Why Here?

What Attracts Businesses to Hamilton County?

By Ann Craig-Cinnamon

If it seems like barely a week goes by that there isn’t an announcement of a new company moving into Hamilton County, it’s not your imagination or much of an exaggeration either. 

According to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, in the last three years, from 2017 through 2019, 93 companies moved here either from outside the state or from within Indiana.  That’s an average of almost three per month.  This migration translated into almost 10,000 new jobs and an investment of a whopping $850 million over that three year period.

Hamilton County has established itself as having an entrepreneurial climate. It doesn’t hurt that both Carmel and Fishers have won national acclaim several times in recent years, landing in top spots on Money Magazine’s annual list of the best places to live and work in the whole country.  Additionally, both cities are aggressive in their approach to luring new business and it has paid off. Noblesville and Westfield have also landed big companies recently. Here’s a sampling.

Stanley Security

Stanley Security moved just up the road from Indianapolis to Fishers in 2017.  Stanley is a world leader in commercial electronic security with 300,000 customers in North America alone, providing security for high profile retailers, schools, hospitals, airports, governments and more. 

Stanley Security President Matthew Kushner says their office on Sunlight Drive in Fishers is now the company’s global headquarters.  He says they studied their site options for about a year before making Fishers home.  “Having the opportunity to build this state-of-the-art headquarters has provided us a powerful new springboard from which to grow our business and develop the innovative security technologies of the future,” he says adding that access to top technical talent from nearby Rose-Hulman, Purdue University and Indiana University was an important factor. 

“We are more than happy with our decision to bring so many of our Indianapolis employees together in one location in Fishers, as this community continues to offer easy access in a great location and a talented workforce,” says Kushner.

Kar Global

Kar Global has been in Hamilton County for decades, but in 2018 recommitted itself by building a new worldwide headquarters in Carmel.  Kar describes itself as a technology, analytics and auction company in the global wholesale used vehicle industry. It sold nearly 3.5 million vehicles valued at over $40 billion through its auctions and generated $2.44 billion in revenue in 2018.

There are 900 employees at the Carmel headquarters and 15,000 total, scattered among the company’s 200 operating facilities around the world.

Jim Hallett, KAR Global chairman and CEO, says the city of Carmel and the state of Indiana provided more than $11 million in economic incentives without which the project would not have been possible.   He points to Carmel’s business climate, quality of life strategies and low local property taxes as reasons to build the headquarters in the community. 

“We have found that Hamilton County fosters a business-friendly environment with a robust talent pipeline from top-notch Indiana colleges and universities. Communities in Hamilton County often appear on “Best Places to Live” lists thanks to great schools, low cost of living, diverse cultural options, a thriving sports and entertainment scene and proximity to nationally-recognized health care providers,” says Hallett, adding that their location along the Meridian Street corridor provides easy access to highways and a 30 minute drive to Indianapolis, which is a benefit as well. “Our employees value working in a community that is also a great place to live,” he says.   

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A Town Within a City

The Village of West Clay

By Ann Craig-Cinnamon

Hamilton County is home to many beautiful neighborhoods of all sizes.  One community, however, has earned some distinctions that may surprise you.  The Village of West Clay in Carmel is the largest residential community, not only Indiana, but in the entire Midwest.  

Bordered by 136th Street to the north, Coxhall Gardens to the south, Ditch Road to the East and Shelborne Road to the West, The Village of West Clay has more than 1700 homes and 5000 residents.  Jeff Terp, the Executive Director of the Village of West Clay Owners Association, says it is like a town within the city of Carmel.  “If you look at our annual budget of almost 5 million dollars on 780 acres, we are larger than some cities in Indiana; even in Hamilton County,” says Terp.

New Urbanism

The Village of West Clay had its beginnings 20 years ago when the Brenwick Development Company envisioned a New Urbanism community in Carmel.  It was the first and only development of its kind in Indiana and was modeled after other New Urbanism developments in places like Columbus, Ohio and Baltimore, Maryland.  Ground was broken in 1999 and the first home show was held in July of 2001.  It is now a national leader in New Urbanism with communities from all over the country visiting to learn how to duplicate it.

Terp describes the trend of New Urbanism as an outgrowth from the 1990’s of people trying to restore a sense of community in the urban sprawl.  “New Urbanism is creating a sense of community within a community; creating a walkable community.  One thing that is really different about the Village of West Clay than probably every other neighborhood, is that everything is designed to be walkable,” he says adding that all of the village’s parks, recreational buildings and amenities are designed to be within a 10 to 15 minute walk.  “From almost anywhere in the Village, within 15 minutes you can walk to the Village center and dine, bring your laundry, go workout, whatever you need to do, you can do,” says Terp.

All architecture is historically accurate and residents have to follow specific building guidelines regarding the type and style of their home.  All streets are named after historically significant people and art in the community is from significant Hoosiers.  The meeting house is named for Hoosiers Hoagy Carmichael and Jean Stratton Porter.  Terp calls it an intentionality in neighborhood design that has never been done before. 

Residential and Commercial Space

The Village of West Clay’s residential side offers everything from entry-level apartments to two and three million dollar homes.  There are single family homes, townhomes, cottages, garden homes and villas.  Most homes are styled after southern homes in Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA.  Architectural styles are Victorian, Neo Gothic, Renaissance, and Romanesque. There is also a retirement community in the middle of the Village called Stratford and a continuing care unit. 

The community is just about at capacity with only a few empty lots remaining that are all in the process of building.  As for price range, Terp says there is a condo for sale currently for $120,000 and a home for sale for $2.2 million.

The retail and commercial side of the Village of West Clay is also very successful.  The 300,000 square feet of available commercial space is more than 98% leased.  According to Terp there are now more than 70 businesses located in the Village.  At full retail occupancy, there will be more than 100 businesses and there is a waiting list.

There are two commercial areas.  One is called Uptown, located on the peripheral area, with two banks, a CVS, Primrose daycare, a liquor store, Puccini’s restaurant, a martial arts school and, soon, the first Family Express convenience store in Central Indiana.

The other commercial area is The Village Center which is home to restaurants such as Sahm’s, Danny Boy’s, Zing Café, and Greek’s Pizza with new eateries to be announced soon. There’s also a Classic Cleaners, Indy Dental, law firms, interior designers, the first Carmel library branch, and other professional services such as a spa, Pilates studio, barber, hair stylist, plastic surgeon, art studio and a Links Office Suites, which offers shared space for businesses.  Terp says you can live, work, play and stay in the Village if you so desire.

The restaurants draw much of their revenue from outside the Village so not only do residents frequent them, the general public does as well.

Indy Dental Group was one of the first two businesses established in the Village.  Office Administrator Nancy Locke says they have enjoyed watching the great growth all around them and have loved being a part of the Village for the past 18 years.  “It is nice to be part of a close knit community.  We love the Village of West Clay.  Great fun; great concept!” she says. 

Basket Pizzazz has been a part of the Village of West Clay for 11 years.  Owner Sherri Klain lives and works in the Village and thinks the concept is amazing.  “To be able to live, work and play in the same area is great.  I have the pleasure of visiting with neighbors and friends when they are into the store, then get to see them out and about enjoying the incredible amenities here,” she says.


With the size and scope of the community, Terp says the Village of West Clay Homeowners Association does a lot more than a typical HOA and may be the largest HOA in the Midwest in terms of revenue, staff, and services, including its own security force. It has seven miles of alleys to maintain, over 20 miles of irrigation lines, 14 ponds, greenspace, eight playgrounds, three pool complexes, three exercise facilities, 10 miles of paths, a meeting house to rent for private events and all are maintained by a staff of ten people. Terp says the HOA is more than just a business in itself   “The Village of West Clay is a supporter of hundreds of businesses and they are all doing exceptionally well.  People are lining up to get in here.”   

Both Terp and Director of Communication and Resident Services Sally Cutler live in the Village.  Cutler says they have a wide range of activities that they plan for the neighborhood.  “We have summer concerts.  We just had a fall festival.  And not only do we invite our residents we also spread the word to make sure others in the community, Carmel or others around the county are welcome and can come visit us and patronize our businesses.  One of the big things is that we are very intentional about creating opportunities for people to get together to socialize and get to know each other,” says Cutler who loves living in the Village.  “The opportunity is there for my husband and me to meet so many people so quickly and easily here.”

The Village of West Clay has yet another distinction.  Terp says the International Roundabout Association gave it its highest honor.  “They toured roundabouts around the world and voted ours at Jackson Circle the Most Beautiful Roundabout in the World.”

Northern Lights

Hamilton County’s small towns grow at their own pace

By Ann Craig-Cinnamon
Photos by John Cinnamon

Just mention Hamilton County and most people immediately think of the big four communities of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville or Westfield.  All have seen phenomenal growth in the past decade and have even won some national awards along the way. 

The Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business projects that Hamilton County will go from 4th largest county in the state to 2nd largest behind only Marion County by 2050.  That’s a lot of growth. 

But there’s more to Hamilton County than those four communities.  There are smaller towns that have their own niche and are experiencing their own growth and growing pains.  In fact, a coalition of towns was formed as the Northern Hamilton County Chamber of Commerce, which, according to Member Services Director Catharine Heller, is making inroads.  “We’re all very small towns, but we merged together two years ago to try to increase and now we’re getting new members each month.  We are growing.” 


One of those small towns is Atlanta with a reported 748 residents.  The downtown is starting to draw visitors, thanks in large part to Steve Nelson and his wife, Liz Foley.  Nelson, a model train hobbyist, moved his extensive train collection to Atlanta from Carmel three years ago.  The couple bought and renovated a building at 165 E. Main Street to house his 6000 train layout.  “Mr. Muffin’s Trains” is the third largest public train display in the country and is open to the public on weekends free of charge.

Nelson says he gets a lot of visitors.  “”In the summertime, I’ll have a hundred or so people visit the layout every Saturday.  In the wintertime, it’s several hundred.  I have people here every day from out of state,” he says, adding “We’re helping to bring people to Atlanta.  I think we’ve created an environment where other retailers could come here.”

The Nelsons eventually bought two other buildings in downtown Atlanta.  One is used as warehouse space for their burgeoning model train retail business and the other is the Choo Choo Café.  They are committed to Atlanta and have a goal of making it a destination for families.

Unfortunately, the Nelson’s businesses are surrounded by quite a few vacant buildings, some that are more than 100 years old and are deteriorating with the owners not currently repairing or investing in them.      


A little south is Arcadia, which is home to 1,666 people at last report.  Much like Atlanta, there are lots of downtown buildings sitting vacant after businesses closed when they were unable to make a go of it. 

Bob Foster opened the Hedgehog Music Showcase in 2006. Despite offering acclaimed acts including numerous Grammy winners at his venue, he says growth is stagnant, which has been a disappointment to him.  “I do strongly believe that Arcadia’s day is coming but, sadly, the Hedgehog cannot continue to survive with the status quo until that happens,” he says, adding that The Hedgehog has been responsible for attracting more out of the area tourists than any other business. But, he says, there is not enough local support.    

Arcadia Clerk Treasurer Jennifer Pickett says there has been residential growth but not much business growth in recent years.  “I predict in 5 years Arcadia will have several businesses, either store fronts or restaurants. We’ve had several inquiries about our vacant buildings in town over the past couple months.”  She adds that in the last few years the town has brought new life to Arcadia by beginning such traditions as Christmas tree lighting ceremonies, free chili suppers, Christmas and Farmers’ Markets, and an event in May called “Market on Main” which offered live music, food trucks and Nickel Plate train rides.


Down the road is the big sister town of Cicero with a population of 4862.  It, too, is seeing growth, mainly in the residential sector according to Town Council President Chris Lutz, who points to Morse Reservoir as being central to the image and character of Cicero.  He expects the residential growth to continue. “I do also expect to see additional restaurants and small retail to continue to grow and flourish.  Any given night in Cicero there seems to be an influx of individuals coming to enjoy the vibrant downtown.  Cicero could benefit by some light commercial development and this is an area that continues to be worked,” he says, adding that there is an active downtown organization called Our Town Cicero, which sponsors several seasonal events.   

Despite being concerned that growth will change the small town character of Cicero, Lutz thinks Northern Hamilton County has a strong future.  “The Northern Communities have not experienced the growth of the communities to the south but I foresee that changing.  The improvements to US 31 and planned improvements to IN 37 will allow for faster commute times.”  

Nickel Plate Express

Fast becoming a major draw to Northern Hamilton County is the Nickel Plate Express, which celebrated its one year anniversary in September.  The Express is a tourist excursion train that travels 12 miles of old Nickel Plate Road track.  The train operates as far north as downtown Atlanta, and as far south as Noblesville. It uses 1956 Santa Fe El Capitan Hi-level cars and boards the majority of its excursions from the historic train depot in Atlanta that turned 150 years old in September.     

Nickel Plate Express Director Dagny Zupin says in its first year the express transported 14,000 people, a number that she says has blown them away. They hope in the future to add boarding facilities in Arcadia and Cicero, as well as more dining options on board. 

Zupin has been involved in the project from the start.  “It's been incredible to watch the train grow from an abstract idea to one of the largest attractions in Hamilton County,” she says adding that Nickel Plate Express is just one of many local organizations working hard to make the northern part of Hamilton County a destination.

While it is a mixed picture of progress, there’s no doubt that all three towns, with the help of the Nickel Express, are starting to see growth.  Do they want to be the next big thing in Hamilton County?  Not necessarily, says the Chamber’s Heller.  “Our growth will never compare to Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville or even Westfield because our people like to keep a small town appearance.”

The Hydrogen Solution

Local Entrepreneur Develops Clean Alternative to Oil

By Ann Craig-Cinnamon
Photos by John Cinnamon

What began as an accident in a lab at Purdue University in 2005, could be fueling municipal vehicles all over the country in the near future.  At least that is one of the goals of Kurt Koehler, a serial entrepreneur, who is the founder and president of AlGalCo (Aluminum Gallium Company). 

Koehler says a Purdue scientist was experimenting with unleashing energy from aluminum and in the process made hydrogen.  That experiment also caused a spark and flame that blew up part of his lab.  For those of us without a science background, in essence what he discovered was how to create hydrogen on demand.  But he didn’t realize the potential applications such a discovery might have.

Koehler, who has a degree from IU in business, not science, saw the potential and has spent more than a decade perfecting the hydrogen on demand model and delivery method in order to fuel engines with hydrogen. 

“The problem with hydrogen has always been its seed stock; where it comes from.  Hydrogen is everywhere. It’s the most abundant element in the universe, but it’s usually attached to something else.  We solved that problem because we used water and aluminum to get the hydrogen out of the water,” says Koehler, explaining that the aluminum splits the water molecule H2O, thus making hydrogen.

Clean Burning

His first application was to direct the hydrogen into pick-up truck engines which meant he needed to develop a way of harnessing the newly created fuel.  Koehler is now on his fifth prototype of a delivery system for the hydrogen, with each getting smaller and simpler.  The system sits on the back of the truck with 150 grams of aluminum alloy inside in a container.  Another container holds water.  When the vehicle is started the water drips on the aluminum alloy which makes hydrogen on demand.  The hydrogen is then sent directly into the intake manifold through a hose.  

“So when you get the hydrogen molecule you feed it into the engine right into the air intake manifold.  It powers any vehicle; any internal combustion engine, and when it does you get no emissions from the burning of the hydrogen and it goes back out as water again,” he says adding that the hydrogen can be used to fuel an engine in part or in whole without any engine modification required.

“It’s like a propane exchange tank.  So once the alloy is all used, which is every 250 miles, you take the old spent container out and put the new one in.  It takes about 45 seconds,” says Koehler of his 5.0 system.

Hydrogen is about as “green” as it gets too.  Koehler says it is 100% clean because there are no emissions created by burning hydrogen. The alloy being used is 90% common aluminum, like is used in a beverage can, and can be recycled an indefinite number of times.  The recycling requires electricity but Koehler says you can use wind power for that and he points out that there are 1200 windmills between Purdue and Chicago that are using only a small percentage of their capacity.

Testing in Carmel

So the next step was getting a partner that would put his new fuel to work and allow him to test and improve his delivery system.  Koehler says the city of Carmel stepped up when no one else wanted to be first.  The Carmel Street Department has been using the hydrogen model in one of its trucks for the past seven years, after Koehler approached Mayor James Brainard, who personally approved the beta testing. 

Carmel Street Commissioner Dave Huffman says it seemed logical that with their large fleet of trucks they would have one that would fit Koehler’s needs.  

“It’s been exciting watching the changes in the system over the years as it gets smaller and smaller with each new system that he makes.  It’s on demand so it’s not like we drive around with a tank full of hydrogen.  It only makes it when the engine calls for it.  And there’s no power drop off.  We are able to plow snow.  You really don’t know the difference when you’re running it and you’re not running it,” says Huffman who adds that the city has experimented with other alternative fuels and this by far is the easiest.

Huffman also says that the system is as simple as you can get and he could see using only hydrogen sometime in the future with the green initiative catching on as it has.  The city of Carmel has ordered five new systems from Koehler and plans to equip four additional trucks in the near future.

Future Plans

Koehler says his latest model, 5.0, is just about ready to go to market.  His plans are to expand his presence in Hamilton County first, with the City of Fishers next on his list.  He has had discussions with UPS and FedEx in Hamilton County as well.  He is also working on a diesel version with Purdue University in Indianapolis and over-the-road trucks are on his radar for the future too. 

Don’t be looking for an AlGalCo station to fill up your car though.  During a meeting a few years ago in Silicon Valley with representatives of a major oil company, he says he was actually warned to stay out of the consumer market.  “They wanted me to understand my place in the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” jokes Koehler, who adds that once his system starts making money a major oil company could get involved. 

Koehler is excited about the future. “I don’t have to build a new infrastructure, I don’t have to build recharging stations, I don’t need any of that.  All of the infrastructure is already there, already in place and it’s underused.  That’s why we are so excited about this.  I don’t need millions of dollars, I just need a little money to keep going and then purchase orders and money to scale it up.”

Untapped Workforce

Disabled community seeks to fill gap

By Ann Craig-Cinnamon
Photos by John Cinnamon

The help wanted sign is as prevalent as a welcome sign at many businesses in Hamilton County these days.  The unemployment rate is so low that the county is considered to be at full employment, leaving business owners scrambling to find workers. 

Now, consider that the unemployment and underemployment rate for people with disabilities in Hamilton County is extremely high and it seems like you might have found a solution for businesses needing workers as well as for those with disabilities that want to work.

There are organizations dedicated to helping those with disabilities find work, such as Opportunities for Positive Growth, Inc.  Within Hamilton Southeastern Schools there is an office that helps students with disabilities find jobs as they transition out of school

What was missing, however, was a unified effort to bring together these organizations that work with the disabled and the businesses who might want to employ them. 

Fishers City Councilwoman Cecilia Coble came up with the idea of forming the Fishers Disability Inclusion in the Workplace Business Networking Group.  She describes the goal of the group, which meets bi-monthly, as providing a comfortable setting for employers to share best practices, learn more about accommodations, ask questions, share challenges, and connect with providers that can help with job training and support.

“Employers can share if they have employment needs that could be filled by capable individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities.  Providers can identify individuals whom could fill those positions,” says Coble, who has a daughter with autism and cognitive delays.  "When Crysta ages out of high school, I would like to see her have options for employment in Fishers.” Coble says students age out of high school at the age of 22.  "Parents want their kids with disabilities doing something meaningful like being employed doing jobs they are capable of performing. Seventy percent of individuals with disabilities are unemployed. This is an important issue and I want to change this statistic in Fishers." 

Sharing resources

This idea is catching on around Hamilton County.  Coble has been assisting Carmel Councilwoman Laura Campbell in starting a similar networking group in Carmel called the Carmel Advisory Committee on Disability. 

Chrissy Pogue, a Transition Specialist with Hamilton Southeastern Schools, co-chairs the Fishers networking group with Michelle Steltz, the Executive Director of Finance and Operations for Opportunities For Positive Growth, Inc.  Pogue works with students with cognitive and physical disabilities, those with mild to moderate cognitive disability, and students on the autism spectrum, to find jobs. 

She says the networking group allows employers to ask questions they might normally be afraid to ask, such as abilities and skill sets and transforming work space to accommodate them.  She thinks it shows inclusivity within the city.  “The fact that they have a committee that focuses just on employment I think shows how important a concept this is for the city to be aware of,” she says adding that it is helping to make connections that weren’t being made.

Steltz says this networking group provides a chance to share success stories, challenges and resources with other business peers and she believes the group is important because business owners are already stretched with the demands of running a business in a growing community.  “Being able to stop and seek out these connections on your own is hard when you have a business to run.  Hiring and training new employees takes time, and we hope by sharing resources and success stories they are able to be more open to expanding their workforce options,” says Steltz.

She uses the example of a company that needs to find software that converts speech to text in a business setting.  Within the networking group they might be able to find another company that has success with a known product and might get to see it in action before making the investment.

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Local Bakery….National Impact

BeeFree goes national with tasty gluten-free products

By Ann Craig-Cinnamon

They say necessity is the mother of invention and that is certainly the case with BeeFree Gluten Free Bakery which is a Hamilton County business with a surprising national reach. 

Fifteen years ago when Jennifer and Mike Wiese’s oldest son was diagnosed on the autism spectrum, they attended a conference to learn ways to help him.  What they learned was that his diet was very important and that they should consider feeding him more whole and less processed foods.   Furthermore, they learned that a gluten-free diet is especially beneficial to kids with autism. 

“We felt that was a reasonable thing we could pursue and to just try and to see if that had any effect on him or not so we did,” says Jennifer, who says that they stopped at Whole Foods on the way home and checked out the tiny selection of gluten-free foods that they offered at the time.  They took home many items but wound up throwing most of them away because they tasted like cardboard and had lots of preservatives and chemicals.


The void of good, tasty gluten free products led Jennifer to create her own recipes for her family.  Through years of trial and error she came up with products that they began selling at Farmer’s Markets around the area and discovered that there was a great response to them. 

Her son, now 23 and a student at Ball State, also responded very well to the new diet and gluten free foods that she created.  “He’s more aware and more engaged.  It helps his focus and concentration and his sleep.  It was all noticeable right away as we were experimenting and discovering whether gluten free would be impactful for him,” she says adding that he has overcome lots of challenges.  “It definitely has been worth the effort and the energy to learn how to cook and eat gluten free.”

With the success and local popularity of her products, Jennifer founded BeeFree Gluten Free Bakery in 2010.  “Creating a business was kind of by happenstance.  I didn’t really start a gluten free diet for my family thinking that it would be a business.  It was something that evolved over the years to help fill the need since there seemed to be a lack of good delicious gluten free foods out there and we felt like we could provide a solution to that,” says Jennifer.

Also working in her favor was the fact that, nationally, gluten-free was starting to be fashionable and there was more awareness of Celiac Disease.  Jennifer says people were paying more attention to what they were eating. 

The local Cross Fit community then approached BeeFree and asked them to create a snack food that followed the Paleo Diet of eating like our ancestors using simple plant-based foods and nothing processed, refined or chemically made. 

“That was our challenge.  Warrior Mix is what we came up with, a soft and chewy nut and seed-based snack.  It has a zipper top that they can toss in their gym bag, doesn’t need to be refrigerated and you can eat it by the handful if you want to,” says Jennifer. 

Currently BeeFree sells five different flavors of their Warrior Mix and will be adding more flavors and products this year.  The products are named for each of the Wiese’s four sons and Jennifer’s grandmother.

Bad Rap

BeeFree has seen an explosion of growth, especially over the last six months, and is currently available in all 50 states and in 2000 stores across the country, including Kroger, Whole Foods, Earth Fare, Fresh Thyme, Market District, and Target.  It is also available at Costco outside the Midwest.  Jennifer says there are more retail stores that will be added soon. 

She credits her company’s success to her small, tight-knit team of six people, including herself and her husband, that makes everything happen. 

Jennifer has been responsible for getting their products on the shelves of large national retailers and calls it a test of will and tenacity.  “I've been laughed at and ignored by the best of them. Being a woman in this predominately male-led business can add another element of challenge,” she says adding her advice for those attempting something similar.  “Stay true to your passion and don't take no as your final answer.  No may mean no for today, but by asking questions about your customers’ needs and being able to shift to meet those needs often turns that ‘no’ into a ‘yes’”. 

BeeFree’s office and home base is in Noblesville with a warehouse in Cicero and production facilities in Batesville and in Michigan.  In addition to many local retail stores, you can also purchase their products on Amazon Prime and the company’s website; www.beefreegf.com.

Jennifer emphasizes that although their products are geared to people with a gluten and dairy issue they are good for everyone.  “Gluten free has gotten a bad rap in the last couple of years because there have been a lot of gluten free things out there that don’t taste very good and might have different textures or flavor profiles that people don’t really care for.  Our charge has been to create foods with really simple ingredients that are gluten free and that are whole and everything that you can pronounce,” she says, adding “the bottom line is that it tastes really good.  We want to create customers for the long haul not just a customer that buys Warrior Mix one time and never buys it again.”

Winter Thrills

Growing a Winter Sports Business on the Prairie

By Mike Corbett

We may be vertically challenged in Indiana but the dearth of mountains isn’t keeping some entrepreneurial types down. At Hamilton County’s Koteewi Park, in north Noblesville east of Cicero, a local businessman is offering a winter thrill to adventurous types in the form of a 750 foot tubing hill.  Called Koteewi Run, the 50 ft high hill is man-made with dirt excavated from a nearby pond. No snow? No problem. When the weather gets cool enough they crank up the snow making machines and cover this hill with a solid 15 foot base that gives riders the opportunity for a thrill ride not normally found in the midwest.

It’s Brian Cooley’s second season on the slopes. Just getting the hill up and running was an adventure in itself. Hamilton County Parks, which owns Koteewi Park, approached Cooley in the fall of 2017 after a previous operator backed out. The hill and tow line were already in place but he had just 73 days to acquire the tubes, come up with a business plan and find talent to operate the slope. They launched on time on December 16 last year.

Challenging Season

Snowmaking is a rare and exotic skill. Cooley’s original snowmaker was from Scotland; this year’s is from Australia. Once the ambient temperature is cold enough, high pressure pumps bring more than 300 gallons of water per minute from the adjacent lake and spray it in to the air in front of powerful fans that distribute it over the hill. It takes days to lay a proper base for tubing, which is then groomed with a snowcat.

This has been a challenging season so far with negligible snowfall and higher than average temperatures as winter began. Opening day was delayed several times because the temperature was too high for snow. They finally started falling in mid-January and tubing started January 12.

River Roots

Though the tubing business is new to Cooley, he’s an old hand at adventure. He‘s been running White River Canoe since acquiring it from Noblesville’s Schwarts Bait and Tackle in 2009. His first season was in 2010. Over the past nine years he grew that business from a modest 60 canoes to 100 last year and kayaks from 30 to 110. He started the tubing business from scratch and has grown the fleet to around 500.

Of course, the canoe business slows to a stop in winter so the tubing hill was a natural business extension. And in case you’re wondering, floating tubes can’t double as snow tubes as they aren’t strong enough for snow and ice. Winter tubes are their own breed.

Cooley appreciates the county’s willingness to work with private businesses to grow this exciting winter entertainment opportunity in Hamilton County. Though this winter season was cut a bit short on the front end by the weather, he’s hoping to extend it into March before rising temperatures turn the hill back into pile of dirt and he starts eying the river again for summer fun.

Koteewi Run is the most recent of several new attractions at the 800 acre Strawtown Koteewi Park.

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Filling the “Purpose Gap”

New program seeks to match people with their dream jobs

By Stephanie Miller

What is your purpose? How can you discover direction that will activate your innate talents and motivate your drive to create meaning in your life? So many of us ask these questions. Young people beginning the journey to fulfilling futures, as well as adults in the middle of their careers encounter obstacles that cloud their visions. A Purpose.ly agent can lift the fog and help 

“Agents are not just for celebrities and sports stars,” asserts John Qualls, president of Eleven Fifty coding academy and technology entrepreneur. Qualls is launching a new venture that matches those searching for a first-time job or a new vocation with talent agents. Strategic coaches investigate more than ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’. The goal is to explore ‘what problems you want to solve’ in order to uncover untapped potential and determine a career appropriate for the individual.you focus on your mission.

“Purpose.ly is designed help people find purpose, help employers find people that want to be in their line of work and place job seekers in a vocation where they are passionate about who they are and what they are doing.” Qualls and his partner, Brent Shopp noticed a “purpose” gap and are determined to provide resources that will benefit both prospective employees and employers.

“Kids today are better educated than they have ever been, but they are not getting the skills required to find their purpose,” explains Qualls. Purpose.ly intends to provide relevant efficient skills training that successfully puts individuals on meaningful career paths.

Finding your “why”

Qualls understands first-hand how difficult it can be to find a job that you are so passionate about it becomes your vocation, and how failure can be the catalyst to finding your why.

As a teenager, he did not do well in school and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his six years in the military he performed training operations and became familiar with technology. Upon his departure from the military in 1993, Qualls married and worked in the insurance and finance industry. However, he was always drawn to technology.

He quit his job, refinanced his house and set out seeking a career in the field of tech. After hearing a company CEO talk on database driven websites, he engaged in selling the technology. Later, Qualls started a consulting firm that failed. In the midst of the breakdown of his company, he was determined to find new employment for those people who lost their jobs. “Getting people a job was something I found great pleasure in.”

After founding several more tech companies, Qualls connected with Scott Jones who asked him to become president of Eleven-Fifty Academy, a non-profit boot-camp style coding school that provides a submersive experience where attendees learn pertinent coding skills required to get hired and be successful.

“I needed a progressive leader who could think way-outside-the-education-box with me to create world class solutions for really hard problems that even longstanding institutions have not figured out,” says Eleven Fifty Academy Founder Scott Jones. “John was a natural fit.”

Watching students learn, excel, find employment and apply new found skills in their vocations reignited the training fire and fueled the Purpose.ly flame. “Young people with a four-year college education hit the market and can’t find a job. We help them get the training they need to develop skills and find their purpose which leads to a satisfying career,” explains Qualls.

The Purpose.ly process:

  • My Agent introduces individuals to an advisor who asks questions designed to reveal aspirations, evaluate skills and provide tools necessary to obtain the ability required to achieve a desired vocation. The mission is to place people in the right job for the right reasons.
  • My Hire teams with companies looking for talent. Purpose.ly seeks to deliver value and does not charge companies until a new employees stays in the job for a length of time and it is confirmed that the union is a good fit for both employer and new hire.
  • My Talent helps companies and clients define the purpose of a job. Purpose.ly believes people want to be important to an organization, know exactly why they are doing what they are doing and how their work is beneficial.
  • Adulting Classes will teach job seekers how to communicate, interview, negotiate a salary, and how to get loans as well as numerous important life skills not taught in the traditional education system.

“We really want to focus on people at the front end of their careers,” says Qualls. He and Shopp, plan to identify 100 individuals that want to participate in the subscription-based Purpose.ly programs at no charge when it launches in December. “People want to be happy and valued. Everyone needs to have a life’s work worth doing and feel like their work has meaning.”

The Health Care Safety Net

County’s Employers Depend on Trinity Free Clinic for Their Workers

By Mike Corbett

As Hamilton County’s population continues to grow and the cost of living here continues to rise, there’s a growing concern about housing for the workforce. How do we accommodate wage earners who need half their income or more just to pay for a place to live?

Less talked about, but just as pressing, is their need for health care. The high cost of health insurance puts it out of reach for lower paid workers, so health care is often not available through their employers.

Increasingly, employers and their workers are relying on the Trinity Free Clinic in Carmel. Founded 18 years ago, the clinic bills itself as Hamilton County’s medical and dental safety net. It provides primary health care for qualifying Hamilton County residents free of charge. Last year, it served more than 3600 low income residents, a 59% increase in just two years.

Servant’s Heart

The clinic is run by nine paid professional staff and an army of 377 volunteer health care providers with a variety of backgrounds…everything from dental students to retirees, with both medical and non-medical skills. “One thing that all of our volunteers have in common is a servant’s heart,” says Executive Director Dina Ferchmin. “They come to work at Trinity in the evening after they have put in a hard day of work, or they will sacrifice their Saturday to care for our patients. I am most impressed by their dedication and love to those they serve.”

In order to qualify for services, workers must live in Hamilton County and meet specific income guidelines. The average patient comes from a family four and earns about $24,000 a year.

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Spiritual Entrepreneurship

Hamilton County Churches seek opportunities to serve our growing population

By Ann Craig-Cinnamon

Hamilton County is on population growth steroids.  You probably know this unless you live in a cave, and if it’s a cave in Hamilton County, it’s probably a nice one.  It’s the fastest growing county in Indiana according to recent census statistics, and is projected to be second only to Marion County within a couple of decades.  That growth is not only in people and the businesses that serve them but also in churches. 

A count of “religious bodies” and their number of congregations from the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) finds there are 190 congregations in Hamilton County.  This ranges from the Catholic Church with eight congregations and a total of 40,251 congregants to Zoroastrian with one lonely member who must meet in his own garage since there are zero congregations listed. 

While those churches are all shapes and sizes, many of them are huge.  On one short stretch heading east from Highway 37 to just past Olio Road in Fishers there are eight, and at least two of them are building bigger structures or additional campuses. 

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The Future of Asherwood

What do you do with a $30 million gift? Carmel’s American Songbook Foundation has that enviable task as it assesses the best use for Asherwood, a 107-acre estate with a fully furnished mansion, guest house, clubhouse, two golf courses and several additional structures. It is the former home of the late businessman Mel Simon and his wife, Bren, who gave it to the foundation in January.

Since then, a committee has been meeting to figure out how the property can best serve the mission of the foundation, says President/CEO Jeffrey McDermott. Early ideas focused on a museum, but McDermott says they are considering many other options as well. There is no shortage of suggestions, he says, as the committee follows a “thoughtful and deliberate” process.

Here is a glimpse of the spaces included in one of Hamilton County’s most impressive estates.

Home Town Builders

Old Town Design Group transforms Carmel neighborhoods

By Stephanie Miller

“Outstanding Locations, Timeless Designs” - this rubric in action elevated Old Town Design Group from new unsettling neighbor to established well-respected resident just months after presenting their first model home in one of the city’s oldest sections. By securing obscure pockets of raw land and replacing aged structures with lively homes, partners Jeff Langston and Justin Moffett steadily transformed Carmel’s core community from retired to inspired.

Agents of Change

Born and raised in same the neighborhoods they are sprinkling with indelible charm, the pair share a passion for community, camaraderie and investing with the goal of making their hometown a great place to live, work and play. “We started building in the heart of downtown Carmel during the recession in 2009,” says Justin, CEO of Old Town Company, the land development and commercial property division. “Due to the downturn, we didn’t have work and figured we had nothing to lose.” The younger member of the team, just starting his career and a family, Justin expresses appreciation for his wife who was very patient with all of the struggles of launching the new business in tough times.

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Pets in the Workplace

A dogs life is a good one when employers encourage canine companionship

By Ann Craig-Cinnamon

If you are a pet owner, and particularly a dog owner, you may be noticing more and more businesses are rolling out the welcome mat for your furry companion.  There are increasing numbers of pet-related businesses that are opening shop.  In addition, more businesses are becoming pet friendly, which can be anything from welcoming dogs inside their establishments to offering treats.  When I visit the drive through at the bank with my dog, Reggie, he thinks we’re there for the free dog bone.  In his eyes, the pneumatic bank tube is the coolest magic treat provider on the planet.  Oh, and that free pup ice cream cone from Handels is pretty sweet too.

The increase in attention on our pets is understandable when you consider 68% of all US households now have a pet.  That translates to 85 million families according to the 2017-18 National Pet Owners Survey.  Those kind of numbers mean one thing:  opportunity.

Pet Friendly

It’s estimated that by 2020 spending on pets will reach $100 billion per year.  It is currently growing at a 50% faster rate than the retail industry overall.  The pet business is considered to be recession proof too with spending on pets from 2007-09 showing an increase despite the recession.  For the statistics lovers, here’s an interesting one:  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average people spent more than $500 per year on their pets which is more than they spent on alcohol, landline phone lines or men’s and boys’ clothing.

Using national figures, Humane Society for Hamilton County Executive Director Rebecca Stevens estimates there are close to 150,000 pets in Hamilton County.   She has another astounding figure that is not an estimate.   “In 2017, we took in 3,106 animals with a placement rate, even with all of the seriously injured, ill, seniors and special needs animals we rescued, of 98% compared to the national average of less than 40%,” she says. 

She credits the high placement rate on volunteers and the interest in pets in Hamilton County. “It is through the support of our community that we have been able to sustain the explosive growth of Hamilton County's human and subsequent pet population needs in a building we out-grew 10 years ago.  Our volunteers are fiercely loyal, and with sometimes over 200 animals in foster homes at a time, we have depended on this support to become Indiana's only open-admission, truly no-kill shelter,” says Stevens. 

She thinks Hamilton County is very pet friendly but has room for improvement.  “I believe there is an untapped opportunity for Hamilton County businesses to consider allowing pets to visit their establishments.  We do a lot of fundraising and adoption events in the community, so finding, especially restaurants that are open to the idea of including animals (even in restricted areas) is sometimes challenging,” she says.  Four Day Ray in Fishers will be hosting the Humane Society’s 2nd Annual Paws for a Cause Tito's 5K on Saturday, July 28th but she’d like to see more businesses open up to pets.  “With all the new development in downtown Fishers, and the beautiful Carmel Arts & Design District, it would be wonderful for pet owners to have more shops and restaurants, all within walking distance, to visit with pets in tow.  I think area businesses would be shocked by the numbers of four-legged visitors and new customers that would drive through their doors,” says Stevens.

The state laws and local ordinances that relate to having pets in restaurants is not black and white.  The Hamilton County Health Dept. says dogs (except for service animals) are not allowed in operational areas of a public restaurant.  But determining what is "operational" is done on a case by case basis.

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Kicking Opioids

Cicero clinic offers alternative to traditional addiction treatment

By Stephanie Carlson Miller

As parents, we teach our children to fly out of the nest with unconditional love and visions of an amazing future, but the road ahead is unpredictable and sometimes is not what anyone expects. Aristotle Pappas’ tragic death from an overdose of prescription painkillers gave birth to an innovative life-saving business offering addicts a light of hope where there is darkness and despair. In the midst of his anguish, Ari’s father, Joe Pappas, searched for answers. “When I lost Ari, it became blatantly obvious to me that whatever treatment options we have available right now are not working, he says. “I didn’t intend to start a business. I just wanted to help people.”

Ari, a likable, energetic young man and stand-out athlete at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis went on to join the football team at Ball State University, but broke his hand during his freshman year, which ended his football career. At that time, Ari’s physician prescribed Oxycodone to relieve the pain of his injury. Over time, Ari’s father and family realized there was something wrong, noticed a change in his behavior, but never expected an addiction that would lead to his death at the age of 24.

“I’m not sure he ever got over how those opioids made him feel. Once you’re hooked on a drug, the scariest thing to do is think of coming off of it,” Pappas says. “In my research, I stumbled across NAD therapy. Working with a couple of doctors, we read, we studied, we talked and we finally got Dr. John Humiston, in San Diego, on the phone. We could not believe what he was telling us about the amazing results they were getting using NAD infusions.”

A Last Resort

The NAD protocol, founded by Dr. Humiston, is an alternative solution to mainstream medicine that helps restore damaged brain receptors to normal functioning so the patient can better control self-destructive behavior and fully participate in recovering. According to Dr. Humiston’s NeuroRecover™ website, “the treatment includes formulas of selected amino acids delivered intravenously that assist the nervous system in repairing receptors damaged by substance use, as well as by dopamine-damaging activities such a gambling, pornography and overwork.”

“A couple of months after Ari passed away, I attended a Christian retreat and met Joe Holman. His son was hooked on heroin, and after many treatment centers they had to make the difficult decision to put their son on the streets - he could not quit using and his behavior was disruptive to the family.” Heartbroken, Holman contacted Pappas.

“I said to Joe, I think we can help your son,” Pappas explains. “Greg Holman came in to my office, as truly a last resort. We treated Greg and were absolutely amazed at the results.”

The success of that first treatment led to the formation of Emerald Neuro-Recover Centers, the first clinic in the Midwest to offer this new treatment for addictions. Founded by Pappas, after 35 years working the medical field, and Amora Scott, who has been instrumental in the framework and marketing efforts of the clinic, Emerald Neuro Recover Centers use all-natural ingredients in IV drips to help addicts restore their brain functions to pre-addiction levels.

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Healing on Horseback

Horses connect with people in special ways

By Susan Hoskins Miller
Photos courtesy of Agape

Tucked away in the countryside north of Cicero is a 13-acre horse farm with riding arenas and beautiful wooded acreage with trails. But this isn’t just any horse farm. This farm is Agape Therapeutic Riding Resources.


Agape’s motto is “Unbridled Hope.” That’s what they give to their 1,900 clients every year. Most come weekly. Agape’s clients come to them with a wide range of issues they need help with healing. Some can’t verbalize their thoughts, some have memory issues and some have physical disabilities. The horses, guided by professional therapists and instructors, bring out abilities in these students they have never before been able to master on their own or through traditional therapies.

“Agape does equine therapy as opposed to hippotherapy,” said Donita Wire, who, with her husband, Ben, has volunteered at Agape for the past 19 years. “We are people of faith, and we know that God is working here, too. We’ve served in many different capacities as volunteers, and we’ve seen miracles.”

One miracle they’ve witnessed happened with a client named Bill. “He was in his thirties when he came to us,” Donita said. “He was developmentally at a grade school level and didn’t speak much. He was also shy. He was so unsure of himself when he started on the horse.”

Beginners like Bill don’t use regular reins when they first ride a horse until they are a little more experienced.

“They use a large strap that looks like a handle. He was sitting on a big pad and held on to that strap so tight the horse thought he wanted it to go faster,” Donita said. “We worked with him for two or three years and he started improving.”

Soon Bill was able to not only guide the horse, but he gained confidence in his own abilities. The biggest difference, though, was in his verbal skills.

“He’s now a spokesman for Janus,” Donita said. “His guardian attributes his speaking skills to Agape. 

Unconditional Love

Ben said volunteering at Agape is therapeutic for him and Donita, too.

“The staff, other volunteers and the families of the clients are the most loving people you will ever see,” he said. “We learn so much from them.”

The word Agape (pronounced uh-GAH-pay) is Greek for unconditional love. That is the environment that Agape provides for all its clients, their families and volunteers.

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Unraveling the mysteries of Autism

By Karen Kennedy

“My child doesn’t play well with others and regularly throws tantrums. Could he have autism?

“My toddler isn’t talking yet. The doctor says she might just be a ‘late bloomer,” but I’m worried she has autism.

“My preschooler is obsessed with one certain object and won’t play with any other toys. I’ve read that’s a warning sign of autism. Is that true?

These are the kinds of inquiries therapists at autism treatment centers field every day, along with panicked phone calls from parents whose fears have been confirmed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis, and who desperately want to know, “What do we do now?”

What is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a group of nearly a thousand complex disorders of brain development. It can manifest itself in atypical social interaction, repetitive behaviors, lack of empathy, obsession with a particular object or topic, a strong aversion to physical contact or changes in routine, and almost always, moderate to severe language and communication breakdown (25% of those with autism are completely non-verbal and must rely on alternative forms of communication.) While significant numbers of autism patients are also afflicted with an intellectual disability, others are extremely gifted in visual arts, music or math. 

Despite its prevalence today (currently, one in sixty-eight children in the U.S. receives an ASD diagnosis each year,) the causes of autism and other related brain disorders are still not fully understood. While research has definitively linked the disorder to genetic mutations, the jury is still out as to what affect other environmental factors (such as pollution or food additives) might have on the development of the disorder. Boys are four times more likely than girls to develop it, and heredity plays a factor as well.

Over the years, desperate parents have tried special diets, essential oil treatments, weighted blankets and vests, hyperbaric chambers and chelation (a chemical process in which heavy metals are removed from the blood.) Currently, the scientific community endorses only one form of treatment—applied behavior analysis (ABA.)

Help Is Right Here


While parents in other parts of the country may struggle to find help locally, those who live in Hamilton County are fortunate that one of the preeminent treatment facilities in the world is just around the corner.

Headquartered in Fishers since 2009, the Behavior Analysis Center for Autism (the BACA) was founded by Dr. Carl Sundberg, who studied behavior disorders and therapy, along with his brother Mark, under Dr. Jack Michael at Western Michigan University. Michael was a colleague of noted behavior researcher B.F. Skinner, whose “operant conditioning” work with lab rats proved that behaviors can be modified by immediate positive or negative reinforcers. Skinner also posited that there was a significant difference between the formal properties of language (simply being able to name something) and the functional properties of language (understanding the use or context of the same item.) This theory is key in teaching language to the developmentally delayed, who, for example, might be able to identify a “cup” but be unable to identify what a cup is used for.

The Sundberg brothers were on the leading edge of the ABA approach to treating autism, which was based on Skinner’s theories, and have since become internationally recognized authorities on the subject. And while Mark currently resides on the west coast, Carl has chosen to practice in Indiana.

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Beyond Beethoven

Performing arts organizations seek the next generation of patrons

By Patricia Pickett

In the last two decades, Hamilton County’s quality of life quotient has risen considerably as leisure activities like parks, shopping and entertainment have burgeoned at a remarkable rate. Klipsch Music Center rose from the cornfields like a beacon to touring musicians as “Deer Creek” in 1989; with much fanfare and some controversy, The Center for the Performing Arts -- including the palatial Palladium -- opened in 2011.

These venues filled the void for Hamilton County residents seeking national touring acts and high-caliber entertainment in close proximity to their homes.

But then comes the tenuous job of cultivating audiences and filling the seats. It’s the business of the arts.

Seeking Millenials

 According to local arts leaders, it’s a bit of a balancing act: While nurturing the patrons who regularly purchase season tickets and may even be donors, there’s the simultaneous challenge of attracting new audiences, including millennials. Add to the mix the national trend of the traditional “season subscription” lessening in popularity – with so many choices, audiences don’t want to commit to an entire season.

Much like their business counterparts, arts organizations are constantly on the hunt for customers. According to Mark Truett, vice president of marketing and communications for The Center for the Performing Arts, it really comes down to programming followed by reaching potential ticket buyers.

“It’s about making sure we’re programming relevant content,” said Truett, who joined The Center earlier this year. “We have our core constituency of ticket buyers and want to provide what they are looking for and meeting our mission. But there’s no doubt that the millennials are our next-generation audience, and we need to connect with them as well.”

According to a 2016 survey of 25 arts organizations throughout the country conducted by the Wallace Foundation, there are four success factors in growing a millennial audience.

  • Dispel their perceptions of ticket prices which they believe are much more expensive than they are in reality
  • Create experiences that challenge them emotionally and intellectually, encourage self-discovery, and offer them a release from the stresses of everyday life.
  • Create social experiences.
  • Create “buzz worthy” experiences they can share with friends via social media


Janna Hymes

As the newly appointed Music Director and Maestro of the Carmel Symphony Orchestra (CSO), Janna Hymes is familiar with these trends. A guest conductor for orchestras throughout the country as well as serving as music director for the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra (WSO), she points to a performance of Star Trek music that orchestra will be performing this season. “A friend’s adult son came up to me and was so excited … we’re doing it four times, and he’s coming to two shows,” she said.

In another programming twist, when Williamsburg audiences were treated to violinist Elena Urioste, the WSO tapped into her “Intermission” yoga program and hosted a yoga class the Friday evening before the concert. 

“It just created an amazing vibe with not just the musicians, but the community as a whole,” said Hymes. “It underscores what I believe about performing arts. It is an integral part of the community. The arts give the community a heartbeat, provide economic growth and bring in fascinating people. That’s a much bigger story than, ‘Hey did you hear Beethoven on Saturday?’”

As Hymes begins her tenure with the CSO, she says her challenge will be discovering what makes Carmel and the surrounding community tick and programming accordingly. “One thing I know is that Carmel has one of the most beautiful halls I’ve ever seen,” she said. “We’ve been able to create a palpable ‘buzz’ in Williamsburg, and I know we can do the same in Carmel.”

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Look at Fishers Today

This could be FishersThis was our cover story just 3½ years ago. This could be Fishers! It was hard to believe because the town had grown (quickly) on a suburban scale. Wide streets, single story buildings, large fields with trees around the municipal center. This rendering didn’t look anything like that. But Fishers had unveiled a plan for downtown that was designed to make the area around Town Hall more walkable, urban and business-friendly. This was the view from the second floor of Town Hall then.

This the view today

View of Downtown Fishers

It’s a remarkable transformation, especially considering the time frame. In three short years the (now) city has seen amazing activity in the city core. Not everyone likes the change, and some question the public investment, but you have to admire the ambition that’s gone into the dozen or so buildings erected around the Municipal Center. They are creating a sense of place that was missing before, and luring residents and businesses that were nowhere to be found just a few years ago.

Nickel Plate Trail

 One part of those plan for downtown Fishers includes a trail that would run on the right of way of the Nickel Plate Railroad, which runs north to Noblesville and south to downtown Indianapolis. Of course, turning it into a trail means the train tracks would likely have to come out.

For the past 30 years or so, the Indiana Transportation Museum has run a Fair Train on those tracks from Fishers to the Indiana State Fair in the Summer. All those fields around the Town Hall served as convenient parking lots for tens of thousands of people who enjoyed giving their kids a taste of railroading while avoiding parking hassles at the Fairgrounds.

The Fair Train was cancelled last year over track safety issues raised by some within the ITM’s own ranks. It doesn’t look like it will run this year either. The Fair Train was the museum’s main revenue generator and the cancellation has strained its finances.

We take a closer look at this unusual museum in this edition: what constitutes its collection, how it operates, and what are its prospects. It’s run a by a dedicated group of people who love trains and have made countless memories for families over the years. Here’s hoping the wheels of progress don’t claim one of Hamilton County’s most unique assets.

And, while we’re on the subject of trains, let me direct your attention to the Northern Hamilton County chamber page, page 28. Most of it is devoted to promoting a new festival called Atlanta Express. It celebrates our railroad heritage and promises to be a great time for both young and old. Sounds like a great opportunity to head up to the northern part of the county.

The Fixer

When quality lags, its SQ to the rescue

StratosphereWhen large manufacturers of cars, trucks, medical devices, lawn care and other equipment discover they have a quality problem, they know just who to call to solve it for them. They call Stratosphere Quality LLC, an 8-year-old Fishers company founded by Steven Cage.

Cage and his CEO, Thomas Gray, send one of their several teams to the factory having trouble, sometimes within just a few hours from when they received the call.

“We are flexible and so are our employees,” Cage said. “They know they can be called at a moment’s notice to travel anywhere to handle a problem.”

$10,000 a minute

Once they arrive on site, team members assess the operation, determine where the problem is and what needs to be done to fix it. These problems usually involve fixing defective parts that are supposed to go onto a car, a machine or device that for some reason won’t fit or won’t work properly.

These large corporations don’t hesitate to hire Stratosphere because shutting down most production lines in such factories costs an average of $10,000 a minute, Gray said.

The best-case scenario in Stratosphere’s work is when the problem they are called to solve is discovered while the equipment or vehicle is still in the manufacturing or assembly stage in the factory. Then Stratosphere’s team can go in and get the problem ironed out before anything is ever shipped. But sometimes, a problem isn’t discovered until later.

Unfortunately for one manufacturer of outdoor power equipment, one model had a defective fuel line that wasn’t discovered until the equipment had already been shipped to 2,200 retail stores. Stratosphere sent teams to every one of those stores to repair and/or replace every defective fuel line.

Stratosphere“The manufacturer was under tremendous pressure from the retailers,” Gray said. “It was the quickest solution for us to go directly to the stores to fix the problem so there was no additional waiting time for shipping and re-shipping the equipment.”

A word that Cage and Gray both use frequently when describing their work is “fun.” Adrenaline flows when they quickly get their teams in motion and deploy them to where ever the problem is. They serve companies across the United States and in Canada and Mexico.

Stratosphere has 75 employees in two different Fishers locations, 552 total in Indiana and about 2,200 employees total in its warehouses located in strategic locations to best help their clients.

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Indiana Academy: A Higher Education

Cicero boarding school offers unique experience for diverse student body

Hidden in plain sight on a 500-acre campus along Ind. 19 in Cicero, Indiana Academy has been educating high school students for 114 years, yet maintains a low profile in a county nationally recognized for its excellence in education.

The boarding school, owned and managed by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, teaches beyond academics, emphasizing work skills and ethics, physical health and service to others. Students are required to work on campus as well as participate in community service programs and mission trips.

Real World Experience

Principal Steven BaughmanProject 58 is one such community outreach opportunity. Principal Steven Baughman says Project 58 is based on Bible passages Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25:40, which call Christ’s followers to serve others as a fulfillment of His commission.

“Once a month we modify our school day to allow the entire student body, staff and faculty to participate in various types of community service,” said Baughman. “We bake bread and cookies to deliver to local businesses and homes, a group of students sews and prepares care packages for the Birthright organization in Cicero, we work with both Gleaners food bank in Indianapolis and the Hamilton County food bank in Noblesville, a group of students helps at the Hamilton County Humane Society, while another group volunteers at the Agape Therapeutic Equestrian Center.”

The academy integrates the classroom with service projects as well, giving students tangible, real-world opportunities to problem-solve for their community.

“Our biology teacher, Art Miller, had his students collect and analyze macro-invertebrates from the Little Cicero Creek running behind our campus to determine water pollution levels,” Baughman explained. “What we're striving to do is incorporate elements of service with this education model. In this case, Mr. Miller had his students prepare and present their findings to members of the Cicero Stormwater Advisory board to help them as they develop methods to inform the greater community of their impact on local water contamination levels.”

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Women Mean Business in downtown Noblesville: Feminine touch helps draw customers

Downtown Noblesville brands itself “hipstoric.” Another apt description might be “chick magnet.”

Women-owned businesses are prolific around the historic Courthouse Square, strengthening its appeal to shoppers as well as clients of professional or medical services.

“Everyone has read the stories about vibrant downtowns serving as attractors for the young and the empty-nester for quality of life — and that trend follows for women-owned businesses,” said Brenda Myers, president and CEO of Hamilton County Tourism, Inc. Noblesville’s downtown is everything a business owner wants. It’s “active, safe, accessible and affordable.”

In a 2010 report, the Indiana Commission for Women said 129,559 – nearly 27 percent – of the state’s 483,242 businesses were owned by women. They produced $20 billion in annual sales and receipts, averaging 9.6 employees each.

Two Hamilton County firms, Avant Healthcare of Carmel and Hare Chevrolet of Noblesville, ranked fourth and fifth among the state’s largest businesses owned by women.

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New Life for Dead Trees: Recycled Wood makes Beautiful, Functional Furniture

The death and disposal of area trees led to an unexpected silver-lining for one local business. 

Vine & BranchVine and Branch, Inc., in Carmel, specializes in tree care and arborist services, recently expanded its business to include creating custom, heirloom-quality furniture and rough-hewn benches for nature centers in Hamilton County. The company anticipates further growth as word gets out that trees lost to pests, disease or age can have a purpose beyond death.

 “I have always been interested in reusing wood, and frankly have felt bad when beautiful wood went into the firewood pile,” said Jud Scott, founder and president of Vine and Branch. A combination of inspiration from a client clearing property and a suggestion from his daughter led Scott to explore the possibilities of creating works of art from the trees typically hauled off and forgotten.

“My daughter sent me some pictures of live-edge slab tables and log-end tables, and said ‘Dad, you need to do this!’ About the same time, a couple of Vine and Branch employees suggested we get rid of these clunky fiberboard desks and make some desks ourselves,” Scott recalls. “Thus, the idea was born.”

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90 Years in Reel Time: No Biz Like Show Biz for the Paikos Family

Martha Paikos says you have to love a job if you’re going to work seven days a week.

Spend a few minutes with her, spot the twinkle in her husband’s eye as he staffs the ticket window, talk to her son, Nick, and you’ll be convinced that all of them love every minute of what they do: Run the Diana Theatre in Tipton.

It's been their family business for 90 years. It's been the delight of audiences night after night, decade after decade.

“More than 300 people erupting in laughter is one of the most satisfying experiences you can imagine,” said Nick, whose first job at the Diana was cleaning, followed by usher, concession seller and projectionist. 

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Virtual Reality: Shooting simulator offers safe, interactive alternative to live-fire practice

Retired Navy SEAL Jesse Barnett knows the difference between firing a weapon at a gun range and engaging a moving target that may be shooting back.

“A traditional range is like a bowling alley: You go up, get your lane, load your gun and shoot your piece of paper,” he said. “You’re not being challenged to turn and face the target, to come up from a carry position. You’re not being challenged with multiple [targets] at different angles, next to somebody or something you don’t want to shoot. When I put people in those situations, it’s miss, miss, miss, miss—including professionals.”

Consistent, repeated practice is the only way to hone those skills, he said, and that’s far too dangerous to attempt with live ammunition. So Barnett is harnessing the power of technology to teach Hoosiers how to master their weapons.

And with more than 11 percent of the state’s population licensed to carry a gun, according to the Crime Prevention Research Center, we all could be safer for it.

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