

BY CINDY GERLACH
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV
PRODUCTION PHOTOS PROVIDED

The mere mention of coffee evokes smells and imagery that transport people to a place or a time. For many of us, it’s the first thing we reach for in the morning. Or it’s an excuse to gather with friends, to take a break or help us make it through a busy day.

It’s a staple in so many of our daily lives — it’s easy to take coffee for granted. But Brad and Cary Gutwein have taken their love affair a step further by making it their business. The brothers purchased the Copper Moon Coffee brand in 2006. And while they may not have reinvented coffee per se, they have taken this already existent brand to a new level.

This isn’t the brothers’ first foray into partnership in business. Growing up, the two always had a good relationship, says elder brother Brad. Brad graduated from Purdue University in 1989 with a degree in hotel and restaurant management – a good all-around degree with a focus on both business and hospitality – while Cary studied at Valparaiso University.

The two joined forces earlier in their careers when they operated a birdseed business, Morning Song.

“We’ve always gotten along really well,” says Brad. “We have a good balance of talent and skills. Cary is more operational, I’m more marketing and sales.”

But eventually, they outgrew their fledgling operation, ready for a bigger challenge. After they sold Morning Song they were ready for their next venture. And coffee, Brad says, was no accident — it was intentional. He had done a lot of research on coffee and knew that was a venture he was interested in — and one he knew they were well prepared to take on.

For one, they already had a company put together and an infrastructure, a hold-over from Morning Song. And many of their employees stayed on, says Nick Thompson, who currently serves as vice president for sales and marketing but has been with the brothers since 2007.

The concepts of working with birdseed — sourcing, working with an agricultural product, purchasing, packaging, selling to retailers — carry over to the coffee business.

“Those same principles work for coffee,” Thompson says. “They turned it into more of a passion.”

Brad Gutwein attended a trade show in Florida in late 2006, looking for inspiration for his coffee ambition. He visited a booth for a business based in Indianapolis. The brand, Copper Moon Coffee, was owned by a private equity firm; Gutwein knew it was a non-core asset and they might be willing to sell.

“And I was ready,” he says. “I knew what we wanted and what we were looking for.”

So the brothers took the brand name Copper Moon – formerly a part of the now-defunct Marsh supermarket brand – and ran with it. Since the purchase in 2007, the company has remade the entire franchise. Its first roasting facility was on the east side of Indianapolis; in 2012 the entire operation relocated to Lafayette. They have changed the design and packaging, experimented with new flavors and techniques.

“Everyone has an entrepreneurial spirit,” says Thompson. “We’re constantly creating things that go to market. We have that entrepreneurial ability to develop all the way to the end consumer. It’s unreal that we get to do that here in Lafayette. The ability for anyone on our team to come up with an idea on a dry erase board to producing millions of pounds of it.”

The 100,000-square-foot roasting facility on the east side of Lafayette roasts tens of millions of pounds of coffee each year, Thompson says.

Much of the coffee is sold online through its website, coppermooncoffee.com; it is also sold through other online retailers — Amazon, Staples, Office Depot, Wal-Mart.

This year has been better than ever for online sales, Thompson says. The company did a refresh that launched in late January 2020, updating its brand. Copper Moon currently ships to all 48 of the continental United States.

“We expected growth,” he says. “It’s been out of this world.”
But they would like to encourage customers to purchase through the Copper Moon website. If they can see what people order, Thompson says, they are in a better position to help them with future purchases, making recommendations, or letting them know about sales or special offers.

“We get to establish relationships with those customers,” he says.

And the business has expanded into retail operations, opening its flagship café in April 2017 on State Road 26 near Meijer in Lafayette. It gave everyone a chance to see how consumers react to their products in real time.

“I think it kind of served as a good test kitchen for the brand, for what we could produce on a larger level,” Thompson says. “We could take that same coffee to the consumer, see what works. It’s a great marketing tool to reach our local community.”

Copper Moon recently opened its second location. The latest, on Sagamore Parkway in West Lafayette, has more than one drive-through lane, which helps serve customers during these pandemic months.

It’s a challenge, says Gutwein, but they’re learning and adapting.

Yet with coffee shops on nearly every corner these days, how did the brothers feel like they could put their own spin on coffee? Coffee – the world’s second-largest commodity, next to oil — is, these days, ubiquitous; how does one put their own spin on something that is everywhere?

“Coffee is very recognizable,” Gutwein says. “Which means it’s very complicated. You need to find a lane or a niche. We understand purchasing, packaging and selling to retailers.”

Much of their sales were, formerly, to offices that provided
coffee to their employees. Now that the workplace has shifted and so many people are working from home, Copper Moon’s sales and marketing have had to shift as well. People are buying more five-pound bags these days.

“At-home brewing has grown considerably,” Gutwein says. “Consumption rates have gone up.” People are drinking coffee for more of their day, or at different times. Consumer behavior has changed, and the business will have to change with it.

Thus, Copper Moon’s mission, says Gutwein, is to adapt its marketing and advertising, reaching customers in new way.

“The customers we do pick up are sticky,” he says. “We need to continue to advertise to them. That’s a real focal point with us.”

One of the most important pillars of the business model is Reach for the Moon, the company’s philanthropic effort. Copper Moon is committed not only to selling great coffee, but to serving others and giving back to the community.

It’s a term the team takes literally, Thompson says.

“It’s our giveback arm. We think coffee can help you reach your goals.”

We Give a Cup is its offer to provide complementary drinks to health care workers, firefighter, police officers, members of the military and educators.

“We’re trying to fuel our local heroes as they work to protect us,” Thompson says. “It’s a practical way for us to support our frontline heroes at this time.”

The initiative funds pursuits in STEM fields, partnering with the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, which provides more than 50 scholarships annually. It supports Purdue Space Day, Maurice J. Zucrow Laboratories, a 24-acre research center home to the world’s largest academic propulsion lab. And it supports a number of other organizations, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, Food Finders Food Bank and Habitat for Humanity.

Copper Moon works because of its business principles and how it practices them, says Thompson. It’s a family-owned business, and it has local roots. The company produces high-grade coffee, and it is committed to sustainability as well as social, economical and environmental concerns. And it is committed to giving back to the community.

But in the end, it comes back to family. It’s a business that feels like a family. Because, of course, it is a family. Brad and Cary work very well together, Thompson says.

“It’s very much a family,” he says. “They’re a good yin and yang. It works.”

The brothers try to model excellent relationships.

“In business there has to be a lot of give and take, humility and respect for the other’s point of view,” Gutwein says. “We’ve done it our entire lives. We understand each other; we listen. If there are issues, we talk through them.”

And it’s a feeling that extends beyond the brothers; as Thompson points out, a good number of their team have been with them since the Morning Song days, people who work in operations, sales, marketing, graphic design.

And at the heart of the business: coffee. Because what better way to be successful than to love what you do, do what you love?

“Coffee brings people together,” says Gutwein. “It’s a global beverage — it literally is recognized globally. I love coffee.” ★

BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS

PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV (PAGES 11-17)

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

Mad Love Boutique

210 N. Sixth St., Lafayette

store.madlovebb.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wea Creek Orchard

5618 S. 200 East, Lafayette

weacreekorchard.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Of course, we hope they don’t.”

Inspired Fire Glass Studio and Gallery 

2124 SR 25, Lafayette

inspiredfire.com

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

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

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

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

Blooms and Petals Fresh Flowers & Event Concepts

848 Main St., Lafayette

bloomsandpetals.net

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

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

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

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

Escape Velocity Brewing Company

405 Sagamore Parkway South, Lafayette

escapevelocitybrewing.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BY KEN THOMPSON

Decades after his parents lived in Married Student Housing while attending Purdue University, Rich Michal is playing a role in a “once in a century” project that will turn the complex into a memory.

Michal, vice president of the Purdue Research Foundation, is excited to talk about Provenance, part of the $1.2 billion, long-term Discovery Park District project that will transform the west side of campus with the creation of a walkable urban neighborhood. 

Provenance is the latest offshoot of the State Street Project, a combined effort of Purdue and the city of West Lafayette. The $120 million project has, during the past four years, changed traffic patterns from the Wabash River, through downtown West Lafayette and Purdue University out to U.S. 231. Purdue President Mitch Daniels saw an opportunity for the Discovery Park District to take advantage of the State Street work to find industry that would be a good fit with the university’s strengths and then 

build housing and amenities for those workers.

“The original genesis was to help finance and help pay for that State Street investment but the bigger picture is this is an opportunity to attract the best student minds and faculty and to retain some of those,” Michal says. ”We’ve got 40,000 students a year, and the majority of those are gradually moving elsewhere. We want to give them a reason to stay in West Lafayette. It’s about providing that live, work, learn, play opportunity.

“Saab and Schweitzer (Engineering Laboratory) love the fact we’re going to have those homes right there where folks can ride their bikes to work in addition to all the educational, cultural and athletic opportunities the university provides.”

Old Town Design Group of Carmel has come up with a plan that will feature a combination of 500 single-family detached homes, townhomes and apartments. Justin Moffett, a partner of Old Town, says the design will hearken back to early 1900s homes with the majority of home lots having garage access through alleys. That eliminates front driveways and enhances the walkability of the neighborhood.

“They’ve done similar projects in midtown Carmel and we loved their product,” Michal says. “They are more of a traditional looking craftsman-style home. They do the front porches and the alley-loaded garages. We felt like their semi-custom product was more appealing and more original.”

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Old Town’s construction plans remain on schedule to begin this summer according to Erin Easter, director of development for the city of West Lafayette. Old Town hopes to have a model home ready by February and begin selling lots this fall.

“This is the first new neighborhood in the city limits in quite some time,” Easter says. “PRF, the city and the university worked closely on the design aesthetic for the neighborhood.”

Provenance is targeting an upscale clientele with single-family homes starting in the low $400,000 range, and townhomes starting at $350,000. By spring 2021, the first families will be able to move into two- and three-story townhomes that will have a private outdoor living area and a two-car garage.

Single family detached homes will be available this spring as well, ranging in size from 1,600 to 3,536 square feet. These semi-custom homes will have the option of master bedrooms upstairs and downstairs, as well as ranch design.

By summer 2021, Old Town anticipates the completion of 142 apartments spread out over four buildings. The following year, 108 more units will be available over five buildings. Studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units will be available.

That won’t be all of the change coming to the west side of campus.

“Between the Aerospace District and Discovery Park District, we anticipate a lot of growth in the southwest side of the city,” Easter says. “Businesses typically follow residents, so once we have a residential base, you will start to see other amenities popping up in the area,” Easter says. 

Michal hopes those amenities include health care and a large grocery store, which could lead to the end of another long-standing complex.

“What I’m hoping is two things: one, work with the university to put in a micro-hospital or health care facility,” he says. “The other thing … we’d love to get a 20-30,000-square-foot grocery right there off the corner of State and McCormick. With Purdue and access to students, plus 500 rooftops, we think our chances of landing a grocery will increase substantially.

“Purdue West has been a great facility. It was a great complex and it’s helped us generate a lot of revenue over its lifetime. But it’s old, tired and there may be a better use of the land there. We’d love to have a health care facility there and right across the street, just south of Hort Park, have a grocery and some retail. And all of that will help us attract more students, staff, faculty and corporations.”

Saab, which will be manufacturing military training aircraft, is the latest corporation to buy into the long-term vision. It won’t be the last in Purdue’s effort to retain its best and brightest.

“There are folks working right now with the PRF and the university to try to attract similar businesses to Saab, aerospace and aviation companies,” Michal says. “We’ve got a great partnership with Rolls Royce. We’re also trying to re-establish a commercial service with the airport. We’re hopeful on that.

“We’re trying to help promote and support the university as it changes the world through its faculty, students and technology. We’re attracting corporations here to help them in recruiting our students and tapping into our research institutions. We want them to come here, establish roots and plant a flag on campus.”

Years from now, Michal envisions Provenance being a desirable place to live like another West Lafayette neighborhood.

“Look at Hills and Dales and how beautiful a neighborhood that is,” Michal says. “Something like that.” 

BY HANNAH HARPER

PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV

When Lafayette native Brittany Whitenack started making candles in her spare time, she had no idea that in five years, she would be the founder and CEO of a thriving company on the verge of expansion. In fact, she didn’t even anticipate having more than five employees. But with support from the community (in person and online) and a lot of hard work, Antique Candle Co. has grown to 34 employees who develop, market, make and ship candles all over the United States and Canada.

A graduate of McCutcheon High School and the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University, Whitenack has always loved candles. 

“I would always buy a candle when I went to the grocery store,” she says. 

As a young professional, she bought a $100 candle-making kit as a creative outlet and admits that her first few batches of candles weren’t quite the high-quality products she sells today. “It’s as much a science as an art,” she explains. “I just kept making them and getting better and better.” 

Once she had honed her candle-making skills, she used the business skills she’d learned at Purdue to create a five-year plan for a company; she reached her five-year goal in just over two years. 

“I didn’t plan on all the growth,” Whitenack says. “It just happened. We kept hiring the right people.” 

Due to exponential growth, Antique Candle Co. will be moving to a new facility, hopefully by the beginning of 2021. The company’s new home will be located at 1611 Schuyler Avenue in Lafayette in an old dairy factory built in 1950. At 10,000 square feet, the building is ideal for manufacturing and will provide Antique Candle Co. with a proper loading dock, air conditioning in the warehouse and office space. The $1 million renovations are scheduled to begin as soon as all permits are approved. 

“This new home for the business — right here in Lafayette — will be the very first space that’s all ours, built just for us with everything we need so we can continue to grow in the town we love,” says Jaycie Tierney, brand manager for Antique Candle Co. 

Tierney began as a part-time candle maker while still a student at Purdue. Her part-time job became a full-time job after graduation, and she now has the opportunity to use her degree working for a company she loves. 

“It has been a blessing to grow with this company and work with some of the most kind-hearted people I’ve ever had the pleasure to be friends with,” she says. 

“This journey has made me fully understand the importance of supporting small businesses and the hardworking individuals behind the scenes.”

According to Whitenack, the employees at Antique Candle Co. are a constant source of the company’s success. 

“Every single employee here, maybe their job isn’t to make candles, but they know how to make a candle,” she says.  “They know the process. They know the product in and out. This helps with customer experience, social media, all marketing.”

One of Whitenack’s long-time employees is customer service specialist Ed McQuinn. 

“I was Brittany’s first employee, so I have seen us manually stamping a few labels, and making candles on a stove, all the way to where we are now making thousands of candles every day,” he says. 

The thousands of soy candles are each imprinted with a label that says “Made in Lafayette, IN” and include scents such as clean cotton, lavender vanilla, momma’s kitchen and many seasonal scents, including tree farm and pineapple coconut. Antique Candle Co. candles are sold in 400 retail locations in the United States and Canada, including The Homestead in West Lafayette. 

Now entering its sixth year, Antique Candle Co. has seen much success through wholesale and retail business.   

When looking toward the future, McQuinn says he “can’t wait to see what we will do in regards to wholesale, and branching into other markets.” 

Whitenack also attributes a large part of the company’s growth to e-commerce and direct marketing through social media platforms. Antique Candle Co. has a robust Instagram presence where employees post to stories at least 10 times a day to help build relationships with customers. 

“As an e-commerce business and a small business, creating those relationships is so important when we can’t always see everyone face-to-face,” Tierney says. “Despite not meeting most of them in person, many friends get to know our team as individuals through Instagram and other social media.”

And the company treats the relationships they build with candle friends, their customers and social media followers, like those they have with friends they know in their personal lives. 

“At Antique Candle Co., we cherish our community so much and always have their interests in our hearts,” explains Tierney. “Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

The relational approach to business seems to correlate with Antique Candle Co.’s growth. According to Whitenack, the company has seen the most e-commerce growth in the years where their followers have grown on social media. 

“Our social media is engaging and genuine,” she says. 

Even as many retailers have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Antique Candle Co. has remained true to the value it places on taking care of employees by paying employees throughout the pandemic. The company makes sure that paying employees well is factored into its business plan. 

“I always knew I wanted to pay our employees well,” says Whitenack. “Paying good employees well creates a higher quality product and better work environment.” 

That work environment is something Whitenack and Antique Candle Co. employees hold in high regard.  

“The best part of owning a business is cultivating a work culture that I would want to work in,” she says. 

As Antique Candle Co. prepares to renovate and eventually move into its new space, it will continue to value its employees, customers and quality in its products as the business grows and shines light on the members of the Lafayette community who work hard and find joy in sharing their candle-making talents.

BY RADONNA FIORINI

PHOTOS PROVIDED

They build the roads. They construct the houses. They care for the elderly. They put out fires. They keep your car running. They are the thousands of Tippecanoe County residents who make a living in industry and trade professions, and there is a growing need for more of them.

Current economic drivers make it critical for the community to attract and keep carpenters, bricklayers, electricians, plumbers and others in the construction and building trades, says Stephen Snyder, president of the Tippecanoe Building Trades Council, which represents 17 trade associations and unions in nine central Indiana counties.

And many students are suited for careers in such fields as culinary arts, information technology or nursing that require technical training or certification, but they may not be aware of the available options, says Miranda Hutcheson, director of Career and Technical Education at the new Greater Lafayette Career Academy. 

Trades and technical jobs are plentiful and critical to any community’s economic health and Snyder and Hutcheson’s organizations, in cooperation with others, are creating opportunities for students to explore different career paths and have hands-on experience by the time they graduate from high school. 

Some students want to get first-hand experience before committing to a university program, and others want to get into the work force as soon as possible, says Hutcheson. Apprenticeships through the trades council and classes and training through the career academy provide those opportunities, and come at a critical time.

A “perfect storm” of circumstances has led to the current need and cooperative push to interest students in such careers, Snyder says: 

• The population is aging, and many skilled professionals such as plumbers, roofers and sheet metal workers are retiring.

• The construction market is hot and in need of skilled workers.

• Families and students are increasingly concerned about the cost of a college education and paying back student loans. 

“A lot of parents, students and high school counselors are excited about our apprenticeship programs that will lead to a good job without a mountain of debt,” says Snyder. Students willing to work hard can complete a three- or four-year apprenticeship and get a job that pays a living wage, allowing them to buy a home and raise a family.

And students can get a leg up on an undergraduate degree by taking college-level courses for free through the career academy while still in high school, says Hutcheson. She estimates that college-bound students in some fields can save from a few hundred dollars to $10,000 in university tuition costs, and the academy allows students to explore different careers before committing to a course of study after high school.

The first phase of the academy opened last August in the former Lafayette Life Insurance building on South 18th Street in Lafayette. Indiana has long been home to such career centers, and local educators and industry representatives talked about opening one for several years. The pieces fell into place when the building became available and all three county school districts decided to work together to get it up and running, Hutcheson says. Snyder sits on the advisory board of the career academy, as do a number of other local industry partners who help review community needs and determine what programs are offered.

There are 187 students from four local public high schools currently enrolled in half-day academy programs. These juniors and seniors attend regular classes at their schools in the morning and are bused to the academy each afternoon for specialized training. Training in health science, auto service technology, cosmetology, engineering/manufacturing, communications and TV/radio, construction/architecture, culinary arts, information technology, education and public safety currently is offered. 

Some also are placed in the community and get hands-on training with local businesses in such areas as civil engineering, electrical contracting, clinical positions and building and contracting. While the academy is developing lab space for technical training, community partners provide a number of valuable resources, Hutcheson says. For example, students interested in firefighting are able to use the county fire training facility.

“These kids are my trailblazers,” says Hutcheson. “Scheduling is a challenge, but these students can pick up 17 dual credits and three industry certifications,” through the academy before leaving high school. 

Lamont Johnson and Tucker Bogue are two of those trailblazers. Both 18 and seniors at West Lafayette High School, the young men will graduate in May with a high school diploma and a Certified Nursing Assistant certificate, after passing the state certification test. They hope to continue their education and become physical therapists.

“I knew I wanted to help people since I was little,” Johnson says. “I found out about this from my school counselor who knew what I wanted to do in college. Tucker and I have similar passions.”

Bogue became interested in physical therapy after suffering a series of knee injuries playing basketball in junior and senior high and going through rehab. 

“I was 100 percent sure what I wanted to do with my life, but (the academy program) boosted my confidence and ignited what was already there,” says Bogue. “Taking these courses in high school gives you a different outlook earlier in life.”

As part of the program, Johnson, Bogue and more than 25 other students interested in health sciences spend several hours a week at the Indiana Veterans Home. They help the residents with small tasks, visit with them and help out in other ways. They also are learning about the different areas of service at the home, such as the pharmacy and rehabilitation programs. 

“I would never have spent this much time with older people otherwise,” Johnson says. “I’m really learning to respect them and getting to know their unique personalities. We’re helping people who served our country.”

Going to the academy has meant some sacrifice for these young men. While they still have morning classes at WLHS, each afternoon is spent at the academy or the Veterans Home, and they miss eating lunch with friends and hanging out after school.

“But the trade-off is worth it,” says Bogue. “If you have any hunch about what you want to do (after high school) just act on it. I recommend it to anyone interested in these courses.”

The Tippecanoe Building Trades Council also is committed to encouraging the exploration of a career in the trades, says Snyder. Last summer the council and 10 professional trade associations sponsored a free, multi-week summer construction camp for anyone 14 and older. 

Each day participants worked alongside a skilled professional on such tasks as operating heavy equipment, laying brick, welding, finishing cement, installing drywall and painting. Some students signed up for multiple weeks and explored a number of careers. Free lunch and appropriate protective gear is provided, as well. The expo will be offered again this June and July. 

The council also cooperates with local agencies such as the United Way of Greater Lafayette, Greater Lafayette Commerce and Region 4 Work Force Development Board. The promotion of 14 apprenticeship programs offered by area trade associations and unions also is a priority. Those apprenticeship classes are accredited by Ivy Tech Community College and taught at local facilities designed for the specific trade. 

“We have first-rate training facilities for these three- to four-year apprenticeships that include benefits,” and hands-on training, says Snyder. “No one wants to talk about working hard and doing anything but getting a college degree, meanwhile the infrastructure is crumbling. We provide the practical end of things,” he says, adding that without skilled trades and construction workers, a community’s roads will fall into disrepair, new homes won’t be built, buildings will not be maintained and the tools required to keep a community thriving will be missing. 

The council is committed to help train a competent, drug-free, skilled, local workforce to Tippecanoe County businesses and to encourage those professional trades people to be actively involved in community life, Snyder says. 

Josh Kiger, who owns a small home renovation company with his wife, Sarah, agrees that the availability of reliable workers is critical to his success. The Kigers opened New View two years ago and specialize in window, door and garage door installation and repair, and general home renovation. While Josh Kiger had experience in those areas before starting the company, he and Sarah obtained some certifications to make sure they could offer their customers the best service possible. 

The family-owned company employs two people in the winter when demand slows down and five people as the weather warms and outdoor work picks up. The Kigers emphasize clear communication with each of their clients and work to maintain a good relationship throughout each project, Josh Kiger says. But finding quality employees has been a challenge.

“It’s been really difficult,” he says. “Even finding people who are teachable has been hard. We can teach anyone if they’re willing, if they’ll make themselves presentable. Really we’re looking for the simple things.”

Such concerns have been voiced by other business owners, says Hutcheson, and local educators are offering a new certification program to help students learn life skills that will help lead to success in any career.

The Governor’s Work Ethic Certificate (GWEC) program is a state initiative run by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, says Jay Davis, assistant director/career counselor at the Greater Lafayette Career Academy. 

The program, open to all juniors and seniors, began in Tippecanoe County last fall and more than 320 students signed up. A trial run of the program in 2018-19 yielded 45 students who earned the GWEC, he says. Students must become competent in nine academic and work-related areas. Some are subjective — such as persistence, respectfulness and dependability. Some are objective — such as grade point average, few disciplinary issues and meeting all graduation requirements. Students also must complete six hours of community service.

“The GWEC looks great on resumes and job applications and can increase (a student’s) chance of getting job interviews and job opportunities,” Davis says.

The program’s stated goals include:

 • Providing students with an understanding of necessary skills that will help make them employable for in-demand jobs and giving them opportunities to demonstrate those skills while in high school.

• Providing local employers with potential workers who understand the values and importance of responsibility and perseverance in the workplace.

A community advisory council collaborates with local school districts to maintain the program and reward students who obtain the certificate. For example, cooperating businesses might guarantee job interviews to students with the certificate or provide an incentive such as professional mentoring and possible reimbursement of college tuition, according to the program website. 

“The response from the community has been positive to this point,” says Davis. “I believe a realistic goal would be to eventually involve as many as 100 community partners for the GWEC program in Tippecanoe County.”

Interested in any of these programs or opportunities? Learn more at:
• Work Ethic Certificate: glcareeracademy.com/work-ethic-certification
• Greater Lafayette Career Academy: glcareeracademy.com
• Tippecanoe Building Trades Council: unionsbuilditbetter.com
• New View: newview-gdw.com

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

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

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

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

Ramping up production

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

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

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

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

Loyal customers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safety, Environment and Community

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

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

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

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

BY CINDY GERLACH
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY TIPPECANOE ARTS FEDERATION

“Grow the arts”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BY KARIS PRESSLER

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a community at work.

Faith East, Faith West and Northend community centers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

River City Community Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then the woman began to cry.

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

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

Lafayette Family YMCA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greater Lafayette YWCA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fun Awaits

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

Faith East Community Center 
faithlafayette.org

Faith West Community Center

Northend Community Center

River City Community Center
cc.rivercity.info

Lafayette Family YMCA
lafayettefamilyymca.org

Greater Lafayette YWCA 
ywcalafayette.org

BY JANE MCLAUGHLIN ANDERSON
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY PURDUE RESEARCH FOUNDATION

“A lot of communities claim to be focused on the needs of business, but this community proves it.”

Built so they would come, Purdue University-affiliated Discovery Park District landed Swedish-based Saab as a major aeronautic manufacturing facility in May. It’s a perfect match.

Saab, an acronym meaning Swedish Aeroplane Company Limited, has been making fighter planes since 1937 and is heavily invested in the defense and security industry. According to Saab’s website, its strategy for growth in new markets is to pursue excellence through technology, research and cooperation.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels had the vision to capitalize on Purdue’s strength in aerospace engineering research, intellectual capital and the university’s airport to create an ecosystem that would bring in industry-related businesses.

Saab will invest $37 million and hire up to 300 employees to make fuselages (the central body of an aircraft) for T-X advanced jet trainers developed by Boeing and Saab for the U.S. Air Force. Hiring will start in 2020, Job ramp-up will occur between 2021-2026.

Paul Moses, assistant vice president at Purdue Research Foundation, helps serve as matchmaker for major corporate and university partnerships. “Each company has its own reasons for wanting to engage with Purdue. Usually, it’s tied to some desired technical expertise or workforce development,” he says.

“We work to help them build bridges to the many experts on campus, our licensable intellectual property or patents, and of course, the bright young minds who will become their employees. We also help international companies and their employees assimilate into our community.”

When asked why Greater Lafayette was attractive to Saab, Moses cited that Saab appreciated that the community (Purdue, Purdue Research Foundation, and city, county and state leaders) all worked together to answers its questions, provide meaningful incentives, and helped them understand and acquire its needed workforce. Supported by the cooperation of Indiana’s pro-industry ecosystem, Saab found the perfect partners for its next chapter. As an added bonus, West Lafayette reminded Saab officials of Linköping, the Swedish city in which Saab currently does most of its airframe manufacturing.

Initially, Saab will focus on building airframes to fulfill the U.S. military contract of producing at least 351 jet trainers for the Air Force. According to a Purdue press release, Saab will also collaborate with the university to expand research and development within possible areas of sensor systems, artificial intelligence and autonomous systems. Purdue also has areas of expertise in trusted microelectronics, hypersonics and cybersecurity that Saab or other interested companies can consider employing.

“A lot of communities claim to be focused on the needs of business, but this community proves it,” Moses says. “When companies come, they feel the sincerity of our local leaders. They experience how truly collaborative we are. They see the quality of our existing workforce and our commitment to developing it further. They learn about the expertise available and the bright young minds being turned out by our world-leading educational institutions. When you combine all that with the affordability of our great quality of life, it makes our community among the most compelling of places to consider locating a business.

BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS

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

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

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

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

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

A STEM-based economy

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

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

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

Pathways to success

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

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

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

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

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

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

STEM competence and confidence

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

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

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

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

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

Starting early

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

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

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

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

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

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

BY JANE MCLAUGHLIN ANDERSON
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY PURDUE RESEARCH FOUNDATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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