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AUBURN, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A lawsuit over a planned sports park in Auburn has made a step toward possible resolution. An attorney for the defendants in the suit, Rodney Sinn and Auburn Sports Group, have filed to withdraw a Motion to Dismiss, and both the plaintiff and defendants have agreed to a permanent and preliminary injunction.

The lawsuit was filed in Hamilton County Superior Court in February by Grand Park Fieldhouse LLC and alleges that Sinn, a principal with ASG improperly used confidential information from his time at Grand Park Fieldhouse in Westfield, now known as the Pacers Athletic Center.

Grand Park Fieldhouse is a privately owned and operated business on the grounds of Grand Park Sports Campus, which is owned by the city of Westfield. However, a spokesperson for the city says Sinn was never an employee of Grand Park Sports Campus.

According to the lawsuit, Sinn served as president of operations at the fieldhouse from July 2015 to July 2016. Grand Park Fieldhouse alleges that Sinn has shared confidential information he obtained during his time in Westfield to entice third parties to invest in the Auburn sports park development and also disclosed Grand Park Fieldhouse’s business plan for the Auburn development.

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges Sinn “is also using Grand Park Fieldhouse’s confidential financial information, business plans and marketing strategies to plan, develop and market the Auburn Sports Park.”

The new motion to withdraw the Motion to Dismiss, was filed Monday. Defense counsel David Boyer said in the filing, “The parties have entered into an agreement by terms to settle the case.”

However, the plaintiff filed a response to the Motion to Withdraw saying the statement regarding a settlement is inaccurate.

The court granted a preliminary injunction and permanent injunction agreed upon by both parties. Sinn and ASG voluntarily agreed to “refrain from further use of Grand Park Fieldhouse’s Confidential Information, remove all of Grand Park Fieldhouse’s information from Defendants’ documents and marketing materials, and return/destroy all of Grand Park Fieldhouse’s Confidential Information.”

Grand Park Fieldhouse says the litigation can potentially be resolved if the defendants fully comply with the agreed order.

“But, the Parties are not there and it is still to be seen whether Defendants will (or can) fully comply with the Agreed Order,” Grand Park Fieldhouse said in its response. “In short, while Plaintiff agrees to the withdrawal of the Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff wanted to make clear to the Court—to avoid any confusion—that the case is not actually settled.”

Auburn Sports Group unveiled plans for the $42 million sports park in January. Designs called for 16 basketball/volleyball courts, a domed indoor facility, eight baseball/softball fields and three artificial turf soccer/football fields.

ASG indicated the facility could be operational by mid-summer and create 200 jobs.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Sinn was an employee of Grand Park Sports Campus.

BUTLER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A Sweden-based automotive supplier says it will shut down its DeKalb County operations. In a notice to the state, CJ Automotive says it will close its facility in Butler this summer, affecting 110 employees.

The company, which supplies pedal systems to automotive manufacturers such as Ford, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz, did not provide a reason for the closure. The facility is expected to permanently close July 1 with layoffs beginning June 17.

Of the affected employees, 75 are represented by the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America Local 735. CJ Automotive didn’t say whether any assistance would be provided to the workers.

Inside INdiana Business has reached out to CJ Automotive for more information but has not yet received a response.

CJ Automotive has offices and manufacturing operations in Sweden, Germany, South Korea, China, and Michigan.

AUBURN, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana is kicking off its two-day JA JobSpark event in Auburn Tuesday. The organization says more than 4,000 middle and high school students from Allen, DeKalb, LaGrange and Noble counties will learn about various career paths from more than 50 local businesses.

As part of the event, which is taking place at the J. Kruse Education Center, students will hear about careers in eight industry clusters through live demonstrations, hands-on activities and conversations with industry experts. They will also learn about the skills needed for in-demand jobs when they graduate.

“It’s imperative that we provide students the tools and resources they need to succeed, and this hands-on, real-world experience educates them on the skills they need today for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Mike Kamphues, executive director of banking for JPMorgan Chase, one of the participating businesses.

The industry clusters represented at the event include advanced manufacturing, engineering and logistics; agriculture, food and natural resources; architecture, engineering and construction; business, finance and marketing; government, law and public service; health and life sciences; hospitality, tourism and arts; and information technology.

Junior Achievement says the goal of the event is to give students a better understanding of the courses they need to take, a track for post-secondary learning, and a clear career pathway that aligns with their interests.

You can learn more about the event by clicking here.

AUBURN, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Perpetual Industries Inc. has relocated its corporate headquarters to Auburn. The company, which describes itself as an incubator for the development of new and innovative energy-efficient technologies, is investing up to $40 million in the facility with plans to create about 20 jobs.

The company says the 22,000-square-foot facility will provide more space for research and development efforts, as well as room to execute a large-scale Bitcoin mining center expansion for its cryptocurrency division. 

“We have seen significant growth in the operation of our divisions over the past couple of years,” Chief Executive Officer Brent Bedford said in a news release. “It made sense to increase our space to maximize the Company’s return on assets and capitalize on the fast-growing blockchain ecosystem with our data center expansion.”

Perpetual Industries operates multiple divisions, some of which are centered on its XYO Mechanical Balancing Technology, which is designed to eliminate vibration in rotating equipment, such as wind turbines and washing machines. Other divisions are focused on cryptocurrency mining and blockchain applications.

BUTLER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A carbon-steel products processor headquartered in DeKalb County is adding to its portfolio. Paragon Steel has acquired Cleveland-based Buckeye Metals Industries Inc., though financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed. 

Paragon General Manager Bruce Whitman says the two companies have been industry partners for several years and calls the acquisition a “win-win.” He says the deal will allow both companies to better serve their customers and grow in the flat-rolled steel market.

Buckeye Metals was owned by the Ison family and Paragon says Chief Executive Officer Bruce Ison will remain as emeritus chairman of the Buckeye board. The acquired company will continue to operate under the Buckeye Metals Industries division name and other members of the Ison family will maintain leadership roles.

“We have immense respect for the Ison family, and the fantastic industrial legacy they have built over many years through this company,” added Jerry Henry, owner of Paragon Steel.  “We have very similar company cultures, with both built on a focus on integrity and putting people first. We are excited about the future of the steel industry and the opportunity to grow with the Buckeye team.”

Bruce Ison called the acquisition a “perfect fit” and expects an easy transition of ownership.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership has hired an executive recruiting firm to help the organization find its next president and chief executive officer. The economic development partnership has also chosen an eight-member committee to lead the search, following the departure of former CEO John Sampson.

Sampson, who led the organization for 15 years, announced in February he was stepping down. His last day was March 31.

The partnership has hired recruiting firm Waverly Partners to help find potential candidates for the job.

The search committee is working to finalize the position description and timeline and plans to begin the recruiting process immediately.

“The organization is now recognized as a leader in the state and nation, and it’s crucial to select the right leader to carry forward the mission and vision of the organization,” said Sherilyn Emberton, regional partnership governing board chair and president of Huntington University.

Below is the list of committee members:

Mark Millett, Steel Dynamics Inc., search committee chair and Governing Board vice-chair
Bill Bradley, LaGrange County Economic Development Corp.
Ellen Cutter, Greater Fort Wayne Inc.
Brian Emerick, Micropulse
David Findlay, Lake City Bank
Kristin Marcuccilli, STAR Financial Bank
Mayor Steve McMichael, City of New Haven
Edmond O’Neal, Northeast Indiana Works

AUBURN, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Ireland-based Eaton Corp. PLC (NYSE: ETN) is planning to close its facility in northeast Indiana. In a notice to the state, the power management company says the Auburn plant will shut its doors permanently next spring, leaving more than 100 employees out of work.

The company did not provide a specific reason for the closure. The facility manufactures components for Eaton’s global clutch business.

Eaton says the plant is expected to close in May 2021. The layoffs are set to take place over a two week period after February 10.

The hourly employees affected by the closure are represented by the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America Local 164. The affected salaried employees are not represented by a union and do not have bumping rights.

Inside INdiana Business has reached out to Eaton for comment on the move.

In a nondescript building off a gravel road in the tiny DeKalb County town of Saint Joe, a business is attracting national attention for its specialized treatment of wood, including some of the biggest names in the weapon and musical instrument industries.

EcoVantage is making a name for itself for its wood preservation technique that does away with chemical treatment typically used in pressure-treated lumber.

“Yeah, it’s crazy because a lot of people in this area don’t even know that we’re here,” said Jason Holman, EcoVantage manager.

The company uses a process called thermal modification, a combination of heat and steam, that makes wood rot-resistant, more durable and better protected against moisture. The company says those characteristics make the wood desirable for decks and a variety of other uses.

It is not a widely used process in the U.S., but it is well known in Europe.

“My dad, my uncle went over to Finland to see about it,” said Holman. “After they saw it and (realized) the opportunities that it wasn’t over here yet in the United States.”

That was about 12 years ago.

“We started in 2008, basically during that economic downturn, which obviously didn’t help us out very much,” remembered Holman. “But here in the last three to four years we’ve really turned things around and we’re really busy now. “

EcoVantage acquires kiln-dried wood with 6-8% moisture, then further treats it to get the wood closer to 0%.

Workers place skids of pre-cooked lumber in a kiln at 400 degrees for about 120 hours.

“We’re basically cooking the wood. We have to dry it as close to zero percent moisture as possible. And then we cool it and condition it, try to put a little moisture back in after we cook it. So, it’s not so dry but we’re cooking out the resins and the saps,” said Holman.

While it is not 100% bug proof, Holman said the high-temperature treatment removes the natural sugars, or “food value” as Holman would say, that attracts pests.

“Termites, they aren’t going to just eat something that’s not going to give them some type of nutrition. So, by us thermally modifying, we’ve cooked all that out of the wood,” said Holman.

Holman said the process can create certain color naturally when the kiln is set at a certain temperature.

“It’s that color all the way through so it’s not just an outside color so if it gets nicked or dinged, it’ll still be nice and dark below that, so a lot of architecture commercial projects are using this now, because of that reason.”

The treated lumber can be used in a variety of ways, including deck wood and window shutters. But there is also growing demand for the wood to be used for gunstocks and guitars. A portion of the wood processed in northeast Indiana goes to Arizona-based Fender Musical Instruments Corp., or better known as Fender, one of the leading acoustic and electric guitar makers in the world.

“One of our bigger customers in California does a lot of work sourcing wood for Fender guitars. And so yeah, we’ve been cooking for the guys for a few years now,” Holman said.

Holman said maple is the most common Midwestern hardwood that is mostly used for the necks of the Fender guitars. He said the treatment helps guitars or any music instrument to better tolerate changing weather conditions.

“It helps the sound when you’re playing outdoors because the wood doesn’t absorb moisture the same, so your tone is going to be a consistent tone.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic moved across the U.S., this business was not immune.

“It was just the scare of the unknown,” said Holman. “We had some customers put some things on hold. So, we had to set on quite a bit of money there for a couple of months of things that we have already purchased and gotten ready to ship.”

But in the past few months, business shipments have returned to normal. Holman is thankful for that, but also optimistic about the future as his products gain more attention.

“More people are starting to know about the products so I’m hoping in the next couple years here we’re going to be looking to expand.”

That is welcome news to Bruce Kettler, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, who toured the EcoVantage facility as part of a tour of Indiana’s hardwood industry in the northeast region of the state.

“That was really intriguing to me that you basically change the structure of the wood and it colors it differently,” said Kettler. “That brings value to it.”

Two years ago, the ISDA and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources created the Indiana Hardwood Strategy, a roadmap to grow the state’s $10.5 billion industry.

“We’re looking for ways to not only export logs outside of the United States, but we want to look for ways to add value to wood here in the state of Indiana that brings in jobs and brings in revenue to the state,” said Kettler, something that Holman and EcoVantage would like to see as well.

BUTLER and LAGRANGE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Elkhart-based Forest River Inc. is growing its northeast Indiana manufacturing footprint. The recreational vehicle manufacturer says it will invest a total of $7 million to expand operations in DeKalb and LaGrange counties and create up to 369 jobs by the end of 2023.

Forest River will invest $3.5 million to build and equip a 63,000-square-foot production facility and expand its existing 30,000-square-foot building in Butler. The company says the expansion will allow it to boost production of its XLR Toy Hauler line.

Construction is underway and is expected to be complete by February. 

Additionally, another $3.5 million is being invested to build and equip a 95,000-square-foot facility in LaGrange, which is designed to increase manufacturing capacity for the company’s Cherokee RV line. 

Forest River plans to break ground on the LaGrange project in October. 

“We’re excited to continue expanding our operations in Indiana, which provides access to a talented workforce, strong RV manufacturing ecosystem and business-friendly environment,” said Mike Stump, project manager at Forest River. “With the support of the state and local communities in Butler and LaGrange, Forest River will continue to deliver high-quality products to customers around the world, while providing great career opportunities for Hoosiers here at home.”

The expansion is expected to create 120 jobs in Butler and 249 jobs in LaGrange. The company says it plans to begin hiring at both locations in January for manufacturing, operations, administrative, and management positions.

Forest River employs some 9,500 Hoosiers at 10 locations throughout the state.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has offered Forest River up to $4.1 million in conditional tax credits, which the company will not be eligible to claim until Hoosier workers are hired for the new jobs. The city of Butler and the town of LaGrange will consider additional incentives.

WATERLOO, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A South Carolina-based metal panel manufacturer has selected a site in northeast Indiana for its first Midwest operation. TrueCore plans to invest more than $28.5 million to build a 175,000-square-foot facility in Waterloo and create up to 75 jobs by the end of 2023.

The company says its insulated panels are used as exterior walls, interior partitions and ceilings in the cold storage, food processing and general construction markets. 

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. says the new manufacturing facility will house two continuous production lines that will produce foamed-in-place urethane wall, ceiling and roof panels, as well as mineral wool panels.

“We have been really impressed by the town of Waterloo, the state of Indiana as well as contractor partners like Felderman Design-Build who have all enabled us to fast track the development of our second facility,” said Dean Soll, co-founder of TrueCore. “We look forward to growing our team and our business here in Indiana.”

Construction on the new TrueCore facility is underway and is expected to be complete by December. The company plans to be at full production capacity by May 2021.

TrueCore is a subsidiary of North Carolina-based Nucor Corp. (NYSE: NUE), which has six facilities in Indiana, including one in Waterloo.

“Waterloo Town Council granted TrueCore a tax abatement on real estate investments of $15.5 million and personal property investments of $12.9 million over a ten year period,” said Waterloo Town Manager Pam Howard. “We extend a huge welcome to TrueCore, and we are excited that they will be joining the Nucor campus bringing high-quality panels and good-paying jobs for many years to come in northeast Indiana.”

The IEDC has also offered TrueCore up to nearly $1.2 million in conditional tax credits and up to $85,000 in conditional training grants, which the company will not be eligible to claim until Hoosier workers are hired for the new jobs.