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. With that information, they built a network of support for one specific goal: “We want jobs in this area,” Prior says, whether making energy with coal, creating parts for green energy technology, or educating a workforce on new manufacturing processes.
To do that, the duo has been busy. They’ve partnered with the Center for Coal Technology Research in West Lafayette, Ind., on the development of a coal research center. They’ve earned a $500,000 state grant to train employees in the utility and coal industry. They’ve reached out to companies such as Vectren Corp., Aloca, and American Electric Power. They’ve offered courses on creating more efficient power plants to employees at those companies. They’ve doubled the number of employees attending those training courses. They’ve networked with hundreds of industry professionals to focus Southwest Indiana business leaders toward a shared vision: to make this nine-county area a respected hub in the energy industry. “There’s still a lot of value for what we set out to do,” Pack says.
Eighteen months since the article was published, Pack, a Vectren senior operational analyst, and Prior, a Grow Southwest Indiana Workforce planning manager, plan to take advisory roles for Project Green. The hope is that a team of eight to 10 professionals — from manufacturers, educators, entrepreneurs, and government officials — will lead the volunteer network into the next year. A June meeting decides the new leadership, but the goal remains the same. “What we’ve always envisioned is a nonprofit Project Green organization,” Pack says, “with an executive director, an operations manager, and a staff, accomplishing the Project Green goals.”