What can $500,000 and a lot of publicity do for a small city of 10,000 people in Indiana?
That’s what the team from the Small Business Revolution – Main Street series wanted to know when it revisited Wabash to see the impact of the program one year after the city won the contest.
For a quick recap on what happened in Wabash and some of the results a year later, watch this video of the team returning to the city:
The second season, which just debuted, focuses on Bristol Borough, Pennsylvania. Deluxe Corporation, which created the contest, is accepting nominations for the third season of the video series and a chance to win a $500,000 investment for your town and small businesses.
The series stars Robert Herjavec from Shark Tank, who gives the winning town and its small businesses one-on-one guidance, while upgrading public spaces and access to marketing and business services from Deluxe. The town’s business owners are the focus of individual episodes.
Nominations are open through October 19 and the public will determine the winner through voting. To be eligible, the city or town must have less than 50,000 residents. Anyone can nominate a town (even if they don’t live there).
I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on a number of impactful stories during my time at the Indiana Chamber and as part of the BizVoice® magazine team. One of the favorites was helping introduce the Promise Indiana program in 2015.
In the last year, the number of students with Promise college savings accounts has increased from 5,000 to over 10,000, with deposit activity going from $800,000 to more than $2.7 million. These are not only providing dollars but incentives for young people to realize the postsecondary dream.
What started in Wabash County now has 14 counties activated. An additional 14 are applying to participate. Learn more.
Local efforts are what make Promise programs successful, with community foundations and business leaders part of the success equation. An upcoming event – the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance’s Promise Indiana Deep Dive Day – explains how it works.
Conner Prairie is the location. February 23 is the date. The event is free, but registration is required. Details and registration.
As an assistant principal with Wabash City Schools, Jason Callahan recalls sitting and watching parents “who were signing their 16-year-old kids out from school – and how empty that feels. You feel like you just lost this kid for life, and they’re only 16.”
In reality, those students were “lost” years before their official withdrawal from school. Lost because there was no recognition of the power of education or perceived hope for a bright future.
Today, in Wabash County and three other northeastern Indiana locales (and maybe someday throughout the state and beyond) communities are making a “promise” to prevent that from happening.
Why is that promise so important?
“It really is an opportunity for us to tell kids in our community that we care about them, that we care about their education,” says Casey Weimer, CEO of the Cole Family YMCA – the convening agency for the Promise program in Noble and LaGrange counties. “That we don’t want the circumstances that kids have in their lives or where they come from to determine their futures. Dream as big as they want to dream.”
Adds Jill Ostrem, senior vice president of health and well-being at Parkview Health (a financial supporter of the Promise initiative in its four current counties, including Whitley): “It’s been amazing – to make sure kids know anything is possible. Every child’s future should only be determined by their potential.”
I went to Wabash (the city, not the college) recently. At one point (1985-88), I was in Wabash full time as sports editor of the local newspaper. Among the highlights during that time: a still celebrated 1986 state baseball championship.
But I digress. The reason for this visit to Wabash was for an upcoming BizVoice magazine story on the Wabash County Promise. And if young, energetic leaders have their way — and there is no reason to doubt them — the program to drive postsecondary educational attainment will one day be the Indiana Promise.
The Promise begins with opening 529 college savings accounts for young students (kindergarten through third grade). It continues with touch points that engage students and parents. It includes a Walk Into My Future day that brings thousands of young people to a college campus.
The initial success is laudable. The local leaders I spoke with know they must continue the work. One, Parker Beauchamp, told me about speaking on campus (with the words really applying to the entire program): “It was about pumping those kids up, having them be part of something positive and letting them have a say in their future.”
The full story will be the in March-April BizVoice, which will include more articles on business-education connections and the possibilities that emerge through strong partnerships.
Those words have echoed in my mind since I traveled to Wabash in early 2008 for a BizVoice® magazine story about business leader (and local legend) Richard Ford. Ford took me on a heartfelt tour of the city and the endeavors (many revolving around downtown revitalization and the arts) he passionately was steering.
Entrepreneurism is “in Ford’s blood.” His grandfather founded the Ford Meter Box Company – a manufacturer of water meter equipment located in Wabash with clients across the globe – and his great-grandfather was a Civil War surgeon who started a home-based physician’s practice in the area. Pretty cool.
“They want to go back.”
An accompanying BizVoice® story about downtown revitalization efforts featured restoration of the former Red Apple Inn, reborn on March 17, 2010 as Charley Creek Inn (Richard Ford founded the Charley Creek Foundation, which led the project). The historic building – which features elegant guest rooms, event planning accommodations and retail shops – has become a popular destination.
Satisfied customers earned the hotel a 2012 TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence award. Here’s an excerpt from the announcement:
Charley Creek Inn, a renovated boutique hotel, recently announced that it has received a TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence award. The award, which honors hospitality excellence, is given only to establishments that consistently achieve outstanding traveler reviews on TripAdvisor, and is extended to qualifying businesses worldwide. Approximately 10% of accommodations listed on TripAdvisor receive this prestigious award.
To qualify for the Certificate of Excellence, businesses must maintain an overall rating of four or higher, out of a possible five, as reviewed by travelers on TripAdvisor. Additional criteria include the volume of reviews received within the last 12 months.
Congratulations Charley Creek Inn! Something tells me I’ll be seeing you soon.
I don’t know about you, but starting the workday at 5:30 a.m. isn’t typical for me. I know it’s shameful, but that snooze button on the alarm is both friend and foe in the wee morning hours. Awaking earlier than usual for a drive to Wabash (for an early morning appointment and subsequent engagements), however, was more than worth it.
What brought me there were interviews for the community focus package of BizVoice®. One of the people I met was Richard Ford, a Wabash-born philanthropist whose contributions to the arts and historic preservation have made an impact locally, nationally and beyond. He treated me to a downtown tour of Wabash to see various revitalization projects, many of which he is leading.
Highlights included the Dr. James Ford Historic Home (think Civil War and a physician’s practice), the Wabash County Historical Museum and the Honeywell Center (you would be hard-pressed to find facilities the quality of these two in similar-sized communities around the country).
Read the article about Richard Ford to see how he is helping shape Wabash’s future.