Mayor Lloyd Winnecke
JOB: Mayor, City of Evansville
HIS RESUME: With 13 years as the marketing director and senior vice president at Fifth Third Bank, Winnecke served on the County Council for nine years, and was a county commissioner for three.
HIS STORY: In the 2012 issue of City View, Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, who took office on Jan. 1, 2012, says timing is everything. The University of Evansville graduate wasted no time in getting started, putting job creation, litter and methamphetamine cleanup, and community awareness at the top of his to-do list. Todd Tucker, publisher of Evansville Business, sits down with the mayor to see how his first year went.
HIS PERSPECTIVE: “It’s a true pleasure to come to work every day trying to make the city better.”
On your first year in office:
I don’t know how else to describe it except as exhilarating, satisfying, and challenging. There have been stressful times, but the good moments far outweigh the stressful ones. Several people, including former mayors, have told me it’s the best job they’ve had in their whole lives. The people in this city are extraordinarily gracious, and if I had a nickel every time someone said, “Any time I can do something to help just call,” I’d have a lot of nickels.
On the work day:
My wife, Carol McClintock, and I are at a good point in our lives to be devoted to this job. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel the pressure of time — there aren’t enough hours in the day, even though a typical work week is 70 hours. It is different to go out in public now. People say, “Hey, Lloyd!” whom I’ve never met. There’s no anonymity, and that’s totally fine with me.
On the city’s litter problem:
Clean Evansville is by far the number one thing people thank me for, as it is one of the least expensive fixes we can do for community pride. We (my administration) decided to block out the first Saturday of every month to pick up trash. As of now, we’ve picked up around 14,000 pounds of litter. Thanks to the help of Nick Ulmer, vice president general manager at 14 WFIE, we helped coordinate “Operation Hot Mess” (a trash pickup competition between Evansville schools on Oct. 13). We had more than 500 high school students helping us out, and it’s moving to see them being appreciative of making a great impact on their city.
On your goals:
I want to raise awareness, address issues, engage the community, and be as successful as possible. Opportunities like Energize Evansville are great in fighting the “fattest city in America” stereotype, and when it comes to the anti-meth platform I ran on, our task force formed of the medical community, social services, and public safety personnel has no shortage of ideas and goals. We have lobbied the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, and prescription drugs are now one of its top five priorities. At the end of the day, this legislation is essential for the greater good of the community.
On how he hopes to be remembered:
I would like people to think of me as a “people’s” mayor who is approachable, down-to-earth, and likable — even if we disagree. I hope to be remembered for promoting civil dialogue, respect, and inclusion.
A New Era of Energy
Standing alongside a just-arrived 100-car coal train at Southwind Maritime Centre on a summer’s day, Taylor Kanipe, clad in jeans, T-shirt, and ball cap, could be mistaken for a crewman at the Mount Vernon Transfer Terminal. It takes only a handful of workers to move the entire cargo, from rail car to barge, in four hours.
But Kanipe, only 26, tall and built like a man accustomed to hard work, already has a year as general manager of the Alliance Coal-owned facility. “I don’t know anybody my age doing what I’m doing, to tell the truth,” says Kanipe, in a relaxed drawl that reveals his Western Kentucky roots. “I was fortunate, I guess, growing up around it — I’ve been around the coal business since I was in diapers.” In those days his father, Bruce, now owner-operator of Rockport (Ind.) River Terminal, ran a small coal dock at Union County, Ky.
The younger Kanipe, a Murray State University graduate in business administration, could become a key player in Southwest Indiana’s economic future. When Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels told Evansville leaders recently that “we sit on more BTUs than OPEC,” he was talking coal. Illinois Basin coal, that is, which runs rich in reserves underneath South-west Indiana and fills the 10,000-ton trainloads that run daily into the terminal Kanipe oversees.
A year ago this month, Daniels unveiled a strategic energy plan with potential to add layers of new muscle to Southwest Indiana’s economy. Dubbed “Hoosier Homegrown Energy,” it would reduce — through more reliance on the state’s resources and conservation — a deficit where Indiana now imports 75 percent of its energy. Daniels sees gains in economic development, environmental quality, and national security by enhancing energy independence.
How will the state fuel what Daniels’ calls “Indiana’s powerhouse economy” in the 21st century? The plan lays out several solutions, all with major implications for Southwest Indiana. Topping the list is tapping into Southwest Indiana’s abundant reserves of coal, transformed into a cleaner, safer form of fuel than ever seen before. Not far behind is a proposal to return Indiana to its status as a major natural gas producer; a promise to invest significant sums of money into alternative fuels including technology that converts biomass — from animal waste to landfill gases — into electricity; a prediction that farm crops will be turned into “battlefield fuels” for the U.S. Department of Defense; and a daunting challenge to reduce the environmental impact of the state’s rising energy use through an aggressive commitment to energy efficiency and improved infrastructure.
How did Indiana arrive at a place where it has its own strategic energy plan, developed and executed by a new state agency called the Indiana Office of Energy and Defense Development?
It came to pass on the 2004 campaign trail, winding across Southwest Indiana in the well-marked RV that became nearly as recognizable as his own face, that Daniels developed a vision of the state’s energy future.
The Republican governor-to-be “was troubled when he discovered Indiana was a net importer of energy,” recalls his former campaign policy director Jason Barclay. Daniels discovered that sources outside the state were selling Hoosiers 75 percent of their energy. Graphic proof passed within view of Daniels’ and his campaign staff as they navigated sections of U.S. Highway 41. Headed south were unit trains of freight cars bearing markings of a Western railroad, hauling coal mined in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming into Southwest Indiana, a once thriving coal supplier “now clearly left behind,” says Barclay.
Barclay, who would work in Daniels’ administration before joining the Barnes & Thornburg law firm in Indianapolis, says the governor, as a former Bush administration official, also was well aware that reversing the trend — by making Indiana a net energy exporter — was just the kind of move that would capture the attention — and dollars — of Bush officials who had vowed to steer the nation on a course toward greater energy self-reliance.
Daniels was startled, he himself recalled, at predictions by some Purdue University experts that the coal-rich state soon would be importing electricity supplied to the power grid from elsewhere. “I asked them, ‘How is that possible?’” Daniels recalls. “And they said, ‘Well, we haven’t built a generator in Indiana in the last 20 years.’” To add to his irritation, Daniels says he learned that despite Indiana’s status as producer of corn and soybeans, the state had been “AWOL from the bio-diesel revolution.”
Thus seeds were planted, destined to sprout the Office of Energy and Defense Development and its “Hoosier Home-grown Energy” strategy. Says Daniels: “With these things, there’s usually not one moment of epiphany. But a vision finally coalesces.”
The vision capitalizes on Indiana’s multitude of resources, including what Daniels calls “Hoosier ingenuity” found at the state’s research and teaching universities and in the corporate offices of the state’s large industrial energy users who know that it’s good business “to spend a dime to save a dollar” through efficiency — lessons he says that can benefit small business owners as well.
A cleaner version of coal dominates the strategic energy plan, and Daniels is convinced that the state’s scholars, with research and development funding from state and federal sources, will unlock the secrets to clean coal. How? Gasification. Researchers say transforming coal into gas before raking out dangerous pollutants such as mercury, sulfur, and slag is to refine it — as we long have done to crude oil. Result: clean hydrocarbons. What about the by-product carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas? Those same clean-coal advocates say it can be put away in underground cavities, and that Illinois Basin geology suits that end. It’s not cheap technology. But advocates say it’s a foregone conclusion researchers will convince government policymakers that gasification plants — like the one proposed for Knox County by Duke Energy — are worth the expense. After all, their argument goes, the United States sits on an estimated 258 years of coal reserves at current consumption while dangers multiply from staking so much on foreign petroleum.
Clean coal isn’t Indiana’s only energy hope, but promises big impact in the near term. A July-released Indiana University study shows electricity accounts for half of all energy consumed in the state — 95 percent of it generated from coal. Of the 75 percent of every energy dollar going out of the state to import coal, natural gas and oil, most goes for coal. Half the coal Indiana generators buy is mined elsewhere because air-quality regulations render in-state coal, high in sulfur, a liability when burned in old plants with dinosaur pollution controls. Clean-air technologies — gasification, advanced scrubber systems and new, more sophisticated generating plants — would recharge demand for Southwest Indiana coal from 17 billion tons of reserves. Vincennes University, which launched a mining technology program in tandem with an increasingly high-tech coal industry, is counting on it, as is Duke Energy, which endowed program scholarships with an initial amount of more than $50,000.
The Illinois Basin, stretching from the Mississippi River in northwestern Illinois and comprising the southwestern third of Indiana and the western half of Kentucky, holds riches besides coal. The Tri-State yields some 40,000 barrels of superior crude oil daily from small “stripper” wells, and heightened interest is being paid to natural gas resources of the basin’s New Albany Shale. The region has produced natural gas since the 1850s; new retrieval technologies could propel substantial production far into the future. A National Petroleum Council Committee on Unconventional Sources says New Albany Shale in Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky might contain 86 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Renewables are important, but with acknowledged limits. A line in a song from Neil Young’s 2005 Prairie Wind release describes a rural scene as “fields of fuel rollin’ on for miles” — possibly suggesting an endless supply of domestically produced energy awaits only the construction of more ethanol plants. But corn supplies are not endless, and won’t be. “We can’t continue to cut into our food supply for fuel—there’s a limit,” says Jon Neufelder, Purdue University Extension instructor in Posey County.
Corn prices are up, whether due to large worldwide grain demand or numbers of ethanol and bio-diesel plants being proposed or built. Either way, “the concern about bio-diesel and corn-based ethanol is the rising cost of feedstock,” says Dave Munz, who’s in charge of business development for CountryMark Co-op, a major Indiana refiner and supplier of both bio-diesel and petroleum-based fuels. (See “CountryMark Black Gold, p. 23.) “The question is: How do (alternative fuels) work in an economically viable and feasible way?” And how to do it swiftly remains a question as well. According to Munz, given current corn-production levels and rates of fuel consumption, converting every kernel of corn to fuel would cover a mere 20 percent of national demand.
There are some inherent environmental challenges with bio-fuels, as well. Neufelder, from the agricultural perspective, sees some farmers abandoning tried-and-true crop rotation practices in favor of more fertilizers and herbicides to boost production, but compromising future soil productivity. Munz thinks there may be techniques allowing higher corn yields without impairing the soil long-term. But that means enough corn for a 10-percent ethanol mix in gasoline. “Beyond that, it’s probably not rational,” Munz says.
Still, renewables are certain to impact the region’s economy. A late-summer groundbreaking is anticipated for an ethanol plant at the Southwind Maritime Centre in Mount Vernon, with at least five other plants proposed throughout the area. Fueling the interest in ethanol, and in a breakthrough technology that converts coal to liquid fuel, is the Clean Fuel Initiative, authorized by Congress, that mandates the Pentagon to work at an urgent pace to significantly reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil. Indiana’s energy strategy plan commits the state to becoming a major supplier of new fuel sources to the Defense Department.
Will all the Daniels-touted ideas mesh, eventually bringing forth an energy-independent state that contributes to a national goal of self-sufficiency? Newburgh-based oilman Jim Brooker, in business 22 years, believes it’s a pipe dream: “During the Carter administration, a third of the oil we used was imported. Now, we import twice as much. What’s that tell you?” Kanipe, the young coal terminal manager and already a net-energy exporter to utilities from Florida to the Great Lakes, avoids the independence question, but likes what he sees. His terminal handles 2 million tons annually. That’s up from zero — a depressed coal market shuttered the 25-year-old facility for several years in the 1990s. It reopened in 2001. “The Illinois Basin, in the next five to 10 years, is going to be a big source of energy for the U.S.,” says Kanipe.
This much is certain: When Daniels dropped in at Vectren’s riverfront headquarters in early summer, hoisting high the Southwest Indiana banner over what may be the nearest to coherent energy policy Indiana has seen, business and community leaders were listening.
A Dog’s Life
If there is any certainty about life, it is that there is no certainty. Really profound, I know. Let’s face it, when most people reach the age of 40 or beyond, they generally do not see their lives now as when they knew damn near everything back in high school. Most did not say, “I am going to be a commercial loan officer,” or “I strive to be a business development director for an industrial company.” The truth is, we usually just don’t know how it is going to end up – any of life for that matter. How many times has someone reentered your life in an impactful way when you had little or no contact for 15 to 25 years?
And speaking of high school, I’m a proud member of the Castle High School graduating class of 1980 (I say “proud,” CHS probably isn’t). For the most part, I sadly tolerated what should have been the best years of my life. There is no mental attitude award in the trophy cases, nor academic hall of fame plaque in the hallways of CHS. I know this, as I have looked. Perhaps that hardware is out for cleaning. I can only speculate.
Growing up as a Newburgh resident, I would have assumed that I would live somewhere in old Newburgh and my children would go through the Castle school system, though probably no picket fence. Alas, this was never to happen. Not even close. I do believe I went back once in the 32 years since graduating — to speak to a class. Frankly, I don’t think they miss me much.
Since my boys swim year-round, I had often heard how impressive the Castle natatorium is. Then, our club started swimming in meets there three years ago. Now, having now joined the Newburgh Sea Creatures Swim Club, I find myself at Castle five days a week and on weekends, too. After 32 years, I see band practice, football and volleyball practice, and I sit in the stands to watch swim practice. The funny thing is, with two boys going to Evansville schools, I still feel like a total outsider and visitor when I’m at Castle. I am for my son’s high school team when they play Castle. Irony sure is ironic. Sure never saw this one coming.
* Note to Father: I’m sure those bad algebra grades were a result of screw-ups of that new computer grading system Castle used.
Three weeks ago, I lost my old black labrador buddy, Jethro. Jethro was a rescue dog that lived to the age of 16 1/2 and was a big part of the Tucker family. I very rarely advocate for any type of service through this letter, but I will now. As our family looks to fill a large void, I have spent part of the last couple of days at area rescue facilities with animals that need a good home. We are going today to give one a place to live where the dog can learn all the Tucker boys’ bad habits. We can’t wait to teach him.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you.
Todd A. Tucker
Producing national television shows with a small staff and a much lower budget than big production companies in Los Angeles, MadStache, an Evansville-based video, animation, and web development company, is a displaced hub for talent and expertise. The company’s beginning was equally unlikely.
A chance meeting with a local producer in 1994 landed Dennis Gage a role in a commercial for an Evansville law firm — and a whopping $25 paycheck. With a background in marketing and a doctorate in chemistry, Gage was director of product development at Mead Johnson, but went on to partner with the producer to develop and host a television series about America’s love affair with the automobile. Taking a second mortgage on his house to fund the production of the first season made Gage co-owner of the production company, and resulted in a significant career change.
Now in its 17th season, “My Classic Car” is one of SPEED Channel’s highest rated programs and is available in 84 million households in North America.
In addition to “My Classic Car,” MadStache has a number of other national TV series and specials to its credit. Since Gage became sole owner of the company three years ago, he has sought to balance the company’s portfolio with an increased emphasis on production services for local, regional, and national clients. “There’s no reason we can’t bring this same level of national broadcast expertise to corporate videos, training videos, commercials, and web development,” says Gage. “We have state-of-the-art equipment as well as an extremely creative and seasoned staff.”
Sheila Perkins, vice president of sales, has been with MadStache for 12 years and welcomes its broader focus. “One of the things that truly set us apart from anyone else in the region is our 3-D animation capabilities,” she says. “Animation is a powerful tool and can be used to demonstrate things that can’t be shown any other way, but most importantly, we can seamlessly integrate any of our capabilities to meet clients’ needs. MadStache works with any size budget to either bring our clients’ ideas to life or to develop new concepts for them from the ground up — from ideation and storyboarding all the way through to finished production.”
“Really, we’re storytellers,” says Gage, “and we’re very good at it”
With a background in chemistry, it’s no wonder that Gage and his crew have boiled this all down to a science.
Visit www.MadStache.com to see examples of their work and the services they can provide for your company.
Jennifer Scales-Stewart is out to destroy myths about interior designers. “A lot of people think that we are just picking out furniture,” she says. “There’s a lot more involved.” Owner of Y Factor Studio, she describes interior design as being like architecture, with every piece carefully plotted out and placed.
Scales-Stewart opened Y Factor Studio in 2008 in Newburgh, Ind. After a fire damaged the studio, she decided to look for a new location, which she found in Downtown Evansville at 207 Main St. “My eyes lit up when I saw it,” she says of the building. With its main floor vacant since 1997, the space was in need of serious renovation in order to work for her purposes, but Scales-Stewart saw potential and purchased the building in April 2011. More than a year later, the new Y Factor Studio is open for business.
With first impressions, Scales-Stewart believes interior design is of great importance. “The image of the building states a lot about the person occupying the space,” she says. Y Factor Studio’s design statement could be described as tastefully eclectic. With pieces ranging from bright-colored column lights to bold orange acrylic chairs, the studio reflects the company’s diverse aesthetic vision.
Scales-Stewart knows her clients are busy, so she works hard to lighten their load. Working with various furniture dealers, she creates competitive bid packages to get the best available prices. If clients have trouble determining their design vision, Scales-Stewart and her designers may have them look over a series of pictures, pointing out what they like and dislike.
When asked about the “Y” in Y Factor Studio, Scales-Stewart says it’s all about asking clients the right questions. “We have some of the best designers in town,” she says. “We travel to see what some of the newest trends are. We’re personally keeping our designers educated on what is available.”
Y Factor Studio will be having an official grand opening celebration on Nov. 2 from 3-8 p.m. In addition to their standard interior design services, from now until the first week of December the studio will be offering a Christmas Design Service Package, where designers will decorate offices, or even homes, for the upcoming holidays. Visit www.yfactorstudio.com for more information.
On the Run
Where and how we shop hinges on affordability and convenience. Sometimes, it’s easier to order a more expensive product online just for the ease of e-commerce. But now, with the Internet in our pockets and a thousand more ways to spend money, being a smart consumer is as important as ever.
SPEADI is a new app developed with both local businesses and customers in mind. In short, SPEADI notifies users of last-minute deals and special services from local businesses. Say, for instance, a restaurant Downtown has more than half its tables open at 2 p.m. For $9.99 per deal, that restaurant can shout out a deal on SPEADI, alerting customers in the area they are offering free appetizers to the first five tables filled, half-priced entrees, or drink specials.
The app is made (and named) for speed. “A lot of deals are first come, first serve,” says Camilla Denison, president of Champion Laboratories. As one of the founders of SPEADI, Denison has seen the app used in creative ways. Hotels, sporting events, last-minute ticket deals, and farmers markets — with SPEADI, customers compete for business. “It’s good for almost any merchant,” she says. “If it’s near the end of the day at a farmers market and you have 10 lawn gnomes left, posting a buy one, get one free deal will save you the trouble of loading them back into your car.”
SPEADI first launched in Fenton, Mich., and later in Nashville, Tenn. “They need to be bigger cities with relevance,” Denison says. With a home currently in Evansville, she saw no better city to implement the app. The Smiling Moose Deli on Burkhardt Road hosted a SPEADI day on Aug. 25. “It got us a few more customers that day,” says Dave Deisher, owner of the deli. “SPEADI had cheap advertising, and I have high hopes for it.” Each business that signs up for SPEADI will have a QR code that allows “runners” (SPEADI users) to check in to receive the deal, and these runners can compete with each other to become city champions — or just smart, competitive consumers.
Visit www.SPEADI.com to learn more and download SPEADI for free on the iPhone’s app store.
Whose Site Is It? Voted one of the top 10 favorite parks in North America by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, and a two-time ARVC National RV Park of the Year, Lake Rudolph, a campground and RV resort in Santa Claus, Ind., has plenty to boast about. With a new, photo rich website, the park’s online influence is better than ever.
The new website is both easy to navigate and convenient. Real-time online reservations are accessible on every page, which makes checking availability quick and simple. Also on every page are links to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Lake Rudolph’s own Red-Nosed Blog. Features like rotating photos and videos are an important part of the site, giving viewers a detailed look into the park from home.
“I really have not found any other websites in our industry that compare,” says Dave Lovell, the park’s marketing director. “The design was based on input from our team here at Lake Rudolph. Since we have a very visual and photogenic property, we wanted our new website to be the same.”
Don’t Miss: Perhaps the most exciting addition to the website is the virtual tour option, which gives 360-degree views of several places throughout the park. The tour even includes detailed looks at the interior and exterior of rental RVs and cabins, RV and tent sites, the Blitzen Bay Pool, and much more.
Site Designed By: GuestStream
By night, Jasper is like any other small town, quiet and seemingly insignificant to outsiders. By day, this city of 15,000 residents becomes a bustling metropolis that nearly doubles with its workday population, some traveling 60-plus miles from as far as Evansville and Owensboro, Ky.
Along with Huntingburg and Ferdinand, Jasper sits in the heart of Dubois County, home to a bevy of large furniture corporations all promising opportunity and boasting international clientele to prove it.
Among those corporations — including Best Chair, OFS Brands, Jasper Chair Co., MasterBrand Cabinets, Mobel, Jasper Group Brands, DMI Office Furniture, Jofco, and Kimball International — National Office Furniture takes the crown as casegoods manufacturer of the year.
A mega furniture seller and electronic manufacturer, Kimball International started in 1950 as The Jasper Corp., and has since grown into an international company with businesses across the world and more than 13 manufacturing facilities in the U.S. The $1.2 billion publicly-traded company’s furniture segment has evolved into a family of brand names, including Kimball Office, Kimball Hospitality, and National Office Furniture. National started in 1980, when Kimball identified a need in the marketplace for stylishly affordable office furniture at faster lead times.
“Those founding fundamentals are still alive and well in our organization today,” says general manager Kevin McCoy. “We need speed in order to market and we need to be affordable with the products we put in the market place, but we’ve also brought other aspects into our business. We’ve brought much better design focus and incorporated quality, reliability, and sustainability into every single thing we do.”
Led by a knowledgeable parent company, National has grown significantly. The company encompasses four total manufacturing facilities located in Jasper, Santa Claus, Ind., Fordsville, Ky., and Danville, Ky., and seven showrooms across North America in Jasper, Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York City, Dallas, Orange County, Calif., and Toronto, Canada. Focused on efficiency, National has put great effort into making each of its facilities more environmentally sound. In the past five years, it has invested more than $8 million into its Santa Claus location, a 324,320-square-foot warehouse producing wood and laminate furniture. From new low-flow water fixtures and fittings in restrooms — which have reduced water usage by 34 percent — to new furniture products consisting of more than 82 percent recycled content, the facility has experienced quite the upgrade. A standard on all of National’s veneer casegoods and tables, IntegraClear, a water-based wood finish cured via ultraviolet light, offers exceptional clarity and durability in the company’s products.
Even the lighting throughout the building has been evaluated, says Rob Hamilton, program manager at the Santa Claus facility. Inside the plant’s sample shop room, all of the lights are uniform and consistent. “We have no more or no less than we need,” says Hamilton. By the end of the year, the entire facility is scheduled to receive all new general light fixtures with T8 Philips fluorescent bulbs, which will increase lamp life from 12,000 hours to 36,000 hours. The upgrade will ultimately save the plant $56,000 annually. This extra effort hasn’t gone without reward. In July, the Santa Claus facility was awarded LEED certification for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance Silver by the U.S. Green Building Council. The certification was National’s seventh LEED green building rating and marks the first LEED-certified office furniture manufacturing facility in Indiana.
The most aesthetically state of the art of the facilities is the showroom. Located across the street from National’s headquarters, inside the 35,500-square-foot Kimball International LEED-certified corporate showroom, is a 3,981-square-foot space dedicated only to National Office Furniture products. Set up as model offices, creative displays of furniture demonstrate the combination of functionality and artistic flare in each of the company’s brands. Although the company’s vertical market segments focus on the industries of health care, finance, education, and government, National’s products fit nearly any type of office environment. Jiminy, one of the company’s most versatile brands, offers mobile chairs with flexing mesh backs, arm depth adjustment, and nesting capability for easy storage. It coordinates well with WaveWorks Flip/Nest tables, which include one-touch release lever flips and mobile legs angled for nesting. Together, the brand partners create a productive setting for company training spaces, education environments, and meeting facilities.
When creating each of its product lines, National’s approach is usability for all. “One thing we take into consideration when designing a new product is its appeal to all generations,” says Kourtney Smith, National’s vice president of marketing. “We have an organization that is able to handle change well and be adaptable.” Further, every chair leg, table surface, and armrest is tested in an impressive testing center located inside Kimball’s corporate showroom. All furniture items must meet the rigid durability standards of the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association, the American National Standards Institute, and the International Safe Transit Association.
More than products, National’s focus is on the people. In 2009, the company introduced its Gift of Inspiration program, which annually gifts two $25,000 checks to health care and education environments. “The Gift of Inspiration was designed during the depths of the recession, when there were a lot of colleges, universities, and health care facilities struggling with funding,” says McCoy. “These are the areas we have sold into for years. They have been great growth engines for us, so we decided we wanted to give back to the environments that have supported us so well.” The gifts are awarded with no strings attached — no rules or guidelines to limit the use of the money. So far, National has presented checks to seven Gift of Inspiration winners, who are randomly chosen through a drawing. This year’s winner for health care was the Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families in Orlando, Fla., and Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, took home the gold for education.
Other social actions the company is involved with include local charity road races, Relay For Life, and Soles4Souls, a shoe charity that donates shoes to adults and children in need. National donated more than 1,100 pairs of shoes to the nonprofit in 2011. “A lot of companies in our industry focus on product. When you change that to people, it can really change your approach to the marketplace,” says McCoy. “It changes how you develop your products, how you do your processes and programs, and it can give you a different focus.”
When National was named Manufacturer of the Year for Casegoods by the Office Furniture Dealers Alliance in Sept., the company achieved the highest ratings from OFDA’s 2012 Dealer Choice Survey, which measures key performance metrics in training, product lines, service and support, sales and marketing, management, and technology. “Every time someone interacts with a customer we are creating an experience,” says McCoy. “We want that to be the most positive experience it can be. Ease of doing business is a big part of who we are.”
Check out National Office Furniture on Pinterest and Facebook, or visit www.nationalofficefurniture.com for more information on the company.
After two years of planning, eight University of Evansville business and engineering seniors traveled to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, in August to work with G.O. Ministries, a nonprofit organization that works in developing countries to provide aid to those in need.
In Mongolia, G.O. Ministries’ focus is to free women from a growing sex trade and to help young men with alcohol addiction. The students acted as consultants, bringing business knowledge and engineering skills to the organization. The business students worked with the nonprofit to generate business plans and implement strategies for a small jewelry business, Streams in the Desert, which hires, trains, and provides spiritual guidance for women on the streets of Ulaanbaatar. The engineering students collected data to determine if a Soviet-era building can be renovated, and are to generate plans for a Greenfield project that would house a new dormitory for the mission, as well as retail space and a training facility. The student groups will use the information gathered in Mongolia as the basis for their senior projects. The following is from my personal journal during the trip.
Through our research prior to the trip, we learned that Mongolia has about 3 million people (about 1.5 concentrated in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city), more than 40 million livestock, and access to minerals in their now burgeoning mining industry. It was intriguing for us to visit a country with great potential and access to natural resources, while realizing the enormity of the challenges the country faces.
Throughout our trip this August, we conducted data-collection about the business practices and cultural aspects of Mongolia. I was accompanied by my peers Kyle Tiemann of Indianapolis and Jyl Loehr of Holland, Ind., both accounting students, and Catherine Albers of Freeburg, Ill., a management and marketing student, as well as four engineers; two civil (Chris West of Indianapolis and Katelyn Spainhour of Floyds Knobs, Ind.) and two mechanical (Kevin Ulrich of Chugiak, Alaska, and Matthew Preble of Weatherford, Texas). Our team was led by faculty from the business and engineering department, Peter Sherman, Ph.D., and John Layer, Ph.D. We were also joined by Jerry Woodcox, the head of operations at G.O. Ministries and Reid Olson, an Emmy Award-winning videographer employed by G.O. Ministries.
Upon our arrival in Mongolia, we stared out the window of the airplane. On the dirt jet-way, we noticed jetliners parked in the grass alongside the strip. We all wondered: “What have we gotten ourselves into?” Driving into the city, wonder gave way to panic as our driver weaved around potholes, plowed through red lights, and ignored traffic lanes and all road rules. We later learned Mongols have a very nomadic mindset, even in the city. John Koehler, a missionary from G.O. Ministries who has lived in Mongolia for 10 years, remarked, “If there is a rule, a Mongol will find a way to break it.” He explained that there just aren’t a lot of rulebooks to follow in nomadic lifestyles, so when Mongols move inside a city, procedures tend to go unnoticed. This feeling extends into basic business practices, where it is common to keep two sets of books, as taught in accounting universities. For many of the local vendors, tax evasion is expected of businesses. And so, we began to learn about business in Mongolia.
Our first meeting was with Bill Manley, an entrepreneur from the U.K. who helped explain the local business climate and the position of Streams in the Desert. Bill and his wife describe themselves as nomads, having lived all over the world. They have spent the last nine years building a Fair Trade business in Mongolia, grossing more than a million in revenue last year. His store, Mary & Martha, is the only certified Fair Trade store in Mongolia, which welcomes about 300,000 tourists annually. Bill taught us that Mongols have a very strong “profit now” mentality. His illustration is the recent expansions of the mining industry, where many mining executives order cheaper, low-quality tires that quickly wear out, rather than invest in longer-lasting, more expensive tires. The company ends up spending more money because they don’t see the value in strategic investments. Within his own business, Bill is challenged by his local artisans, many of whom work and live in the countryside and are nearly impossible to reach. Many Mongols commonly find it difficult to understand deadlines or the importance of planning ahead. Bill has to remind them to do things like purchase materials in advance and plan for large orders. Our group began to draw conclusions about a possible lack of work ethic, prevalent in the country, causing frustration for entrepreneurs.
In our meetings with Streams in the Desert, we found similar issues, as the company found it difficult to get many of their women to show up every day for work. They cannot fire the women for absenteeism since it would defeat their mission of helping them, and the women would wind up back on the streets. At this point, we began to see opportunities to outline worker incentive programs crafted to increase the consistency of Steams’ workforce. Finally, we begin to see where we can help.
Further into our meetings with Streams, we uncovered more work. We sat down with Koehler and did a thorough analysis of the business model. We were hoping to identify opportunities where they could improve processes and distribution channels to make the business run more profitably and smoothly. We identified the area of accounting as an area where improvement could be easily implemented. Previously, the accounting was performed using a rudimentary combination of spreadsheets and word documents, which prevented the business from knowing if it was even profitable.
Accounting students Kyle and Jyl worked with Liz Sedore, a social worker and coordinator of the program, to uncover the inefficiencies in the inventory system. Kyle and Jyl recommended the use of accounting software and offered to train Liz on how to use it efficiently.
While the accounting group makes progress, Cat and I sat with Belgee (pronounced “Bell-Gay” and short for Ulziibayar Belegsaikhan), a Mongolian citizen, who is a real spitfire, speaks good English, and has the most ambition of any local we’d met. Belgee seems to have more business ideas than she has time for, and we appreciated her enthusiasm to expand Steams’ operations. Belgee seems to think there is a potential market for a laundry business. Cat and I discuss the possibilities with her, and plan to outline a business plan for the jewelry and laundry business throughout the semester. Belgee needs help with promotions, pricing, time management, and understanding financing. The women who run the business are social workers, and there is a definite need for a business manager to help them with the operations.
This fact is increasingly obvious to us. We realized a need for some succession strategies given the significant turnover for expats that are running the program. While there is a sense of community around these people, they have left their families and loved ones at home to be in Mongolia. Should these individuals (John and Liz) decide that they need to be home, Streams in the Desert would crumble. It is crucial that we plan for this.
As our trip draws to a close, we realized, amongst the beautiful countryside with sprawling mountains, lays a city in a valley that is very much in need of help. Skills are needed, a work ethic must be learned, and the value of a long-term investment strategy must be taught in an unstable business environment with a nomadic mindset and evidence of a bribery-engrained culture. If both Streams in the Desert and the country can’t compete, they are likely to be left behind.
Phoebe Hodina is a Bloomington, Ind., native and University of Evansville senior majoring in business administration with concentrations in marketing and finance. She maintains high academic standards as a dean’s list student while balancing the lifestyle of a NCAA Division I athlete as a member of the Ace’s swim team. Phoebe has studied abroad three times in Harlaxton, China, and Mongolia. She is actively involved on her campus as an officer in Chi Omega, and in the community through her current marketing internship at Atlas World Group.