Ben Schmidt’s plastics company was barely six months old when he stepped into the former Whirlpool plant. The space was vast and empty. The 1.7 million square feet once housed 1,100 employees, from engineers to assemblers, until the refrigeration company took all but a handful of jobs to Mexico last June. Now, Schmidt heard nothing. The rumble and whiz from the conveyor belts hoisting shiny, new refrigerators through the air left with the employees. The space where Whirlpool spent 54 years writing paychecks to Evansvillians for services rendered was empty.
June / July 2011
When the Downtown River House Hotel’s power was shut off in 2009 and more than 50 Evansvillians were forced to abandon their rooms, Chris Jackson looked at the structure’s investment potential. The commercial real estate broker noted that the 1965 hotel boasts views of the Ohio River, is within walking distance of the city’s new arena, and caters to Downtown’s assortment of restaurants and entertainment areas. “Its location is irreplaceable,” Jackson says, but holes overflowing with broken beams and insulation are visible from the street.
On one end of a stage in Roberts Stadium sat a pile of diplomas. One by one, University of Southern Indiana seniors walked across the stage as thousands of family and friends watched every step on May 8. At the end of the ceremony, the graduates flipped their tassels from the right side of their caps to the left, a move signifying they had joined 30,000 USI alumni.
Job: Chairman of the board of directors and CEO of Connecticut-based SS&C Technologies. Hometown: Evansville. His Story: In March 2011, Stone announced he was bringing 500 new jobs to Downtown Evansville by 2014. Those employees will add to SS&C’s 1,400 employees who provide software specialized for global financial and investment companies. Stone’s 25-year-old company is a worldwide operation with a client base managing $16 trillion in assets.
One of the oldest clichés that exists is that different occurrences including death occur in threes. Unfortunately, since my last letter, that has been especially true in Evansville. These three people made significant contributions to our community that will not be forgotten. Please take a moment and remember their warmth, spirit, and generosity. Isabella Nadelstein Fine 1915-2011 Karen Donovan Magan 1942-2011 John Henry Schroeder 1920-2011
In October 2009, Evansvillians were reeling from this announcement: Whirlpool executives were taking 1,100 jobs from their North Side refrigeration factory elsewhere. Soon after, our readers learned of Project Green, the culmination of a three-year effort aiming to bring jobs to the Tri-State (“Green with Energy,” October/November 2009). The leaders, Josh Pack and Christine Prior, were backed by three years of research from a consultant firm with key statistics on Southwest Indiana’s workforce.
When I read a book now, I use the iPad, Apple’s brilliant tablet computer, because any good hardware needs good software, and Apple offers both. The computer company boasts a beautiful integration of music, movies, apps, and books to be accessed through Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS.
When I call Chris Jourdan’s cell phone, the Black Eyed Peas answer the phone. The pop rap group who starred in this year’s Super Bowl halftime show sing, “I got a feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night.” It’s a recording, of course, and when you own 13 Verizon Wireless Zone stores (six in the Tri-State, six in Ohio, and one in Florida) like Jourdan does, you know how to master your cellphone.
That recession was hard on all of us. Valuable lessons were learned. Andrew Rice began his career as a financial representative at Northwestern Mutual in 2007, just before the economy nosedived. Here’s what he learned battling on the recession’s front line. I don’t know too many people who can say, “Hey, the recession is over.” There’s certainly people smarter than I that can’t really put a finger on it.
Whose Site Is It? Perhaps you’ve exercised there or been one of the 2,348 who ran or walked (or painfully crawled) in their half marathon last year, but we’ve all done the dance. Under the revamped look and direction of the YMCA of the USA, the YMCA of Southwestern Indiana unveiled a new website this spring — four years before the organization with 2,687 branches required the switch.
In January 2007, Steve McClellan accepted a job as the vice president of Professional Transportation Inc., an Evansville-based transportation company. That was one year before gas prices skyrocketed to nearly $4 a gallon. For McClellan, this gas spike was fairly brief. “We didn’t really start seeing the downturn until later in 2008 and through a good portion of 2009,” he says. Still, during that time period, PTI added 350 workers after being awarded a new contract with Union Pacific Railroad, a company with 43,500 employees and a $3.6 billion annual payroll.
Flying cars? Not yet. Colonies on Mars? Still no. But that doesn’t mean we can’t think big. In this new section of Evansville Business, we’ll challenge the innovators, trendsetters, and leaders of the community to spark public conversation. The questions we’ll pose to them: How can we make Evansville a better place to live? How can we attract businesses? What would make people want to work in the River City?
Rebuilt to Last In our feature, “He Rebuilt This City,” we share how Ben Kunkel, an architect, transforms historic buildings in Evansville into spaces used by profitable businesses.