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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — An Evansville-based startup is making waves for its zero-carb pizza crust and has plans for growth. ZeroCarb LYFE produces a high-protein crust that includes chicken among its ingredients and is available for purchase in more than 150 restaurants and select supermarkets. The company recently closed on an oversubscribed $1.5 million seed round of funding, and already has plans for a seed-plus round later this year.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Chief Executive Officer Omar Atia says he was surprised by the amount of money the company was able to raise.

“You know, it was founder money that kept [the company] going for the first year and few months and, of course, the revenue we were making because it took off so well,” Atia said. “Our goal was $1 million and we oversubscribed it and actually had to turn some investors away.”

ZeroCarb LYFE was founded in April 2020 by Atia, a Purdue University graduate, and Chief Growth Officer John Pena, a graduate of the Purdue@WestGate Firestarter program.

Atia says initially, the company’s launch was set to be one of several startup launches but the pandemic forced them to focus on one company.

“Our mission is really to bring that element of joy in food back to health food,” he said. “We believe that’s how we’ll help people achieve it is through carb-alternative foods that don’t jeopardize or don’t sacrifice any of the taste and any of the joy that comes with those foods.”

After launching, Atia says the company focused on getting the product right with the zero-carb pizza crust first being offered in August. The company initially focused on direct-to-consumer sales in order to establish the ZeroCarb LYFE brand.

The company also piloted the product in restaurants through a partnership with Azzip Pizza, which was also founded by a Purdue grad and has nearly a dozen locations from Evansville to Lafayette.

“By Q1 of 2021, we were already in several restaurants and started working with distributors and with retail for the actual crusts. But, we focused mainly on foodservice restaurants and direct-to-consumer,” said Atia. “We grew the company for the rest of ’21 on founder money with the intention to do the seed round in the beginning of ’22.”

Atia says the seed round funding will mainly be used to scale marketing and brand efforts, which has to date been done by “influencer marketing” with the direct-to-consumer sales.

In April of this year, the company launched its frozen pizza products in retail stores, which Atia says has been one of the best products for Schnuck’s supermarkets.

The company plans to begin its seed-plus round in the fourth quarter of this year, though talks with potential investors have already begun thanks to ZeroCarb LYFE being featured in a recent Crunchbase article.

ZeroCarb LYFE currently has nine employees and is looking to fill a few more positions. Atia says over the next couple of years, the company looks to unveil new zero-carb products, including additional frozen pizza varieties, bread crumbs, chips, pasta and both hard and soft taco shells.

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has approved plans from Evansville-based CenterPoint Energy Indiana South to build a natural gas turbine facility in Posey County. The electric utility business of Texas-based CenterPoint Energy Inc. (NYSE: CNP) says the $334 million project will replace two coal-fired generation units at the A.B. Brown power plant.

CenterPoint first detailed plans for the project just over one year ago. The company says two natural gas combustion turbines will be built at the power plant that, when complete, will provide 460 megawatts of electricity.

Steve Greenley, senior vice president of generation development for CenterPoint, says there will be no immediate impact to customer electric bills.

“The recovery of the investments associated with the CTs will be requested through a future electric rate case,” Greenley said in written remarks. “When combining the savings to be realized through securitization and other bill reductions associated with the added renewable investments, the average residential customer is estimated to see a bill impact of less than $10 per month for the total generation transition.”

A timeline for the construction of the turbines was not immediately disclosed. The utility plans to retire the coal-fired units 1 and 2 at the A.B. Brown plant in late 2023.

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The day when interstate motorists can cross the Ohio River from Evansville to Henderson, Kentucky is still about a decade away, however the bi-state project on Wednesday hit a major milestone. Officials from Kentucky and Indiana broke ground on the first phase of the Interstate 69 Ohio River Crossing.

The I-69 ORX project is divided into three sections for construction. Section one focuses on improvements in Henderson and extends from KY 425 to US 60. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says work begins this summer and will continue through 2025.

“This is a monumental day,” said Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear. “The I-69 Ohio River Crossing will mean improved travel and increased opportunities in Western Kentucky and beyond. It gives me a lot of pride to proclaim to the people of Western Kentucky that ‘We’re off!’”

Phase two involves construction of a four-lane, tolled bridge over the Ohio River. This is the link that will connect the two states via I-69.

“It’s a great feeling to stand in Henderson today, pick up a shovel and help turn the first dirt on this monumental project,” said Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke. “The I-69 Ohio River Crossing will join our communities in ways not possible before. Interstate connectivity is a gamechanger.”

The ORX project team says bridge design is expected to begin in 2025 with construction anticipated to begin in 2027. It will take about four years to complete that phase of the project.

ORX section three involves construction of the bridge approach in Indiana. That project, being overseen by the Indiana Department of Transportation, is expected to begin 2024.

Motorists currently cross the river via U.S. 41. According to the I-69 ORX website, the southbound bridge will likely be demolished after the I-69 bridge opens. The northbound U.S. 41 bridge will be retained for two-way traffic.

Officials say maintenance costs on the old bridge are high. Indiana and Kentucky say they have spent more than $50 million on maintenance costs on the US 41 bridges since 2005.

Click here to learn more about the project.

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.

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Evansville-based Berry Global Group Inc. (NYSE: BERY) and Taco Bell are expanding their partnership in efforts toward a more circular approach to sustainable packaging. The plastics maker says it is launching a new clear, all-plastic cup made from recycled post-consumer resin.

The companies say the 30-ounce cups will be tested in select Taco Bell restaurants later this year. Berry says the cups and lids will use 10% recycled, high-density polyethylene (HDPE), moving away from virgin plastic.

The recycled HDPE comes from other food-grade plastics, such as recycled milk jugs.

“For years, we have collaborated with Taco Bell to make integral steps toward a more sustainable cup solution—one that is lighter weight and proves the economic value and demand for recycled material, without compromising the product’s recyclability,” said Tom Salmon, Berry Global’s chairman and chief executive officer. “The environmental benefits we anticipate from this pilot are made possible through one of the most innovative substrates available.”
In 2018, Taco Bell and Berry took initial steps to improve cup recyclability with a conversion from expanded polystyrene and coated paper to a clear, more recyclable 100% plastic option.

By 2019, Taco Bell had moved fully away from coated paper for cold beverages.

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A longtime leader in the economic development community of southern Indiana has announced retirement plans. Greg Wathen, president of the Evansville Regional Economic Partnership, says he will retire this fall after more than 36 years in economic development.

Wathen previously served as president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Coalition for 14 years until it merged with the Southwest Indiana Chamber and Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville. Together they formed E-REP.

“From day one, my goal for the E-REP merger was to ensure that we collectively laid a solid foundation for the future to build a stronger regional voice, and I believe that process is well under-way,” said Wathen.

Evansville-based Old National Bancorp (Nasdaq: ONB) Chief Executive Officer Jim Ryan says Wathen has been “the driving force behind the scenes resulting in the creation of thousands of new jobs and billions invested in the region.”

E-REP says Wathen has twice been named a top 50 economic developer in North America by Consultant Connect.

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A third-party inspection and construction management company says it is shutting down its Indiana operations. In a notice to the state, Oklahoma-based McDaniel Technical Services Inc. says it will terminate operations in Evansville, affecting 78 employees.

A specific reason for the shutdown was not provided. MTSI did not respond to multiple requests for more information from Inside INdiana Business.

The company says the shutdown is slated to take place on May 31, and the affected employees will be laid off on that date.

MTSI says the affected employees will be paid all earned wages and benefits at the time of their separations. The employees are not represented by a union.

According to the company’s website, MTSI provides pipeline, facilities and vendor inspection services, as well as construction management and temporary workforce staffing.

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — An Evansville-based startup is looking to help water utilities prevent pipe breaks. Utiliz has developed a subscription-based app that can predict which pipes are most likely to fail next by aggregating data from a variety of sources, including the water utility itself. The startup last week took the $10,000 top prize at the Spring 2022 Crossroads Pitch Competition at The Mill in Bloomington.

Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Jackson Bolek tells Inside INdiana Business the idea came from a college internship.

“I helped the Evansville utility frame the question of when their pipes were going to break next,” said Bolek. “At the end of that, we had a really great proof of concept that they could use to start seeing, ‘Okay, where do I need to start to focus my efforts more now that I know where and when my pipes are going to break next.”

Utiliz say the age of a pipe is a poor predictor for breakage, but many utilities don’t have access to better data. Bolek says the company’s models are built off of sets of data, some of which are proprietary combined with data from the customers, from which utilities and learn what is going on with its pipes.

The company says the app is 75% accurate right out of the box. When combined with data from the utilities, the accuracy rises to 87%.

“When we go to a specific customer, we ask for all of the break data that they may have, and we can learn from all of the times a pipe is broken to then predict when it’s going to break next based off of a lot of various factors,” he said.

Utiliz is currently comprised of Bolek and Jon Kline, a software engineer who serves as co-founder and chief technical officer. Bolek says winning the Crossroads competition will put a lot of wind in their sales.

“For us, the $10,000 will aid in the design process so that we can find a designer to really focus on trying the build experience for each of our customers so that it frees up our time to continue to create new and better models for the web application,” said Bolek.

Utiliz is currently partnering with the Evansville Water and Sewer Utility on a case study that will showcase how its model helps the utility be more productive in picking which pipes need to be replaced and save money.

The company plans on releasing its minimum viable product at the end of May, as well as new website and branding. By the end of the summer, the case study with Evansville will be presented to prove the efficacy of the technology.

But Bolek says he has broader long-term goals for Utiliz.

“We would also like to expand to predicting when natural gas lines are going to break as well, seeing how they kind of take on the properties of pipes underground, very, very long distances and things of that nature,” he said.

Bolek estimates the water asset management market in the United States at $2.1 billion.

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – Evansville-based Old National Bancorp (Nasdaq: ONB) is planning to open a commercial banking office in the greater Kansas City region. Old National says it has hired two commercial bankers to support the expansion.

Steve Liggett will serve as market president, and David Robinson will serve as corporate relationship manager.

“As we looked to expand and grow our commercial capabilities into Kansas City, it was important for us to add local, established bankers who know the market,” said Jim Ryan, chief executive officer of Old National. “Steve and David each have extensive commercial banking experience and impressive track records in servicing Kansas City-based clients. We are excited to welcome them to Old National.”

The bank says Liggett has an extensive background in finance and credit. He spent 23 years with Wells Fargo Bank where he served in various roles, including credit analyst, relationship manager, and credit manager. Most recently, Liggett managed the captive finance business of Murphy Hoffman Co. in Kansas.

David Robinson joins Old National with more than 20 years of local banking experience. The bank says he has held several leadership roles at Wells Fargo, GE Capital and CIBC, and founded an accounts receivable finance business in Kansas City.

Earlier this year, Old National and Chicago-based First Midwest Bancorp Inc. completed their $6.5 billion merger, creating the sixth largest commercial bank headquartered in the Midwest.

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — An Evansville-based self defense and firearms tactical company is expanding. Our partners at WEHT-TV report LawMan Tactical plans to transform the site of the former Sunrise Plaza drive-in movie theatre into its Guntry Club.

The facility will feature an indoor gun range, fitness gym, coffee bar, a member-only bourbon bar, and restaurant, among other amenities.

Co-owner Bryan Bishop says the facility has been years in the making and was recently prompted by more people wanting to protect themselves in response to increasing crime rates.

“The request for training civilians have drastically increased,” Bishop told WEHT. “So we decided to open up a large facility where we can provide professional training from working professionals, police officers. It will also be a location of fellowship with family and friends. Grab a workout in our gym, participate in one of our boot camps, or grab a cup of coffee and catch up on emails.”

The company did not specify how much it is investing in the Guntry Club or how many jobs it would create.

The facility is expected to open this fall.