September 25, 2016
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Our love-hate relationship with smartphones
ERA First Advantage Realty agent Janice Miller says there’s “no way” she’d be happier without her smartphone.

We have a question for you. How much time would you say your smartphone takes from you?

Ten percent of your day? Fifty? Eighty?

Those hand-held computers you put in your pocket or purse have become such a norm in our personal and business lives, it probably does not occur to you how much you use it.

A Gallup poll published in July 2015 indicated half of smartphone owners in the U.S. check their phones several times an hour or more. That statistic included 11 percent who admitted to glancing for notifications every few minutes. An annual internet trend poll conducted by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in 2013 reported users check their phones 150 times per day.

Whether you realize it or not, you likely look at your phone 150 times per day.

The staff of Evansville Business conducted a poll of our own on social media. We asked followers to think about their smartphone usage and share their thoughts. Of the 77 responses, about 50 percent admitted to doing business on smartphones anytime, anywhere, indicating the practice is slowly becoming a part of the business standard.

From answering a call or shooting a text to a client to uploading pictures to Facebook or even just checking the time, we arguably have come to rely on smartphones more than any other technology in the last 30 years.

Back to the Future

The first smartphone created was the IBM Simon Personal Communicator, which debuted in 1992 for $899 on the now outdated two-year contract agreements. If you didn’t want to sign your name on the dotted line, you needed only produce $1,099 for a Simon.

This early version had a basic touchscreen and the capability to send and receive emails and faxes. Nokia would come next with the 9000 Communicator. It did not boast a touchscreen, but allowed users to browse the web and use word processing and spreadsheet programs.

These phones would dominate a small niche market but remain fairly unknown to the mass of consumers. In the early 2000s, BlackBerry launched the era of phones catered to business professionals with large keyboards and email capabilities.

Smartphones as we know them today hit the market in 2007, when Apple debuted its first iPhone and the company’s chief executive Steve Jobs called it “a revolutionary and magical product.” From there, the device’s meteoric rise in the technology world could not be stopped.

By 2008, Apple announced 4.7 million cellphone users owned iPhones. Its biggest competitor, Android, hit the market in November 2008 with the G1. Today, the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy are the most popular smartphones on the market. They offer unlimited options for both business and personal use; games, social media, photography, and programs to help run your business are just a few of the “apps” taking up memory on our phones. It’s no wonder many of us turn to our devices for just about everything.

Many questions arise from this usage: is society losing its ability to have face-to-face interactions? Has the line between our business and personal lives blurred? Is hyper-connectivity killing our relationships with one another?

There are pros and cons of this shift in technology — and our society — depending on whom you ask. Students, company owners, small-business employees — we all use smartphones in one way or another. Just how much have they affected the way we do business and, possibly most importantly, the way we interact with each other?

Incoming Call, one new message

▲ College sophomores and Signature School graduates Cooper Pratt and Abbie Gipson read messages, check bus schedules, and take plenty of selfies. This next generation of professionals will never conduct business in a world without smartphones.

Janice Miller sweeps into a small conference room, smartphone to her ear, her head nodding as she listens to the caller on the line. They exchange a few words and after they end their conversation, Miller’s phone dings with a few text notifications. As she wraps up answering the messages, she looks up and smiles as she lets out a deep breath.

“I absolutely do everything with my phone,” she explains, smartphone still in hand.

A real estate agent and owner of ERA First Advantage Realty in Newburgh, Indiana, Miller has used cellphones since 1985. Today, her iPhone 6 Plus holds everything essential to her professional and personal lives. Eighty percent of her day is spent on the device.

“The smartphones have made business so much easier,” says Miller, “but you really don’t get away from it. You just don’t get away unless you turn it off. And I rarely turn it off.”

But Miller doesn’t see anything wrong with that.

“Most customers are very polite; they value my time,” she says. “I work with great people.”

Jackson Kelly PLLC attorney Joshua Claybourn agrees it’s harder now than ever to discern the line between work time and personal time.

“Clients know they can get ahold of you quickly, and so they do, whether by email, text, or calls,” he says. “You’re always kind of working, and that’s true not only after the day ends, but also on vacation. I can be in another state or even another country, and people expect and are used to still having responses.”

He sees both the positives and negatives of having a smartphone at all times. It can have its disadvantages and headaches, he says, but overall has a tremendous benefit.

“I can be more responsive,” adds Claybourn. “Very often a client needs something quickly, so therefore I can get access to it and provide better service because of smartphones.”

For Miller and real estate agents, apps such as Trello, E-Key, and DocuSign allow them to post new listings, see who has viewed houses, and sign contracts with home owners all on their smartphones. Attorneys like Claybourn can rely on the apps Lexis Advance and Westlaw to research specific legal questions and look up municipal codes.

For small-business owners like Sara Davidson, director of marketing and part owner of Tin Man Brewing Company, the pros and cons of smartphones get a little trickier.

“It’s one of those things,” she says. “I mean, it’s a necessity, but at the same time, you don’t want it to be a distraction.”

While her employees are required to keep their smartphones off the floor to focus their attention on customers, Davidson herself uses her phone frequently for social media posts as well as answering any questions that may arise.

“Actually I wish I could throw mine away sometimes. You know, because it’s a constant,” she says. “For me, I think it’d be nice to put it down for a couple hours and just work. It’s a balancing act for sure.”

Debatably, no one is better at this balancing act than the younger generations who grew up in this technological boom. College students today were born into a time when cellphones and computers were reaching commonplace status. They are the masters of social media, the champions of hyper-connectivity, and the pioneers of new technology.

“As a young person, my phone — unless I had a separate work phone or separate school phone — has sort of become a part of me,” says Newburgh native Abbie Gipson. “It’s something that you need; it’s what you use most to communicate.”

The journalism and international studies major who attends Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, points out perhaps the biggest truth about smartphones today — they are no longer a luxury, but a necessity. The devices define social interactions and carry vital information. They serve as alarm clocks and road maps, give students grades at their fingertips, and allow them to coordinate projects in minutes.

“It’s a work culture that is kind of permeated by the idea that, if you can, then you should,” says Gipson, “where that line is just blurred and blurred and blurred.”

Cooper Pratt, an Evansville native and Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, student, believes smartphones are a tool to stay connected, but they do not replace face-to-face interactions.

“You’re still going to have to meet in person, because there are just some things you can’t convey over the phone,” he says. “But it’s definitely supplemented it.”

To this generation, smartphones are almost an afterthought — the devices are there as tools to conduct business in school and their personal lives. But they don’t require the phones to be happy.

“I think what’s important is to look at how it is affecting us, because I think we can be happy regardless,” says Gipson. “I just think it’s important to recognize the ways smartphones are making us unhappy.”

Phone Cases

One bittersweet smartphone side effect results from the ease mobile devices afford. With the privilege of portable information and communication comes the responsibility of keeping it classy and classified.

Jake Fulcher, a management side labor and employment attorney with Kahn, Dees, Donovan & Kahn, LLP, has noticed an uptick in company smartphone policies, often focused on sexual harassment and discrimination — workplace cyberbullying of sorts.

In addition, some businesses have instated policies regarding social media and company representation.

“Certainly employees can do things on behalf of their employer that they shouldn’t be doing, and that can happen with smartphones or anything else. It’s just now it’s a lot easier to run afoul, or accidentally send or lose something,” says Claybourn. “Also, now people can hack into phones and get access to not just your calls or voicemail, but the data that’s being sent to you.”

Before Claybourn practiced law at Jackson Kelly PLLC, he worked with Vectren, and he recalls a company-wide concern about access to critical utility infrastructure information on phones.

To quell worries over the potential of lost phones and sly hackers, he says, Vectren incorporated software similar to AirWatch Agent. This app, installed on Claybourn’s phone, allows for a swift remote scrub of confidential data.

“The flipside of that, as a lawyer,” says Claybourn, “is if there’s ever a lawsuit that requires access to that information, then you also have to top that with technology and software that will allow you to retrieve it and use it as evidence.”

Fulcher predicts a different sort of software will become popular after Dec. 1, when a new federal law takes effect.

The law sets the standard salary level at $913 per week or $47,476 per year for salaried workers — more than double the current standard. That means many overtime-exempt employees will become hourly workers and receive overtime pay for after-hours activity.

Subsequently, employers wonder how to track overtime accrued by new hourly employees who check email and take calls at home on their smartphones.

“If it’s unlikely that you’ll take the smartphone away, start looking at ways to manage their time on their phone after hours,” says Fulcher. “I think we’re going to see a lot more companies have policies, and there’s going to be some sort of business boom on shutting the phone off at a certain hour, turning email on and off, that sort of thing. A good little software business to get into.”

With unprecedented layers of complexity thrust upon the workplace by mobile technology, the logical question concerns the future of smartphone regulation.

“The smartphones are a tool, just like your note pad, just like your computer, just like your mind,” says Fulcher.  “The smartphone is just another tool that allows you to work more efficiently.  I do not think that the government is going to get into the business of regulating work specifically done on a smartphone. It will be up to the courts and employers to do that, if necessary.”

Swiping Forward

Of course, the future is far more than law and policy. While tomorrow rests in the hands of today’s young people and those teaching them, everyone has nuanced plans and predictions.

At the University of Southern Indiana Business and Engineering Center, assistant professor of computer science Gongjun Yan sees assistant professor of computer information systems Dinko Bacic walking by his office.

Yan waves him in.

“In any other university,” says Bacic, “we probably would not know about each other, like, at all.”

But USI is different, combining business and technology on a structural level. The move has paid off, as teams of students advised by Yan and Bacic have won awards at major information systems case competitions by developing apps and websites for local businesses and nonprofits.

“In the future,” says Yan, “if people are on the move, it’s very likely the smartphone is going to be the major device where they do their computing and communicating.”

“That’s the next challenge, really, because they’re realizing that executives are making decisions, which are being fed to them on a small screen,” says Bacic. “You’re forming this environment where it’s very conducive to make a decision quicker. We recognize it in our classes as the fact that students have to be aware of the mobile environment in which businesses make decisions.”

Much of Yan and his colleagues’ research also focuses on smartphones. While Yan is working to program a dash camera-phone-database system to
monitor driving habits, he says Hui Shi is studying artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

That same artificial intelligence, mobilized by smartphones, could be making its way into the legal profession.

“There have been a growing number of articles written about the potential for artificial intelligence to essentially act as a lawyer,” says Claybourn. “The thought has long been that professions that required some analytical skills would always require humans, but now with the advent and growth of artificial intelligence, you start to wonder just how far can it go.”

Dumb, Not Dead

They’re still alive. And they’re not just for older folks.
Basic cell phones, with classic flip and slide features, rest in the back corners of local cell carrier stores, waiting for pockets and purses just like their smarter counterparts.

Sometimes, says Verizon solutions specialist Prentis Kelly, a basic cell phone is the only mobile device a young person can afford.
The LG Revere 3, one of Verizon’s most popular basic phones, sells for just $50, making it the go-to for people who have destroyed their smartphones and don’t have insurance to pick up new ones.

The smartphone has already made its way to grocery shopping.

Miller’s daughter-in-law recently took advantage of Wal-Mart’s option to order products online and pick up her package of fresh groceries at the store.

“So that will be the next thing I implement,” says Miller. “We’ll shop totally online.”

Miller also has begun encouraging home sellers and builders to consider designating space in the house for charging stations.

“It’s just exciting times,” she says. “Imagine what’s going to come out next year with phones. Imagine what it’s going to do next!”

The smartphone trend could die out, and everyone could go back to flip phones. But Pratt doesn’t see that happening.

“We’ve already opened the Pandora’s box of communication,” he says. “There’s no putting it all back, but one of the good things about smartphones is you don’t have to do everything. In a way, a smartphone can be dumb if you just use it that way.” 




When 8-year-old Lilly met Janet Evans.

I have written many times in this column about youth sports, which is something very important to me. Judging by the reaction of both of my faithful column readers, it is important to some of you as well. After retiring from about 20 years of coaching more baseball and basketball teams than I can count, I can say with certainty youth sports have been a big part of who I am — or even perhaps who I want to be when I grow up (why rush things).

Life lessons learned through sports has been the topic of many of our father-and-son, let’s call them “conversations,” over the years. Which brings me to a story shared with me by Mark King, father of local Olympic swimmer Lilly King. Mark is an excellent writer, does freelance work for us, and, although he will deny this, is a friend.

Mark recently told me this funny story:

Ginny King, Lilly’s mom, had been a terrific age-group and college swimmer. Mark had been a college runner. So it stands to reason that sports would play a role in the King household. However, Lilly initially was not a very good swimmer (sorry Lil, your dad’s words!).

When Lilly was 8 years old, Ginny took her to a swim clinic at the Mount Vernon High School pool. Lilly struggled all day to keep up with the other girls and was last in everything she swam. Her mom was sure Lilly would be upset and end up hating the sport.

The clinic was put on by none other than Janet Evans, generally regarded as the best female distance swimmer in history with four gold medals in two different Olympic games and a number of world records along the way.

Evans spoke at length to the kids at the clinic, repeatedly emphasizing that while she was far from being the most talented swimmer, she had worked extremely hard to achieve her goals. It was a lesson Lilly obviously took to heart and demonstrated year in and year out.

Recently, while getting ready to practice with her Olympic swimming teammates for her debut in Rio, Lilly’s phone rang and showed a California number she did not recognize. Lilly decided not to answer. Later that evening, she listened to the voicemail, and the caller was Janet Evans.

Evans told Lilly she was planning to go to Rio for the Olympics and asked Lilly if she could meet her 9-year-old daughter, an aspiring breaststroke swimmer, at the games. The young girl’s favorite swimmer just happens to be Lilly King.

I know some of you — certainly my peers — are probably struggling to comprehend the photos below. In our feature story “Synced” beginning on page 24, we detail how the world of smartphones has literally changed everything.

My take on smartphones and our culture? It is safe to say in a love-hate relationship, there is no love.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Todd A. Tucker


No-Parking Zone

Are plans for a Downtown bicentennial park dead?
Old Kenny Kent site

When I changed careers and moved into the second floor of the Old Post Office in 2000, our offices overlooked the old Kenny Kent building bounded by Vine, Sycamore, Second, and Third streets. A building often used by the homeless, the structure was in serious decline when torn down in 2006.

The result was a square block in the middle of Downtown — a terrific development opportunity.

A potential retail and townhome development was proposed by well-known St. Louis, Missouri, commercial building owner Ed Curtis. This proposal, and others, were scrapped seemingly because parties could not come to an agreement on how the project would be funded.

At the tail end of his second term, on Dec. 18, 2011, Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel kicked off Evansville’s bicentennial at the Ford Center with an announcement that a bicentennial park would be built on the old Kenny Kent site. Ratio architects provided architectural drawings, showing a park with a sloped semi-circular event lawn. The park was to provide a platform for concerts, movies, a farmer’s market, and festivals.

In the July/August 2012 Evansville Living article “The Park Next Door,” former Department of Metropolitan Development executive director Philip Hooper stated, “Once the project is designed, the Department of Metropolitan Development staff will have the project put out for construction bids, then carry the project all the way through the approvals, construction, and completion.”

Hooper now says, at the time, he felt other economic development projects took precedence over the bicentennial park.

The city intended to fund the park with tax incremental financing (TIF) dollars. A completion date was set for July 4, 2013.

That date has come and gone. Instead of a park, a square plot of dirt and grass now occupies the property, which hosts the Downtown Farmers Markets on Fridays in the warm, summer months.

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke says the bicentennial park project was proposed with a multi-million dollar price tag shortly after he took office. Such a plan would require significant financial investment from the Downtown TIF district, he adds.

“As the proposed convention hotel and the future medical school project would also utilize the TIF, we felt it was in the city’s best long-term interest to seek out a development that encompassed both private and public investment,” says Winnecke.

The city still is interested in the concept of a park on the Greyhound block, he adds, but with the Regional Cities Initiative and the updated Downtown Master Plan, “our vision for green space on that block will most likely take a more linear form.” 


Glorious Glass

Newburgh studio creates and restores stained glass works of art

Rick Beheler stands over a table covered by a sheet of paper on which he has hand-drawn several shapes. At first glance, the shapes appear to be part of a large puzzle. Beheler carefully scores and breaks pieces of glass and lays them on the paper. Closer inspection reveals the glass pieces form two columns and an arch. Pencil sketches of grass, a river, and two hummingbirds also become visible.

“It’s like a puzzle, but you use lead to hold it together,” says Beheler, a Chandler resident.

The carefully constructed pieces eventually will become a custom stained glass window for a client’s home. Beheler could work with hi-tech equipment to make the process quicker, but says he prefers to do most of the work by hand.

“I’m old school,” he says, adding he found many computer-generated sketches were inaccurate. “When I hand-draw something, I can make sure everything is exact. I find this easier. Just give me a glass cutter, straight edge, and pliers, and I’m set.”

Beheler is one of three glass artists at Sunburst Stained Glass, 300 W. Jennings St., Newburgh. Along with general manager Patty Beeson and Kris Sibrel, the trio have more than 70 years of glass artistry among them.

Owners Kevin “Butch” Will and his son Mason Will reopened Sunburst Stained Glass in June 2014 after owner Sue Morrison closed the former location at 20 W. Jennings St. earlier that year. The company designs and creates custom works, which now reside in homes as far as England, Germany, Hawaii, New York, and Alaska.

Sunburst Stained Glass also restores stained-glass windows, often from churches. After on-site removal, each window is transported to the studio and receives a tarpaper rubbing to create a template for reassembly. Glass pieces are taken apart, cleaned, and eventually fit back together.

“When we bring them in, they’re in really bad shape,” says Beeson, but adds that most people recognize the importance of retaining the integrity and history of the glass windows. “They don’t realize the hours that go into making a piece. Everything is done by hand.”

Stained glass studios are becoming more rare, says Beeson, because of the specialized skills and patience required to perfect the art. Further, not everyone is willing to pay what each project is worth. From design to installation, a custom-created window can take from one to three months to complete and cost about $165 per square foot.

Nonetheless, Sunburst Stained Glass continues to thrive. Beeson says the key to the small studio’s success is its customer service. She also says its patrons have a deep appreciation for the time and expertise involved in each handmade work.

“If you love your customers and are good to them, they’ll keep coming back,” says Beeson. 

For more information about Sunburst Stained Glass, call 812-853-0460 or visit


Brace Yourself

Wells Orthodontics opens office with unconventional theme
The West Side Wells Orthodontics office.

Orthodontist Dr. Tony Wells works inside a dodecagon with the aesthetics of a mineshaft, but don’t be fooled. He only unearths perfect smiles.

The West Side office of Wells Orthodontics relocated in mid-May to 2222 W. Franklin St. Since 2005, Wells operated out of a building just a few blocks west on the same street.

“Franklin Street has been very welcoming,” says Dr. Crunchy Wells, who is a dentist, part owner of Wells Orthodontics, and Dr. Wells’s wife. “When we moved in down there, we were just renting, and now that we own it, there’s even a better sense.”

A long while in the making, the move got rolling when Michelle Hueck, owner of the former chiropractic facility, visited Wells’s office and offered to sell her building. Tony immediately accepted.

However, the next step was not so swift. Crunchy knew she wanted to create a masculine and whimsical space representative of her husband and his patients, but she stalled the decorating and design process for weeks, fearing an industrial concept might appear too radical. But between the original stone walls built by Dr. Albert McClain and a piece of chair rail brought to Crunchy by Derick Higginson of Vintage Iron Design, she garnered the inspiration necessary to jump into the mineshaft.

A massive team of locals and patients’ families took the leap with her.

Jeff Hatfield of Core Contractors tore out walls and cut new window openings while Jeff Hoffman of Hoffman Plumbing carved through cement to add plumbing for dentistry chairs. Chris Maurer of Maurer Tile Company leveled the floor and installed hospital-grade laminate as Higginson constructed everything from giant gears to the sign for the entry.

When the light fixtures came in, they were too beige, so Kristin Proctor of Illuminating Expressions came to the rescue with her daughter. The two spray-painted each piece the proper color.

“There’s no dentist office I’ve ever seen that looks like this, and there’s not even really a store that looks like this,” Crunchy says of the mineshaft motif. “This was a little edgy.”
Though the décor is visually rough and tough, visitors enjoy cozy waiting room chairs much like the Wells team has enjoyed the inviting West Side community.

“We’ve actually had an influx of patients because it was like we committed,” says Crunchy. “That’s a part of Evansville you just can’t get anywhere else in the world. When they realize you’ve invested in them, they’ll invest in you.”

For more information about Wells Orthodontics, call 812-426-9000 or 812-479-1311, or visit


Family Affair

Autumn Barn Farms’ Wintner family mixes passion, popcorn, and primitives

A glimpse of Kristy Wintner’s cell phone would likely show a recent call to “The Mistress.” Kristy’s husband Chris spends 11 to 12 hours a day, six days a week with The Mistress. She says The Mistress has brought out Chris’s tenacity like she’s never seen.

The Mistress is the couple’s code name for their gourmet popcorn business, Autumn Barn Farms.

“When you have a business, that’s your life,” says Kristy. “It literally becomes a part of your family.”

Formerly named Hoosier Daddy Popcorn, Autumn Barn Farms opened its brick and mortar store at 1442 N. Green River Road in January. Previously, the business served its popcorn at craft and trade shows. The store also sells primitive décor.

Chris handles customer service and advertising. He arrives early each morning and makes the popcorn, mixing each flavor with his special concoctions of spices, extracts, and food coloring. Kristy, a marketing manager at MasterBrand Cabinets in Jasper, Indiana, is responsible for Autumn Barn Farms’ social media.

The couple also involves daughters Madison, 10, and Kennedy, 6. Madison often can be seen taking orders and running the counter, while Kennedy enjoys cleaning and putting out new merchandise. They also are responsible for many of the unique popcorn flavors.

“They come up with [flavors], I go back there and try to cook it,” says Chris, noting Kennedy comes up with sweet flavors, while Madison is responsible for savory. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s pretty bad. But we have a lot of fun trying it.”

The store has about 27 flavors for purchase daily, with caramel the best seller. Savory flavors include pizza, white cheddar, sriracha, honey mustard, creamy dill, and bacon cheddar. Sweet flavors are cherry, grape, piña colada, watermelon, orange, and blueberry. Chris is currently working on a caramel apple bourbon flavor that will be available this fall.

Customers can fill bags or tins with the flavor or combination of choice. Tins can be brought back for a discounted refill. The store’s newest campaign allows customers to bring any tin they have at home to be cleaned and filled with their pick of Autumn Barn Farms popcorn at the discount refill price.

Chris and Kristy put great emphasis on giving back to the community. Both Army veterans, they often donate to local veteran and law enforcement organizations. Every decision is made with the community in mind, including their storefront.

“People don’t like to leave,” says Kristy. “But we want to make them feel like a part of our family.”

The Wintners are excited to see how Autumn Barn Farms grows, but add they are taking it one day and one purchase of popcorn at a time.

“We’re really patient and we recognize the need to grow organically and not rush,” says Kristy, noting she’s trusting two important people in her life. “Between God and my husband, they haven’t steered us wrong yet.”

For more information about Autumn Barn Farms, call 812-550-1085 or visit


The Art of Neighboring

Cooke guides Jacobsville rebirth
Jacobsville Join In community mobilizer Jennifer Cooke stands in front of a building set to be renovated into a meeting space.

Early in 2013 when Jennifer Cooke stepped into the position of community mobilizer for Jacobsville Join In (JJI), she was given a laptop, cellphone, and a few weeks to talk to 50 people in the neighborhood to compile a community report.

By February, the Vincennes University and University of Evansville graduate gathered more than 1,000 collective statements from 68 people in the neighborhood.

“There was this overwhelming sense of hopelessness,” says Cooke, who grew up in Evansville. “Like they had been overlooked for far too long. They were a ‘seeing is believing’ crowd; they didn’t believe anything would ever change for this neighborhood.”

So Cooke made it her mission to change their minds and started a revitalization movement, which is gaining ground in Evansville’s largest neighborhood.

Covering 1.9 square miles just north of Downtown, Jacobsville is home to 7,000 Evansvillians. The neighborhood includes Kleymeyer and Garvin parks, totaling about 188 acres of land. Divisions of Deaconess and Vectren, Berry Plastics, and several other businesses call it home, providing roughly 8,000 jobs.

Residents’ engagement is important to Cooke and her team’s mission, she says. Working from the residents’ statements, JJI initiated work groups within the community to create a Quality of Life plan for the neighborhood in six key areas: housing, employment, youth and education, safety and cleanliness, infrastructure and parks, and business corridors. That plan and process would lead to a $600,000 Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Grant from the Department of Justice in 2013. 

“People can join one of the group sessions and work with all different types of people: residents, business owners, the school system, parks department. Just anyone who has a stake in the neighborhood,” says Cooke.

Jacobsville and its residents have had quite a few successes so far — some JJI has initiated, others grown organically from the residents and business owners in the neighborhood. There is still much to do, according to Cooke, but they aren’t slowing down anytime soon.

“People are paying attention to what’s being done,” says Cooke. “To me, it’s just amazing.”
For more information on Jacobsville Join In, call 812-746-8933 or visit


City Champion

Coures’s work with DMD is changing the face of Evansville
Department of Metropolitan Development executive director Kelley Coures sits on the steps of the Owen Block building.

 In the late 1950s and early 60s, Erich Brenn graced the stage of The Ed Sullivan Show with his act of spinning plates. Using thin wooden poles, the Austrian would set the tableware spinning, working to keep them aloft while “Flight of the Bumblebee” played at a frantic pace.

It’s an act Department of Metropolitan Development (DMD) executive director Kelley Coures says he relates to.

“Sometimes I feel like that guy,” he says with a smile, “trying to keep all these plates spinning up there.”

A graduate of Harrison High School and Indiana State University Evansville (now University of Southern Indiana), Coures found himself in the DMD managing federal funds after taking an early retirement from Springleaf Financial, where he had worked for 31 years, in 2012. Two years later, Mayor Lloyd Winnecke would ask Coures to take on a new position.

“He said, ‘I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news,’” he says. “The good news was he wanted me to be executive director. The bad news, he said, was I was going to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Coures, who served as an intern in the DMD in 1979 under former mayor Russ Lloyd Sr., enjoys working with community residents, city leaders, and local businesses, making the long hours just another aspect of the job he doesn’t mind. But being head of the DMD is more than standing at a podium, sharing the next development project with the city.

“It’s leveraging dollars and finding developers who can make projects happen,” he says. “The job really is about several different things; it’s about people, it’s about making sure what the city does is good for people.”

In the last two years, Coures’s spinning plates have included new development projects at Haynie’s Corner Arts District; the progress of Downtown; the North Main Complete Street Project; and setting up Evansville’s land bank to deal with housing blight, a project Coures is especially proud of. By leveraging federal money and organizing private investments, the DMD is able to bring property back to the city’s tax rolls and create jobs — two things that strengthen the city.

“I feel very fortunate to have this job at this time,” says Coures. “Because you’re connected to everything; you’re connected to all the good things.”

For more information about the Department of Metropolitan Development, call 812-436-7823.


Groundwork for Success

Former Starbucks manager credits Evansville roots for professional path
Mindy Sagez adjunct professor and LEAD Forward director at the University of Evansville.

When University of Evansville adjunct professor Mindy Sagez visits Starbucks for a coffee fix, she knows she will meet the same familiar aroma of roasted coffee beans wafting through the air. She knows the same branding and logo will emblazon nearly every item in the store, from merchandise and packaged coffees to cups and baristas’ aprons. She can even tell you how long the beans are roasted and how often coffee is brewed.

But Sagez is more than just an enthusiast of the Starbucks coffee experience. As former category manager of brewed coffee and espresso at the Starbucks corporate office in Seattle, Washington, Sagez once lived it, breathed it, and perhaps you could say she reinvented it.

“It was my baby for a long while,” she says, adding each visit to a Starbucks store reminds her of her former career. “I do feel that sense of pride; I do feel that connection to it. And I’m sure I probably always will.”

Sagez worked at Starbucks from 2006 to 2009. During that time, CEO Howard Schultz sent an internal memo detailing the “watering down of the Starbucks experience, and, what some might call the commoditization of (the Starbucks) brand.” The memo was leaked to the press by one of the recipients.

“It was the memo heard around the world,” says Sagez, who would later lead Starbucks’ Reinvention of Brewed Coffee Initiative to directly address Schultz’s concerns in the infamous memo.

Fueled by Sagez’s leadership and business prowess, the initiative led to the creation of Pike Place Roast and a complete turnaround of the Starbucks brand. The initiative was so successful that a press release by Schultz in 2008 not only applauded Pike Place Roast, but also the team responsible — including Sagez.

“In my opinion and that of several others who have tasted this incredible coffee, Pike Place Roast is truly one of the best coffees we have offered our customers in our 37-year history,” says Schultz in the release, “and it will reinvent brewed coffee.”

While some could say Starbucks made her who she is today, Sagez says it’s quite the opposite. The Reitz High School graduate says her West Side upbringing laid the groundwork for her success.

“Evansville’s a hard-working community, filled with people who are determined. They care about building a better community. They know what it is to work hard,” she says. “And I definitely took that with me in every job I had, in every community I joined.”

Sagez’s resume is undoubtedly impressive. She graduated from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, with a major in social policy with an emphasis in education reform and received her master’s degree from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. In addition to the stint at Starbucks, her professional experience includes an internship with Gatorade in Chicago and consultant position at Monitor Group (now Monitor Deloitte) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In 2009, Sagez returned to Evansville with husband Nic and their two young daughters. While Evansville offered a family-friendly community to raise the family, the couple also intended to help manage the family’s transportation business Walt’s Drive-A-Way. In 2014 when her family sold its portion of the business, Sagez says she immediately sent an email to Schroeder School of Business dean Greg Rawski detailing her experience and desire to join UE.

“When I looked at her experience, I thought it was a natural fit. To work for a national company like Starbucks and have that success — that’s someone we want to put in front of our students,” says Rawski. “Based on her experience, we can offer new classes that we couldn’t before.”

So in the 2015 spring semester, Sagez joined UE to teach principles of marketing and direct the Leaders Engaged in Advancing Development (LEAD) Forward program. This fall Sagez also will add a consulting class, the first of its kind to be offered at UE.

LEAD Forward provides students opportunities to build business and leadership skills outside of the classroom. Perks include access to business executives, trips to corporations throughout the Midwest, and having Sagez as a mentor. The program begins each year with a two-day retreat to Wooded Glen Retreat & Conference Center, Henryville, Indiana, where Sagez requires students to forfeit all electronic devices. Some students see it as a radical move in a world so consumed with technology, says Sagez, but end up thanking her for it.

“My perspective is that it goes both ways. We need technology and we’re able to get a whole lot out of technology,” she says. “And then there’s just other times that we need to have human moments and be able to connect one-on-one with people.”

Relationships form when technology is not a distraction and is what sets the tone for LEAD Forward fellows to learn about each other and create trust, says Sagez. That trust allows students to be open, honest, and vulnerable with one another in an atmosphere where taking risks is encouraged and feedback is valued.

In the classroom, Sagez uses a case method of teaching, presenting students with real-world scenarios to discuss business practices and conduct problem solving. Rawski says students have bonded with Sagez because of her passion and energy.

One such student is Hassan Taki Eddin of Damascus, Syria, a senior majoring in both accounting and finance. Taki Eddin says Sagez is different from other professors because she brings real-world experience into the classroom, whereas many professors teach first and then hold jobs in the corporate world.

“Mindy is a very hands-on learning type of teacher,” says Taki Eddin, who took Sagez’s marketing class and will return this year as a LEAD Forward assistant. “She brings that real-world experience with her, and she realizes that what we learn in the textbooks is not enough.”

Adjunct professors have a lighter class load, which allows opportunities for outside employment. Sagez says she still is searching for the best way to add to Evansville’s thriving business community.

“You get to see how things work from a different perspective. You get to see businesses working together,” she says. “It’s inspiring. I’m still trying to figure out the best way for me to be apart of that.”

As a professor, Sagez’s focus is on developing her students and fellows to be influential in Evansville and beyond. She doesn’t take that lightly and considers it an honor to have an effect that will reach far beyond her classroom walls.

“Leaders can change the world. Leaders impact people and they do it one person at a time … and I think that’s important,” she says. “I think if I can do that for anyone it will be great. I’m so lucky to get to do what I love.” 

For more information about the University of Evansville’s LEAD Forward program, visit


One-Stop Shop

Fifth-generation business still going strong after nearly a century
Tom and John Mathias are driving Evansville Electrical and Mechanical Services Company, Inc. into its fifth generation.

 A rare fifth-generation business owner, Evansville Electrical and Mechanical Services Company, Inc. (EEMSCO) vice president Tom Mathias is proud to carry on a longtime family tradition. Since taking leadership from his father John Mathias in June 2015, Tom focuses on demands new technology will bring while maintaining signature services on which the company was built nearly a century ago.

As a one-stop industrial maintenance shop, EEMSCO rewinds and repairs AC/DC electric motors, pumps, and gearboxes, and also performs millwright and machine shop services for businesses within a 150-mile radius, which includes Southern Indiana, Southern Illinois, and Western Kentucky. Its services benefit a wide range of industries, including plastics, aluminum, steel, automotive, pulp and paper, power plants, refineries and pipelines, aggregate and mining, utilities and municipalities, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, food processing, and colleges and universities.

“Businesses count on us to keep them running,” says Tom, an Evansville native who earned his bachelor’s degree in business management from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, and master’s degree from Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee. “If their industry is succeeding, then we’re succeeding.”

Tom attributes the company’s nearly century-long success to its adaptation to the region’s new and diverse industries, continuity in management, and longtime employee tenure, as well as constant dedication to its customers.

“We want to continue to grow and find ways to improve so we are always able to meet all of our customers’ needs,” says Tom. “I talk to the guys on the floor and ask about certain processes and ways to improve. We don’t want to say we can only handle a portion of your repairs — we want to fix it all. We want to listen and ask questions and always be looking for ways to do things better. If we do that, we will never stop growing.”

Founded by Tom’s great-great-grandfather John Poling and great-grandfather Gil Poling, the business moved into its current facility at 600 W. Eichel Ave. in 1920 and was incorporated in 1921 to serve the booming coal mining industry. John relocated to Evansville from the Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania area upon realizing coal had become the leading source of heat and power for transportation, fueling locomotives, paddlewheel boats, and in turn, the companies of the Industrial Revolution.

Back then, EEMSCO manufactured parts for railroads and railroad cars serving the coal mines. In addition to the growing coal mining industry, the Polings also saw the rise of electricity as a common power source, leading it to begin rewinding and repairing some of the earliest industrial-sized DC electric motors in the infancy of the electric age.

As the region’s coal industry gradually diminished, other industries rose and filled the gap left by fewer mining jobs.

“This area has always had a great industrial base — even in the transition from mining to other heavy industries, such as plastics,” says Tom.

EEMSCO remains at the same location where it has been standing for almost 100 years — on Eichel Avenue, just west of Garvin Park. Today, the 45,000-square-foot facility consists of three areas: a storage warehouse, built in the late 1800s; a machine shop, constructed in the early 1940s; and an electric shop, including management offices, added in the 1980s.

The company has specialties across four divisions: electrical services, mechanical services, field services, and new motors and warranty services. In the electric shop, services include AC motor rewinding and repair — up to 3,000 horsepower — and DC armature winding and repair — up to 2,000 horsepower.

“We can fix just about anything,” says Tom. “And if we can’t fix it, we have the resources to find you a new one for a great price.”

The facility’s major capabilities include a 30-ton crane capacity for lifting motors during repairs, and a 4,160-volt test panel for assessing how motors are functioning. EEMSCO also provides field services, such as predictive and preventative maintenance, and can send teams out for any on-site repair needs.

“Machinery breakdowns can be much more costly than routine maintenance,” says Tom’s father John.

EEMSCO helps companies maintain, repair, or replace critical motors to keep daily operations running, says Tom. With in-shop repair available from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. and offsite after-hours repairs, EEMSCO offers its services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“If you have a critical motor down, your operations grind to a halt, your production line stops, and you can’t do anything,” says Tom. “You call us — even in the middle of the night — and we will be there and get you back up and running. Our quality and our turnaround time are why people come to us and stay with us.”

Because EEMSCO works with specific industries and their highly technical and specialized equipment, customers also rely on the longtime staff’s experience and guidance.

“We have the technical knowledge to advise the customer on the right product,” says Tom. “Our knowledge is a great asset for our customers.”

That knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation.

“There isn’t a school for what we do,” says John. “Employees receive on-the-job training.”

Through the years, continuity in management was maintained by keeping the business in the family and consulting past owners. Workforce continuity also helps the company be successful. From motor technicians, winders, field-service specialists, machinists and bookkeepers to inside and outside sales representatives, average tenure is more than a decade — and eight of the 25 employees have been with the company for more than 20 years.

“Our longest-tenured employee, Flavian Elpers, retired this past spring with 53 years of service under his belt,” says Tom. “We have very little turnover. We really are a tight-knit family.”

As the company continues to grow, so do Tom’s 1- and 3-year-old sons — the sixth generation that could potentially take the company into its next century.
“I would love for them to continue the family tradition,” says Tom. 

For more information about EEMSCO, call 812-426-2224 or visit