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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The Indiana State University Board of Trustees approved a plan on Friday to request $66 million to renovate and expand the more than 40-year-old Technology Annex Building on the Terre Haute campus. The funding would be considered as part of the biennial budget from the Indiana General Assembly in next year’s legislative session.

The university says the project would modernize space in the building, which was built in 1980, to create a Center for Technology Engineering & Design. It will include a two-story, 30,000-square-foot addition, as well as the demolition of about 17,000 square feet of space.

ISU says interior improvements to the adjacent Myers Technology Center are also planned.

“For Indiana to compete on a global scale, it needs a strong, well-educated, and highly skilled workforce,” ISU President Deborah Curtis said in written remarks. “This institutional priority is in complete alignment with the state’s goals. With our incredible record of serving the state, ISU will work hard to use this investment to make Indiana even more competitive and prosperous. And, in the long run, our fellow citizens throughout the state will greatly benefit.”

The board also approved naming the Nursing Skills Lab at the College of Health and Human Services after Rich and Robin Porter, who gifted $300,000 to the university to establish the Rich and Robin Porter Endowed Master’s in Nursing Scholarship.

Rich Porter is graduated from ISU with a degree in business management and is the chair of the ISU Foundation Board of Directors. The couple previously donated $250,000 to create the Rich & Robin Porter Cancer Research Center on the ISU campus.

NASHVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Hard Truth Distilling Co. is making some major additions to its Brown County operations. The distillery has begun construction on a second rack house that will be double the size of its current rack house and plans to add three, 5,000-gallon fermenters.

The plans were first reported by American Whiskey magazine. The distillery did not disclose its financial investment in the project.

Hard Truth says the new fermenters, in conjunction with its existing 2,500-gallon fermenters, will increase its production by more than 800%.

The second rack house will also increase the distillery’s storage capacity from 4,000 to 12,000 barrels.

Hard Truth co-founder Jeff McCabe told the publication the distillery’s spirits can be found in 16 states and the Bahamas, and there is room for growth.

“We expect to see our brands in 28 states by 2023,” said McCabe.

The distillery expects the project to be completed by the end of the year.

Hard Truth is known for its variety of spirits, including its Sweet Mash Rye, Coconut Rum and Cinnamon Vodka. The distillery has opened a Hard Truth Bar at the Fashion Mall at Keystone on the north side of Indianapolis, as well as The Garage Food Hall at the Bottleworks District near downtown.

The distillery is a division of BWQOHT, which also owns Big Woods restaurants and the Quaff On! craft brewery.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Washington D.C.-based Carr Workplaces announced Thursday it has taken over as property manager for the Electric Works mixed-use innovation district in Fort Wayne. The company, which operates coworking spaces throughout the country, says it will oversee the entire 10-building campus at the former General Electric site near the city’s downtown.

Carr Workplaces has named Traci Oberholtzer property manager, as well as Alex Arnold as chief engineer and Megan Brown as assistant property manager.

The company says the team, which will ultimately be comprised of eight people, will be responsible for a variety of services, including mechanical systems maintenance, capital improvements, and tenant lease administration and relations.

“At its peak in the late 1940s, the former General Electric campus employed 10,000 people, and it is our shared goal with the Electric Works team to revive and carry on a dynamic legacy of innovation and positive economic impact throughout the city,” Carr Workplaces COO Ashley Buckner said in a news release. “We are thrilled to have Traci, Megan and Alex, all of whom live in the Fort Wayne area, lead the Property Management team and know that with their dedication to hospitality and professionalism, the Electric Works campus will fuel a new era of job creation, culture and community.” 

In December 2020, Carr Workplaces said it would establish a 32,000-square-foot coworking space inside Building 19 on the campus. The space will feature more than 90 private offices, numerous drop-in workspaces and meeting rooms, and a 10,000-square-foot conference center.

The $286 million first phase of Electric Works, which includes more than 700,000 square feet of space, is slated to open this fall.

In addition to Electric Works, Carr Workplaces manages coworking spaces in Indianapolis, West Lafayette, Boston, Chicago, and New York, among other major cities.

MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has given approval for Merrillville-based Northern Indiana Public Service Co. to increase its natural gas rates in a two-step process beginning in September. The utility says the average residential customer will see an expected overall increase of about $6 per month.

NIPSCO initially submitted its request for the rate increase in September 2021. The utility said at the time the additional revenue would be used to make infrastructure improvements, including replacing older gas lines.

“Customers expect service that is dependable and rates at the lowest cost possible,” NIPSCO President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Hooper said in written remarks. “This balanced outcome demonstrates a positive path toward continued investments in essential resources that will support safe operations, upgrading aging infrastructure and enhancing our customers’ experience.”

The first step in the rate increase will take place September 1, with the second step occurring in March 2023.

NIPSCO says the change marks a 10% increase, which is lower than the originally proposed 17%. The change also reduces the customer charge from the originally proposed $24.50 to $16.33.

The utility says the overall change is expected to generate an additional $71.8 million in revenue annually.

WASHINGTON, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Pharmacy benefit management company True Rx Health Strategists is today celebrating the opening of its nearly $2 million facility near I-69 in the Daviess County town of Washington. “I think our employees are really proud to drive up and say, ‘Yeah, that’s where I work,’ and that was kind of intentional,” said Chief Executive Officer Mark Williams. Additionally, the company says it has achieved an annual national growth rate of 30%, which exceeds its initial growth forecast.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Williams said the company’s culture and employees has been key to its continued growth.

“I always say you’re only as good as the employees that you hire, and we hire amazing employees,” said Williams. “We set ourselves to high standards and we’re only able to do that because of the amazing employees that we have that give their dedication and hard work to True Rx Health Strategists every day.”

True Rx first announced plans for the 15,000-square-foot facility in October 2020. The company said it was looking to add 90 employees by 2023.

Since that time, the company has hired 86 employees, and Williams says they anticipate hiring several more people through the end of 2022.

The building, according to Williams, was designed with a hybrid work model in mind as a result of the pandemic. He says that model has led to an increase in collaboration among employees.

“In our building, we have what’s called huddle rooms, and I see people go in there and their collaborating. They’re working on projects. They’re working together,” said Williams. “I’ve seen the camaraderie really increase, and I think we have seen our culture get better since we build the new building.”

Officials says True Rx locating the building in a rural area increases its positive economic impact.

“Many companies like True Rx could be located in urban areas, and the fact that the Williams family has chosen to grow their national business in the city of Washington is a major benefit to the region,” Denny Spinner, executive director of the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, said in written remarks.

Williams says the property on which the new building sits has room for a second 15,000-square-foot facility. He says that addition could be in the works in the next several years.

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — Indianapolis-based Energy Systems Network, the advanced energy technology and transportation initiative of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, will merge with the Battery Innovation Center in Newberry, the CICP announced Thursday. The partnership says the merger will create “a number of synergies and efficiencies” between the two organizations.

The Battery Innovation Center was originally created by ESN in 2010 with the goal of advancing the state’s ability to develop, test, manufacture and commercialize battery system technologies. It spun out as its own entity in 2012.

ESN has certainly had an impressive track record in their ability to bring interesting and meaningful projects to Indiana. However, they have always had stakeholders from outside the state and outside of the U.S. who seek for them to do more,” David Johnson, president and CEO of the CICP, said in written remarks. “Joining together with the BIC will enable them to further engage with companies, universities and governments from around the world.”

The merger will take effect Aug. 5. Paul Mitchell will remain president and CEO of ESN, while Ben Wrightsman will remain president and CEO of BIC.

“CICP was the perfect proving ground for ESN’s efforts and our mission to leverage our network of global thought leaders to develop integrated energy solutions by reducing costs, emissions and waste, influence policy and advance technological innovations,” said Mitchell. “However, as the organization looks to the future and fields opportunities that are arising from beyond Indiana’s borders, the partnership with the BIC makes strategic sense and will strengthen both of our organizations.”

We’ll have more on the merger in Friday’s INside Edge Morning Briefing newsletter.

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Jeffersonville-based Amatrol Inc. is looking to expand its southern Indiana operations. The company plans to invest $8.5 million to acquire the former Key Electronics building in the North Port Business Centre and create 30 full-time jobs.

Amatrol designs, develops and manufactures technical training systems for numerous applications, including HVAC, smart automation, and diesel mechanics.

One Southern Indiana, the chamber of commerce and economic development organization for Clark and Floyd counties, says the building at 2533 Centennial Boulevard in Jeffersonville would grow Amatrol’s operations by 65%.

The additional 100,000 square feet of space, 1si says, would allow the company to introduce new product lines in smart automation and HVAC training equipment and e-learning software.

“Amatrol now has a plan which, with the support of local and state governments, will allow us to expand our facility to accommodate more clients in new and innovative ways,” Amatrol President Paul Perkins said in written remarks.

The Jeffersonville City Council will consider a tax abatement request from Amatrol at its Aug. 1 meeting.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has offered Amatrol up to a total of $300,000 in conditional tax credits, which the company will not be eligible to claim until Hoosier workers are hired and trained for the new jobs.

The project comes less than three years after Amatrol announced plans for a $2.5 million expansion and 35 new jobs.

CARMEL, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A Carmel-based biopharmaceutical company has received an Orphan Drug designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its lead therapeutic product candidate. The drug, MBX 2109, is being developed for the treatment of hypoparathyroidism.

The Orphan Drug designation, the company says, is designed to support the development of medicines that address diseases or conditions that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the country. It qualifies MBX for incentives such as tax credits for clinical testing, prescription drug user fee exemptions and marketing exclusivity for seven years once the drug receives FDA approval.

Hypoparathyroidism is a rare endocrine disorder that decreases calcium and increases phosphorus levels in the blood. MBX says about 200,000 people around the world have the disorder, which can cause problems in the kidneys and bones.

“This is an exciting achievement for MBX and underscores the significant need to expand treatment options for hypoparathyroidism,” MBX Chief Executive Officer Kent Hawryluk said in written remarks. “We believe MBX 2109 has the potential to overcome limitations of the current standard of care with fewer administrations necessary due to its long-acting profile. Our goal is to improve the outcomes and quality of life for patients with this chronic condition.”

MBX 2109 is currently being evaluated in a Phase 1 clinical trial.

The designation was awarded nearly two years to the day after MBX Biosciences closed on a $35 million Series A round of funding. Shortly after the funding round closed, the company was spotlighted in our Life Sciences INdiana newsletter.

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — The Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs and the Indiana Department of Workforce Development will Thursday host a hiring fair in Indianapolis. The event, held in conjunction with Helping Veterans and Families of Indiana Inc., is open to anyone looking for employment with a special emphasis on veterans and their families.

The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Indiana Veterans Center at 777 N. Meridian Street in downtown Indianapolis.

Organizers say company representatives will be available to meet with job seekers who can apply for various positions that pay at least $15 per hour. Some employers may conduct on-the-spot interviews, so job seekers are encouraged to dress appropriately.

Some of the participating employers include Mitsubishi Motors, Freudenberg, Draper Fencing, SMC, Custom Concrete, IMH, Heartland, Herff Jones, Henry Schein, BSN and more.

Organizers says job seekers should bring documentation, including a DD-214 or NGB Form 22, a resume, any prior work portfolios, and a government-issued ID card such as a driver’s license or VA Healthcare card.

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — A post on social media has led to a growing direct-to-consumer cheesecake business in Indianapolis. Cassie Smith-Johnson is the founder of The Cheesecake Lady Indy, which makes a variety of cheesecake products using her own homemade recipe. Smith-Johnson makes the treats out of a 24-hour shared commercial kitchen after finishing her day job at an Indianapolis insurance company.

In an interview with Around INdiana Reporter Mary-Rachel Redman, Smith-Johnson said it all started by answering a Facebook post from a friend. Click here to watch interview

“They made a post asking if somebody could make a banana pudding cheesecake, and I responded,” she said. “I made a post, a picture of the cheesecake, and once I posted it, I got a lot of feedback from other Facebook friends asking me to make them cheesecakes. And, it just blossomed from there. I got so busy with them that I just decided that I would make a business.”

In 2021, Smith-Johnson joined Indy’s Kitchen on the city’s near north side where entrepreneurs can rent space by the hour.

“It’s for [restauranteurs] like myself who either don’t have the means to have the equipment on a build out as far as their own location or someone who also maybe just doesn’t want to have their own brick-and-mortar,” she said.

In addition to making full cheesecakes in a variety of flavors, The Cheesecake Lady Indy also makes cheesecake bites and 16-ounce tall cheesecake cups.

Smith-Johnson says the majority of her business comes through social media engagement.

“[On] Instagram, if I’m not posting daily, I have a sponsor post constantly engaging my customers, showing them what I have, promoting my business hours. I actually speak directly to the customers. I respond to them in the inbox.”

After two years in business, Smith-Johnson says she’s most proud of herself for sticking with it.

“Anyone who has owned and operated a business, there are seasons where it’s up and down, and the lows kind of hit really hard,” she said. “And that can be very, very discouraging, but really, I’m really proud of myself for just not giving up in the moments where I felt like I needed to or that I should. I figured out how to just keep it level and keep it balanced and make it work, and it’s going really, really well.”