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VINCENNES, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – Vincennes University is receiving $2.3 million from the U.S. Department of Education to support its TRIO Upward Bound program. The university says the funding will help serve populations of first-generation and income-eligible high school students who want to pursue a college education.

The program, which serves 12 southwest Indiana high schools, will receive nearly $450,000 each year for a five-year cycle.

“This grant will help potential first-generation college students advance their education at a two-year or four-year college,” VU Upward Bound Director Lisa Spivey said. “Navigating the college preparation process can be a daunting task, and Upward Bound activities can make this a much smoother process for students.”

The funding will ultimately support program offerings including academic advising, financial literacy, and assistance with financial aid applications, among others. VU says Upward Bound also offers enrichment and cultural activities during the academic year.

As part of the program, Upward Bound students can earn 12 semester hours of college credit at VU if they meet certain requirements.

VINCENNES, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – Knox County is working with several other counties in southwest Indiana to better understand the region’s supply and demand of childcare. Knox County Indiana Economic Development says it has joined the Southern Indiana Gateway region to support the efforts.

In addition to Knox County, the region includes Crawford, Dubois, Orange, Perry, Pike, and Spencer counties. The region earned the 21st Century Talent Region designation last year, a statewide initiative that supports regions as they build and implement plans to increase educational attainment, raise household income and grow population.

The Knox County EDC says it joined the collaborative to help support efforts for more in-depth data on the availability of childcare. The region is partnering with Transform Consulting Group, a consulting firm in Wabash, to gather up-to-date data on the number and types of childcare seats available within each county.

“From an economic development perspective, it is critical to understand supply in terms of how many seats actually meet the needs of working parents,” said Erin Emerson, executive director of the Perry County Development Corp. “Lack of access to childcare is negatively impacting the daily lives and decisions of residents in our region and the productivity and bottom lines of local businesses as well as severely limiting our regional growth potential.”

The organization cites Early Learning Indiana’s Closing the Gap Report, which estimated that “existing capacity across all programs can serve just over half of all the population of children aged 0 to 5 who may be in need of care” and that rural counties are more likely to have inadequate access.

The organization plans to focus on data collection over the next couple of months and will release a final report in July.

ELKHART, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – Elkhart-based Tepe Sanitary Supply Inc. has been acquired by Imperial Dade, a distributor of food service packaging and janitorial supplies located in New Jersey. While financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, Imperial Dade says customers will benefit from the expanded product and service offerings.

Tepe is a full-service janitorial supply and industrial product supplier founded by President and owner Steve Tepe.

“Like Imperial Dade, Tepe has a deeply rooted family culture and high standard for customer service, making the business a great addition to our family,” said Imperial Dade Chairman Robert Tillis.

Tepe serves northern Indiana, Michigan and Chicago.

“We are excited to grow our presence across the Midwest and look forward to partnering with Steve and the Tepe team to capitalize on the many growth opportunities that we see ahead for the business,” said Imperial Dade Chief Executive Officer Jason Tillis.

The acquisition is Imperial Dade’s 49th with Robert and Jason Tillis leading the company.

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – Evansville-based Berry Global Group Inc. (NYSE: BERY) is boosting its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The company says it has committed to reducing its Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2025, after surpassing its initial goal of 8% four years ahead of schedule.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scope 3 emissions, which are also referred to as value chain emissions, are caused by activities from assets the company does not own or control but indirectly impacts its value chain. The EPA says Scope 3 emissions often represent the majority of an organization’s total GHG emissions.

The company says the move is part of its effort to minimize the environmental impact of its operations and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. And we are committed to advancing the transition to a net-zero economy,” said Robert Flores, Berry Global’s vice president of sustainability. “Quickly surpassing and increasing our Scope 3 emissions target is a testament to Berry Global’s hard work, dedication, and collaboration across the plastics value chain to significantly reduce emissions.”

The new Scope 3 target is aligned with Berry’s existing Scope 1 and 2 commitments and validated by the Science Based Targets initiative.

The EPA says Scope 1 emissions include direct greenhouse emissions “that occur from sources that are controlled or owned by an organization,” while Scope 2 emissions are indirect greenhouse emissions associated with the purchase of electricity, steam, heating or cooling.

Berry’s efforts to minimize the environmental impact of its operations are part of its Impact 2025 sustainability strategy.

“As sustainability rightfully becomes more of a priority for our customers, reducing supply chain emissions is critical to helping them achieve their climate goals,” said Tarun Manroa, Berry Global’s EVP chief strategy officer and head of global purchasing. “This new target reinforces our alignment with a net zero economy and providing solutions for our customers’ sustainability commitments.”

Additionally, the company says it has set sustainable packaging goals. Berry aims to achieve 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable fast-moving consumer packaging by 2025, as well as 30% circular plastics use by 2030, which includes recycled and renewable resins such as bioplastics.

ELKHART, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – Elkhart-based Dexter Axle Co. has acquired Premium Supply Ltd. in Texas, a company specializing in custom trailer hoists, hydraulic kits, pumps, controls, and accessories. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Dexter is a manufacturer of utility trailer axles, doors, and other components for the recreational vehicle, marine and agricultural markets.

“Over the past six decades, DEXTER has developed the most diverse product offering in the industry,” said Adam Dexter, chief executive officer of DEXTER. “The Premium Supply business is a natural fit with the DEXTER organization. Their industry and product knowledge will enable our companies to better serve the marketplace.”

Premium Supply distributes its products and kits to the tilt, dump, and utility trailer markets.

“Together, we will drive exciting industry developments and offer a full range of towing solutions for our dump and tilt customers,” said Fred Bentley, CEO of DexKo Global. “Premium Supply customers should expect to see substantial benefits from DEXTER’s extensive national footprint for servicing large and small OEMs, dealers and service centers in the dump trailer market. Additionally, our combined supply chain expertise will enhance our ability to service customers with just-in-time delivery.”

Earlier this year, Dexter acquired The Expediter LLC, a trailer parts supply store in Florida.

Dexter is a subsidiary of Michigan-based DexKo Global Inc. The manufacturer employs nearly 4,000 people in the U.S. and Canada and operates 18 manufacturing facilities and more than 30 distribution sites.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – The Purdue for Life Foundation is launching a new division in support of Purdue University’s diversity, inclusion and belonging priorities. The foundation says the division, led by Assistant Vice President of Advancement for Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Jacqueline Gatson, will develop alumni engagement and fundraising strategies to create connections with volunteers, mentors, industry partners and donors.

Purdue says the division will focus on several priority areas, including participation in the Purdue Alumni Recruitment for Tomorrow recruitment program, to grow the number of Purdue undergraduate and graduate students from underrepresented populations.

“The Equity Task Force is committed to ensuring an equitable, holistic experience for all Boilermakers, with a current focus on the Black Boilermaker community,” Gatson said. “To do this, we will address areas of recruitment, retention and the overall campus experience of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff. We will employ innovative strategies that are both intentional and authentic. Through these pathways, we aim to enhance the Purdue community and create meaningful opportunities for community, collaboration and support.”

In addition, Mark Gaines will serve as the division’s chief development officer. Purdue says it plans to expand the division to also include a director of industry partnerships and a director of foundation relations.

The division will also fundraise for scholarships and retention programs through individual, foundation and corporate gifts, as well as Purdue Black Alumni Organization’s Lacey-Mason Giving Circle, which supports scholarships and campus programming.

STATEWIDE (Inside INdiana Business) – Texas-based CenterPoint Energy Inc. (NYSE: CNP) is planning to further modernize its natural gas distribution system. The utility, which has a major presence in Indiana, has contracted with Washington-based Itron Inc. (Nasdaq: ITRI) to install three million natural gas ultrasonic smart meters.

The utility says the smart meters will improve safety and service, as well as distribution system reliability and efficiency for customers, which includes users in Indiana. CenterPoint provides power to more than seven million customers throughout Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio and Texas.

“CenterPoint Energy has set clear priorities to invest in our natural gas system to drive safety and reliability, while also advancing the transition to a cleaner energy future,” said Trey Kuchar, senior vice president of natural gas for CenterPoint Energy. “The Itron Intelis natural gas smart meters will not only support a more modern and resilient network for enhanced safety and reliability, but they will also help reduce our field visits and related vehicle carbon emissions. These natural gas smart meters are a win-win for our customers and the environment.”

Itron says the Intelis meters can take highly accurate ultrasonic measurements, providing customers with data about their natural gas consumption that will enable them to better manage, budget and conserve their energy usage. In addition, utilities can collect data and alerts from meters throughout their distribution systems, which could help identify potential problems.

“We are excited to collaborate with CenterPoint Energy to deploy Itron’s next-generation Intelis natural gas smart metering solution, which has already surpassed 500,000 shipments to utilities in North America,” said John Marcolini, senior vice president of networked solutions at Itron. “We look forward to expanding this solution at CenterPoint Energy and delivering unparalleled levels of operational excellence and safety; it will not only enable CenterPoint Energy with two-way communication for monitoring and billing their natural gas assets but will enhance intelligence capability across distribution networks.”

Itron says the smart meters also include an automatic shutoff valve that can be configured to shut off automatically in the event of high flow or high temperature.

PLAINFIELD, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – Plainfield-based Duke Energy Indiana is awarding nearly $120,000 in grants to 26 economic development organizations. Duke Energy says the funding is intended to catalyze job creation and investment throughout the state.

The funding is part of Duke Energy’s Partnership Program, which the utility says supports organizations that increase awareness of a region’s economic development strategies and product availability. The utility says the awards help economic development organizations fund marketing and strategic outreach efforts for their communities.

“Duke Energy is working hand in hand with our local and regional economic development partners to accelerate growth and job creation in the communities we serve,” said Erin Schneider, director of economic development for Duke Energy Indiana. “We’re proud to support these organizations, each of which plays a critical role in marketing Indiana’s communities to attract businesses and enhance the quality of life for our customers.”

Duke Energy says the grant amounts are based on the size and scope of the project. The recipients are listed below:

“Shelby County’s highly skilled workforce, affordable utilities and central location make it a really attractive area for large manufacturing operations,” said Brian Asher, executive director of the Shelby County Development Corp. “Duke Energy’s support will help fund an advertisement in The Japan Times that coincides with our travel to the country this fall to attract additional jobs and investment to our community as we visit the headquarters of several Japanese companies with facilities in Shelbyville.”

Duke Energy says it has contributed nearly $600,000 in grant funding since the program was established in 2017.

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a $222 million contract to ERAPSCO in Columbia City and Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT) in Virginia. The contract is a price modification to a previously-awarded contract which calls for the production of 18,000 sonobuoys for the U.S. Navy.

The department says the companies have the opportunity to compete for individual orders.

ERAPSCO will perform approximately one-third of the work in Columbia City and the remaining portion in Florida. Lockheed Martin will perform the majority of its work in Virginia and about 10% in Florida.

The work is scheduled for completion in December 2024. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Maryland is the contracting activity.

CENTRAL INDIANA (Inside INdiana Business) – The U.S. Economic Development Administration is awarding a $1.7 million CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant to Northwest Central Indiana Community Partnerships Inc. in West Lafayette. The funding will be used to expand broadband access in central Indiana in support of the region’s manufacturing, agricultural and technology industries.

The EDA’s investment will be matched with $426,000 in local funds and is expected to create 75 jobs, retain 150 jobs and generate $10 million in private investment.

“President Biden is committed to leveraging the full power of the federal government to ensure our nation not only recovers from this pandemic but that all communities have the tools they need to succeed in our increasingly digital economy,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “This EDA investment will serve as a down-payment for the further broadband investments coming from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law by providing cost-effective and reliable broadband service in Central Indiana that will build resiliency in the region’s manufacturing, agricultural and technology sectors for decades to come.”

The department says the project will provide necessary technology for the region’s industries to remain competitive. The investment is also expected to make the rural, seven-county region more resilient to future economic disruptions.

“The Economic Development Administration supports community-led strategies to accelerate economic recovery from the pandemic,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Castillo. “This EDA investment will help to ensure a bright future for this rural Indiana region by providing the broadband services local industries need to grow, thrive and create jobs.”

The project is funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.