Editor's Column - Mike Corbett

Editor Mike CorbettI’ve spent my entire career in the media. My background is TV news and newspapers. I came of age when news organizations respected the church/state separation of advertising and editorial. That is, the news side of a publication is separate from the advertising side. The two don’t mix. Editorial decisions are made using editorial values: newsworthiness, compelling story, good visuals. Advertising decisions are made based on our business needs but stories aren’t for sale.

There has always been a little wiggle room in those values, especially in local media where advertisers and newsmakers are often the same people. And, of course, it’s easy to see how they might conflict when you are talking about a business magazine, where businesses are both content and advertising. Still, whenever anybody asks, we always say that news decisions are based on news values and advertising decisions on business values.

The world has changed in the course of my career and the media’s church/state line gets blurrier every day (come to think of it, it’s not as clear as it once was for the real church and state either). Our ad salesman, Dave Bechtel, who hasn’t spent his career in the media, challenged me the other day. He thinks we should use editorial coverage as a sales tool. Every business has a story, he figures, so why not tell the stories of those businesses who support us financially? After all, lots of other magazines do it and even some newspapers do.

I objected that the implicit agreement between the editor and the reader is that editorial content is not for sale unless the reader is alerted that they are reading an ad. He asserts that distinction is a media industry myth, that 95% or more of our readers don’t distinguish between the two and don’t care if they are alerted. If he’s right, I should probably change my thinking.

So that prompted our first ever reader survey. I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to learn a bit more about you, our readers: your preferences, your values, your ideas. If you’ve read this far you likely have an opinion on this and a few other questions, so please take a few minutes to take our survey (it shouldn’t take long…only ten questions).

The link is on our website: www.hamiltoncountybusiness.com. Click Take our Survey on the right hand side of the Home Page. You can remain anonymous if you wish but to make it interesting we’ll draw randomly from the entries who provide an email address for a dinner and date night: a pair of tickets to Motown the Musical on March 28 at Old National Centre and a $50 gift card to Stacked Pickle. We’ll leave the poll open through the month of February. If we get a significant response I’ll be sure to share the results with you.

See you around the county,

Editor's Column - Mike Corbett

Editor Mike CorbettOf all the business stories we tell, one of my favorite themes is the concept of reuse: taking raw materials that others rejected and finding a new way to use them. It requires vision, ingenuity and creativity. That’s why I found this issue’s cover story so appealing. It bothered Jud Scott that thousands of trees that had succumbed to the ravages of the Emerald Ash Borer were being trashed. He figured there must be way to put that valuable hardwood to use. So he started harvesting it and is now turning it into locally sourced furniture. 

It took similar vision at White River Campground in Cicero, where Hamilton County Parks recently unveiled three new bridges across the White River to Koteewi Park. Well, they’re new to Hamilton County, but two of the bridges were salvaged from Washington and Wayne counties and the third was reconstructed from 100 year old plans. 

These are beautiful examples of turn of the 20th Century engineering technology and serve to remind us of our heritage while providing a useful passage between two parks. INDOT saves these old bridges until enterprising people can find new uses for them. The county parks department did just that, and offers a great example of how some creativity and initiative can enhance the quality of life here. 

Of course, we sometimes fail to muster the required initiative as well. You may recall the 100+ year old grain elevator in Noblesville that ceased operation a couple of years ago. It’s now an empty lot and all that lumber from our native trees was sold to people in other parts of the world, who saw value in it that we didn’t. It’s a shame we let that go. I know we can’t save everything but it’s disappointing that a structure that played such an important part in Noblesville’s history is now just a memory with no reminder that it was even there. I’m told some of the limestone from the foundation will find its way to the new park downtown.

Event Updates

Earlier this year I announced a variation on our Hamilton County Home Show for next year that I thought showed a lot of promise. A friend suggested we add pets to the mix to differentiate ourselves and expand the audience. I’m sorry to report that after several months of trying we were unable to recruit a critical mass of pet vendors to complement our home improvement vendors, so we’re calling off the Home and Pet Show for now. I thank the vendors who stepped up but I think we’re all better off cutting our losses now. We don’t want to present a mediocre show. All who paid will receive full refunds. 

We’re also retiring Business Spotlight, the monthly networking event at the Fishers Hilton Garden Inn co-sponsored by this magazine. We love to promote local business and the monthly events were going well, but it was a logistical challenge for coordinator Roxanne Leija, who was doing all the heavy lifting. So we’re going to let those sessions go. We made some great contacts there so maybe we can revive something new in the future.

A Final Note:

Harold Kaiser died in November at 96. Harold was an early subscriber to this magazine and provided encouragement when I needed it most. He was a small-town boy from Cicero who saw incredible change in Hamilton County and left his mark on the real estate industry here. OneZone’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Carmel is named after him and rightly so. 

See you around the county,

Editor's Column - Mike Corbett

Editor Mike CorbettThis edition is personal. Two of the stories here are close to my heart. I have been on the Noblesville Preservation Alliance board of directors for years and I’m a woodworker. Both topics are featured in this edition. As an editor you try to keep your subjects at an arm’s length in an effort to be as objective as possible. Pure objectivity, of course, is elusive, but it’s a worthwhile goal. 

So when an NPA board member suggested we run a story on the organization, my default position was to avoid temptation and pass. But, that’s not really fair either, to purposely dismiss a topic just because I’m involved in it. The answer is to put a good writer on it (keeping editing to a minimum and my mitts out of it) and to keep an open mind. That’s what I did and I’m happy with the result. But in the interest of full disclosure, I’m deeply involved with historic preservation in Noblesville. 

That involvement dovetails nicely with my interest in woodworking as I spend most of my free time renovating our 150+ year old house in Old Town. It was meant to be about a ten-year project and I’m a little behind schedule but it’s a hobby, so I’m not too hard on myself. I do appreciate the craftsmanship that went into these old homes and I feel it’s our duty to preserve as much of it as possible. 

In the case of our house, much of the craftsmanship was destroyed in previous renovations, so I’m trying to re-create what it might have looked like. There are no blueprints and few photos so I end up using my imagination a lot. It can be frustrating and time consuming when things don’t turn out exactly how I imagined, but it’s rewarding to live in a place you are rebuilding as long as you (and your wife and family) are patient. 

I’m an amateur but I’m getting a little professional training at Noblesville’s new Ivy Tech campus. I am delighted that they are offering construction-related courses in response to a demonstrated need in the community. As noted in this edition’s story about IWI (and is evident in the photo on page XXX), there’s a need for young workers with those skills. 

Here’s a suggestion: I’d love to see Ivy Tech specialize in training students in some of those traditional woodworking skills that have largely disappeared with modern construction techniques. Many of our old homes were built by first generation immigrants who brought skills learned in the old apprenticeship traditions. We’ve let those skills and traditions lapse, but there will always be a demand for high-end workmanship. I can envision a thriving partnership between Ivy Tech and Nickel Plate Arts in an effort to revive those old world skills. It would be great to see it happen here in Hamilton County.

See you around the county

 

Editor's Column - Mike Corbett

Deadlines and commitments 

Editor Mike CorbettWhat to leave in…what to leave out… 

Those lines from the Bob Seger classic Against the Wind have been running through my mind for the past several days. 

Editing is all about choices and we had to make some tough ones for this edition. The seed for our cover story was sown by Shauna Metzger, owner of Li’l Bloomers in Noblesville. Li’l Bloomers has been open about a year and the beauty of talking to new business owners is hearing their new perspectives. 

It seemed to Shauna that more businesses in Noblesville’s downtown were owned by women than you might expect. I started doing an informal inventory in my mind and I had to agree with her. There are lots of them. Sounds like a story, I said to myself. So she and I agreed to collaborate on the story and find out if our perceptions were true. 

That’s where the choices come in. Does downtown include more than the Courthouse Square? How far off the square do we count? Are we talking just retail or services businesses that may not have storefronts? Does “woman-owned” mean owned solely by a woman or do partnerships with husbands, siblings and significant others count? There’s a lot to consider and we quickly realized we couldn’t conduct a totally inclusive inventory of woman-owned businesses. 

So I’d like to offer a framework for this edition’s cover story: it’s a feature about the preponderance of woman-owned businesses in downtown Noblesville, but it’s not meant to be exhaustive. We couldn’t possibly cover every woman-owned business so we didn’t try. We took a sampling and provide some insights. We did try to invite as many women as we could think of to the cover photo shoot (thank you Shauna!). However, some couldn’t make it, some didn’t get the memo and no doubt we just missed some. 

To those we missed, I apologize. But it doesn’t change the gist of this edition’s cover story, which is that women are having a huge impact on business in downtown Noblesville. That is worth celebrating, especially in October, which is national Women in Business Month. Cheers!

It’s Budget Season 

Here’s my annual pitch. If your market is other business people and you want to reach the business community in Indiana’s fastest growing county, why not consider advertising in our pages? We offer an affordable way to reach people who are seeking better ways to run their businesses and your product or service may offer that solution. If so, let us be your marketing partner in getting the word out. We circulate to every chamber of commerce member in Hamilton County six times a year and we can help you build your brand in this thriving business community. Best of all we’re as local as you can get. All money invested in our magazine stays right here in Hamilton County (except federal taxes). Dash off an email and I’d be happy to reply with details. The economy is humming…this is no time to be timid. 

See you around the county