June 23, 2017
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Issue CoverEvansvill Business April / May 2016 Issue Cover

On the Move

Regional Cities Initiative places the Southwest Region in the spotlight for developments
A provided map details each of the 19 projects that will shape the Southwest Region in the next five years.

In 2014, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. commissioned a study of 11 peer cities across the nation that experienced strong population and economic growth. Through examining the communities, the study considered the questions of why those areas were successful and why others lacked.

The Regional Cities Initiative, first proposed by Gov. Mike Pence in early 2015, promises to pay $42 million to three regions in Indiana that will help build a quality place to live, add to the economic foundation, and attract and retain future generations of Hoosiers. The initiative is funded through Indiana’s Tax Amnesty Program, which raised more than originally targeted. Plans also are funded through public and private investments.

Seven regions across the state submitted applications by July 31, 2015, and presented their proposals to the Strategic Review Committee in October. In December, the committee elected to select three recipients, rather than the expected two, including the North Central Region (St. Joseph, Elkhart, and Marshall, Indiana), the Northeast Region (Greater Fort Wayne, Indiana), and the Southwest Region (Evansville Metropolitan Area).

“The fact that they chose us and we won, there is a psychological aspect to this,” says Greg Wathen, president and CEO at Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana, who guided the Southwest Region in the Regional Cities Initiative. “It is recognition that the region provides value to the state and our strategy is one that can be implemented and it will transform our region. It happened in the original 1958 Fantus Report as you looked at our region and how it was struggling, and again in 2011 we commissioned the Garner Economics Study out of Atlanta that said: you have tremendous assets but the real barrier to development is us. People are recognizing the fact that what we put forward can help transform the state of Indiana. The psychological recognition that we did this is just as important as anything else.”

On April 5, Gov. Pence ceremonially signed the House Enrolled Act 1001 to grant $42 million for each regional city at the Signature School’s Robert L. Koch II Science Center. HEA 1001 will go into effect July 1 and was signed into law on March 23.

“Through the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative, we have seen regions across the state working in partnership to inspire and generate the development of long-term and dynamic plans for the future,” said Gov. Pence at the ceremony. “Indiana’s Great Southwest plan will be key in attracting and retaining a skilled workforce and cultivating a strong business climate for long-term economic development and improving quality of life for the benefit of Hoosiers.”

The Proposal

The Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana worked with lead consultant Lochmueller Group, Garner Economics of Atlanta, and VPS Architecture to tell the compelling story outlined in the proposal.

“One of the things I think was really compelling about our proposal is we had so much concentrated in an area that they could see it transform as they were driving around,” says Wathen. “The great thing about our Downtown being the core is that it is a very concentrated area and it is easier to transform an area when it is smaller than when it is so vast.”

The “Great Life, Great Community, Great Environment, Great People” plan, Southwest Indiana’s proposal, was the largest and pledged to invest more than $926 million in public and private funding with a goal of increasing the region’s population by 70,000 people. The plan is separated into two categories that will see transformations — the City Center and Gateway Projects.

City Center Projects

New Urban Living Research Center — Haier America, the world’s largest manufacturer of household appliances, and Vectren, an energy holding company headquartered in Evansville, plan to pursue a Downtown housing development that will serve as a new urban living research center where people can live in the experiment.

Multi-Institutional Academic Health Science Education and Research Facility — The largest investment of the Southwest Region at $9 million, this city center project looks to fund lab space that will be within the campus promoting research.

Downtown Housing & Fitness Campus — The Downtown YMCA, home to 10,000 members, will be seeing changes. The campus could possibly expand with the construction of a new and modern fitness facility on an existing parking lot owned by the YMCA. A sky bridge would be built from the old gymnasium, converted into housing, to the new. The YMCA also has the possibility of tearing down the old structure and building an entirely new facility. Regional Cities funding has given this project $5 million.

Downtown Housing & Development — The Market Development project plans to incorporate residential living with commercial
and retail opportunities. Presented by Brandon Scott, director of brand strategy and digital at Ten Adams, and Mark Thompson, director of operations at Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp., in an initial focus group meeting, the mixed-use development will be a gathering spot for the entire region, says Wathen. Regional Cities will set aside $5 million in funding for this project.

Signature School Science Center — Signature School, located in Downtown Evansville, is the No. 1 school in Indiana and the No. 1 school in the Midwest. “Signature School has a challenge with space and we will help them expand to up to 90 students,” says Wathen. “You have people as far away as Terre Haute who send their kids there and people who say they will relocate to the area if they have a shot at sending their child there. We have more of a demand to get in there than we have space.” The Southwest Region will add classrooms, labs, and common areas in a science center with an investment of $2.5 million. “This is an historic step for Signature School,” says Signature School Executive Director Jean Hitchcock. “It will enable us to advance our already excellent program, offering spots to more students while maintaining our sense of community.”

Regional Connector Trails — Trail connectivity is an essential community resource to attract young professionals and families. Regional Cities funding in the amount of $3,170,000 will be used to implement the Regional Connector Trails projects.

Gateway Projects

Oakland City University Downtown “U” — Because Oakland City University’s residency halls require updating or replacing, the Southwest Region will invest $3 million in Regional Cities funding to help rebuild downtown by putting student housing combined with retail right on the main street of downtown Oakland City.

Warrick County Wellness Trail  — Located near the Interstate 69 and Lloyd Expressway cloverleaf intersection is the Epworth Road and U.S. Highway 66 Medical District. This location is well suited to become a regional healthcare hub and using $1.5 million in Regional Cities funding, the Southwest Region plans to help complete the remaining infrastructure improvements.

Evansville Regional Airport Terminal Renovation — The Southwest Region plans to invest $5 million to remodel “the front door to our region,” says Wathen. The terminal structure opened in 1988 — prior to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — and has an outdated security layout. The inside of the terminal will be gutted and remodeled with amenities available for the 21st Century traveler. “Evansville Regional Airport is an important driver of economic activity in our entire region, so making investments that lay the groundwork for additional affordable choices for flyers and better facilities for passengers is incredibly important,” says Doug Joest, Evansville Regional Airport Director. “Before companies decide to locate in our region, they often look at how accessible it is — every dollar that we invest in Evansville Regional Airport is a dollar that we invest in our region’s job creation.”

New Harmony Arts & Food Project — The Southwest Region, using $500,000 in Regional Cities funding, will convert the former New Harmony High School into the Working Men’s Institute, a local not-for-profit educational institution with farm-to-table programs, renovate the Odd Fellows Hall to serve as a storefront and children’s museum, create a covered, extended-season outdoor market, and repurpose the New Harmony Way Bridge into a bike and pedestrian trail and park.

Victoria National Conference Center — The Regional Cities Initiative looks for ways regions can enhance their national and international brands. In the Southwest Region, Victoria National Golf Club aspires to develop a golf course and associated facilities that will result in being selected as a venue for PGA and USGA major golf events on a regular basis. The Southwest Region will invest $2 million through Regional Cities to build a new conference center that will be open to the public and utilized during tournaments.

Broadband Demonstration Project — In order to attract new residents to an area, it is essential that the area have an affordable, high-speed broadband service. Regional Cities funding will set aside $1 million for this project.

What’s Next?

The community will begin seeing changes around Evansville as early as the end of 2016, says Wathen.

“We are considering 2016 a planning year, but a couple projects will break ground this year. You’ll see most of the projects start next year,” he says.

Wathen says he plans to hold a celebration after each new groundbreaking, and assures that if a proposed project does not come to fruition, there are several supportive plans such as Mesker Park Zoo, Haynie’s Corner Arts District, and more able to receive Regional Cities funds.

“Lots of communities do plans. In many cases, like it or not, a lot of really great ideas in plans sit on someone’s shelf. This will not and we will do it in less than five years,” says Wathen.

 For more information about the Regional Cities Initiative, call 812-423-2020 or visit indianasgreatsouthwest.com.


Natalie Hedde

Hometown: Campbelltown, Indiana

Job: Director of Corporate Communications, Vectren

Resume: Senior Biological Products Specialist,Sanofi Pasteur, 2004-2010

Family: Husband Chuck, son Clark, 3, and daughter Haven, 2

Working in the field of communications wasn’t something Natalie Hedde had planned while attending the University of Evansville. Her original idea had been to pursue education, but a talk with her academic advisor changed that.

“During a conversation with her, I shared my plans and she sort of laughed and said, ‘How about communications?’” says Hedde. “It’s as if she knew something I didn’t. I look back now and realize how influential that conversation was.”

For the last six years, Hedde has found a home at Vectren, and most recently as the director of corporate communications. It’s a company and job she truly finds rewarding.

“When you work for Vectren, you work on a team. You work for an organization that will work as hard for you as you choose to work for the company,” she says.

What do you enjoy the most about working in the energy industry?
What I enjoy most, including that of the areas we serve, is that energy is evolving. We challenge ourselves with anticipating what our customers are going to demand of us in an evolving energy market. As we learn from our customers, we too will continue to evolve and do our best to communicate to our customers the value and quality of the service they receive for the price they pay.

What is the most challenging aspect about your job?
The unforeseen. I think that pretty much sums it up.

What other organizations are you involved with in the Tri-State?
I recently finished serving six years on the board of Gilda’s Club Evansville. It is a tremendous organization doing a multitude of good things for our community. I also have given time to March of Dimes the past several years and am excited to see their Signature Chefs Auction event become even better. I remain active within the UE Schroeder School of Business. I really enjoy collaborating with my old professors to bring work to the classroom in a way that hopefully better prepares current students for the challenges of a career.

What is something you enjoy doing off the clock?
My husband and I, having both played athletics at UE (Natalie played softball and Chuck played basketball), really enjoy Aces games of just about any sport. We have a lot of fun being able to take the kids, who currently think any team dressed in purple is the Evansville Aces. We’re working on that. They love to be ‘announced’ out of the locker room and come running down the hallway at home like it’s the tunnel leading to the game floor. They each are co-captains on Team Hedde.

When I take the time, I also enjoy cooking. I’m not certain that it’s the food that I enjoy as much as what sitting around a table and sharing a meal with people you care about means to me. I grew up in a home where we ate dinner together; my husband did as well. We still get together with our parents very regularly and dine together. The sound of laughter that erupts during these times is a sound I will cherish and remember the rest of my life.

How do you balance your home-life with your career?
For all women, moms who pursue a career and to those who work full time for their families at home, cheers to all in their effort to strike a balance. It isn’t easy but there is a great deal to learn from one another and for that, I’m grateful.

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to jump into communications?
Be nimble and practice patience. There are so many facets to communications, a person can work broadly or find a niche within this area of practice. It is a great platform from which to grow.

For more information about Vectren, call 812-491-4000 or visit vectren.com.


Turn of Fate

International Revolving Door spins again under new ownership
To view the full feature, pick up a copy of the February/March 2016 issue of Evansville Business.

The face behind the oldest continuous manufacturing business in Evansville is an owner who has been alive only for a quarter of its tenure.

When the International Revolving Door Company’s previous owner Rahmi Soyugenc died in 2014, 24-year-old University of Southern Indiana student Josh Kratochvil fulfilled a lifelong dream of owning a manufacturing company when he purchased the business in 2015.

The significance of owning the world’s oldest and largest revolving door manufacturer isn’t lost on the youthful Kratochvil, who spends part of his Tuesdays and Thursdays studying accounting at USI. Originally formed as a division of International Steel Company, the business began in 1907 producing doors for Theophilus Van Kannel of Philadelphia, who was granted a patent for his unique revolving door design in 1888. Owning the company that has installed revolving doors in more than 6,000 locations around the world is what Kratochvil calls “truly humbling.”

Father and son team Josh and Jim Kratochvil purchased the International Revolving Door Company in July 2015. Josh, a 24-year-old University of Southern Indiana student, credits his father for his entrepreneurial nature because he grew up watching Jim work as a former chief financial officer of Berry Plastics.

“I’m down here 70 to 80 hours a week,” says Kratochvil, a Evansville West Side native who attended F.J. Reitz High School. “I know the culture I want to establish here. I am 24, but I have to lead people. I’m the age of a lot of people who work here’s grandchildren, so I have to be here more than they are and I have to work harder than they do to earn their respect. I tell them if they’re loyal to me, I will be loyal to them.”

In July 2015, Kratochvil purchased International Revolving Door Company with the help of his father Jim Kratochvil, former chief financial officer at Berry Plastics, through an online auction with Curran Miller Auction-Realty. The purchase also included the 130,000-square-foot building located at 2138 N. Sixth Ave., blueprints of every revolving door designed and installed, Evansville Metal Products, a second company Soyugenc owned, all of the supplies and equipment, and more.

“When I walked through here, I saw unlimited potential,” says Kratochvil, who credits his college advisor Tim Mahoney at USI for encouraging him to look into purchasing the company. “Even if I stripped everything down for scrap price and rented out the building, I could still make money. When you have a building this size and you get it for a good price, you have endless opportunities.”

Rick Snodgrass, who does layout, makes glass mold bars for the walls of the doors. He has worked at the International Revolving Door Company for 42 years.

The “time capsule” nature of the building also influenced his decision. International Revolving Door keeps a record of every door ever created as old as 1897. Many blueprints are hand drawn on delicate onion skin paper. Hidden file cabinets throughout the warehouse reveal catalogs from the 1880s to the mid to late 1900s, and handwritten letters from Van Kannel to customers and vice versa.

“It’s like a museum down here,” says Kratochvil. “That’s part of the reason we bought it, because there’s so much history here. When we came in, it was almost like a time capsule.”

Precision welder Natasha McClure and Canopy Builder Alva Willis work together to build the door walls. McClure, who graduated from Ivy Tech, has been employed at the company since January, and Willis has been with the company for 34 years. Below, the International Revolving Door Company warehouse’s archive includes doors made for the McCurdy Hotel on Riverside Drive in 1936. The doors still are in the hotel today, which turns 99 this year. A $10 million restoration is underway by The Kunkel Group which hopes to have apartments in the building ready by mid-2016.

The story of the revolving door is almost as interesting as the business itself. It is said that the door’s creator Van Kannel despised opening doors for others — especially women — and invented the revolving chamber as a way to avoid social interactions. After being granted a patent on Aug. 7, 1888, Van Kannel formed the Van Kannel Revolving Door Co. with his main office and manufacturing facilities on E. 134th Street in New York City. Separately, in the 1880s, The Atchison Company had been formed in Atchison, Kansas, and began producing high-quality revolving doors.

International Steel Company began producing doors for Van Kannel in the early 1900s, and later acquired both Van Kannel and Atchison, moving all manufacturing to Evansville. The Igleheart family held a controlling interest in the company’s operations by the mid-1930s.

Evansville Metal Products was incorporated in 1961, and joined International Steel in the 1990s. International Steel closed in 1991, and Soyugenc purchased it in an auction the following year. The International Revolving Door Company continued under Soyungenc’s guidance, but in the company’s last year in 2014, only 22 doors were sold. After six months of business, the Kratochvils have sold 24 and counting because of the construction boom. The first door sold under new ownership was to a Buddhist temple in New York.

“I’ve been learning night and day from one of our toolmakers about the machining trade, and from the guys out in the shop about fabricating,” says Kratochvil. “I’ve stayed an hour or two after work every day learning how to weld. My goal is to be able to jump in wherever someone needs help or if someone needs to catch up.

“A lot of people ask why I want to do that? You aren’t going to get the respect you need if not, and since this is my business, I want to know every aspect of everything. It has been a steep learning curve but I feel a lot more comfortable and it doesn’t scare me. When you start putting in 16 hours a day out there and begin dedicating your life to it, you start learning. That’s what I’ve been doing. We hired people who are experts in these fields who have really helped guide us and train us.”

As early as age nine, Kratochvil’s father Jim says he noticed his son had an ambition beyond his years. Jim shares memories of Josh as a child looking at real estate magazines in Florida and having a great interest in business concepts. Josh received his financial advisor license at 18.

“I played one part and that was just the exposure to the environment,” says Jim, who retired as the CFO of Berry Plastics in January 2014. He also owns JPM Resources, a construction company headquartered in Evansville. “He heard daily conversations as he grew up with discussions about private equity, manufacturing issues and concerns, and discussions with customers. He would come down to the plant and watch me be involved in financing deals. Unfortunately for my family, I constantly talked about work at home … It always has been his goal to try to be ahead of his maturity and experience in age.”

Currently, International Revolving Door Company has 22 employees with most of those serving fulltime. Twelve of those 22 previously worked under Soyugenc before his death and the business’ closure.

“We are pleased to have rehired many of the company’s former employees, while providing opportunities to a new generation of quality workers from our community,” says Jim.

Randy Baker, who works in finishing, sands the finish onto a door.

International Revolving Door is poised to hire additional employees in the coming months. As a USI student, Josh says he’s able to scout future talent on campus.

“There are businesses where you look at them and you ask, ‘How does that business sell that product?’ They do because they have great people working for them,” he says.

The company has doors in several iconic buildings including the Flatiron Building in New York City, the New York Public Library, the Macy’s flagship store in New York City, the Natural History Museum in New York City, the Gansevoort Hotel in New York City, the Chase Building in Chicago, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and thousands more. Locally, the revolving doors can be experienced at Mead Johnson Nutrition in Evansville, Old National Bank Downtown, the U.S. Post Office on Wabash Avenue, and others. Josh would love to see the doors go into the Tropicana Evansville land-based casino, the Doubletree by Hilton Convention Hotel, and the new Evansville Multi-Institutional Academic Health Science Education and Research Campus in Downtown.

Revolving doors typically cost around $25,000 to $65,000 depending on the type of material desired. The company asks for a lead-time of 10 weeks to complete an order, but can finish a door as early as four weeks. A revolving door pays itself off in five years because of how energy efficient it is, says Josh. In the winter when you open a regular push or pull door, you feel a rush of heat leaving the building.

“That doesn’t happen with a revolving door,” he says. “It’s always open and always closed so you are only getting a little bit of compartmental airflow going through there.”

Revolving doors also counteract the stack pressure, which increases in taller buildings.

“We have the best breakaway mechanism in the industry (International Revolving Door has four other large competitors),” says Josh of the wing collapsing mechanism made from manganese bronze castings. “If there’s a fire or something, at 135 pounds of pressure of it pushing on it, the wings or doors will breakaway into themselves so you can run through. One of our competitors has the doors in the new World Trade Center and they are having problems because they are breaking away on their own because of all the pressure, and we are in talks about consulting on their doors.”

International Revolving Door Company is the only manufacturer that provides circular enclosure walls fully welded, with no butt joints.

In addition to the revolving door business, the warehouse also houses the IRD machine and fabrication shop, and leases space to other companies, such as Berry Plastics. The company hopes to offer automation within the next year or two.

When Josh and Jim Kratochvil bought the International Revolving Door Company through an online auction, the purchase included the 130,000-square-foot building located at 2138 N. Sixth Ave. with all of the supplies and equipment. The warehouse houses the IRD machine and fabrication shop and leases space to other companies including Berry Plastics.

“All of my friends have said, ‘You’re 24, this can’t be a real business,’ but when they come down here and they see, they say, ‘Wow!’ It’s super busy, but that’s a great problem to have,” says Josh. “We have more people wanting us to do work than we even have capacity to do.”

For more information about the International Revolving Door Company, call 812-425-3311 or visit internationalrevolvingdoors.com.

Time Honored

The international Revolving Door Company’s warehouse is the home to blueprints of every revolving door designed and installed since the business began in 1907. The company keeps the blueprints on hand in case any of its more than 6,000 locations with doors need to review the design to update machine parts.

Josh Kratochvil, who owns the business with his father Jim, says even after seven months have passed, he continues to stumble on file cabinets full of historical documents such as catalogs from the 1880s to mid to late 1900s.

As The World Turns

The international Revolving Door Company has installed doors at more than 6,000 locations around the world. The company is known as the oldest and largest revolving door manufacturer.

1. Mead Johnson Nutrition, Evansville, IN; 2. Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco, CA; 3. Flatiron Building, New York, NY; 4. Gansevoort Hotel, New York, NY; 5. Natrual History Museum, New York, NY; 6. Metrocity Shopping Mall, Istanbul, Turkey

Working Tirelessly, While Tired

Read more about Lloyd Pool in the April/May 2015 issue of Evansville Business.

Even for a small magazine publishing company, we have been unusually busy over the last 90 days. In addition to our bimonthly publications of Evansville Living and Evansville Business, we also have produced custom content magazines for others as well as the 2016 issues of Evansville City View and Social Datebook. I am especially proud of our staff, who continue working tirelessly, while tired, to put our city’s best possible foot forward. This is not a business that is 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., where you can leave, go home, and forget about the day. So as I look at this well-supported-by-you Evansville Business that I feel justifiably proud of, sometimes a simple thanks, along with a lot of food and various perks still does not do justice for their efforts. Thanks, guys, for all you do. It is appreciated.

I just saw a national news report on the Carmel High School girls winning their 30th consecutive Indiana State Swim Championship. This is an amazing feat of the hard work and consistency of an absolutely stellar program. As the parent of two swimmers, I pored over the finishes of the schools and a clear pattern emerges. We have a disproportionately small number of Evansville-based young ladies at state representing our local city, private, and parochial schools. The two teams in our region with the best results? Castle and Jasper High Schools, both which have outstanding swim facilities. Carmel, of course, as well as every other competitive high school swim team, has its own pool. Evansville? We have a tired, dirty, run-down facility on its last legs with seven swim teams sharing lane space. I would encourage local government, school systems, and the private sector to get on board to make this a reality. Overnight stays. Meals. Shopping. These are all big winners when you are able to host large meets. Lloyd Pool? It’s unable to do so because it does not meet USA Swimming standards. In a city where we have said something is “good enough” for too long, the lack of a natatorium simply is not “good enough.” Teach kids to swim, let seniors have a great place to exercise, and let kids have fun at play. It will be a shame when we have a non-working pool (a certainty) and no place to swim because the subject has been all talk. And we will be reactionary.

The offices of Tucker Publishing Group are located in the heart of Downtown. I have never been so pleased in my life to take so many detours while driving Downtown because of all of the economic development taking place. I find it difficult to believe that in a community the size of Evansville we are unable to get our act together to even give the idea of a natatorium any real study. Anyone who thinks the former neighborhood pool study of several years ago addressed this need is mistaken. I will be traveling to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend a USA Swimming seminar put on by Myrtha Pools in October to determine how to marshal the collective forces here to help make this happen. I find it a bit ironic that in a community touting itself as a youth sports destination, the only pool equipped to hold a USA Swimming meet is in Warrick County, where they collectively figured out a way to build a beautiful facility ... and then built it. I welcome anyone’s responses to this letter. And if you think I’m coming off a bit heavy-handed? Ask the other well-intentioned folks in Evansville who, like me, have been shut down at every turn in this endeavor to gain some traction. If anyone knows anything different I would welcome the opportunity to apologize, I can assure you.

On a really positive note, the Men’s Fund started in October 2015 by some local businessmen who, like me, have time on their hands, has raised more than $150,000 since the inaugural meeting. Administered by the Vanderburgh Community Foundation, the fund is expected to have generated over $200,000 by March 31, 2016, the initial fund drive. Between the enormously successful Women’s Fund of Vanderburgh County that was co-chaired by my wife and Jan Davies the first two years, many private dollars are directly going to where the need is. The Women’s Fund Endowment now sits at right around $550,000. Congratulations to all who participate. For more information on either fund, please contact Scott Wylie.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Todd A. Tucker


Where the Wild Things Are

Mesker zookeeper’s love of animals shows in work
Shannon Irmscher, a native of Bedford, Indiana, came to Mesker Park Zoo seven years ago.

On a chilly February morning, Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden Zookeeper Shannon Irmscher stands in the outdoor exhibit of the zoo’s red panda Celeste. As the animal sleeps curled up at the top of a tree, Irmscher stands with her hand outstretched, offering a grape to Celeste, attempting to lure her awake and down the branches.

“She’s got one of the cutest faces you’ll ever see,” says Irmscher fondly. Eventually, Celeste unwinds herself, stretches along the tree limb, and crawls down to investigate Irmscher’s offering.

For the past seven years, Irmscher’s days have been filled with similar encounters at the Evansville zoo. But the Bedford, Indiana, native is quick to point out being a keeper is about more than feeding the animals. As an Indiana University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biology and minors in animal behavior and psychology, her work includes keeping the animals healthy, enriching their lives in the zoo, and teaching visitors about the importance of the species that call Mesker home.

“If a member of the public sees me in an exhibit, of course I’m going to do everything I can to educate them on that species and create a more powerful interaction of them with the animal,” she says. “And I look at all of our animals as ambassadors for their counterparts in the wild.”

Irmscher — who has worked at the Indianapolis, Louisville, Kentucky, and Jacksonville, Florida, zoos — begins her day at Mesker with checks of all of her animals before serving breakfast of some kind to most. Once she’s made her rounds — Irmscher works in the Discovery Center and the nocturnal exhibits in the Kley Building with birds, primates, and the smaller cats — she works to clean their holding spaces and on enrichment activities for the animals.

“Basically we try to encourage behaviors they would exhibit in the wild,” she says. “Monkeys spend a lot of their time foraging, so I might hide their food in a pile of hay or put it in a container where they have to work to get it.”

Irmscher also spends time as the species population manager for the Lesser Madagascar Hedgehog Tenrec and the Keel Billed Toucan. As one of the species population managers at Mesker, she monitors the genetics of the population for these two species in a software program. Her data then is used every three years in developing breeding and transfer plans for zoos across the nation.

“It’s fun,” says Irmscher. “Zoos can refer to (the data) and then follow the recommendations and make sure we have healthy populations genetically.”

For more information about Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden, call 812-435-6143 or visit meskerparkzoo.com.


Double Vision

Partners restore Downtown building to open Party Central

When Skip Seaman and Dillip Patel met an appraiser to assess the building on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Vine Street, they were told its best use was a parking lot.

Ignoring the advice, the two partners dove head first into restoring the former Catholic women’s organization Daughters of Isabella building with a vision for a party and event rental facility. In December 2015, the 1920s structure opened completely remodeled as Party Central with a banquet hall, foyer, bathrooms, a warming kitchen, a taproom machine, an outdoor patio, and ample parking.

The idea for Party Central came to life when Patel struggled to find a venue for his daughter’s wedding reception. When the building and the restaurant next door, which was the former Food With Flair restaurant, became available, the pair decided to create their own. They hope to lease the building next door to a new restaurant owner.

“Many places wouldn’t let me bring my own food and had high prices for theirs,” says Patel, who also owns The Carousel Restaurant. “When I walked through the building, it was surrounded by all these corporate spots and I thought it would be the perfect place.”

The facility has more than 3,900 square feet of space with a capacity of nearly 300. The venue is available for wedding receptions, political parties, family reunions, holiday office parties, corporate events, bridal and baby showers, and more. In December, Party Central hosted its first event, a company Christmas party for LawMan Security & Consulting.

“Dillip is the genius behind what we do. I invest in the ideas,” says Seaman, who has a background in marketing for Anheuser-Busch. “This place looked horrible. The place next door was even worse. He said, ‘This is going to be perfect.’”

The two owners met at a Christmas party in 2007, and own eight Liquor Lockers together.

“We are like the yin and yang,” says Seaman, a longtime Evansville resident who has owned Product Acceptance & Research (PAR) for 25 years. “We have such a good match of talent sets. When you put the two together, it’s like an unbreakable bond.”

For more information about Party Central, call 812-459-8360 or visit partycentral.rentals.


Forward Thinking

New tech space strives to help community
Dr. Art Chlebowski from USI’s College of Engineering leads a MakerCourse 101 class.

Great ideas can happen anywhere. The MakerStation, a technology-driven MakerSpace in Evansville, is now providing an area and the tools for those ideas to occur on Main Street in Downtown.

MakerStation calls the bottom floor of Innovation Pointe, 318 Main Street, home. The purpose of a MakerSpace is to be a workroom open for people to create, invent, tinker, and explore a specific subject together, whether they are artists, woodworkers, or engineers.

Dr. Drew F. Peyronnin, founder of Tech on Tap, says Evansville’s MakerStation was launched in January 2015 to look at the threats of disruptive technologies on manufacturing materials and techniques important to the local economy. Those with different skill sets could then use the space to work on building their own new technologies with desktop digital manufacturing and electronic prototyping. Currently the space is membership-based but does offer free open hours and classes, which are announced on the Tech on Tap website.

“MakerSpaces are big right now,” says Peyronnin. “It’s a very broad term because it really is a space where you can make all kinds of different things.”

MakerStation provides a computer lab for design, laser and computer numeric control milling tools, and a 3D printing machine to students, experienced engineers, and those with little to no skill who are interested in new technology. The computer lab came together thanks to a recent grant from AT&T. The MakerStation purchased computer components, and 24 students from Cedar Hall Community School and New Tech Institute, along with eight volunteers, built the computers in December.

In addition to AT&T, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana, University of Southern Indiana, Lieberman Technologies, and Ciholas sponsor the space. MakerStation also partners with USI’s new Applied Engineering Center to provide access to top-end industrial tooling.

Peyronnin hopes other groups and businesses, like Haier America, become involved as well to form connections and create a flow of ideas. “My vision is there would be MakerSpaces all over the place, doing all kinds of different things, and all highly collaborative,” he says.

For more information about MakerStation, visit tech-on-tap.com/makerspace.


New Chapter

Amy Canterbury continues the United Way’s story as new CEO
The United Way of Southwestern Indiana named Amy Canterbury as its new president and CEO in December.

Amy Canterbury’s journey from a small town in Kentucky to a corner office of the nonprofit that tops Forbes’ list of 50 largest U.S. charities isn’t so much a Cinderella story as it is a hardworking tale of success.

In December, the United Way of Southwestern Indiana, a division of United Way serving Vanderburgh, Warrick, and Spencer counties, named Canterbury as its new president and CEO. It’s not the first time she’s had the title of CEO, and it’s her past that has prepared her for this new venture.

Whether she was attending church or helping out around the family’s farm, Canterbury grew up surrounded by the idea of taking care of one’s neighbors. After graduating from Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky, she spent 25 years in the banking industry – most of which were at Old National, which introduced her to United Way – learning business collaboration and networking before enduring what she calls a “mid-life crisis” and decided to go save the world.

“The things I learned in banking are the principles of what I needed to transition into nonprofit,” says Canterbury. “And then my heart, really the part of who I am, is what allowed me to transition to saving the world.”

Before joining the United Way, she was regional CEO of the American Red Cross, a partner agency. The transition between nonprofits was a smooth one thanks to the staff, which has helped her learn more of the details about the nonprofit and the services they offer the community.

In addition to funding 62 programs and 31 partner agencies, the United Way provides its own programs and services such as helping with FAFSA applications and its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). The VITA Program offers free tax help to low-to-moderate income residents who need assistance preparing their tax returns.

“We’re going to file electronically and we’re not going to charge them for it,” says Canterbury. “That keeps families and individuals from maybe going to get a payday loan advance while they’re waiting on a tax return.”

The organization also offers a 211 service, a statewide collaboration helmed through the Downtown office. The program is a resource for those looking for help with basic needs and social services, such as food, housing, and education. When someone presses 211 on a phone, the call is sent to the United Way office where an operator asks questions to make sure the best resources are being made available to them.

Going forward, Canterbury wants to see the nonprofit become the first place thought of if there needs to be an issue resolved, with the United Way sitting at the table collaborating with those who need to be.

“The community has always really supported the United Way in a huge way,” says Canterbury.

For more information about the United Way of Southwestern Indiana, call 812-422-4100 or visit unitedwayswi.org.



Julie Bosma’s passion helps her succeed
In 1998, ERA First Advantage Realty Agent Julie Bosma made a switch in careers.

In the 1990s, Julie Bosma was working at Schnucks grocery stores when she was approached by Janice Miller of ERA First Advantage Realty Inc. with an offer to change her career.

“Every time I would check out, I would say, ‘Why are you the checkout girl? You should be in real estate,’” says Miller of Bosma. “She has a wonderful personality. That was why I knew she would make a great real estate agent. She likes people.”

Finally, one day Bosma — a Castle High School graduate and former Western Kentucky University student — decided to take Miller up on her offer. At first, Bosma says she had no intention to sell real estate, just work in the office. Then after a year, she once again made a change and obtained her realtor license. The checkout girl, who once joked she couldn’t sell real estate, was now an agent with Miller at ERA.

That was in 1998. Since then, Bosma has used a passion for helping others to place new and current residents of Evansville and Newburgh, Indiana, into the homes that fit their wants and needs. It is that very aspect that makes her career in real estate so rewarding, she says.

“I love meeting people. I feel like it’s a natural high when you find them what they like and meet their needs,” says Bosma.

Real estate is not for those looking for a 9-to-5 job, however, she says. She attributes her success in realty to putting in the time after 5 p.m. and on the weekends. It’s not a job where a real estate agent can “clock out and forget about it,” she says.

“It’s very demanding,” she adds. “I am constantly thinking about my job.”

For the last 20 years, she has asked herself every day what are three things she can do each day to help her job. It’s that philosophy that’s helped her succeed. Having a passion for your work helps in achieving goals as well, she adds.

“I think you have to like what you do to do it well,” says Bosma. “And I love what I do.”

For more information about Julie Bosma, call 812-457-6968 or visit juliebosma.com.