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Small businesses are the backbone to the local economy. News 8’s Aleah Hordges gives the INside Story of how women-owned businesses are evolving and driving change in entrepreneurship, despite economic uncertainty.

This is the third of a five-part series on women-owned businesses in central Indiana.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

FRANKLIN, Ind. (WISH) — Christy Norton is mixing business with her pleasure of fashion by owning Eclectic Jade boutique.

It’s a one-of-a-kind vintage shop and a throwback to the 60’s and 70’s era.

Eclectic Jade has clothing, home decor, jewelry and more.

Norton describes it as an ever-changing inventory since 2017.

“Everything in here is literally hand-picked either myself or one of the girls that are a part of the shop,” Norton said.

The boutique owner said it’s a dream turned reality being in downtown Franklin.

“About three years ago we moved to this location and that’s been game changing just with all the foot traffic and the amphitheater going in in Franklin,” mentioned Norton.

Merchandise is bought from vintage markets from across the country.

“Here’s what’s always gone through my mind as a store owner; ‘Am I going to like this if it doesn’t sale?’ So that’s what I kind of base my inventory off of,” said Norton. “One of the fun items this year we’ve been selling are the cat clocks with the eyes that kind of go back and forth and those are made in the United States so that’s a fun seller.”

Sales from some merchandise on the shelves are going towards a good cause.

“Sweet Grace line is our candles we sell here in the store. For every candle sold the company feeds a child in another country. so it’s kind of candles with a mission.”

The Eclectic Jade boutique owner said she also owns a real estate agency in downtown Franklin and mentioned juggling work and family is a challenge.

However, Norton said she believes there’s nothing more rewarding than setting an example for her daughters.

“I just think really it’s important for them to see their mom doing things and not depending on other people and to be independent,” said Norton.

FRANKLIN, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) is adding to its footprint in Johnson County. The e-commerce giant is planning to open a 510,000-square-foot sorting center in Franklin later this year and create hundreds of jobs.

The company did not immediately state how much it is investing in the facility. The sorting center will be located inside a building developed by Sunbeam Development Corp.

Amazon plans to add a variety of jobs at the facility, though a specific number was not disclosed. The jobs include receiving, sorting and shipping, and network logistics support.

“Our ability to expand Indiana operations is the result of two things: incredible customers and a world-class workforce in the state,” Kyle DeGiulio, regional economic development manager at Amazon, said in a news release. “Since we started fulfilling customer orders in Indiana, we’ve been able to build up an amazing team of dedicated employees who now earn an average of $18 an hour and receive industry-leading benefits with opportunities for growth, advancement and post-secondary education.”

Amazon is no stranger to the county, having opened an $80 million fulfillment center in Greenwood in 2019. Late last year, the company opened a 100,000-square-foot mini fulfillment center in Greenwood as well.

“I am proud to welcome Amazon to our beautiful city. This is great news for Franklin and the entire state of Indiana, as Amazon continues to invest in the local market,” Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett said. “We’re thrilled Amazon has chosen the Sunbeam Development location to expand their operation and we look forward to many partnerships in the future.”

Inside INdiana Business has reached out to the city and Amazon for more information on the project.

FRANKLIN, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Trafalgar-based WindRose Health Network is looking to further expand its footprint in Johnson County. Our partners at the Daily Journal report the health system plans to invest $3.5 million to nearly double the size of its clinic in Franklin and add an undisclosed number of jobs.

WindRose plans to construct a nearly 6,200-square-foot addition to its Franklin site that will be connected to the existing 7,300-square-foot building by an enclosed walkway, according to the publication.

The addition will include 15 exam rooms, four healthcare provider pods, an on-site pharmacy, lab area, procedure room, and private offices. Plans call for more than 60 additional parking spaces and a drive-thru for the pharmacy as well.

The Daily Journal reports the project is being funded in part by nearly $715,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds. Construction is expected to begin in the spring and be complete by June 2023.

BARGERSVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Gun charges, including two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm by an alien, were filled Friday against a 46-year-old Speedway, Indiana, man who had two police officers fire weapons at him, documents from the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office said.

Efrain Ramirez also was charged in Johnson Circuit Court with three counts of resisting law enforcement, and four counts of pointing a firearm at another. No court date had been set by Friday afternoon, according to online court records.

The charges arose from interactions Dec. 9 and 10 with Bargersville police officers, Johnson County sheriff’s deputies and an Indiana State Police trooper, according to the probable cause affidavit. A Bargersville officer and the state police trooper fired shots at Ramirez while trying to apprehend him.

A Bargersville police officer first encountered Ramirez shortly before 9:30 p.m. Dec. 9 near State Road 135 and Whiteland Road, the affidavit said. The officer found Ramirez driving a 2001 Dodge Ram 1500 truck and turning without signaling. The officer stopped Ramirez, who said he didn’t have a driver’s license, but denied he’d been drinking after the officer smelled alcohol coming from Ramirez. The officer then asked Ramirez for identification, but instead of providing it, Ramirez drove off. The officer caught up with Ramirez at a driveway on East Old Plank Road, where he left the truck and ran on foot. The officer followed on foot, and another officer assisted.

Later, as the foot chase continued onto Baldwin Street, the officers observed Ramirez carrying what one described as a “chrome/silver handgun,” which he pointed at the officers with his “finger on the trigger,” the affidavit said. The gun was later identified as a Cobra Enterprise .380 caliber semiautomatic pistol.

The officers lost sight of Ramirez at a garage on South West Street.

Police later found a Smith & Wesson MP-15 rifle in the truck he’d abandoned.

The next morning, Dec. 10, police from the three agencies began a search for Ramirez. A Bargersville officer, William Johnson, responded to a notification of a male who matched the description of Ramirez, and attempted to confront him at Old Plank Road and Short Street, the affidavit said. Johnson drew his weapon and commanded Ramirez to “get on the ground,” but he instead fled into a home’s backyard.

Later, Johnson and 11-year deputy Steve Love caught up with Ramirez at homes along Old Trail Drive, the affidavit said. They commanded him to “get on the ground” and show his hands, but said he instead reached inside his pants and pulled out a “silver semi-automatic handgun” and “pointed it towards his own head.” Love commanded Ramirez to drop the gun, but he instead went toward a gate and pointed the handgun at Love. The deputy, who was wearing a body camera, then fired three shots at Ramirez.

Ramirez ran into another backyard on Old Trail Drive, where he encountered state police Sgt. Thomas Burgett, whose been with the agency 14 years. The sergeant commanded Ramirez “to drop the gun,” but he instead pointed it at Burgett, who fired 11 shots at Ramirez in response, the affidavit said. Burgett was not wearing a camera, although the agency has the recording devices.

Ramirez initially dropped to the ground after the 11 shots were fired, but eventually tried to stand up. At that time, a lieutenant with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office tried to keep Ramirez on the ground until Bargersville police officer William Johnson used a Tazer on Ramirez. After that, other officers took Ramirez into custody and rendered first aid before medics arrived.

Investigators have since learned that Ramirez was arrested five times by the U.S. Border Patrol and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2000, 2008, 2010 and 2016, and deported to Mexico.

Ramirez was in the Johnson County Jail in Franklin on Friday.

A news release from the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office said, “In addition to the Johnson County charges, court records show Ramirez has a pending Marion County for a 2015 Operating While Intoxicated and Leaving the Scene of an Accident case for which he failure to appear. The Prosecutor’s Office has also requested the Sheriff’s Office reach out to federal authorities to try and have an immigration hold placed on Ramirez due to his status.”

The release says Ramirez is from Indianapolis, but court documents say he lives in Speedway.

The status of the state police sergeant and the Johnson County deputy who fired their weapons at Ramirez was not immediately available in the documents shared by the prosecutor’s office.

FRANKLIN, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Franklin-based Harena Data is partnering with Phenomena VR in Canada to launch a series of competitive virtual reality esports leagues. Harena Data, which bills itself as an esports community aggregator, says it will “leaguify” and manage tournaments and competitions set in Phenomena’s VR esport Arena.

Phenomena says the arena is the first-ever free roam VR arena that allows players to move around an open space without the need for a cable management system or supported backpack.

Chief Executive Officer Awane Jones says the company has spent the last two years in research and development to bring the arena up to 10,000 square feet, making it capable of being used in more than 100 arenas worldwide.

“Phenomena VR is one of the most technologically innovative companies in the mixed reality space,” said Bill Dever, Chief Strategy Officer at Harena Data. “Their 360 degree immersive technology and VR arenas can create highly competitive environments that are perfect for esports leagues. We believe this is the next-generation of entertainment and competition.”

Harena Data says the VR esports tournaments will start with three games, including a VR laser tag game, a cooperative shooter game, and a VR dance rhythm game.

The partners did not provide a timeline for the first tournaments to be held.

FRANKLIN, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Demolition crews have begun work to make way for an $11 million mixed-use development in downtown Franklin. Our partners at the Daily Journal report the Newkirk Square project will include 10,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, as well as high-end condos and townhomes.

The mixed-use building and townhomes will replace several homes and the former Newkirk’s Auto Service, which are currently being torn down. 

Billy Bemis is co-owner of the Bemis Group, which is developing the project, and tells the publication the townhomes on the east side of the property will be built first, with construction on the mixed-use building beginning when the townhomes are about 70% complete. He says construction could begin in the winter or spring with the townhomes expected to be ready for occupancy next fall.

Plans for Newkirk Square were first announced in January. The restaurant and retail tenants will be located on the first floor, though no tenants have been confirmed for the project yet.

You can learn more about the project from the Daily Journal by clicking here.

FRANKLIN, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — An association of Indiana school administrators has named David Clendening Indiana Superintendent of the Year for 2022. Clendening has served Franklin Community School Corp. since 2009.

The Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents credits Clendening for turning around the school district’s financial picture. IAPSS says Franklin public schools lost more than $21 million revenue between 2010 and 2020 after Indiana enacted the circuit breaker on property tax caps.

The association says despite the shortfall, Clendening was “determined not to let the revenue loss limit academic successes.”

IAPSS says he leveraged community partnerships to expand student opportunities. In 2019, Clendening led a community outreach program on the need for a referendum to increase operating revenue. It was approved by 63% of voters.

“He is as committed to celebrating a choir winning a state championship as he is to enhancing career paths for students and ensuring that they have support services and mentors. He and his district did not let financial challenges sidetrack their academic goals,” said Dr. J.T. Coopman, executive director of IAPSS.

Having won at the state level, Clendening will now compete in the American Association of School Administrators National Superintendent of the Year program.

FRANKLIN, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A farming program at Franklin Community North High School has received a federal boost.

Inside INdiana Business’ partners at the Daily Journal report the school has received a more than $72,000 Farm to School grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand the farm-to-table program.

The agriculture program began in 2019 and has transformed what was an empty plot of land just north of the high school into a nine-acre garden growing fruits and vegetables that are served in the school’s cafeteria. The program currently has about 220 students involved, including some from Franklin Community Middle School.

The USDA funding will be used to hire a part-time coordinator to manage the garden and oversee the transfer of food to the school’s cafeteria, according to the publication. It will also cover the cost of additional equipment and training for cafeteria staff, as well as an aquaponics system and hoop house.

Alicia Geesey, an agriculture teacher at the school, tells the publication the fruits and veggies grown at the garden include blackberries, raspberries, peppers, tomatoes, corn, squash and pumpkins. Apple trees are being planted at the site as well.

The school began serving vegetables grown in the garden this past spring. Officials tell the Daily Journal students will be able to eat chickens raised on the farm beginning next spring, marking the first protein to come from the program.

Geesey says if the school can raise enough money, a barn could be built that would include a classroom, lab and space for chickens and cattle.

FRANKLIN, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The Franklin City Council has approved two tax abatements for a South Korean manufacturer looking to build a new stamping plant in the Johnson County city. Our partners at the Daily Journal report the $30 million facility for Daechang Seat Co. will create 100 jobs by 2024.

Plans for the 250,000-square-foot facility were first announced earlier this month. The plant will be located near 40 Linville Way in Franklin, near the new headquarters for G&H Orthodontics, which is expected to open later this year.

The publication says the abatements will save Daechang an estimated $2.5 million. The company will still be required to pay more than $2.8 million in property taxes, as well as a 2% economic development fee to the Franklin Redevelopment Commission.

“This truly a team effort. They had been searching statewide … They found the Linville Way site and pretty much narrowed it down to here and another place. They liked what they saw in Franklin,” Dana Monson, community development specialist for the city, told the Daily Journal. “One of the advantages we had is the labor (market). We all know that labor is tight here, but it is tight everywhere. Companies are investing in their companies and finding their employees here, we draw employees from a broad area.”

Daechang manufactures metal seat components for the automotive industry and has existing facilities in Indianapolis and Alabama. The new jobs will pay an average of $17.50 per hour and the company plans to begin hiring next year.

FRANKLIN, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — An automotive metal seat component manufacturer is planning a major expansion in Franklin. Our partners at the Daily Journal report South Korea-based Daechang Seat Co. is looking to invest $30 million to build a new metal stamping plant and create 100 jobs by 2024.

Tim Conrad, an economic development consultant for the company, tells the publication construction on the 250,000-square-foot facility could begin early next year and be complete by the fourth quarter.

Daechang is seeking a 10-year real property tax abatement and a five-year personal property tax abatement, which will save the company an estimated $2.5 million, according to documents filed with the city.

The new jobs would also pay an average of $17.50 per hour. Conrad tells the Daily Journal the company plans to recruit locally and hopes to attract workers with its wages and company culture.

The Franklin City Council will consider the incentives at its next meeting on June 21.