Purdue’s 4-H Outreach Expanding to City Youth

RI may be a graduate of Indiana University, but the IU/Purdue rivalry stops at the edge of the basketball court for me. That’s likely for two reasons: (1) I have at least a modicum of perspective, and (2) I’ve written about Purdue in BizVoice enough times to be flat-out impressed by the school’s innovative educational efforts and its dedication to giving students a well-rounded experience.

Additionally, the fact that Purdue has an extension presence in all 92 of our counties is quite remarkable to me. While I’ve written about Purdue’s work to reach rural students in the past, I was somewhat surprised to see how it’s helping 4-H make an impact among Indiana’s urban populations.

Because urban areas tend to not have a strong tradition of 4-H, Purdue Extension is creating new programs in heavily urban Lake, Marion and Allen counties to attract more young people there.

They’re not your typical 4-H clubs.

“These clubs meet after school and are heavily focused on engaging young people in science and helping them understand where food comes from as well as career opportunities in agriculture,” said Renee McKee, program leader of 4-H and youth development at Purdue University.

A nationwide expansion of 4-H into urban communities was made possible through a National 4-H Council funding opportunity that originated from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.  In Indiana, the program is funding three start-up 4-H clubs in each of the three counties.

The effort is a strategic initiative of Indiana 4-H, McKee said. Key to making it work is getting community leaders and volunteers involved to help keep the 4-H clubs going once the grant funding is no longer available.

“The idea of creating urban 4-H clubs is to make them part of the fabric of the community, just as 4-H has done in many rural communities across Indiana,” she said.

Lake County in 2011 was the first of three urban counties in Indiana targeted for 4-H clubs funded this way. Funds initially were used to hire three program assistants who helped with establishing the clubs, planned activities and led meetings. They also work to connect parents and others from the community to volunteer with the club so that the community eventually takes responsibility for leading the programs. Urban clubs in places such as East Chicago and Gary now join the “traditional” clubs, such as those in Crown Point and Lowell where 4-H has been active for years.

“The main difference between when we started and now is that volunteers are taking a larger leadership role, and we have more investment from the local community,” said Julie Jones, 4-H youth development Extension educator in Lake County.

Now that the clubs are established in Lake County with about 100 members, including students of elementary and middle school age, older youth such as high school students are being encouraged to join the county’s 4-H Junior Leaders program and participate in the 4-H Round Up, a three-day workshop for middle school students to explore careers at Purdue in the summer.

Allen County began participating with this effort in 2012.

This year, three new urban clubs are starting in Marion County, all of which have a technology focus called Tech Wizards, an after-school, small-group mentoring program developed at Oregon State University. Tech Wizards work on technology-driven projects such as robotics and videos.

The Marion County clubs are being organized in less traditional places in Indianapolis such as the Felege Hiywot Center, which teaches gardening and environmental preservation to urban youth. 4-H also is working with the Immigrant Welcome Center, a resource for the growing number of immigrants in Indianapolis.

“Many of our opportunities to reach young people are in after-school settings, and there so many issues that impact after-school 4-H,” said Jim Becker, 4-H youth development Extension educator in Marion County. “These issues include transportation, single-parent families, the poverty rate and competition from other youth organizations.”

McKee said the urban initiative shows that 4-H can reach a diverse population statewide.

“Because of this Indiana strategic initiative, we have the ability to serve young people in Indiana regardless of where they live,” McKee said.

Education Off the Playing Field

FKudos to the Indiana University Kelley School of Business for the recent announcement of a partnership with the National Football League Players Association. Career development, certificate and degree graduate level program options are part of the mix for current and former players.

Preparing young people for life off the field is a very good thing. Astonishingly, media reports have indicated as many as three-quarters of NFL players are bankrupt within five years of retirement. Details are in this press release.

This is only the latest example of Indiana institutions and businesses working with athletes. The current BizVoice magazine spotlights Indiana University East and its online program for tennis players (including Venus Williams) and the Language Training Center’s work with LPGA golfers.

BizVoice: Social Media Changes Landscape of Hoosier Politics

Longtime WTHR-TV political reporter Kevin Rader says he picks up “ripples” on Twitter or Facebook about posts that are gaining steam, getting retweets and likes, that make him take notice to a certain policy or official’s statement. “It’s almost like an immediate Nielsen Report that comes to your desk every day that you can look at and say, ‘Oh, this is interesting … or this is interesting,’ ” he notes.

John Zody, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, believes social media is “big” for candidates and officeholders – and not just in a reactionary sense. “You have to think about how people are receiving news. It’s not just one way (traditional media) or the other (social media). You’ve got to have the proactivity to get out there and make sure it’s communicated every single way and exhaust every possible resource.”

His counterpart for the Republican Party, Tim Berry, says “The advantage of social media is that you can talk directly to your constituents. You’re not taking through Kevin or the Indianapolis Star. You’re talking directly to your constituents and then that is shared – your perspective is shared. And that’s what people sometimes miss through the use of social media – the opportunity to talk directly to your intended target.”

But there does need to be caution with social media usage, according to Andrew Downs, IPFW political science professor and director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics.

“It has got to be part of an overall strategy. You can’t ignore it; you’ve got to be present. But if you let it dominate, which it’s easy to do, you will lose. It doesn’t play that big of a role yet,” he asserts.

Rader offers another example of how Twitter, for example, has changed his job.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been frustrated by people who have now realized, ‘Look, I don’t have to make a statement to the media. All I have to do is Tweet a little something out and I don’t have to answer a question.’ You find yourself thinking, ‘Oh boy, so are we really serving the people sitting at home?’ You don’t get any follow-up, anything in-depth and it’s become acceptable now.”

But what can the media do? It has little choice but to cover it. And as Downs quips, “Yes, you don’t have to answer questions. That’s the beauty of social media (for candidates).”

Read much more from this group in the September-October edition of BizVoice magazine, where they discuss the climate in the state and what to look for on Election Day. A related article in the same issue focuses on the use of “digital first” technology to reach voters.

Anti-Bullying App Gets Microloan Boost

The current edition of BizVoice® magazine includes a story about the Madison County Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA), an after-school program for students in grades six to 12 that helps students learn how to brainstorm ideas for companies, present those companies to an investor panel and secure funding for their ideas.

As part of the YEA program, Pendleton Heights High School junior Brandon Boynton created an anti-bullying app called The Bully Box, which is marketed to schools and allows students to report acts of bullying anonymously, while allowing the school district to collect bullying data to help comply with anti-bullying laws and protect students.

Boynton’s app won the local contest held through the Madison County YEA program, as well as the regional contest in Boca Raton, Florida. He placed in the top six of a national competition at America’s Small Business Summit in Washington D.C. in June.

According to a press release from the Flagship Microloan Program, the app has also caught the attention of the microloan organization, which provides small loans of between $1,000 and $5,000 to businesses in a 10-county region of East Central Indiana. The program announced it will make a working capital loan to Most Beastly Studios, which produces The Bully Box app. The Flagship Enterprise Center, a technology incubator in Anderson, is a sponsor of the Madison County YEA program and is a partnership between the City of Anderson and Anderson University.

To raise additional capital for the app, Boynton is running a campaign via crowdfunding site IndieGoGo. His goal is to raise $25,000 by Sept. 24.

Also in Boynton’s toolbox is The Curfew Buddy – keeping parents and children connected quickly about where children are and when they’ll return home.

Kudos to this young Hoosier entrepreneur and the Madison County YEA program for giving Boynton and other enterprising students the experience and opportunity to change the world through their innovative products, services and ideas.

BizVoice Keeps Earning Accolades

Six recent honors from the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists and the national APEX competition raise the BizVoice total of national and state recognitions to 69. The honors received for 2013 work include:

APEX Awards of Excellence:

Indiana SPJ

One of the highlights remains a Grand Award in the national APEX competition for the “Let’s Make a (Business) Deal” five-story package in the September-October 2011 edition. Stories were written by Rebecca Patrick and Tom Schuman. There were nearly 3,400 entrants with 100 earning the Grand Award.

July/August BizVoice Building a Buzz

Today, we’re unveiling our July/August edition of BizVoice magazine.

And the headline is actually a joking nod to our cover story about drones… assuming they make some sort of buzzing sound as they fly. If they don’t, well, let’s just ignore it and move on.

This issue covers a gamut of topics. Here are a few of the top stories (but you can view the full edition via our interactive online version):

Working to Build Business Success Stories

Have you done business with or heard of either Gear Brake or Groom HQ? Probably not — at least yet. These are two of the promising start-ups that went through the Velocity Indiana accelerator program earlier this year and are now co-working in the Jeffersonville space to build their business dreams.

We’ll do a quick Q&A with Chris Bailey (Gear Brake) and Andrew Klawier (Groom HQ) as part of a July-August BizVoice magazine story on Velocity (in just its second year) and its potential. It will be part of an Indiana Vision 2025 focus on Dynamic and Creative Culture that includes:

  • Drones and their Indiana impact
  • Launch Indiana, another effort to develop entrepreneurs
  • A one-on-one with Kent Parker, an Indiana native who experienced business success in several locations around the country
  • A roundtable discussion on entrepreneurial financing

BizVoice goes in the mail June 30 and all stories will be available online on that date.

This is Unique With a Capital U

The Found Elsewhere page of BizVoice, our Indiana Chamber magazine, does as the name suggests – offers interesting information first reported in other places (studies, publications, etc.). After all, we don’t claim to have the monopoly on fascinating facts.

While Found Elsewhere typically appears on the last page of the publication, I’m taking an educated guess that Governing’s Last Look has a permanent home in that spot. The May edition has an entry that we just had to share.

A few clues:

  • International border
  • Library and opera house in the same building
  • Jurisdictional implications

The story can’t be done justice without the photo. Check it out.

No Longer the Amateur Sports Capital?

That amateur sports capital label that Indianapolis has worked so hard to earn and maintain over the years may not apply anymore.

Steve Penny, leader of USA Gymnastics, has called Indy home the last 15 years. He wants a rebranding of his adopted hometown to sports capital of America. Why? It has something to do with “owning the town.”

Our BizVoice magazine Business of Sports feature highlights the four Olympic sport national governing bodies (track, diving and synchronized swimming in addition to gymnastics) that call Indianapolis home. Their impact and business partnerships make a difference throughout Indiana.

And be sure to check out the sidebar on Olympic diving champion David Boudia and the significance of the Indiana University Natatorium. Since that story was completed, Boudia has qualified for three events in the biggest meet of 2014 — the World Cup in China from July 15-20.

High Electricity Prices are Bad for Everyone

The headline might seem like an obvious one – you’ve most likely seen your energy bills go up over the last several years. But it’s not just families struggling to pay high electric bills. Hoosier companies, particularly those that are energy intensive (such as manufacturing facilities), face exponentially-higher sticker shock when it comes to paying the electricity bill.

And the consequences of companies paying more for electricity is far-reaching: less money for employees, higher prices for consumers, fewer opportunities to expand and lost economic development chances.

Here’s a little history: In the early 2000s, Indiana was fifth lowest in the country, in terms of electricity prices. Today, the state has fallen to the middle of the pack, around 27th lowest.

The State Utility Forecasting Group (SUFG) out of Purdue University puts together electricity forecasts every two years. The current forecast (released at the end of 2013) points to prices increasing by over 30% over the next 20 years, with electricity demand in Indiana staying almost stagnant.

We look at the reasons for the higher prices and the lower demand in the new edition of BizVoice®. I spoke with the director of the SUFG, as well as the president of a small foundry in Rochester and a representative from the Indiana Industrial Energy Consumers, Inc. (which represents some of the state’s largest industrial energy users) for their reactions to the SUFG report.

While I didn’t have the opportunity to include an email interview with Wayne Harman, manager of energy procurement from ArcelorMittal USA, I’m able to share some of it here. Here’s a shortened Q&A:

BizVoice®: What is the consequence of high electricity prices for a large energy-intensive company like ArcelorMittal USA?

Harman: “Higher electricity costs translates to net higher costs for manufacturing finished steel products. Added costs cause inflationary pressure when they can be passed on to customers or squeeze profit margins when a commodity’s market selling price is too low to fully cover the added manufacturing costs. Business investment tends to be reduced until a later period when profit margins are stronger.”

BV: When determining where to build new plants (nationally or abroad), how much of a factor are electricity prices?

Harman: “The cost of power is a key factor in making such a decision, but also the availability and reliability of that power source need to be taken into consideration. Market demand and a company’s supply position to serve that market area need are more important in making such decisions … Above a certain cost point, electricity costs become a deal breaker for such investments.”

BV: Nationally, Indiana used to rank fifth lowest in electricity prices, now we’re somewhere around 27th lowest. What kind of an impact is that making when companies compare states to locate their new or expanding businesses?

Harman: “Clearly the higher cost of electricity in Indiana now as compared to just a few years ago is a disadvantage. Companies must also factor in projections for how the electricity costs will likely increase going forward as compared to other geographical regions, as there is a wide range for current power costs and power generation mix (nuclear, coal, natural gas, etc.) region to region. Indiana is heavily coal-fired generation and as such the costs to deal with tightened EPA emissions from these power plants has translated into higher power prices.”

BV: The SUFG released a recent forecast that predicted that prices will grow by over 30% over the next 20 years, while demand stays relatively flat. If companies have a hard time keeping up with costs now, what is the impact that an extra 30% will have over time?

Harman: “All companies are being forced to reduce the energy intensity of their businesses in order to offset what they can of the future electricity cost increases. Any cost increases that cannot be passed on through higher selling prices cause profit margin compression and reduce the financial health of a company. Companies are sensitive to customer demands that they must first do everything in their power to avoid any increases in costs before they try to seek cost recovery through price increases. …

Since 2006, ArcelorMittal USA has reduced energy costs by more than $163 million through focused improvements and energy management, making us the only steelmaker to be named an Energy Star® partner by the US EPA and participant in the US Department of Energy’s Better Plants Program.”

Read the full story.