Calling All Hackers

19114293Hacking is coming to the Indiana Statehouse – and that’s a good thing.

Developers, coders and designers are invited to participate in #INCapitolHack, the first installment in the 2016 Indiana Hack Series, on February 26-27. State government agencies are welcoming experts to “hack for the greater good.”

A full timeline, additional information and registration are available online.

Kurt Vonnegut: A Fan Reflects on His Hoosier Legacy

Chris-LaFave-e1442422256223-300x226I had the good fortune of writing an article on a few of Indiana’s notable literary stops for our Jan./Feb. edition of BizVoice (this particular edition will be a legacy project endorsed by the Bicentennial Commission). One such stop was the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in downtown Indianapolis.

While touring the facility, I was told the resident expert on all things Vonnegut was the curator, Chris Lafave. At the time, he was representing the library at a book fair down in Miami (not the worst assignment in mid-November), so I emailed him some questions that were on my mind. I was unable to fit most of his thoughtful answers into my story, so I’ll happily share them here.

About how many visitors does the library get annually?
Chris Lafave: The library draws thousands every year to the actual space, along with public speaking appearances by several staff members. And the organization’s traveling exhibit has been received far and wide, and has even visited the city of Dresden (Germany), where Kurt survived the 1945 bombing (as a prisoner of war). The trauma inspired him to write Slaughterhouse-Five.

It sounds like people visit from all over. What’s the farthest distance away you can recall?
CL: I’d have to say two guys coming in from Australia to do their great American road trip. They flew into Chicago, visited, rented a car and drove to Indianapolis to see the Vonnegut Library. I asked them what else was on their to-do list and they said Memphis and New Orleans, and then home. I was floored.

Do you find it’s not just Vonnegut’s generation, but younger people also becoming fans of his?
CL: The age demographic is all over the place and very hard to even pin down for research’s sake. (Founder and CEO Julia Whitehead) and I speak to an astonishing amount of students about Vonnegut. That’s not shocking in and of itself, but very recently I spoke at a school in Anderson, where a specific high school student requested permission to skip her own class so she could attend my lecture on Slaughterhouse-Five. Students are often engaged by his work, but we also have people well past retirement age spending a lot of time in the library and at our events as well. If you wanted to ask how he ever reached this many people across this large of a spectrum, I’d say he had a way of making people laugh at some of the hard things in life, to see beauty in despair, to see optimism in cynicism. That takes a certain degree of talent, and can sometimes bond people to your art.

It sounds like you’ve read all of his books. What influence do you think his Indianapolis upbringing had on his writing? In what ways is it evident?
CL: I think he saw Indy more through his family, friends and schooling… His family had such influence, his great grandfather founded a popular chain of hardware stores here, his grandfather and father were prominent architects. Can you imagine the pride of looking around your city’s skyline and saying “I’m related to the people who did that?”

He often talked about wealth inequality in his work, which relates to Indy in the sense that his family started out incredibly wealthy and lost a lot of said wealth in the Great Depression. He writes frequently about jazz music, which was incredibly popular in Indianapolis during his upbringing. He discovered the music at a barbecue joint somewhere on Meridian Street near his childhood home at 4401 N. Illinois Street. He wrote often about remembering good things in a hard world, which is a belief that seemed to have been instilled in him by his Uncle Alex, who he was quite fond of. And lastly, he was an avid defender of public schools and libraries — the best example of which would have been Shortridge High School, where he received an excellent education, played the clarinet and served on the school newspaper.

All I know is, while you’ll occasionally hear him take a shot at Indy or Indiana’s politics in an essay, most of the time in both his essays and novels, he seems to refer to Indianapolis in a fond sense, as a place of civility and decency. A city that his family built. My favorite Indianapolis moment is in Sirens of Titan, at the very end. I won’t spoil it for you with the details.

What’s your favorite book of his and why?
CL: Always a tricky question for me. I’ll say Cat’s Cradle, for the reason mentioned above; it has the ability to make you laugh at some of the tough things in life. But honestly, most of his books contain something that blows my mind. Slapstick, for example, is generally regarded by critics to be his worst novel. I disagree. I think it’s a phenomenal novel about the “disease of loneliness” as Kurt referred to it, and also about his desire for common decency. Plus it’s also very funny.

As referenced above, Vonnegut’s harrowing experience as a prisoner of war in an underground slaughterhouse in Dresden, Germany inspired his classic novel, Slaugtherhouse-Five. A letter he wrote following the ordeal was published on Letters of Note and is quite fascinating. 

Indy Reads Books’ Anthology Shows Off Hoosier Writing Prowess

indywritesbook4For our upcoming January/February edition of BizVoice, I have the pleasure of documenting my visits to several literary destinations in Indiana. (The issue will be a Bicentennial Commission-endorsed legacy project, so we’re branching out a little beyond our usual business focus.)

With internationally celebrated names like James Whitcomb Riley, Kurt Vonnegut, Dan Wakefield, Lew Wallace and Gene Stratton-Porter to its credit, the Hoosier state can be proud of its literary legacy.

But the climate in Indiana remains just as hot today. This is evidenced in the publication, Indy Writes Books, published last year by Indy Reads – an incredibly impactful non-profit program in Indianapolis that promotes adult literacy. The book, sold online and at the Indy Reads Books store in downtown Indianapolis, features short stories and other entries by Hoosier authors such as John Green, Wakefield, Cathy Day, gritty fiction writer Frank Bill and even an entry from crossword puzzle maestro for The New York Times (NYT), Will Shortz – a Crawfordsville native.

In the preface, Wakefield relays there was a time (in the late 1940s) when five of the top 10 books on the NYT best-seller list were by authors with connections to Indiana. A truly remarkable feat causing some to speculate there was “something in the water” here.

If you haven’t been to Indy Reads Books in downtown Indianapolis, I suggest you give it a visit. I’m proud to say I serve on an advisory committee for the store and it’s one of my favorite places in the entire city. It offers a relaxed vibe and an enthusiastic cadre of helpful staff and volunteers. And with the Christmas season approaching, there’s no better place to find gifts for the book lovers in your life — and copies of Indy Writes Books are still available!

Here’s a short video from 2014 that includes Indy Reads founder Travis DiNicola and others discussing the book and the store:

Also note that the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indy has a compilation — a journal titled So It Goes — for sale. Its most recent installment features a theme of “social justice” — but next year’s edition will focus on Indiana (stories by Hoosiers or about the Hoosier state). The library will begin taking story submissions in the spring.

VIDEO: Dustin Sapp is No Stranger to Start-Ups, Accolades

Dustin Sapp is now CEO of TinderBox. But he cut his entrepreneurial teeth while at Rose-Hulman, and built executive experience while at Vontoo. He’s now a leader in Central Indiana’s start-up scene, a mentor and devoted family man. See why he earned the Indiana Chamber’s first ever Indiana Vision 2025 Dynamic Leader of the Year Award.

Indiana Logistics Summit to Kick Off Sept. 22

2015 LOGISTICS SUMMIT LOGO JPEGThe Indiana Logistics Summit is fast approaching, and will convene in the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis on Sept. 22 (and a VIP Colts tailgate reception will be held at Crane Bay on Sept. 21). Visit www.indianalogistics.com or call (866) 515-0023 to register or receive more information. (Registration is $175 per person, or call Liz Folkerts at (317) 232-9205 for information on group rates.)

There is something for everyone at the 2015 Indiana Logistics Summit as top executives from Google, GE Aviation, Indianapolis Colts, Fair Oaks Farms, NCAA, Harvard Business School, IndyCar and others will be featured speakers at the 13th annual event on Tuesday, Sept. 22, in the Indiana Convention Center. The Summit will bring 300 leaders to Indianapolis to hear educational presentations about logistics from a variety of industries and to celebrate the Indianapolis Colts’ home opener on Monday Night Football.

In conjunction with a “Logistics in Sports” segment, the evening reception for Summit attendees will be held on Monday, Sept. 21, at The Crane Bay as part of the Colts VIP Tailgate leading up to the Colts game versus the New York Jets. Tickets to the reception are complimentary with Summit registration, and include a Morton Steakhouse buffet, cocktail bars hosted by Jim Beam, visits from Colts cheerleaders and former players, the live broadcast site for the Colts’ pregame show, an NFL memorabilia auction and much more.

The Indiana Logistics Summit is co-hosted by Purdue University, the Ports of Indiana and Conexus Indiana to promote the logistics industry and showcase the critical role this sector plays in the national economy. Some topics to be featured at this year’s program include:

– The Role of Logistics in Attracting Indiana’s Mega Projects
– A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Logistics in Sports
– Closing the Skills Gap to Improve U.S. Competitiveness
– New Solutions for the National Transportation Infrastructure Crisis
– Emerging Technologies: Unmanned Systems, Smart Drones and What’s Next?

There will also be a special “Logistics U” program for high school students to learn about career and educational opportunities in logistics.

“This is a can’t-miss event for anyone interested in logistics, sports, drones or the future of our economy,” said Rich Cooper, CEO for the Ports of Indiana. “Logistics is something that Indiana knows very well. Our robust transportation infrastructure and central location create tremendous logistical advantages for businesses that move products by air, rail, truck and water. The Summit celebrates the importance of this industry and provides an important platform for informative discussions among businesses, leaders and transportation professionals. This year’s program will offer a diverse group of topics that will appeal to a broad audience.”

The Summit program opens with the Keynote Breakfast featuring a presentation titled “Grass to Glass Logistics” by Mike McCloskey, the CEO of Select Milk Producers and owner of Fair Oaks Farms, one of the nation’s largest dairies. The Northwest Indiana dairy recently announced a new partnership venture with Coca-Cola that is aimed at revolutionizing milk consumption across the country.

There will also be an inside look at the Indianapolis Colts’ ‘Midnight Move’ from Baltimore, the NCAA’s coordination of 90 national championships per year, and a preview of the ‘100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.’ Emerging technologies will be explored in a futuristic session focused on the development of drone delivery systems, the launch of the state’s first college major in unmanned vehicles and companies with real-world applications for drones in logistics. Top national experts will also share recommendations for how businesses, government and academia can help address two of the biggest challenges facing the logistics industry – aging transportation infrastructure and workforce development in closing the skills gap.

VIDEO: Ikelite Making a Splash in Indy

David Combs, general manager of Ikelite, spoke with BizVoice about the intriguing history of the Indianapolis company and why it’s so successful. Some may find it odd that a company so loved by SCUBA divers would be based in Indiana, but hey, it’s been working since the 1960s!

Read the Indiana Ingenuity feature on this exceptional business in BizVoice.

Bluebridge Holding Launch Party with Verge This Thursday

https_proxyHave plans Thursday? If not, you should hear one of Indiana’s leading young entrepreneurs, Santiago Jaramillo of Bluebridge, describe his experiences thus far in starting a business, and unveil his company’s new digs and new app technology in Fishers. (Get your tickets online.)

During this Verge event, Jaramillo will discuss raising capital in Indianapolis and give entrepreneurs advice on scaling their business to the first $1 million in revenue. Topics will include fundraising, scaling sales and marketing, and hiring.

Here’s a message with details from our friends at Verge:

We’re really excited to team up with Bluebridge for the month of July and celebrate the birth of the new Verge app. We’d love for you to share your feedback on the app experience for its test launch. We’ll be adding features in the months ahead.
Here’s the launch agenda:

– 5:30 pm – Doors open to public (Pizza & beer provided)
– 6:15 pm – Welcome announcement
– 6:30 pm – Pitches
Mobile App Studio – Santiago Jaramillo, Bluebridge
Verge App – Matt Hunckler, Verge
Future of Tech in Fishers – John Wechsler, Launch Fishers and Scott Fadness, Mayor of Fishers
– 7:00 pm – Fireside chat with Santiago Jaramillo, CEO of Bluebridge
– 8:30 pm – Doors close

As you know, tickets move fast, and we’re only releasing 300 spots for this special event. Reserve your spot today!

If you’d like more background, we’ve also covered Jaramillo and Bluebridge in BizVoice.

MDWise, Inc.: Maximizing Chamber Investment Through Employee Training

Lux_LindseyAre great leaders born or made? The answer is simple: Great leaders are “made” – and embracing learning opportunities is a key step.

The Indiana Chamber’s annual Human Resources Conference & Expo provides a variety of tools to boost leadership skills. Lindsey Lux, a regular attendee, enjoys the panel discussions, legal updates and collaboration with fellow HR professionals.

Lux is vice president of operations at MDwise — an Indiana Chamber member since 2007. Headquartered in Indianapolis, the Indiana nonprofit health insurance company is focused on giving uninsured and underserved Hoosiers the compassionate service and care they want and need.

“The legal presenters at the conference have given interesting presentations with real-world applicability,” she comments. “The conference is the best in Indiana to earn strategic recertification credits necessary to maintain my SPHR (senior professional in human resources).”

Lux participated in a focus group with other past attendees regarding ways to enhance the event.

“Most conferences ask you to complete a satisfaction survey once you are finished. This is the first time I’ve been asked to discuss (my input) face-to-face with attendees,” she emphasizes.

Reflecting on an especially memorable experience at the Human Resources Conference, Lux describes a session about leadership development.

“I walked away with a workbook full of information after having clearly identified my values, my company strategy, goals, etc.,” she recalls. “It’s nice to leave a session feeling empowered to improve in areas as an individual and as an organization.”

Science on Display: Dow Ambassadors Connect with Students

dowAsking 10-year-olds their opinions about school subjects sometimes can yield unenthusiastic responses.

But when questioned if she enjoys science, Kelli Woods – a fourth grader at New Augusta South Public Academy in Indianapolis – passionately nods and answers, “Yes, very much – because I get to learn about new stuff and find out how it works.”

Kelli describes the project she entered in the school’s fourth grade science fair, in which she tested how soaking white roses in colored water would impact their appearance.

“My hypothesis was that the red (would make the rose change colors fastest) because it stains a lot,” she explains. “But it was actually the blue one.”

Dow AgroSciences’ Science Ambassadors gave guidance and judged the projects of Kelli and her classmates in late January in the New Augusta South gymnasium.

The scene was not a unique one as Dow’s brigade of over 300 staffers volunteer their time each year, often on nights and weekends. Last year, the ambassadors visited over 25 schools during about 75 events. Dow developed the program a decade ago, but added a major emphasis in 2012. Since then, officials estimate the company’s outreach efforts to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education have impacted more than 4,200 teachers and almost 200,000 students.

Read the full story online.

Folk Fest in Indy to Draw Many Bands, Raise Funds for a Great Cause on May 9

folkfestSome socially conscious business owners and volunteers in Indy’s Fountain Square area are working hard to promote the inaugural Virginia Avenue Folk Fest, which will raise funds for Trusted Mentors. Set for May 9, the festival will feature over 70 local bands and is already creating quite the buzz.

I’m proud to say that I was involved with Trusted Mentors as an adult mentor for three years, and now serve on its board of directors.

The program creates mentor/mentee matches to help at-risk adults establish stable lives by reducing the chaos brought about by poverty, homelessness, under-employment and the effects of incarceration. These person-to-person mentoring relationships improve lives by developing life skills and positive social networks that empower people to:

  • Remain housed
  • Make a positive contribution to the local community
  • Remain or become employed
  • Advance their education
  • Stay out of jail
  • Improve parenting skills

For more details about the event, check out this helpful FAQ. And we could still use more volunteers as well!

Hope to see you there, and please help us spread the word if you plan to attend by using the hashtag #folkinupindy. Folk yeah!