Northern Indiana Company Enlists Hoosier Painter to Illustrate Its History

Justin Vining, a popular professional artist in Indianapolis (originally from Etna Green), created a remarkable mural depicting the history of Urschel Laboratories at the company’s new global headquarters in Chesterton. This time lapse video shows the painstaking process that goes into working on such a comprehensive piece of art.

Vining relocated to the area for three months in order to complete the mural.

Indiana Chamber is Proud to Honor Our Volunteers of the Year Today

Our Indiana Chamber board members gathered in Indianapolis today and honored three volunteers of the year whose efforts have made a tremendous impact on our organization.

Phil Bounsall
Walker (Indianapolis)
A financial background allows Bounsall to not only guide a strong organization but serve the Indiana Chamber as treasurer and leader of the finance and audit committee. A 2013-2014 challenge included a balanced approach in winding down the organization’s defined benefit pension plan.

Bounsall brings leadership and clear communication to the table no matter the issue.

“The more successful the businesses are in the community, the more vibrant the community will be. The more opportunities we have to improve education. The more opportunities we have to provide better health care for people. Everything works better in a community when the business community is vibrant.”

Jill Ritchie
Indiana Beverage (Valparaiso)
Jill Ritchie has called Northwest Indiana home since 2008. Through her work on the Indiana Chamber board and several policy committees, as well as being an Indiana Vision 2025 regional partner, she strives to connect that part of the state with broader goals and initiatives.

The alignment with the Chamber allows her to be an advocate – just as she is each day in her legal and government affairs work.

“Organizations like the Indiana Chamber are really important. The key to businesses’ success is providing family-sustaining jobs and the Chamber creates an environment in which that can occur.”

Heather Wilson
Frost Brown Todd (Indianapolis)
From chairing the Civil Justice Committee to helping expand the annual Human Resources Conference, Wilson has worked to assist Indiana Chamber members over the past eight years.

She brings the same energy she carries in serving her clients to these volunteer efforts.

“I have a passion for helping employers and businesses – that’s what I love to do. I want businesses to understand what their obligations are from a legal standpoint. And then, if there’s something in statute for example that is not fair or is being interpreted in kind of an unfair way, then having the opportunity to make change (is critical).”

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.

Hoosier Painter Discovers Art of Social Media Marketing

Indy residents strolling down the Monon Trail in Broad Ripple this summer may see a man on his front lawn in a white T-shirt covered in paint (one could argue getting it on your Hanes V-neck is much safer than eating it, like I did as a child — and I prefer blues, thanks for asking). This painter is Etna Green (Kosciusko County) native Justin Vining. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because you might be one of his many, many fans on Facebook.

Vining, a graduate of Purdue and Valparaiso University’s law school, has built such a huge fan base — largely using social media — that he recently quit his job as a corporate head hunter to become a full-time painter. He credits his newfound autonomy to his ability to take the utmost advantage of marketing tools on Facebook.

"Before the suggest-a-(fan page) button was launched on Facebook (in 2009), I had around 500 fans," he says. "Then I just hit up my friends (to suggest him to others) and would incentivize people as well with either free paintings or even money.

"I don’t think it’s as effective as it once was, so part of the trick was using that tool right when it came out. That kind of goes to the overall gist of social media; be in tune with what’s happening today and how to best utilize the changes that occur so frequently."

He notes that giving away paintings to those who recommended him was quite useful in building recognition and rapport.

"It’s such an invasive thing to do — to ask people to endorse something they may not know a whole lot about, so for me the trick was giving away something of big value," Vining explains. "That made them willing to do something a little more personal."

Vining also credits targeted advertising through Facebook to art gallery owners, professional artists, art teachers, etc.

"But that was when you could advertise on Facebook for pennies on the dollar; now it’s a lot more expensive," he contends. "It’s not that cost effective anymore."

In the span of two years, Vining’s Facebook fan base has jumped from around 500 to over 10,100. He places the source breakdown of his Facebook fans as follows:

  • 6,000 – 7,000 from the suggest-a-fan page button from Facebook
  • 1,000 – 1,500 from targeted advertising on Facebook
  • 500 – 1,000 from organic growth
  • 500 from Twitter

"Part of it is also about engaging the fans," Vining says. "Pretty much anybody that leaves a comment — positive or negative — I try to respond to. It takes probably 30 minutes to an hour each day to do that. But just this morning, I was responding to this guy and — since you can now see your message history on Facebook — I realized I’d actually sent him a note two years ago. So I was able to thank him for his continued support."

He adds, "I have a 3% interaction rate — but with 10,000 people, that’s a lot."

When addressing the effectiveness of social media, Vining relays that he’s yet to find much benefit from LinkedIn, with Facebook and Twitter being his core focus.

"Twitter and Facebook are quite different," he says. "I’ll post something on Twitter and I won’t get much interaction at all, but it seems like the bit of interaction I get is like bits of gold. But on Facebook, I’ll post the same things and get tons of interaction, but it’s more surface level. It’s weird. But following up with all those people is fun and can lead to some really cool conversations — and through that I’ve found that there are some pretty established artists who have been following my work for years."

Vining, who indicated all but several of his current paintings are sold or spoken for, typically paints 24 X 48-inch arcylic work (both color and black & white), normally running $500.  He also offers 16 X 22-inch marker drawings for $40.

His work can be found at www.justinvining.com;  www.facebook.com/justinvining; and on Twitter @justinvining. He’s also offered business advice for other artists at Northwest Indiana Creative.

There is Such a Thing as a Free Lunch — and More

When Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar wants to buy you lunch, you should take advantage of the opportunity. Now, don’t misinterpret that to mean the leader of the state’s largest broad-based business association doesn’t spring for a good meal every now and then.

Brinegar is buying lunch for Chamber members in six communities across the state this summer. He and other Chamber staff are coming to your town to share the latest on Chamber programs and benefits, important legislative accomplishments and more. Your questions and feedback are always welcome.

Where’s the action this summer? It starts June 14 in Fort Wayne, with subsequent events in Evansville, New Albany, Indianapolis, South Bend and Valparaiso. Check out the details here — and enjoy that lunch, networking with local leaders and Indiana Chamber hospitality.

Ridin’ the Rails in Da Region

Our next BizVoice magazine (available online February 26) features four Northwest Indiana leaders talking about what it’s going to take for the Region to thrive economically. Extension of the South Shore rail service (a mainstay from South Bend to Chicago and stops inbetween) is part of the discussion, but the following didn’t make the final cut for the story.

Leigh Morris, who is chairman of the Northwest Indiana RDA (that’s Regional Development Authority) and oversees the Indiana Toll Road for the state Department of Transportation, noted the two proposed South Shore extensions are "from Hammond south through Munster and down to Lowell and Crown Point; the other one is an extension from the main line down to Valparaiso in Porter County."

As for the timelines, Morris adds, "Both of these projects are in the process of feasibility evaluations and studies. There are a variety of issues that have to be addressed. The RDA’s position is that both of these routes must be studied sumultaneously. We may do one before the other, but it is not one or the other; it’s both."

With existing rail corridors in place for both, "they could happen fairly expeditiously, within a five-year time frame. One or both could be well underway or even in operation in that time frame. A lot of that depends on being able to assemble the dollars that are involved (more than a billion through regional, state and federal resources).

The public reaction, in Porter County in particular, has been negative as the message about affordability (50% federal match) and economic development opportunities has been overshadowed by that nasty three letter word — tax.

Morris summarizes: "We’ve allowed people to think that we’re going to extend these railroad tracks down here, and there will be a bunch of people getting on the train and going to Chicago. It’s so much more than that. This is the catalyst that will cause major new investment and the creation of new sustainability in our communities."

On the passenger and freight side, Morris offers an interesting tidbit. "We have probably the single most congested piece of rail in the entire national on the Norfolk Southern between Porter, Indiana and Chicago." Stimulus funding is pending to address that.

Read this story and more from Northwest Indiana (and from both K-12 and higher education) in the March-April BizVoice.

The Show is Over … Until Next Year

I have now been a part of 60% of the Indiana Chamber’s 20 annual award dinners. OK, even my 10-year-old son (who sometimes has math homework that just doesn’t look familiar; OK, it befuddles me on occasion) would nail that simple little math problem without blinking an eye.

What is the Annual Awards Dinner? More than 1,000 people from across the state coming together to celebrate business. After all the economic turmoil of the past year, a little celebration was definitely in order. Sure we’ve got our challenges, but this is a great state with excellent people working hard to make a difference.

No celebration is complete without awards. Check out the BizVoice magazine stories on our winners (videos now available):

  • Business Leader of the Year: John Swisher of JBS United in Sheridan, a success story 53 years in the making
  • Government Leader of the Year: Stan Jones, former Indiana higher education commissioner and a strong advocate for expanding educational opportunities
  • Community of the Year: Valparaiso for mixing public and private sector investment in improving the city’s entryways and infrastructure

The Capitol Steps, kings of political satire, made fun of all no matter their political persuasion. It was a simply hilarious show. If you missed it, mark November 9, 2010 on your calendars. It’s the 21st annual event, one week after our country’s midterm election, and we’ll have longtime journalist, author and all-around good guy Tom Brokaw offering his insights.

I’ll be there (assuming the Chamber still wants me) for lucky number 13 (60% of 20 = 12 for those who struggled with the math opening). Seriously, it’s a great event from start to finish (yeah, I know, I’m biased), but one you should take in for the experience. Trust me! You will enjoy.

Catching the Bus Still a Priority

In today’s fast-paced, high-tech world, is bus transportation still important? Most major cities would answer a quick yes, as will some smaller communities. Take Valparaiso, the Indiana Chamber’s 2009 Community of the Year.

In an interview with city and community leaders (the story will be in BizVoice magazine and available online on November 10), Mayor Jon Costas explained a partnership with Valparaiso University that produced the V line. The city, with some financial support from the university, runs the service, which transports students and others requiring access to campus. Work is in progress to try and get the line extended eastward to the rapidly growing Ivy Tech Community College facility.

A commuter bus system to Chicago was also put into place earlier this year. Growth has been slow but steady, with a target of 100 daily riders within five years.

It’s all about working together and expanding opportunities for residents, Costas explains.

Valparaiso will be honored, along with the to-be-announced Business Leader of the Year and Government Leader of the Year, at the Chamber’s 20th Annual Awards Dinner on November 10.

Valpo, Recycling … and Ringo?

As a member of my beloved Beatles, Ringo Starr holds a special place in my heart. Granted, he’s not my favorite member (that distinction goes to Mr. McCartney), but his quirkiness is decidedly endearing.

As Ringo celebrated his birthday earlier this month and his hit, “It Don’t Come Easy” serenaded me home from work, I reflected on how that statement applies to my cooking skills (it wasn’t my proudest moment when Tater Tots caught fire in the oven.)  Fortunately, however, some things do come easy in life – like making an impact in the recycling world.

Take Northwest Indiana, for example. People are working hard to reduce waste and advance sustainable construction, but many of their initiatives include things that are easy to do (turning off lights before leaving the office, participating in curbside recycling). The city of Valparaiso diverts 49% of residential trash away from landfills through recycling. (Heck, if you’re going to take out the trash anyway, why not toss a few recyclables into a bin?)

Other green initiatives taking place in the region include redevelopment of the Lake Michigan lakefront and a partnership between the city of Valparaiso and a beer wholesaler to enhance environmental stewardship.

Learn more about these exciting developments in the current issue of BizVoice® magazine.

IBRG Makes Endorsement to Succeed Weatherwax

In the Indiana Senate race to succeed Sen. Tom Weatherwax, Indiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG) — the political arm of the Indiana Chamber — has endorsed Randy Head (SD18 – Logansport).

SD18 is nearly a 63% base Republican district and is the 17th most Republican senate district in the state. In 2004, George W. Bush received 70.4% of the vote and gubernatorial candidate Mitch Daniels received 60.4% of the vote. It is our assessment that this will not be a truly competitive race and that Randy Head will win on November 4. The one and only truly competitive senate race remains to be SD5 where Larry Balmer (Plymouth) is challenging Sen. Ed Charbonneau (Valparaiso).

Randy Head is a deputy prosecuting attorney for Cass County. He earned his undergraduate degree from Wabash College and his law degree from Indiana University.

To view a complete list of all IBRG endorsed candidates for 2008, please visit IBRG’s web site or directly open this PDF.