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GREENSBURG, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The city of Greensburg is offering a unique incentive in an effort to attract more remote workers to relocate. The city has created a program called Grandparents on Demand, which involves local residents providing free babysitting service for new residents and filling in for Grandparents Day at school. Evan Hock, co-founder and chief operating officer of Indianapolis-based MakeMyMove, an online platform connecting remote workers to incentives offered by communities throughout the country, says the city’s efforts are a prime example of the creativity many communities are employing.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Hock said Greensburg is focusing on more than just financial incentives.

“They’re offering $5,000 in cash to help folks relocate, but much of their offer comes down to helping plug new residents into the community,” said Hock. “They offer what they call Seat at the Table, which is they have a table at all the major events in town and invite folks to come and meet the community and plug into the area. It’s easy to say that a community is welcoming and I think Greensburg is really putting their money where their mouth is.”

Tami Wenning, executive director of the Decatur County Community Foundation, and her husband, Dan, have volunteered to serve as stand-in grandparents through the program. The couple plans to assist the first five families that commit to relocating to Greensburg and Wenning says more local grandparents are willing to participate as well.

“I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’m excited to share with the people who want what we have, because what we have is special,” Wenning told the Associated Press. “We’re the perfect place for somebody to raise a family, and I cannot begin to imagine moving away and being in a place where you don’t have that network of people that, in a pinch, you’ve got somebody to rely on.”

Additionally, the city is offering amenities such as free coworking space for a year and free YMCA membership for a year. Hock says since Greensburg began offering its incentives, both the platform and the city have been “bowled over” by the response.

“They’ve had close to 1,500 applications just in the first couple weeks alone,” he said. “When we first launched this, it was somewhat of an experiment. You know, can we pull together a program that resonates? Can we get people’s attention? I think the offer has really struck a chord both in the press – obviously, they’re getting a lot of attention – but I think we’re seeing it in sort of the number and quality of applicants that are coming through. These are high-wage, high-education people.”

MakeMyMove launched in January as more communities began offering incentives to bring in remote workers. Hock says the platform has grown from about 20 communities at launch to more than 50 currently. 

“Communities across the country spend about $70 billion every year on economic development. Historically, a lot of that has been spent to recruit companies and I think what economic development corporations and municipalities are realizing is that a lot of those dollars can be directed at recruiting the workers directly on a retail basis.”

Hock says the company is focused on furthering the traction it has seen in the less than a year it’s been in operation. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

GREENSBURG, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The Honda Indiana Auto Plant in Greensburg has begun mass production of the 2022 Civic Hatchback, making it the first plant in the U.S. to do so. The automaker has invested more than $50 million to prepare the facility for production, which included a nearly 60,000-square-foot expansion to house new laser brazing equipment. Larry Geise, plant lead at IAP, says the addition of the new vehicle is exciting for the plant, which began building the Civic when it opened in 2008.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Geise said the automaker is continuing to look at growth opportunities in Decatur County.

“It’s been a struggle. Everybody’s been struggling with COVID, as you know, for the last year and a half and obviously, we’re all looking beyond COVID,” said Geise. “Our real goal here is to stabilize our operations. We are doing that. We’re bringing new products in like this hatchback and so we see a very bright future for not just our business here, but also our local communities.”

Honda says several IAP employees lived and worked in Japan for up to two years to collaborate with the company’s R&D and manufacturing teams in an effort to make assembly of the Civic Hatchback easier for IAP workers.

The laser brazing equipment in the new building addition uses dual beam laser technology to join the roof of the new vehicle to the body side panels. Honda says the process creates a seamless exterior appearance and a stronger vehicle body. The assembly of the vehicle also includes using spray foam in hollow portions of the vehicle’s body structure to reduce noise transmission in the cabin.

The Greensburg facility, which totals more than 1.3 million square feet, also produces the CR-V, CR-V Hybrid and Insight Hybrid models. The facility employs more than 2,700 workers.

While the company is not saying if any new jobs are being created as a result of the investment, Geise says the facility has opportunities for a wide range of talent.

“I think that’s one thing that makes us really special in this area. We have opportunities for people coming right out of high school. We have opportunities for people that have been out of the workforce and want to come back into the workforce. We have opportunities for college education. So we have a very broad spectrum of opportunities here and it’s not just one key aspect.”

Geise says the investment in the IAP is not only good for the facility, but the community as well.

“I do think that it’s really important for us as one of the biggest employers in this area to be connected to not just the business activity that’s ongoing, but also the local communities,” he said. “We’re looking forward to continuing to work with not just Greensburg, but the surrounding counties, the surrounding cities and look for other opportunities for us to continue to grow and we’re really excited about where we are now and we’re looking forward to the future.”

GREENSBURG, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — American Honda Motor Co. Inc. on Monday will announce a capital investment in its Indiana auto plant in Greensburg.

The announcement will coincide with the start of production for the new 2022 Honda Civic Hatchback at the Decatur County facility.

The plant produces the Civic sedan, and the CR-V and Insight hybrid models. The automaker says it will be the first time the Civic Hatchback will be made in the United States.

Gov. Eric Holcomb and Greensburg Mayor Joshua Marsh will be on hand for the announcement.

Inside INdiana Business will have more details when they become available.

ST. PAUL, Ind. (WISH) — A 61-year-old Westfield woman drowned Monday afternoon at a campground, Indiana conservation officers said.

Donna Kishbaugh was conducting scuba training at Hidden Paradise Campground in northwestern Decatur County when she disappeared in the water shortly before 2:15 p.m. Monday, according to a news release from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The campground is about 25 miles southeast of Indianapolis.

Divers from the Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana State Police found Kishbaugh in 18 feet of water shortly before 3 p.m. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Authorities continued to investigate and said additional information will be provided when it becomes available.

WESTPORT, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A more than 40-year-old business in Decatur County is under new ownership. Westport Locker, a butcher shop in the town of Westport, has been acquired in a nearly $200,000 deal and is being rebranded as Sugar Rock Farms Meat Processing.

New owners Jimmy and Rebekah Garnder acquired the land and building housing the shop’s working, refrigeration and freezing facilities with the help of the Indiana Statewide CDC, which works to provide loans through the Small Business Administration 504 loan program.

Jimmy Gardner says plans are in place to expand the business now that the acquisition is complete. The shop currently employs eight people and the expansion will include new equipment and additional delivery routes.

The shop processes and stores locally-raised beef and pork for customers in the region and also sells beef and pork products to the general public.

Garner says while business was slow as a result of the pandemic, it has picked back up and the shop has seen increased sales following news of the acquisition.

“We are booked through October, 2021, and are very humble and grateful to the community for their support,” Gardner said in a news release.

The loan provided through the Indiana Statewide CDC, as well as Napoleon State Bank.

GREENSBURG, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A dozen hospitals and health care clinics in Indiana have received a portion of $200 million in federal funding to help implement or improve telehealth services during the coronavirus pandemic.

To date, both urban and rural Hoosier health care providers have received approximately $5 million to be used in a variety of ways, including laptop computers, hotspots, videoconferencing software, and network upgrades.

The Federal Communications Commission is distributing the money through its COVID-19 Telehealth Program to help health care providers connect services to patients at their homes or mobile locations.

“In late March, Congress tasked the FCC with developing from scratch a new $200 million COVID-19 Telehealth Program to help combat COVID-19, support health care providers, and make it easier for Americans to safely access vital health care services,” says FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Decatur County Memorial Hospital in Greensburg, Indiana was awarded nearly $700,000 from the FCC program.

“The network upgrades to our infrastructure will not only afford our community the ability to access medical care via the Internet and telehealth but also provide benefits for eLearning opportunities,” says Rex McKinney, president and chief executive officer of DCMH.

McKinney says the community embraced COVID-19 testing early in the pandemic. As a result, Decatur County had the highest positive rate of the disease per capita in the state.

“During the midst of that challenge, this FCC grant came out and we thought it would be a great thing for our community to pursue additional technology related to telehealth,” said McKinney.

Like many in the health care sector, especially in rural areas, telehealth was not widely used at DCMH prior to the pandemic.

“Access to telehealth means access to broadband, which is often limited in rural communities,” says McKinney.

He said the hospital is working collaboratively with the economic development officials to expand access to broadband in underserved parts of the county.

“We’re just trying to enhance that access to care to ensure that our community has great resources from a health and wellness standpoint. We just really feel the grant will help,” says McKinney.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Decatur County Memorial Hospital CEO Rex McKinney says there are multiple applications for telehealth in rural Indiana.

Below is a list of Indiana health care providers that were approved for funding:

10th Street Clinic, Richmond, IN; $152,931
Community Mental Health Center, Lawrenceburg, IN; $65,142
Decatur County Memorial Hospital, Greensburg, Indiana; $698,603
Cummins Behavioral Health System, in Avon, IN; awarded $226,016
Hancock Regional Hospital, Greenfield, IN; $409,984
Parkview Hospital, Fort Wayne; $891,276
Community Hospital North, Indianapolis; $872,363
Meridian Health Services, Muncie; $240,669
Purdue University Fort Wayne Community Counseling Center, Fort Wayne; $34,982
Franciscan Health Indianapolis, Indianapolis; $929,834
Windrose Health Network, Greenwood; $223,720
Greene County General Hospital, Linton, IN; $60,480

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs is partnering with Indiana University to help manage COVID-19 in Decatur and Daviess counties. The office says the partnership will leverage community networks to set goals designed to meet a range of health objectives.

OCRA is working with the IU Center for Rural Engagement and the IU School of Public Health in Bloomington on the effort. 

“Every rural community is different, and each brings its own strengths and challenges,” said Dr. Priscilla Barnes, associate professor in the IU School of Public Health and lead researcher on the project. “Rural health partnerships and coalitions have been quick to adapt to the daily changing landscape of public health. Response to unexpected crises is the invisible thread that connects with the existing health priorities, and these plans and their implementation will address both emergent needs and long-term priorities.”

OCRA says the partners will use local health assessment data to set SMART goals – strategic, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound – including addressing gaps in services and preventing and treating chronic conditions. 

Residents in Daviess County have developed a community health improvement plan, or CHIP, in partnership with IU, which OCRA is joining to help deploy a response to immediate and emerging needs related to COVID-19. OCRA says the collaboration with IU will create a CHIP in Decatur County to address COVID-19 needs and plan for long-term health initiatives.

“This collaboration with OCRA and our community partners launches transformative possibilities for the health of our rural communities,” said Kerry Thomson, executive director of the IU Center for Rural Engagement. “By leveraging local and university resources, we can effectively address major health challenges like COVID-19 as well as increase access to care and mental health services that builds our resilience for the future.”

OCRA says the local networks involved in the CHIP development and implementation include organizations from the health, education, business, and nonprofit sectors.

GREENSBURG, Ind. (WISH) ⁠— Health officials said they were unable to pinpoint the source of a COVID-19 outbreak in Decatur County, a pandemic “hot spot” with one of the nation’s highest per-capita death rates, but suggested a high school basketball sectional championship game contributed to community spread.

The largely rural county of approximately 26,000 reported 10.5 coronavirus-related deaths per 10,000 residents, more than twice the death rate in any other Indiana county, according to data released Thursday by the state health department.

Decatur County reported 75.3 confirmed COVID-19 cases per 10,000 residents, second only to Cass County, where officials declared a public emergency Monday after hundreds of pork plant workers tested positive for the virus.

“We don’t have any evidence to suggest that it’s any one particular place,” said Sean Durbin, Decatur County’s public health preparedness coordinator. “This is going to take a lot of forensic investigation to try and find out where this started.”

Residents suggested a Honda Manufacturing plant in Greensburg contributed to Decatur County’s positive case count. It employs several hundred more people than the Tyson Foods meat packing plant in Cass County.

However, the auto factory suspended operations March 23 and did not appear to be the source of significant community spread, Durbin said.

Only one Honda contractor reported testing positive for COVID-19, according to the company.

Durbin also refuted the theory that truck drivers traveling between Indianapolis and Cincinnati along I-74 spread the virus among residents. There was no evidence linking local cases to either of the county’s two truck stops, he said.

“We did have two social events that occurred early in this and we do know [there was] some spread within,” Durbin told News 8. “Is that where it started? No.”

Contact tracing revealed the virus spread at a South Decatur High School basketball game and a church-organized walk before public health officials imposed restrictions on large gatherings, according to Durbin.

The outbreak may have been deadlier in Decatur County because of its older population, said Dr. Wayne Perry, chief of staff at Decatur County Memorial Hospital.

Sixteen point seven percent of Decatur County residents are 65 years and older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, compared to 12.6% of Marion County residents.

Perry cautioned against reading too much into case counts; increasing testing availability will result in more confirmed cases.

Test positivity rates can also fluctuate with changes in testing protocol, he said; testing only symptomatic people with known or suspected exposure will result in a higher positivity rate.

“When we do a test based on those guidelines, it’s very likely to come back positive because we’re screening the right people,” Perry told News 8. “Those parameters boosted our early numbers. But as this all shakes out, I think we’re going to find that, with additional testing in other areas, [infection] rates are quite similar.”

However, Marion County has a slightly higher per-capita test rate than Decatur County, according to state health data. Decatur County has 30% more positive cases per 10,000 people and more than three times as many deaths per 10,000 people.

“We have got to continue to treat this as if everybody that’s next to you has it,” said Durbin, who is physically distancing from his family and has yet to meet his grandson due to coronavirus concerns. 

GREENSBURG, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – Honda Motor Co. (NYSE: HMC) says it will extend the production suspension for its automobile, engine and transmission plants in North America by one week through May 8. The automaker says the majority of its salaried employees in the U.S., including the Honda Manufacturing of Indiana plant in Greensburg, will be furloughed for an additional week and expect a return to work by May 11.

Honda says the unprecedented economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect its operations and it will continue to assess conditions and make temporary adjustments.

In addition, the automaker says stay-at-home orders continue to impact vehicle purchases and it is taking steps in accordance with market demand.

On April 6, Honda extended its production shutdown until May 1. The automaker first announced production suspensions in mid-March.

Honda of South Carolina Mfg. Inc. has suspended production through May 1 and is scheduled to resume production May 4. HSC initially suspended production on March 26.

GREENSBURG, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Honda Motor Co. (NYSE: HMC) is once again extending its temporary suspension of production operations due to COVID-19. The company says its auto manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and Canada, including the Honda Manufacturing of Indiana plant in Greensburg, will remain shut down until May 1.

The automaker, along with several others, first announced production suspensions in mid-March, which were to continue through the end of the month. A week later, Honda said it was extending its shutdown, which was slated to lift on Monday.

“In addition to the impact of COVID-19 on the marketplace, stay-at-home orders in many cities and states prevent consumers in a number of markets from purchasing new vehicles. As a result, Honda must continue to suspend production in order to align product supply with a lack of market demand.”

The company says it is also extending the shutdown for its Honda of South Carolina Manufacturing Inc. facility, which produces powersports products, until May 1.