Closing the Gender Gap

IWIT seeks to recruit more women and girls to STEM jobs

By Susan Hoskins Miller

You might not expect to find an 1830s interactive history park involved in initiatives to attract girls and women to careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) but that’s exactly what Conner Prairie Interactive History Park has been doing for the past four years.

“We’re moving beyond bonnets and butter churns,” Conner Prairie Program Developer Gail Brown said. “We’re using the history of today to help build history for tomorrow. History is full of science and engineering historic stories.”

Conner Prairie has hosted the Passport to High Tech event for the past four years that brings elementary school-age girls to the museum to learn about STEM careers. Exhibits, speakers, activities and women who already work in STEM careers are on hand to interact with the girls to educate them on all the possibilities that exist right now and to encourage them to think about careers in these fields.

“We hope to inspire them to enter STEM careers by highlighting what’s going on here in central Indiana,” Brown said.

On Aug. 17, Conner Prairie is co-sponsoring an event on the campus of the University of Indianapolis called “Ignite Your Super Power,” focusing on 600 middle school girls from Warren Township and IPS schools.

“They will see 100 different exhibits, hear speakers, learn about companies, colleges, organizations and other program providers,” Brown said. “We will be highlighting women workers who will be role models or mentors to inspire girls to show them how to get there. “

Brown said the event won’t focus only what the girls can look forward to in their futures, but show them ways to get involved right now through things like summer camps, joining organizations, volunteering and student internships.

“We want to light that fire, show them a path and keep them involved,” she said. “Companies have materials to give to teachers to make bridges available for the girls to build their curiosity for STEM and keep their passion alive.”

Continue Reading

Net Gain

Topgolf brings its high-tech game to the county’s center of golf

By John Cinnamon

There are currently 10 (TEN!) golf courses within a five-mile radius of 116th Street & I-69, one of the densest concentrations of golf in the state.  So Topgolf – a high-tech driving range and entertainment complex now under construction – is surrounded by fans. Add in a highly visible location at one of the county’s busiest highway intersections and its clear why Topgolf chose Fishers for their first Indiana facility.

“Indianapolis has been key on our map,” said Morgan Wallace, Senior Communications Specialist with Topgolf.  “It’s rare that we get a location right in a downtown area, so we usually like to work at the strong suburbs around the cities, and Fishers was a very centralized location in the state with its proximity to Indianapolis.  It was the perfect fit for us.”


Although golf is the central theme, Topgolf – with 33 venues across the country and around the world – is not your father’s driving range.  The company bills itself as golf-entertainment-complex-meets-neighborhood-hangout, focusing strongly on the social aspect. 

“We have great food, great music, great entertainment, as well as obviously the golf game,” said Wallace.  “On any given day you’ll see everyone from a five-year-old learning to swing a golf club, all the way up the older generation.  And in between, people who aren’t really into golf but have fun coming to Topgolf.” 

The three-story structure will feature 102 climate-controlled hitting bays, each with seating for six and high definition TVs.  Technology is integral to Topgolf.  The golf balls are outfitted with microchips that, when reaching the multicolored electronic targets in the landing area, relay the players’ distance and accuracy to the screens in each of the bays while playing point-scoring golf games.

Continue Reading

Very Early Adopter - Sunbeam Development invested early and often

A chance investment in the mid-1960s led Miami-based Sunbeam Television to become a major player in the development of Fishers.

Fishers MapFounder Sidney Ansin purchased 640 acres in Indianapolis in 1967, just north of Castleton to the Marion-Hamilton counties border, along Allisonville Road. As the area developed, Sunbeam Television launched Sunbeam Development Corporation, and turned its attention to the next big thing.

“That’s what got them into the Indianapolis market,” said Ken Kern, director of properties for Sunbeam Development Corporation. “The next obvious place after developing Castleton area was Fishers.”

Flexible Zoning

Sunbeam found the seller of a choice location in the small town. The company initially purchased 400 acres from the Reynolds family east of I-69, from south of 106th Street to north of 116th Street.

USA Funds, at the time headquartered in Indianapolis, approached Sunbeam about the property. Then 300 more acres became available, and USA Funds (now Navient) was built and its headquarters moved to Fishers, in 1988. Forum Credit Union soon followed, and Sunbeam bought almost-400 more acres.

“The IKEA location has always been the gem of our properties,” Kern explained, of the high-profile property south of 116th Street. While Sunbeam retains ownership of most of their holdings, working with IKEA was a different story.

“The IKEAs of the world don’t want to lease, they want to buy. In this case, we thought that selling the site to them, the surrounding area would be more valuable,” Kern said.

Kern remembers how crowds packed the tiny former town hall, across 116th Street from the current municipal complex, in 1988 to hear how developers hoped to create something of value in the wide-open fields.

“We went to the town (Fishers) and said “We like this area, it looks like a good place. We think you want to grow,” Kern recalled. “The town council gave us flexible zoning package.”

Sunbeam thought it would be mutually beneficial to have options when it came to development, especially since their entry to the Fishers market came so early in what would become an explosion of growth.

“When it’s a small community like that, we’ve got this great land, what do we want to do with it?” Kern said. “It was just kind of a moving target; we’ll just have to see.”

Continue Reading

Preserving our Railroad Heritage

ITM is an unconventional museum

ITM MuseumUnlike most museums where you visit a building and walk through looking at exhibits, the Indiana Transportation Museum’s main “building” has always been the Nickel Plate railroad track.

Exhibits are the historic trains that visitors ride, like the Indiana State Fair Train and the Polar Bear Express. The Museum seeks to give its visitors the experience of public transportation in the 20th century, linking central Indiana destinations and cultural experiences.

An added benefit for Hamilton County is the museum’s role as a tourist attraction. In a 2015 survey, museum visitors reported directly spending over $678,000 with local businesses. 6 in 10 visitors live outside Hamilton County and 1 in 5 live outside the metro area or out of state.

Much of the museum’s work that isn’t readily visible is the historic preservation work volunteers do on the locomotives and rail cars in its collection. The work is done inside the buildings in Forest Park. Visitors can watch when the museum is open.

32,000 visitors

The museum’s collection includes diesel and electric engines, trolleys, streetcars, interurban cars, passenger cars and freight cars, all of which were in use during the 1930’s to 1950’s.

Arguably the most famous item in the museum’s collection is the Nickel Plate steam locomotive number 587 that is on the National Historic Register. The engine was built in 1918 by Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia. A detailed history of the 587, including a year-by-year account of the progress of its latest million-dollar restoration, can be found on its website at this address:

Another storied car lives in one of the museum’s buildings – The Florida East Coast Car #90, nicknamed The Flagler Car. On loan from the Hulman Family Foundation, it is exhibited on special occasions so visitors can enjoy its craftsmanship. The car was originally the private railroad car of Henry Flagler, a Florida developer, and was built in 1898. Tony Hulman, founder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, gave the car to his wife as a gift in 1969.

The majority of the museum’s income is earned through the sale of train tickets, supplemented with grants and donations. It receives no operating support from taxpayers.

The museum’s board and its volunteers are local professionals. They are not so much railroad or history enthusiasts as people motivated to build a distinctive institution for Hamilton County and central Indiana.

The museum’s business model calls for recruiting an executive director, adding key paid staff and expanding to year-round operation. Up to a dozen part timers are hired for the busiest events each season. During the Fair Train and Christmas Polar Bear Express seasons, there can be as many as 200 unpaid volunteers working.

This staff serves about 32,000 visitors every year for various excursions running on the 37-mile track between Indianapolis and Tipton. Gross income for operations in 2015 was $705,000, board secretary Craig Presler said. Board President Jeff Kehler said it was their best revenue year ever and permitted the museum to retire outstanding debt, with money in the bank to start 2016. The museum also received a gift of more than $450,000 from the estate of ITM member Oliver B. Daugherty. The bequest was used to establish an endowment managed by the Central Indiana Community Foundation.

Continue Reading

Early Adopter - Meyer Najem anchors new development

Meyer Najem CorporationThe change to the landscape of downtown Fishers, known as the Nickel Plate District, includes the construction of new headquarters for longtime Fishers construction company, Meyer Najem Corporation.

Located on Lantern Road, near the intersection with Commercial Drive, the construction firm was founded in 1987 by Karl Meyer and Anthony Najem. Originally located on Binford Boulevard in Indianapolis, it moved to Fishers in 1997, to 131st Street east of Ind. 37.

Destination Downtown

The new headquarters anchors the northeast part of the downtown area, across the railroad tracks from the Fishers branch of Hamilton East Public Library and the municipal complex.

It’s an area that’s been under construction for several years, as Fishers has refined its vision for a downtown that’s not only a place to live and work, but a destination.

Anthony NajemAnthony Najem, co-founder and CEO of Meyer Najem, says the company’s first project in Fishers was its own office space.

“A good friend of ours had developed an office park in Fishers, and since it was a fast-growing community, we felt that it would be a good investment and a great place to live and raise a family,” Najem said.

The result was a 42,000-square-foot office flex warehouse building in the Parkside complex that Meyer Najem shared with other companies. As the years passed, the firm felt the squeeze that comes from rapid growth, and outgrew their space.

“Mayor (Scott) Fadness approached us with building a new headquarters in downtown Fishers,” explained Najem. “Also, Fishers needed additional space for the Launch 2.0 tech initiative for companies that were growing, so we developed a 40,000-square-foot office building to accommodate both needs.”

The building includes a bicycle garage, shower facility and an outdoor patio that backs up to pedestrian and bike trails. The lobby is open to the Nickel Plate artists to display their works, and is part of the Nickel Plate Arts Trail that runs from Tipton to Fishers.

High Tech

Fishers subleases the space to innovative tech companies. Current tenants include Emplify, 12 Stars Media, a video production company, and QuadMed, which provides primary health care and wellness programs for City of Fishers employees.

The new headquarters was constructed using sustainable building practices.“The Nickel Plate Office Building has an Energy Star rating and was designed using locally manufactured and harvested materials,” Najem said.

Meyer Najem has 98 employees. Current projects near the Nickel Plate District include an addition and renovation to DeVeau’s School of Gymnastics on Technology Drive, and the new Kroger at 116th St. and Allisonville Road, on the site of the recently demolished Marsh. Further east, the company is renovating Cumberland Road Elementary School and the Hamilton Southeastern Schools administration building.

By Jennifer A. Beikes

What’s Your Time Worth?

New business addresses one of life’s peskier annoyances

David Letterman made a running joke of waiting for the cable guy. Like so many other things, he got that right: it’s just plain annoying to spend hours waiting for someone to show up. Well, every annoyance provides an opportunity, and Ed Wroblewski is chasing it. For a price, one of his “waiters” will do the waiting for you. The question is: how much is it worth to you to not have to wait for the cable guy?

Everyone is busy

Wait 4U ServiceEd’s a Westfield resident with a full time job, a consultancy on the side and membership in the Westfield Running Club. He’s a busy guy and hates waiting for service providers as much as anyone.

“I imagined that I was not the only poor soul with this ‘problem’, he says. “Everyone is ‘busy’!” He imagined a service where a person could “buy some time” to free up his own time to do the things he wanted or needed to do. “Surely,” he thought, “there is a business that does this sort of thing. Surely, there isn’t! But there was going to be one.”

Ed launched Wait 4U Services about a year and a half ago with a simple goal of matching people who were short of time with others that had some extra time on their hands. He currently has nine “waiters,” who will show up at your home and wait for a service provider to show up, watch the worker do the work and lock the home when they leave. The price: $49/hour with a two-hour minimum.

Continue Reading

Sharing the Healthcare Burden

They’re not insurance, but health share plans are an ACA compliant solution

Christian co-share health plans are increasing in popularity as an alternative to traditional health insurance.

We live in an age of great divide in our country with lots of debate and disagreement over a wide variety of issues, high among them healthcare coverage. Some people feel the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, did not go far enough, while others think it went too far. There is a lot of talk about repealing and replacing it. Add to that the fact that several big health care insurers have announced they are pulling out of the ACA exchanges resulting in fewer plans to choose from, and those depending on ACA for coverage are left feeling anxious.

There is one thing that most people seem to agree on though and that is that the cost of healthcare coverage is still too high and continuing to climb out of control. Millions of people, especially those that are self-insured, are struggling to pay for plans with astronomical monthly price tags and high deductibles. Simply not buying healthcare coverage is no longer an option with the ACA mandate. So, thousands of people are turning to alternatives.

Continue Reading

The Flaw of Attraction

Research questions the value of tax incentives for economic development

The idea that a municipality must offer bait to lure new business to town is now common practice. Businesses have learned to play local governments against each other to gain favorable tax treatment. Last Summer, Ball State University economist Dr. Michael J. Hicks offered a contrarian view at a Westfield Chamber luncheon. Dr. Hicks consented to an email interview in this exchange conducted in December. It has been edited slightly for clarity and brevity.

Hamilton County Business Magazine: The gist of your presentation was that these incentives don’t work, at least not long-term. Can you elaborate?

Dr. Michael Hicks: There's no doubt that many factors play into business location decisions and effective tax rates are among those issues. Economic theory is very clear on this, but it is also true that few matters lend themselves so well to actually examining the numbers. And, as it turns out, businesses, like households, really care more about the value proposition between local services and taxation. Empirical research very clearly reports that the suite of capital based tax incentives does nothing to induce net employment growth or net business investment. The worst of these are abatements, followed by tax increment financing.

The reasons for this aren't too difficult to follow. First, abatements and TIF generally move tax revenues away from local government, or shift the cost to other local taxpayers. So, the special benefits that accrue to the recipient, actually come at the expense of other taxpayers. This alone dampens the net effect to the point that regional economies show no positive gains to tax incentives or TIF.

Continue Reading

Parker Mortgage: The Home Team

Noblesville couple finds fun in finance!

Parker Mortgage in Noblesville Indiana

To say that Parker Mortgage Team in Noblesville is not your typical mortgage broker is putting it mildly. The company, now in its 6th year, is owned and operated by Mike and Tawni Partin, an under 40 married couple, who have managed to take an industry that is normally dry and boring and turn it into a fun place to work. In fact, just a few years ago Parker Mortgage, a franchise of Finance of America, was voted one of the best places to work in the Indianapolis area.

A lot of this is due to the Partins’ unconventional management style, which includes considering everyone a team member, not an employee; engaging in lots of team events, incentive trips and outings; and hiring by committee.

Hang out and have fun

Their offices, currently located at Mill Top, a 150 year old remodeled Noblesville flour mill, are indicative of their style. Upon entering, you can’t help but be reminded of a chic New York-style warehouse space complete with brick walls, loft, and spiral staircase. You also can’t help but notice that they bring their Old English Sheepdog, Millie, to work with them every day as she is often the first to greet you. They named the business after another sheepdog, Parker, who passed away. “It seemed too arrogant to name it after ourselves,” says Mike.
Mike and Tawni, who have been married 14 years and have literally known each other since kindergarten, knocked around the mortgage and financial services industries for many years in different roles. A desire to get themselves out of debt led them to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University which they not only passed and incorporated in their lifestyle, but also led courses 15 times helping 200 families through the program.

The great recession in 2008, however, hit the Partins hard, since it began with the subprime mortgage crisis and both lost their jobs. They took that as a challenge, though, and not a defeat. Mike, who is the branch manager and in charge of sales started Parker Mortgage and then Tawni joined him later as Operations Manager.

Continue Reading

Brackets for Good: Channels Tournament Hype Toward Non-profits

On April 4, 2011 while most of Indiana focused on Butler University’s heartbreaking loss in the NCAA basketball championship game for the second year in a row, two Indianapolis marketing professionals – Matt McIntyre and Matt Duncan - were inspired by the spirit that brought the whole city together to support Butler’s team.

Brackets for Good

“Everyone in Indy was bleeding blue and white and it put a magnifying glass on this small school,” said McIntyre, who worked at the time with Fishers resident Duncan in the marketing department at MOBI, a software development company. “We knew that if we could figure out how to bottle this up, we could have a marketing phenomenon.” 

So, McIntyre and Duncan headed to the McIntyre’s basement while their wives stayed upstairs. “I had a whiteboard down there, so we started brainstorming ideas,” McIntyre said.

Voice of Reason

The men knew they wanted charities to benefit from whatever they ultimately came up with. While brainstorming, they realized they could only think of four Indianapolis not-for-profits and they knew there had to be more, so the first problem they set out to solve was how to help potential donors discover not-for-profits they hadn’t been aware of.

They ultimately came up with what became Brackets for Good, a fundraising championship tournament styled after the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament. Not-for-profit charities are the teams.

Continue Reading

Building a Workforce: Construction Industry Confronts Labor Shortage

“Consider the reality of today’s job market. We have a massive skills gap. Even with record unemployment, millions of skilled jobs are unfilled because no one is trained or willing to do them. Meanwhile unemployment among college graduates is at an all-time high, and the majority of those graduates with jobs are not even working in their field of study. Plus, they owe a trillion dollars in student loans. A trillion! And still, we push a four-year college degree as the best way for the most people to find a successful career?” - Mike Rowe, Host of TLC’s “Dirty Jobs” and founder of mikeroweWORKS, a PR campaign designed to reinvigorate the skilled trades.

While Hamilton County has, for the most part, recovered from the housing crisis of 2008, one industry continues to feel the impact of it every day: the construction industry.

Continue Reading

Finding the Profit in FREE: Web Entrepreneur says it Can be Done

GladliConsumers continue to flock to the internet to shop, as online retailers drive prices down and selection up. A local entrepreneur is taking that pricing strategy to the limit: driving prices down to…free. The selection may be a bit limited right now but that could change quickly.

Meet Trevor Totten, a Purdue grad from Westfield, who thinks he’s hatched the ultimate internet selling machine: free merchandise made available by manufacturers as a sort of sampling website. Think of it as an online business expo, except you only visit the booths you are interested in, you don’t have to endure a lame sales pitch, and you only fill your bag with products you will really use. Don’t expect to find a chip clip here, unless you really need one.

The Cooldown

Totten is betting that manufacturers will pay for the opportunity to give away one or more of their products to potential customers in the hope that once the customers try it, they’ll be more likely to buy more of it. He envisions a marketplace of thousands of consumer items, all provided by manufacturers free of charge, and who are willing to pay him to find new prospects. Totten calls the site “Gladli”, as in “We’ll gladly let you try our product for free.”

But, how to counter the deadly sin of gluttony? As anyone who has ever dined at an “all you can eat buffet” knows, when something is free, people inevitably take more than they can use. Totten has a plan for that, and he calls it a “cooldown.” Consumers initially are limited to just one free product per week. That way, he says, “You’re motivated to only select products you are genuinely interested in. Otherwise, you are just wasting your precious selections.” That’s also an advantage for the businesses, he says, because people who are really interested in a product are more likely to buy it later.

Identity verification is also an integral part of the system. Totten isn’t sharing details about how he does it, but says verifying a person’s identity is important to prevent fraud, like opening multiple accounts to receive multiple products. He also requires a credit card to register, though it “will NEVER be charged.”

Continue Reading