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DENVER (Inside INdiana Business) — Three Indiana-based distilleries have taken home medals in the 2021 Denver International Spirits Competition. Organizers of the competition say all spirits were tasted double-blind by a panel of beverage professionals, sommeliers, and trade members.

Indianapolis-based West Fork Whiskey Co. took home three medals, the most of any Indiana distillery. The company received gold medals for its Old Hamer 100 Proof and Old Hamer Cask Strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey, as well as a silver medal for its Old Hamer Straight Rye Whiskey.

“We’re honored to have three of our Old Hamer products included in this esteemed lineup of international spirits brands, which further cements our position in the global whiskey and beverage industry,” Blake Jones, co-owner of West Fork, said in a news release. “We look forward to continuing to share Indiana whiskey with the world.”

French Lick Winery in Orange County won two medals for its Spirits of French Lick brand. The winery received a double gold medal for its Lee W. Sinclair bourbon and a silver medal for its Mattie Gladden bourbon.

Indiana Whiskey Co. in Indianapolis also received a Silver medal for its Just Whiskey bourbon.

You can view the full list of winners by clicking here.

CARMEL (Inside INdiana Business) — Ten hotels in Indiana have received AAA’s Four Diamond designation for 2021, an increase of one hotel from last year’s list. New to the coveted list is Hotel Carmichael at the Carmel City Center, which opened last summer.

The other nine Indiana venues have received the hotel honor in the past, including Ironworks Hotel Indy. This is the third straight year for Ironworks.

“We take great pride in the AAA Four Diamond Rating bestowed upon Ironworks Hotel Indy,” said Michael McClain, general manager of Ironworks Hotel Indy. “This recognition is a reflection of our commitment to providing guests unmatched service, superior quality and a truly memorable experience during their time in Indy.”

The full list of Four Diamond hotels in Indiana includes:

Hotel Carmichael, Autograph Collection
French Lick Springs Hotel
Conrad Indianapolis
Hyatt Regency Indianapolis
Ironworks Hotel Indy
JW Marriott Indianapolis
Le Meridien Indianapolis
The Alexander – A Dolce Hotel
Morris Inn at Notre Dame
West Baden Springs Hotel

The travel organization says it dispatched inspectors to 2,000 establishments to see which meet its requirements for amenities, service, and style. AAA launched the diamond rating system in 1937.

Click here to view the full list of Four Diamond hotels.

FRENCH LICK, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – Ellettsville-based Smithville Communications Inc. has opened free Wi-Fi hotpots in several rural locations in southern Indiana. The broadband company says its hotspots can be used by individuals impacted by the COVID-19 crisis that need to connect to networks for work, school or telehealth reasons.

The most recent hotspot was launched at Spring Valley Community School in French Lick. The company says the new hotspot is expected to help students of the Springs Valley Community Schools involved in e-learning activities while the school systems physical facilities are closed.

The broadband company says its hotspots can be used by individuals that need to connect to networks for work, school,or telehealth reasons and says its efforts are intended to serve people impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, particularly those in rural communities. 

The other hotspots are located at the Monroe County Fairgrounds in Bloomington, the Marci Jane Lewis Park in Ellettsville, the fire station in Solsberry and the Hymera public library.

“We must continue to all do our part to help our neighbors in this time of need,” said Darby McCarty, chairman and chief executive officer of Smithville. “We believe that Smithville has an obligation to keep our customers, businesses and fellow Hoosiers connected, and we take it very seriously. Our team is working every day, ensuring Smithville’s network is up and running to keep our customers connected to what matters most.”

Smithville is cautioning users to maintain social distancing and remain in vehicles when accessing the hotspots. Smithville also says users should keep these channels open for those in need and refrain from using them for recreational purposes such as gaming or streaming.

“We are grateful for Smithville’s donation of accessible internet services, as it helps families and students who need high-speed internet,” said Zach Brown, executive director of the Orange County Economic Development Partnership. “This access is a useful bridge to help our area residents get through these challenging times.”

More information can be found by clicking here.

FRENCH LICK, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Owners of the French Lick Resort have chosen to voluntarily close all hotel, spa and other activities beginning at 1 pm Thursday, March 19 to help stop the possible spread of COVID-19. The decision was made after consulting with state officials.

The hotel is not accepting new reservations, but owners say they will honor all existing reservations. The hotel will hold the reservations for after May 1. Those who cancel reservations will not be charged any penalties or fees. 

The Donald Ross and Valley Links golf courses along with the Stables at French Lick will remain open and the Pete Dye Course will open as scheduled on Friday, March 27.

Chief Operating Officer Chris Leininger says French Lick Springs Resort, West Baden Springs Hotel and Valley Tower will reopen when it’s deemed safe. Anyone with questions about current or future reservations is asked to contact their call center at 888-936-9360. 

FRENCH LICK, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Massachusetts-based Boston International has announced plans to relocate its headquarters to a 115,000-square-foot facility in French Lick. The company says it will invest $3.6 million to acquire, renovate and equip a 115,000-square-foot facility in the Orange County town and add up to 50 jobs by the end of 2023.

Boston International (BI) designs and sells its own brand of home decor, gift and stationery products. The Indiana Economic Development Corp. says the company also distributes products for Germany-based Ideal Home Range in addition to working with other partners.

The new headquarters will be located in the former Jasper Group facility, which the company says will enhance its distribution operations and meet growing demand. Additionally, BI plans to launch an on-site retail store to market and sell its products to visitors of French Lick Resort.

“I’m originally from southern Indiana and always hoped that one day I would have the opportunity to return,” said Pam Metz, owner and president of BI. “The fact that I’m able to bring my company with me is a dream come true. It’s very exciting knowing BI will contribute to the economic growth of such a wonderful community as French Lick. The Orange County Economic Development Partnership, along with all our partners in the community and state, have been invaluable during this process, making the decision to relocate to southern Indiana an easy decision.”

Boston International currently has 40 employees in the U.S. and plans to begin hiring for operations, human resources, finance, IT, product development, customer service and warehousing positions in late March.

“Small businesses play a critical role in supporting Indiana’s economy and creating quality career opportunities in our communities,” said Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger. “With resources designed to support growth from start to scale, Indiana is committed to building an ecosystem that attracts investment from companies like Boston International and allows businesses, both large and small, to compete on a global scale.”

The IEDC has offered Boston International up to $500,000 in conditional tax credits, which the company will not be eligible to claim until Hoosier workers are hired for the new jobs. Officials from Orange County plan to offer additional incentives.

FRENCH LICK, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — An advocacy group representing the French Lick Resort has begun a campaign urging state planners to send the proposed Mid-States Corridor through its region.

The push comes as three public hearings set for this week will let residents learn more about the planned highway through southwest Indiana.

The Mid-States Regional Development Authority last week announced 10 alternatives with five possible routes.

The French Lick Parkway Coalition, an advocacy group representing the Bloomington-based Cook Group Inc., the French Lick Springs Hotel and West Baden Spring Hotel, supports what is now known as Route O.

Formerly called Route 3F, it would travel northeast to the French Lick area, then travel north through Bedford and eventually connect to Interstate 69 in Bloomington.

“The number one thing we hear, and it doesn’t matter if you’re coming from the south or the north is, it’s hard to get to,” said Chuck Franz, vice president of the Cook Group, in a statement.

The group commissioned Ginovus LLC and Indiana University Public Policy Institute to conduct an economic impact analysis of its preferred route.

According to the Cook Group, the study indicates the path would create from 500-700 jobs in Lawrence and Orange counties during and after the construction of the corridor.

Franz says Route O is essential to bring a required workforce to the communities in the 85-mile stretch from Bloomington to Jasper.

“Where are they going to be able to recruit from a workforce standpoint?” Franz said. “The corridor opens that up, for more freedom of movement, more housing additions along the route that benefits both ends of the route.”

A decision on what kind of road will be built has not been decided. The 10 alternatives include a variety of configurations: an interstate, a limited-access highway or a widened two-lane road, which would include a passing/auxiliary lane.

The improved highway would stretch from Rockport at the Ohio River, north along the existing U.S. 231 to somewhere along Interstate 69.

If Route O is not selected this time, Franz thinks the state will eventually make that investment even if it’s two decades down the road.

“If we do our job down here at the resort, we’re still going to be attracting more visitors,” said Franz. “Do you want to spend the money twice? Folks are still going to be considering how do we connect this area to Indianapolis to Bloomington? We just think it’s the best route with the most economic impact.”

The meetings are scheduled 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. ET and will feature an open house format. A presentation is planned for 6 p.m. each night.

A Record of Decision is expected in summer 2021. The ROD is the Federal Highway Administration’s final approval of the preferred corridor.

FRENCH LICK, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Sports fans can now legally place internet wagers in the Hoosier state after Rush Street Interactive launched The casino-style sportsbook offers all wagering for sporting events around the world, online and mobile, without needing to register in-person at the casino. 

Indiana resident bettors over 21 years of age can register and play immediately online via desktop, Android or Apple device after creating an account on the website.

“We are excited to make history in the state of Indiana,” said Richard Schwartz, president of Rush Street Interactive.  “As a Chicago-based business and affiliate of the trusted and market-leading Rivers Casino in Illinois, we are proud to expand our trust into Indiana.  We are thankful for the Indiana Gaming Commission giving Rush Street Interactive their vote of confidence and authorizing us to launch online sports betting in the state. We look forward to working together with French Lick to continue our great partnership.”

RSI is also the wagering partner of the retail sportsbook that opened in the French Lick Resort in September. The over 3,000 square foot betting lounge is on the north end of the casino floor, with seating for about 100, along with 14X8 LED video walls and 18 television monitors. The lounge also includes eight self-serve betting kiosks. 

WEST BADEN, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Two Indiana hotels and one Hoosier hotelier have been named finalists for a chance to be honored among the best in the world.

Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide have included West Baden Springs Hotel, the Morris Inn at Notre Dame and Jeff Lane from French Lick Resort as nominees for respective awards in their list of 2019 Awards of Excellence recipients.

West Baden Springs Hotel at French Lick Resort is nominated for the Best Historic Hotel with 201-400 guest rooms for 2019. The southern Indiana resort is also represented in another category, by Jeff Lane. Lane has been nominated for a chance at the title of Hotel Historian of the Year for 2019. 

In the Sustainability Champion category, the Hoosier state is represented by the Morris Inn at Notre Dame. The inn was recognized for its signature cocktail, The Dexter, by Historic Hotels in July

Award winners will be announced in November.

“It is an honor to congratulate all the 2019 award nominees,” said Lawrence Horwitz, executive director of the Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide, in a news release. “The nominee finalists exemplify the finest historic hotels and hoteliers from the across the United States and from around the world. The historic hotels nominated include small historic inns, boutique hotels, lifestyle hotels, and resorts. They represent small towns to large cities to UNESCO World Heritage destinations. We applaud the dedication and passion of the thousands of individuals working at these iconic and legendary hotels that keep the stories alive from the past and make staying or celebrating special occasions at these historic hotels memorable experiences.”

FRENCH LICK, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – French Lick Resort will add sports betting to its list of offerings beginning in September.

The resort is partnering with online gaming and sports betting company Rush Street Interactive for retail and online sportsbook operations.

RSI and French Lick Casino are also set to launch online sportsbook,, later this year in the Hoosier state. 

The sportsbook will offer betting sporting events including professional football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer and college sports. 

Bets are slated to include straight bets, parlays, totals and in-game betting.

The company says wagers will be processed at the betting counter: with a live sportsbook ticket writer during sportsbook hours of operation, or at a sports betting kiosk 24 hours a day.

“We are partnering with Rush Street Interactive to provide our guests in the casino and online with a premier entertainment experience for football season and beyond,” said Chris Leininger, chief operating officer of French Lick Resort Casino, in a news release.

“Rush Street Interactive is a proven leader in sports betting, and we know sports fans across Indiana will be thrilled with our new in-casino and online sportsbooks,” Leininger said.

The sportsbook is slated to launch Sept. 6.

FRENCH LICK, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – Accelerate Indiana Municipalities has awarded dozens of Indiana communities for their efforts to improve their towns and cities through collaboration and development. AIM, formerly known as the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, presented the awards during its annual Ideas Summit in French Lick, drawing leaders from across the state.

The city of Whiting was a big winner, garnering several awards. In its 43rd year, the Aim Annual Awards program recognizes communities and individuals in municipal government for excellence and outstanding achievement.

Here are some of the winners:

Local Government Collaboration Award:  Mount Comfort Corridor.

The judges said leaders from the Cumberland, McCordsville and New Palestine, three towns which comprise the corridor, participated in a process to develop an economic development strategy and growth plan.

“The Mount Comfort Corridor exemplifies the positive and transformational impact of regional collaboration, as the towns chart a course for the development of this dynamic area,” Aim CEO Matt Greller said.

Green Community of the Year: Westfield and Whiting.

The award acknowledges communities’ efforts to be economically competitive but also protecting the environment.

“Along with the traditional functions of municipal government, a growing number of community leaders are expanding their roles to focus on sustainability and green initiatives,” said Greller. “The health and long-term viability of communities is an important consideration, and we applaud Westfield and Whiting for taking the lead on these issues.”

Green Project of the Year: Whiting

Whiting was also awarded for its WhoaZone, a nature-based destination along Lake Michigan. The floating water park offers slides, trampolines and towers.

“The WhoaZone connects Hoosiers to one of the state’s greatest natural resources in a fun way,” Aim CEO Matt Greller said. “Cities and towns are dedicated to promoting a high quality of life through strategies that harness their community’s strengths. In Whiting that dedication is evident in the WhoaZone and so many other projects.”

Community Placemaking Award: Whiting