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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Two Indiana-based companies are moving forward in Walmart’s (NYSE: WMT) annual Open Call event. Summit Outdoors LLC in Fort Wayne and Hoosier Daddy BBQ in Dyer were among more than 900 small businesses from throughout the country to pitch for their products to be sold on Walmart and Sam’s Club shelves. Summit Outdoors Chief Executive Officer Joel Harter calls the opportunity exciting as the company advances to the next step in the process.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Harter said partnering with Walmart brings many benefits.

“We want to be wherever the consumer wants us to be, be it online or in brick-and-mortar stores or through our dealer network and Walmart, obviously being the largest retailer in the world, they get lots of foot traffic and lots of people through the stores so we’re just thrilled to have an opportunity like a Walmart to carry and handle our products and make them available to their millions and millions of customers,” said Harter.

Summit Outdoors is a brand marketer of hunting and outdoor-related products, such as deer blinds. The company has pitched its Tail Mate seat cushions and SlotLock anchoring products in the Walmart Open Call. 

After advancing in the Open Call, both Summit and Hoosier Daddy BBQ will continue to work with Walmart’s buyers and Summit National Sales Manager Cindy Teague says the next step for them is to submit samples of their products to the company. 

“I think it’s a very positive step forward not just for the last half of this year, but going into 2022,” said Teague. “Our buyers have told us they would like to see these on the shelves in 2022, so we’re excited for the long-term outlook of these products at Walmart.”

Teague says they expect to hear whether their products will be made available on Walmart or Sam’s Club shelves within about four weeks. Walmart says the products could also be sold on the stores’ websites or the Walmart Marketplace.

“We’re hoping that maybe this gives us the opportunity to sell maybe additional products or an assortment not just this year, but in the future,” said Harter.

Walmart says the Open Call is part of its $350 billion commitment to source items made, grown or assembled in the U.S., including from small businesses, over the next decade.

DYER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – Midwest Express Clinic is expanding its footprint in the Chicago area and northwest Indiana with its newest offices opening in Dyer and Merrillville. The Dyer office is currently taking patients. The Merrillville location is slated to begin operations this winter.

The Dyer and Merrillville offices bring the company’s region total up to six locations, including offices in Schererville, Crown Point, Hammond and Munster. 

“We started out in Munster seven years ago with a tiny little office. That office has tripled in size and we’re opening our 11th and 12th offices,” Partner Sangeet Shah said. “People needed that affordable, accessible, quality option that just wasn’t out there. It was clear after the first year that there was a lot of demand out there. It almost felt like something we were meant to do because we’ve helped thousands and thousands of patients who otherwise maybe couldn’t have gotten into a primary care or couldn’t have afforded the emergency room.”

Midwest Express Clinic says it is looking into expanding further into northwest Indiana in the future.

DYER, Ind. (Inside Indiana Business) – Franciscan Health Dyer Inpatient Rehabilitation Services has completed a $255,000 renovation of its facilities. Officials said the expansion will result in the company adding additional nursing and therapy staff to meet the growing number of patients.

The expansion doubled the size of the gym and updated its technology. A Bioness Integrated Therapy System was installed in the gym, which offers touchscreen therapy activities for neuro-cognitive restoration. The health care provider also invested in equipment to prepare patients to use a walker, climb stairs and simulate getting in and out of vehicles.

The number of patient rooms was also increased to 15. 

“It’s so much more spacious. Families are able to come to the gym and participate in the therapy with them,” said Nancy Cutler, MS, RN NEA-BC, director of rehabilitation services and program development. “It’s a bright, joyful environment. The more uplifted the patients feel, the better their gains.”

DYER, Ind. (AP) – A suspected car thief was shot to death after a police chase in south suburban Chicago during which the fleeing car struck a pedestrian early Thursday, authorities said.

The chase wound through at least two Illinois communities and into Indiana, where the suspect was fatally shot about 6 a.m. in the town of Dyer, Indiana, about 30 miles south of downtown Chicago.

Authorities didn’t immediately release information about the circumstances of the shooting, which is being investigated by Indiana State Police. In the confrontation’s aftermath, both windows on the car’s passenger side were broken out and the vehicle was just off a road near a gas station in a suburban area a few blocks east of the Indiana-Illinois state line.

The Lake County, Indiana, coroner’s office identified the slain person as Mark P. Coffey, 33, of Chicago Heights, Illinois. The office said the man suffered gunshot wounds but didn’t give further details of how he died.

Crete, Illinois, Police Chief James Paoletti said officers from his department spotted the suspected stolen car and chased it to a church parking lot in nearby Dyer, where they confronted the driver.

“He was making numerous movements that appeared that he was holding a weapon and was going to shoot at police,” Paoletti told The Associated Press.

The driver then fled back into Illinois where he ditched the vehicle for a second stolen car, Paoletti said.

Soon afterward, the fleeing car struck a pedestrian, said Robert Kowalski, the police chief of Sauk Village, Illinois. The pedestrian was taken to a hospital but Kowalski provided no details on the person’s condition.

“It’s a shame because it was an innocent bystander just out for a morning walk,” Kowalski said. “The best time to walk around here is in the morning. It’s nice and quiet.”

Kowalski said the Crete officers broke off the chase to help the pedestrian and Indiana police were notified by radio that the suspect’s car was heading east.

Indiana officers soon confronted the car, but Indiana State Police spokesman Master Trooper Glen Fifield said he couldn’t immediately confirm whether the person shot was armed or what prompted officers to open fire.

Multiple officers from the Dyer, St. John and Lake County police departments were involved, Fifield said.

Witness Ben Dykstra said the fleeing car side-swiped his vehicle and shots rang out just after he pulled over into the gas station.

“The officers were trying to break the windows of the car,” he told WLS-TV. “Then they started shooting. I don’t know if the suspect had a gun or what.”UPDATE

Indiana State Police issued this statement Thursday night:

The officers involved with the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, St. John Police Department and Dyer Police Department have been placed on paid administrative leave per their respective departments administrative procedures. This is standard protocol with officer involved shootings.”

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CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) – A northwest Indiana firefighter has been charged with battery for allegedly throwing a female police officer into a snowbank last winter.

Thirty-eight-year-old Kevin S. Stumpe of Dyer was charged Wednesday with felony battery stemming from February’s alleged attack on Schererville police Officer Jennifer Zukley.

The (Munster) Times reports Zukley and Stumpe, along with three other firefighters, were responding to an alarm call in Schererville.

Court documents say Zukley was standing near the entrance of the building when Stumpe asked if she knew what a white wash is.

He allegedly directed her outside and while there court documents say Stumpe squeezed Zukley’s neck and slammed her into a pile of hardened snow.

Zukley told detectives she repeatedly told Stumpe to stop and tried to resist going into the snow.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Indiana state and federal agencies announced Monday a short-term deal to keep Amtrak service between Indianapolis and Chicago going and are working on a long-term agreement.

A federal Railroad Administration policy announced last month would have effectively deemed Indiana a rail carrier even though it does not own any tracks or trains, which threatened to derail the state plan to keep the four-days-a-week service running.

The agreement calls for the Indiana Department of Transportation to write contracts to ensure that Amtrak and Iowa Pacific meet federal safety rules and requirements for the disabled. The state agency will also designate a staff member to oversee compliance, spokesman Will Wingfield said.

“We are both committed to a path toward continuing the Hoosier State service,” INDOT Commissioner Karl Browning said in a statement. The agency has been working to improve passenger rail service along the 196-mile Hoosier State line for the past year.

Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg said she expects a “positive outcome.”

“We are confident that our joint commitment will help enable continued safe access for passengers between Indianapolis and Chicago,” she said.

Under the proposed service, Amtrak would be the primary operator, working with host railroads, providing train and engine crews, and managing reservations and ticketing. Iowa Pacific would provide the train equipment, train maintenance, on-board services and marketing.

The Hoosier State train stops in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer, and is the least-traveled Amtrak route, with just under 34,000 passengers in fiscal year 2014. The line is one of 28 Amtrak routes under 750 miles affected by a 2008 congressional act that shifted most of the costs of those lines to the states in October 2013.

INDOT announced last month the rail service would cease April 1, but then said the passenger line would continue through April 30.

Amtrak, Railroad Administration and U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspections of Iowa Pacific equipment are ongoing, INDOT says.

LAGRANGE COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) A drunk man was arrested after a deputy witnessed his SUV doing donuts and fishtailing on an ice covered lake Saturday, according to the LaGrange County Sheriff’s Department.

According to 24-Hour News 8 partner station, WANE, the sheriff’s department received a complaint around 8:30 p.m. saying a man was recklessly driving an SUV on Pretty Lake, located at 4645 S 890 E. A deputy arrived and saw the SUV on the lake. The SUV was eventually driven to the lake’s public access site where the deputy was able to talk to the driver, Doug Dyer, 53, of Wolcottville.

Police said he appeared to be heavily intoxicated and failed a field sobriety test. A certified breath test showed Dyer had a blood alcohol content of 0.252, more than three times the legal limit.

Dyer was arrested and booked into the LaGrange County Jail. He faces a charge of operating a vehicle while intoxicated with a prior conviction.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – An Amtrak line that has linked Indianapolis and Chicago since 1980 will halt April 1, state officials said Friday, citing what they called a last-minute policy change by a federal agency that effectively ended Indiana’s efforts to keep the line running.

The Indiana Department of Transportation said in a statement its decision follows “new rules” from the Federal Railroad Administration that would have effectively deemed Indiana a rail carrier even though it does not own any tracks or trains. That policy, INDOT said, would expose Indiana “to significant increases in cost, paperwork and liability” for the 196-mile line.

But Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman said the Hoosier State line does not have to end in April because Amtrak “has offered to continue to operate the train on a month-to-month basis.”

The Hoosier State passenger line runs four days a week between Indianapolis and Chicago, with stops in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer, and is the least-traveled Amtrak route, with just under 34,000 passengers in fiscal year 2014.

The line is one of 28 Amtrak routes under 750 miles affected by a 2008 congressional act that shifted most of the costs of those lines to the states in October 2013. Indiana’s decision makes it the only state among 19 affected by the mandate not to reach a long-term funding deal to keep short passenger lines in operation.

Indiana had spent months negotiating with Amtrak and a private suitor, Iowa Pacific, which wanted to take over the line’s operations.

INDOT Commissioner Karl Browning said the agency was blindsided in late 2014 by the FRA’s policy as it was nearing a deal to make Amtrak the line’s primary operator and Iowa Pacific providing the train equipment, train maintenance, on-board services and marketing.

“We’ve done a monumental job trying to put together a very creative situation where the private sector could help make this a profitable entity and the notion of the state becoming a railroad under the terms and conditions that that implies is insane,” he said at a telephone briefing.

Browning said the state would only reconsider its decision if the FRA or U.S. Department of Transportation were to reverse the rail carrier policy.

The decision took passenger rail advocates “by complete surprise,” Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance President Steven Coxhead said. Although Amtrak’s long-distance Cardinal service will still operate three days a week between Cincinnati and Chicago, via Indianapolis, he called losing the Hoosier State line a blow to mass transit.

Indiana’s proposed service was modeled after North Carolina’s Piedmont passenger line, for which that state owns some of the track and partnered with Amtrak and private contractors to improve that service, Browning said.

INDOT’s chief legal counsel, Lori Torres, said North Carolina successfully sued the FRA in 2008 after it tried to impose the same “rail carrier impediments” on the Piedmont service, but INDOT was unsuccessful in convincing the FRA to formally reconsider its decision.

INDOT could file a judicial appeal, she said, but such an action “had no possible chance of concluding before April 1,” when Indiana’s current contract extension with Amtrak for the line ends.

The Federal Railroad Administration said in a statement that as states take on bigger roles managing Amtrak’s short passenger lines, they assume a greater burden to ensure they are safe for passengers and train crews.

“States ultimately have oversight responsibility for their contractors and service providers,” the agency said.

DAPHNE, Ala. (AP) – Authorities say a man wanted in a killing in Indiana is believed dead following a suicide on the shoulder of interstate highway in Alabama.

Sheriff’s officials say a man shot himself to death near the southwest Alabama town of Daphne after being stopped by police on Interstate 10 on Wednesday.

Investigators are still working to confirm the dead man’s identity. But they believe he was 40-year-old Jeffrey Dyer of Odon, Indiana, based in part on the pickup truck he was driving.

Authorities in Daviess County, Indiana, say they were looking for Dyer following a slaying that happened late Tuesday. The victim is identified as Travis Woodruff.

The scene of the roadside shooting in Alabama is about 680 miles south of the scene of the slaying in Indiana.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The hum of incandescent lights fills downtown Indianapolis’ sleepy Amtrak waiting room when the intercom crackles on at 5:30 a.m., stirring bleary-eyed travelers with the news that they’ll soon be boarding the Hoosier State line, bound for Chicago.

But what lies ahead isn’t a swift 196-mile journey between the cities. It’s a more than five-hour trek – some two hours longer than the trip would take by car. And that journey can drag on significantly longer when bottlenecks seize up the Chicago area’s ribbons of freight rail lines.

The Hoosier State is the least-traveled of Amtrak’s routes, with just under 34,000 passengers in fiscal year 2014. It’s also the only short-haul Amtrak route still in search of a long-term funding deal after Congress shifted most of the costs of those lines to the states.

Riders who enjoy rail travel or rely on the train because they don’t drive want the line preserved. But its future depends on whether Indiana can reach a funding deal and also set into motion improvements to make the line more attractive to travelers.

A 2008 law required states to pay 85 percent of the costs of Amtrak’s 28 routes of less than 750 miles, with Amtrak covering the rest. That law, which affected 19 states, required cost-sharing agreements with Amtrak by October 2013.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said states have found ways to manage the costs.

Pennsylvania cut nearly $3 million from its costs for the Pennsylvanian line, which runs between Pittsburgh and New York City, in part by dividing the 444-mile route into two sections, said Rich Kirkpatrick, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

That split and Amtrak’s removal of reservation-only seating opened up space on the route’s busy Harrisburg-to-Philadelphia segment, boosting overall ridership and revenue and allowing the state to offset its costs, he said.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has balked at using the funding methodology Congress specified. The Indiana Department of Transportation joined with seven partners, including cities served by the route, to pay Amtrak $2.7 million to keep the Hoosier State line rolling for one year.

That deal ran out in October, but the line is still running as Indiana and Amtrak officials who’ve twice extended their negotiations continue seeking a long-term funding deal. Indiana is also in talks with a private suitor, Iowa Pacific, that wants to take over the line’s operations.

Carolina, Washington, Oregon and other states use a mixture of Amtrak-owned and state-owned equipment for their short lines. And North Carolina directly manages its Carolinian and Piedmont lines with equipment the state owns but Amtrak manages.

INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield said the state hopes to reach deals with both Amtrak and a private partner that can boost the Hoosier State’s on-time service, reduce taxpayers’ costs and make the service more sustainable.

The Hoosier State line, which began service in 1980, runs four days a week between Indianapolis and Chicago, with stops in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer. Its lone 6 a.m. departure time creates an unappealing, early wake-up call for the college students, families, business travelers and others who regularly use the line. And it doesn’t return to Indianapolis until about midnight.

The Hoosier State must stop near Crawfordsville so a crew member can jump off and manually throw a switch before it can continue its journey, Magliari said. And each time it leaves Chicago, the train needs clearance from dispatchers for seven different railroads.

Magliari said Amtrak is in talks with the Canadian National railroad to use its tracks throughout most of the Chicago area.

“If we can take small bites out of it – five minutes here, five minutes there – there’s ways to make this route driving time-competitive, and some of them are not million-dollar projects,” he said.

Jeris Eikenberry, a 78-year-old retiree from West Lafayette, rides the Hoosier State several times a year with his wife to visit their son and daughter in suburban Chicago. They love train travel’s relaxing qualities and their ability to move about the passenger cars.

Eikenberry said the nation needs to invest more in its passenger rail system to make it more like the efficient system linking Europe’s cities.

“We’ve done away with a system that can replace cars, and that means more traffic problems,” Eikenberry said. “There’s a point where convenience and necessity cross, and I don’t think we’re there yet.”