Throwback Thursday: 75 Years Since Bremen Castings Opened its Doors

You know a company is tied to its community when the community is in its own name. We’re proud to call Bremen Castings Inc. an Indiana Chamber member, and sincerely congratulate this Northern Indiana company for its milestone this month in celebrating 75 years in business.

We featured this innovative company in BizVoice magazine last year, so check out the article. And being a social media person, I enjoy seeing how Bremen Castings honors its employees in its social media feeds. A thoughtful way to include staff in the company’s messaging. Be sure to get BCI’s updates on Twitter and Facebook.

And a release from the company offers more on its anniversary:

The iron industry has been around for generations but over the years, the face of foundries has shifted away from small, family-run businesses to large corporations.  Bremen Castings Inc. (BCI) in Bremen, Indiana, is not one of them.

The family-owned foundry will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in March and James (JB) Brown, President of Bremen Castings, credits the longevity and success of the company to its forward thinking business model, streamlined day-to-day operations, and above all, having each employee feel as though they are a member of the Bremen family.

“It is crucial for everyone to be a team member and an active citizen within our communities so we strive to cast each employee into a valuable and responsible individual,” says Brown.  “We have a set of core values that we want everyone to have and appreciate.”

Originally named, Bremen Gray Iron foundry (the name was changed to Bremen Castings Inc. in 1972), the company was established on March 17, 1939 by Ellis Brown, Charles W. Kling and Harold Heckamen with an initial investment of $10,000.  Some of the first customers included Bendix Corporation, Clark Equipment, and Ford Motor Company.

Since its inception, Bremen Castings has grown from an 800 square foot building to its current 125,000 square feet with more additions planned for the future.  The company has continued to stay at the forefront of the foundry industry, having won numerous awards for its safety, technology and environment-friendly manufacturing.  Today, Bremen is still privately owned and operated by the Brown family.

You Say ‘Honest to Goodness’ is OK

When tourism officials unveiled “Honest to Goodness Indiana” as the state’s new brand a few weeks ago, the criticism came fast and furious. But in our completely unscientific poll, you didn’t seem to mind (or maybe you just didn’t like the past efforts).

The question was to weigh in on your favorite Indiana tourism slogan of the recent (and not so recent) past. The top three vote-getters:

  • Honest to Goodness Indiana: 50%
  • Wander Indiana (a 1980s entry): 20%
  • Restart Your Engines (the immediate predecessor): 17%

Some took the opportunity to offer a new slogan. Among those: Discover Indiana, Explore Indiana, The State That Works (Governor Pence’s campaign mantra and tied to the economic development efforts).

In our current poll, we’re asking about a new professional sports franchise (the Indy Eleven is reaching out to potential soccer fans around the state) and gauging your early interest. The off-field efforts are featured in our Business of Sports story in current BizVoice magazine.

Hats Off to Hoosier Life Sciences Companies

It was a race against time when I rushed into my boss’ office to share new statistics on life sciences released by BioCrossroads in partnership with the Indiana Business Research Center at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Why the hurry? We were seconds away from sending the March-April edition of BizVoice® magazine, which features life sciences, to the printer.

Alas, I was too late!

Sometimes you can’t beat the clock; it’s one of the perils of working in the magazine world. But that doesn’t diminish the value of our special BizVoice issue, now available online and on the way to your mailbox for our print subscribers. It tells compelling stories of the companies – and people – making discoveries and advancing the life sciences field.

A roundtable discussion focused on growing Indiana’s life sciences advantages includes insights from panelists on opportunities, challenges, collaboration, funding and more.

A few highlights from the BioCrossroads report (data is from 2012, the most recent year it is available):

  • Annual economic impact: $55-plus billion (up from $50 billion)
  • Workforce: 55,000 employees at nearly 1,900 companies
  • Annual wages: $89,056
  • Worldwide exports: Indiana ranks second (behind California), with more than $9.7 billion in life sciences products each year. That’s one-third of Indiana’s total exports.

Life sciences is changing – and saving – people’s lives. Thank you to all in our state who are helping make it happen. And keep the innovation coming!

Confessions of a … Funeral Director?

Hopefully you’ve not had to bury many loved ones in your life. But, the inevitable part of life is death, and sooner or later you’ll experience it.

In September of 2012, we buried our beloved grandfather. It was the first funeral of a close family member in my life and the only one I’ve ever been involved in planning.

Going through that as an adult, I got to see the business side of funerals. The cost that comes with nearly every single thing. The fact that if you don’t have life insurance (my grandfather was uninsurable; ironic for a man that sold insurance for his career), everything comes out of pocket. The way that you can save money by doing things for yourself (putting together a digital slideshow yourself will save $50-100). And how a good funeral director will be there to help you get through it all, a caring presence in a time of mourning.

I’ve been working on a short story for BizVoice® about the use of Skype at funerals so family members that are far away can be involved (check it out in our upcoming March/April edition). It’s just one of the ways technology changes even the business of death. I stumbled onto this really interesting blog called “Confessions of a Funeral Director: Working at the Crossroads of this World and the Next.” At some point, I’d suggest you give it a read.

Instead of the creepy, pale images of morticians you get from Hollywood (which is not the case at all, in reality), you get a chance to hear more about the industry and why people choose this particular profession. The writer is a young man named Caleb Wilde, whose sincere honesty and a quick wit make for an interesting read in a subject that many people find easier to ignore.

One recent post is about firing your funeral director when they try to gouge you for money at one of the saddest and most confusing times in your life.

He writes: “If you EVER feel pressure from a funeral home or funeral director to buy something more expensive — or something you don’t want — FIRE THEM! Seriously, just fire them. Walk out if you need to. The fact is that your mind is already clouded by grief and the last thing you need in your life is something trying to squeeze money out of you … because they will. You just experienced a death in your life. You need people who love you, NOT people who want to exploit you.”

Most people probably don’t question funeral costs, just thinking that’s how it goes when someone passes away. But you have to be a smart consumer, even in times of sorrow.

Breaking Down the Pension Puzzle

I’ll summarize pensions in three short phrases: needed (in some form) to help prepare for retirement, difficult to understand and maybe even more difficult to write about.

I give it a shot in the upcoming BizVoice (available online on Feb. 28 and in the mail that same day) with the help of some really smart state and national experts. A couple of takeaways:

  • Indiana’s public pension system is in better shape than most, thanks to some long-term innovative and common sense practices
  • Traditional defined benefit plans in the private sector have largely given way to defined contribution programs (think 401{k})
  • There remain big (really big) concerns over whether Hoosiers and Americans are saving enough

Check out the numbers and the analysis in the March-April issue of BizVoice.

Saying Thanks to the Court Reporters

I can honestly say that I didn’t give a lot of thought to the contributions of court reporters prior to coming to the Indiana Chamber and being part of our roundtable discussion in each issue of BizVoice magazine. It’s a court reporter who is capturing every word, allowing another team member or I to accurately summarize the discussions for our readers.

I also didn’t know until recently that there is a National Court Reporting & Captioning Week. It’s February 16-22. A press release from the National Court Reporters Association, with input from the Indiana Shorthand Reporters Associated, revealed:

  • A 14% growth in the profession is expected by 2020. The groups term it one of the leading career options that does not require a traditional four-year degree
  • Career options include court reporting, live-event captioning for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, and captioning for broadcast and specialized videography
  • “For years, members of the National Court Reporters Association have volunteered their time and professional skills to capture the oral histories of America’s disabled veterans. These transcripts, thousands of important histories that would have otherwise been lost, are preserved at the Library of Congress.”

Kudos to the 18,000-plus members of the national association and thanks to the team at Alliance Court Reporting in Central Indiana for their long-time partnership on BizVoice. We appreciate your efforts.

Communities Take Team Approach to Addressing Skills Gap

I’ve been writing BizVoice® magazine stories for seven-plus years, but the excitement that comes with discovering new projects, programs and people never wears off. The best part is knowing that our stories are resonating with readers.

You can imagine how happy I was when Shelbyville Mayor Tom DeBaun contacted me in response to a story I wrote in the current issue about a regional effort focused on bridging the manufacturing skills gap (more on that in a minute!). Mayor DeBaun shared with me that similar efforts are underway in Shelbyville – and they sound pretty cool.

Project Impact 2016 emphasizes STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) starting with the development of student interest as high school freshmen and ultimately placing college students from Rose-Hulman into local facilities. In addition, Blue River Career Programs and Duke Energy are partnering with the city to build area-specific high school curriculum based on the input of industrial partners.

There’s also the Manufacturing Skills Connection web site, which contains job listings and training opportunities. Scholarships are available for an eight-week Certified Production Technician (CPT) program offered by Ivy Tech Corporate College.

I describe two similar efforts in my recent BizVoice story. Manufacturing Matters – which kicked off last fall in East Central Indiana – includes Wayne, Fayette, Rush, Union and Franklin counties as well as two nearby Ohio counties. Meanwhile, the Advancing Manufacturing initiative is part of a 12-county regional effort covering Benton, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Fountain, Howard, Miami, Montgomery, Tippecanoe, Tipton, Warren and White counties.

Employer partners like Nanshan America Advanced Aluminum Technologies offer a glimpse of the manufacturing world by hosting field trips, participating in interview fairs, presenting workshops and more. Nanshan’s 600,000-square-feet, two-press aluminum extrusion operation in Lafayette makes products for industries ranging from transportation and machinery to building and construction (see employees in action).

It always amazes me to see the people behind the machines who truly are making a difference at manufacturing companies across the state. That’s the bottom line: It’s about people. Initiatives like these remind us of that and help prepare the next generation of our manufacturing workforce.

BizVoice Magazine Evolves in 2014

Since BizVoice® magazine debuted in 1998, there have been gentle tweaks in its appearance and we’ve certainly tried to enhance the publication for your information and enjoyment.

The biggest evolution, however, comes with this issue. A new logo, color scheme and overall layout are provided to more clearly identify BizVoice® as the flagship publication of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and deliver a bold, fresh look. You will find larger photographs, where appropriate, enticing introductory paragraphs to help you immediately learn more about the stories and a crisp layout that adds to your reading experience.

While the new look is important, publications are ultimately judged by their quality – and that often comes down to the content. We will continue to tell you the business stories you may not have seen anywhere else and bring together issue experts for intriguing roundtable discussions. In fact, in our recent survey, many of you cited the roundtables and business spotlights as your favorite features.

You also told us you like an array of topics in each edition. That variety will include a Business of Sports series (we’ve got two features this time around, fast-growing MainGate and the phenomenon of dynamic pricing). And BizVoice® continues its decade-long attention to workplace wellness with gamification taking center stage.

We will also provide ongoing success stories and challenges related to the Indiana Chamber-led Indiana Vision 2025 plan. There may be no more important subject as the organization and its statewide partners work to ensure a strong economic future.

AdvertisingBizVoice® reaches an influential statewide audience – helps us continue to provide the magazine at no cost. The publication has earned 63 national and state awards since 1999.

Thank you for your readership and support. Let us know what you think about the new BizVoice®.

Switzerland County EDC Earns IEDC (international) Honor

The Switzerland County Economic Development Corporation (SCEDC) recently earned a major award. Its president, Jon Bond, was a participant in our BizVoice magazine discussion on regional economic development organizations. That story and the complete November-December BizVoice will be available online on the evening of November 12 in conjunction with the Indiana Chamber's 24th Annual Awards Dinner.

Bond notes in the magazine the challenges that Switzerland and other rural counties face in the highly-competitive world of business attraction and retention. Enhancing workforce skills is certainly one area that will set any community or region apart. Congratulations to the SCEDC.

Switzerland County Economic Development Corporation received the Excellence in Economic Development Gold Award for its ongoing workforce skills initiative. The award, presented by the International Economic Development Council, honors the best program in North America in the category of Human Capital for small communities.
 
For some communities, local workforce data is a strong selling point to investing businesses. In others, however, data reveals critical issues that can offset other advantages a community offers to business prospects.
 
“In Switzerland County, we realized we could not effectively negotiate with prospects demanding a pipeline of skilled workers until we had constructed that pipeline for them,” said Jon Bond, president of Switzerland County Economic Development Corporation.
 
In 2008, as participants in a Lilly Endowment-funded regional initiative to raise the educational attainment and earnings of Southeast Indiana residents, the Switzerland County Economic Development Corporation looked at the workforce demands of regional employers, and compared the results to the available workforce data. “Those results made it clear that we had to do things differently,” said Bond.
 
Five years later, Switzerland County Economic Development Corporation’s EcO15 initiative assists residents seeking the necessary skills to enter, re-enter or re-position themselves in the workforce. Its approach focuses on people, not programs, and measures success one person at a time. The SCEDC works to eliminate barriers to success and to provide options that will meet individual needs of our residents seeking to improve their skills.
 
The Switzerland County Technology and Education Center is the cornerstone of the EcO15 program.  Completed in 2012, the multi-use facility features classrooms and labs for adult educational opportunities.  The EcO15 effort also created an advanced manufacturing lab at Switzerland County High School, and initiated a focus on STEM education.  And the community’s residents now receive frequent, regular messages on the importance of upgrading their workplace skills to remain competitive in today’s economy.

For more information about the Switzerland County Economic Development Corporation and its Eco15 initiative, please visit www.switzerlandusa.com.

Summers Was Always There With a Helpful Word

When I arrived at the Indiana Chamber oh so many years ago — 15 to be exact — education issues were at the forefront. Not a major surprise there. Various K-12 and higher education topics were part of our policy communications and more in-depth BizVoice magazine stories.

After writing such articles, I would anticipate the feedback. Often, then and today, that analysis — good or bad — would not come. (It's no secret that when reporters do hear from readers about their work, it's typically because someone is upset). But I could often count on a note or comment from at least one Indiana Chamber board member at the time in Vincennes University President Phillip Summers.

Summers, who passed away earlier this week, served 21 years (1980-2001) as the leader at VU. His is credited with many initiatives, from modernizing the home campus to growing programs in Jasper and at the Aviation Technology Center in Indianapolis. During our interactions, Summers was always thoughtful and insightful.

His handwritten notes often went beyond education issues. He was very complimentary of the work being done at the time to build BizVoice into a strong Chamber publication. If we missed the mark on what we were reporting, he would let us know that too — in a constructive manner.

After learning of Summers' death, I went back to the year 2000 and his participation in one of our roundtable discussions on the then-beginnings of the community college system and its relationship to regional campuses. I'll share that article here in thanking Phil Summers for his guidance and his outstanding work in the education world.

Best wishes to his family and the Vincennes University community.