BizVoice Tech, Innovation Series Moves Forward; Reid Health Joins as Lead Series Advertiser

The Innovation Connector is a full-service business resource incubator focused on emerging tech and innovative companies in East Central Indiana. In January 2017, the group launched the Coding Connector for area students to promote discovery of coding and programming.

Part 2 of the yearlong BizVoice magazine series on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship is in the books. We encourage you to check out the March-April entries, with the focus on Outstanding Talent, the lead driver in the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 plan.

For the remainder of 2017, we’re proud to have Reid Health on board as the lead series advertiser. Among the upcoming features: meeting the space needs of scale-up organizations, communities investing in their quality of place, financing options for entrepreneurs and more.

The March-April highlights include:

  • Powerful ‘Force’: The second of a six-part series on Recovery Force examines how both team members and advisors were added to the mix to fill critical roles. Also, learn how the co-founders blend their strengths in moving the organization forward.
  • X-Factor: Internship Program Showcases Jobs, City: The Xtern program takes recruitment beyond the job, showcasing Indianapolis and central Indiana to talented young people. The initiative continues to grow and succeed.
  • Vital Connections: Mentoring Snapshot Comes Into Focus: Entrepreneurial leaders in Muncie and Terre Haute discuss mentoring efforts and keys to helping others achieve their business dreams.
  • Quick Hits: A commercialization academy at the University of Southern Indiana, Trine University Hall of Fame and I-Light upgrades.

Access the full interactive version of BizVoice®. If you wish to receive the magazine in print, subscribe online.

Ontario Systems: Maximizing Its Chamber Investment Through Talent Recruitment

Lehman_JillGreat minds think alike.

Jill Lehman, vice president of administration and chief people officer at Ontario Systems (an Indiana Chamber member since 1992), views its collaboration with Indiana INTERNnet – an internship-matching program linking employers, students, high schools, colleges and universities – as a perfect fit.

Based in Muncie, Ontario Systems is a leading accounts receivable technology and services provider.

“Indiana has great students. It has great talent. We believe in trying to find that talent, keep that talent and grow that talent,” Lehman emphasizes. “Our mission is very similar to the mission of Indiana INTERNnet. It’s definitely something we want to be a part of.”

During a telephone conversation in July, Lehman raved about the 12 students participating in Ontario Systems’ summer internship program. Three were EARN Indiana-eligible. EARN (Employment Aid Readiness Network) is a partnership between Indiana INTERNnet and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education that allows employers to be reimbursed for up to 50% of their interns’ wages from the state.

Lehman’s take on the initiative? “It’s phenomenal.”

Ontario Systems’ summer interns included mainly college juniors, seniors and recent graduates. They gained experience in areas ranging from software engineering, client support, legal, human resources and marketing.

“We’re getting great ideas generated from the students as we look at different ways to approach how we do work and solve problems,” Lehman declares. “We’re really excited that our interns are wanting to continue their careers with us – whether it’s through part-time employment or full-time employment depending on where they’re at (college student vs. graduate). And we’re able to have quality jobs for them right here in Muncie, Indiana.”

Cheer Earth Day, Not EPA’s Latest Moves

87741351Something to celebrate for Earth Day: Indiana’s air quality has not been as good as it is today in over 60 years! I remember the first Earth Day 45 years ago and for a decade served on the Indiana Earth Day board. I’ve witnessed step by step Indiana’s group effort to make the air cleaner and cleaner.

Today, more than 90% of Hoosiers live in areas that meet ALL air quality standards. In 2005, that number was only 61%. To monitor all the air quality and progress, Indiana operates and maintains more air quality monitoring sites than any other state in the Midwest on a per-person basis. We’re on top of it.

Indiana does have a few remaining air issues in pockets of the state, but those are being addressed. Whether that’s the lead level in Muncie, the ozone standard in LaPorte County or the one-hour sulfur dioxide standard in parts of five counties – all are making progress and should be remedied in a reasonable timeframe.

Still business and industry in Indiana and across the nation continue to be whipped by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with regulations that are grossly unfair and frequently tightened on a whim. All the vast improvements go unnoticed and the goalposts keep moving further and further away. Ironically, as our ozone levels have declined, the incidence of childhood asthma has actually increased.

The impact of EPA’s pending controls is real and will cost every business and person that uses electricity. Yet there is no real environmental benefit that will be realized. Industry in the U.S. and Indiana has spent billions of dollars installing expensive pollution control equipment. The data clearly shows that our emissions have substantially decreased. In other words, we’ve pretty much squeezed everything out of the ozone orange.

Over the many years, Earth Day has helped bring attention to industry practices that needed scrutiny. That was a very good thing. But the EPA is taking its efforts too far. It’s time for all of us to take a deep breath and exhale. And you know what? We can do that outside today because the air is so much cleaner.

Postsecondary Pathways Help Students Achieve Success; Registration Opportunities Coming to Batesville, Muncie

wMaking connections. It’s important to do so in so many ways. I’ll spare you the analogies in getting right to the point that tying education to careers — in other words showing students how their time in the classroom can lead to workplace success — is one of the most critical connections.

The Indiana Chamber is pleased to part with a variety of organizations, led by the Indiana Youth Institute, in presenting regional Postsecondary Pathways programs in 2015. Two successful events took place in late 2014 at Subaru of Indiana Automotive and the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center.

Registration is now open for two February programs:

  • February 11 at Batesville High School, including  a tour of Hillenbrand, Inc.
  • February 18 at Ivy Tech Community College in Muncie with a tour of Magna Powertrain, Inc.

Educators, employers, youth-serving professionals and government leaders come together at each daylong event. The goal: Enhance the ability to educate and train students to successfully pursue the postsecondary careers that exist within the region and state.

Additional program partners include: the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning at the University of Indianapolis, Indiana’s Education Roundtable, the Indiana Works Councils, Ivy Tech and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Linking Veterans With Jobs and More

sThe Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs will be visiting eight Hoosier communities over the next several weeks, holding Community Outreach events that will offer veterans, active duty members and their dependents opportunities to connect with services and prospective employers.

All events are free. Registration is requested for planning purposes. Each event will be held from 1:00-6:00 p.m. (local time) in the following communities:

  • October 27 – Valparaiso – Porter County Expo Center, 215 E. Division Road, Valparaiso. Register
  • October 28 – South Bend – Ivy Tech Community College, 220 Dean Johnson Blvd, South Bend. Register 
  • October 29 – Ft. Wayne – Ivy Tech Community College, Coliseum Campus, Room 1640, Fort Wayne. Register
  • November 6 – Terre Haute – Ivy Tech Community College Terre Haute Main Campus, The Community Room, 8000 South Education Drive, Terre Haute. Register
  • November 13 – Bloomington – Ivy Tech Community College, 200 Daniels Way, Hoosier Times Student Commons, Bloomington. Register
  • November 20 – Columbus – Ivy Tech Community College, 4475 Central Avenue, Columbus Learning Center, Columbus. Register
  • December 4 – Lafayette – Ivy Tech Community College, Grand Hallway, 3101 S. Creasy Lane, Lafayette. Register
  • December 9 – Kokomo – Indiana Wesleyan, Kokomo Education and Conference Center, 1916 East Markland Avenue, Kokomo. Register

Additional outreach events will be planned for Muncie, New Albany, Bedford and Jasper. Those interested in attending events in these communities can find more information here or call (800) 400-4520.

“Each event will provide information and assistance with VA benefits, claims processing, remission of fees and even what to do if someone wants to enroll or return to college,” said Deanna Pugh, Director of Veterans Employment and Education. “The Indiana State Police, Dish, NiSource, United States Postal Service, Kroger and Lowes will be among the companies and organizations looking to hire employees to work in these communities.

“We will also offer Dale Carnegie sessions to help veterans prepare for interviews. We’re very excited about connecting our resources to our veteran communities and helping link those who have served our country with the many services designed specifically to assist them.”

A new state law that took effect July, 1, 2014, allows for approximately 26,000 post-911 veterans to apply for assistance through the Military Family Relief Fund. This new law eliminates the three-year restriction on access to the fund, which provides grants that may be used for needs such as food, housing, utilities, medical services, transportation and other essential family expenses. The Military Family Relief Fund has a balance of more than $7 million and lifting the cap will ensure those funds are available to support Hoosier veterans and their families.

Since its establishment in 1945, the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) has remained focused on aiding and assisting “Hoosier” veterans, and qualified family members or survivors, who are eligible for benefits or advantages provided by Indiana and the U.S. government.

Ball State’s Namesakes Subjects of New Documentary to Premiere Sept. 25

Ball State University has become a state institution with quite a reputation for producing very skilled graduates. But you might not know much about its history. A group of students hope to remedy that with a new film project. Ball State reports:

A student-produced documentary will explore the impact the five Ball brothers have had on east central Indiana since the 1880s, when they moved their glass manufacturing business from Buffalo to Muncie — transforming the community into an industrial force in the Midwest. “A Legacy Etched in Glass: The Ball Brothers in Muncie” is an immersive learning project by Ball State University under the direction of Chris Flook, a telecommunications instructor. The film explores the lives of the five brothers, the family legacy in Muncie and the core values that propelled them to success: hard work, philanthropy, entrepreneurship and beneficence. The story weaves cinematography, motion graphic animation and archived material with interviews from historians. Building their factories on the south of side of Muncie, the Ball brothers expanded their operations enormously over several decades in the early 20th century. Even after the natural gas ran out, Ball Corp. continued to produce glass in Muncie well into the 20th century. Ball Corp. spun off two enterprises — today known as Jarden and the Ardagh Group — before moving fully to Colorado in the late 1990s. Ball Corp. currently focuses on avionics and beverage container manufacturing. “Legacy” not only explores the lives of all five brothers, their wives and other family members, but it also explores the wide-ranging philanthropic efforts of the family in Muncie over the past 120 years. The documentary will have its public premiere at 6 p.m. Sept. 25 at Minnetrista.

Watch a preview of the documentary, and learn more about the project online.

Chris Flook, who also serves as executive producer, may be reached at caflook@bsu.edu or 765-730-0841.

Muncie’s Knapp Supply Marks 140 Years in Business (Public/Customers Invited to Celebration)

Muncie’s Knapp Supply is celebrating an impressive 140 years of serving its customers on Sept. 12. The company, which has 32 employees, is marking the anniversary with a big party and its customers and the public are invited. Here are the details:

  • When: Friday, Sept. 12
  • Where: Knapp Supply office, 420 S. Ohio Ave., Muncie
  • Time: noon – 8 p.m.
  • RSVP to: dstanley@knappsupply.com or (765) 288-1893

We also spoke with David Stanley, Knapp Supply’s director of sales and marketing, to learn more about this storied Hoosier company.

Tell us about the history of Knapp Supply:

“Our founder, Capt. Alexander Knapp, was a Civil War veteran who was wounded in Georgia — in the Battle of Chickamauga, I think. He came back to Union City to open a plumbers’ steam and gas center supply house in 1874. He operated that into the early 1900s, selling everything from black pipe fittings to terra cotta pots and vases. He was sort of diverse in the things he sold.

Then the company moved to Muncie in 1926, because it was more of a hub of industry, and to cater to some of our industrial clients at that time.”

What do you sell today?

“Today, we’re basically a distributor of plumbing supplies, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, and industrial supplies.”

With so much longevity, you’re obviously doing something right. What sets Knapp Supply apart from others in the industry?

“From reading and talking to different wholesalers, (our strength is) that we’ve been able to adapt quickly to changing times. Going back to the housing crunch (when houses were built at a slower rate), we were already heavily into the remodeling business at the time so we could roll right over. We were so versed in new construction years ago, we knew what people had installed and we could jump into the remodeling business.

And our employees (are a great asset). We have well over 500 years with the company in these thirty-some people. Many people have been here for many years – myself for 27 years, and our owner for 37 years. Our employees just have a wealth of knowledge.”

And what is it that makes staff stay with the company for so long?

“It’s a family atmosphere and we all get along really well. It’s a good, steady job with fair pay, health insurance, life insurance, all those things that add up – and it’s operated by a local family that takes big pride in helping their employees.”

How beneficial is it to be in Muncie?

“We operate in a daily delivery service of about 125 miles around Muncie. So from that we stretch up toward Valparaiso, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and Bloomington – being centrally located in the Indiana/Ohio area allows us to get material out fast and provide good service.”

Tell us what will be happening at your Sept. 12 customer appreciation celebration:

“Without our customers, we obviously wouldn’t be here. We want to give back to them; we have customers who are the third and fourth generation of families that keep coming here. All sorts of our vendors will set up expositions. There will also be show tents with brand new items so our customers can see new things that are coming out and even talk to some of the people that had a hand in engineering or manufacturing some of these items.

We’re going to have food (lunch and dinner), a band for their enjoyment, free drinks and all sorts of knick knacks that will commemorate 140 years.” 

If you plan to attend the celebration, just RSVP to David at dstanley@knappsupply.com.

HR: Flex Work Environments Can Benefit All — and Nominate Your HR Pro of 2014

Jill Lehman, the vice president of administration and chief people officer for Muncie-based Ontario Systems, was the 2013 Ogletree Deakins Human Resources Professional of the Year. She penned a web exclusive column for BizVoice about the benefits of a flex work environment.

(NOTE: Nominations for the 2014 award are being accepted through March 3. The award will be presented April 30 at the Indiana Chamber’s 50th Annual Human Resources Conference. Additional details and nomination form are available here.)

Lehman writes:

We all make New Year resolutions, usually to lose weight, clean out the attic or something else of the same ilk. But this year, I propose we consider a business resolution geared toward increased engagement, retention and productivity among employees.

All three can be achieved at once with a more flexible work environment; that is, giving your staff more control over their work time and schedules. That might be a scary thought, but I assure you the advantages of the practice outweigh the drawbacks for many businesses.

Workplace flexibility makes the most sense for executives who believe in three principles:
1)    Creativity, innovative spirit and quality are more important than location
2)    Associates need to be energized, engaged and successful both at work and at home
3)    Energy leads to improved morale, increased productivity, better service and reduced turnover

Traditionally, flex has meant variable hours or part-time work. But today, we’ve evolved to discussing an effective workplace where realistic work patterns are agreed upon by employers and employees in an effort to meet the needs of both. Three approaches are typically considered:

Formal Flex.  Formal work arrangements (paid time off, leave of absence, transitional schedules and full-time telework, for example) tracked and managed by supervisors and human resources, create a framework for employees to arrange their own schedule.

Informal Flex.  Ensuring efficiency without formal arrangements between associates and supervisors might include slight modifications to work hours or location.

Occasional Flex.  Occasional, brief flex time as life happens, starting with an associate’s timely request to their supervisor to remain at home with good cause. Each approach has a similar set of risks and obstacles: Will individuals abuse the system and make life harder for others in the organization? Will business be disrupted? Will there be a perception of favoritism attributed to supervisors? Admittedly, some operations simply may not be suited to broad approach flex work arrangements. Weighing the risk and reward is an important exercise.

But when you consider that most workers spend more time at their job than with their family, it’s a risk worth exploring. Workplace flexibility should be designed to create an environment recognizing that commitment, while supporting associates as they balance their work and personal lives.

For more information on workplace flexibility, organizations such as World at Work, the Society of Human Resources and The Families and Work Institute have additional information including surveys and guidance on crafting programs.

Why Consolidation is Right for Muncie/Delaware County

James Gooden, a Muncie native and consultant for GEA Architects, penned a thoughtful column for the The Star Press contending the time has come for Muncie and Delaware County to merge into a single unit of local government. The Indiana Chamber has been working to reduce government duplication statewide for years now, and we’re happy to see this getting more press.

Why should we merge Muncie and Delaware County into a single unit of local government?

It should be done because the current form is archaic and it is not in sync with present or future lifestyles and employment trends. Along with having high value for education, quality health and wellness facilities, and lifestyle opportunities, communities with effective and creative government are attractive as places to work and live: All are appealing traits to potential investors.

It bears recognizing that effort to bring new investment to ECI in no way diminishes the importance of the significant roll that current manufacturing, agriculture, retail and service sectors play in our economy. All are poised for growth. While, now, only about 1 percent of the county’s workforce is engaged in farming the land, the diverse business of agriculture stands out because it has been a mainstay since the pioneer days of the 19th century, but the industry has changed with the times — local government has not.

Town and country are today a homogenized community. Yet, we still operate local government in a horse-and-buggy fashion and that prompts a couple of pertinent examples. Recently, the rebuilt West Jackson Street bridge, opened to traffic after a long closure. In a related Star Press article, County commissioner Todd Donati pointed out that all bridges (except those carrying state highways) are constructed and maintained by the county. Conversely, the streets (except those carrying state highways) leading to and away from the bridges in Muncie are constructed and maintained by the city. How absurd is that (?)