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GRANGER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) —  South Bend-based Beacon Health System is marking the completion of a nearly $5 million addition to Beacon Granger Hospital. The health system announced Wednesday the new outpatient MRI Center will provide improved access to MRI services.

The 3,600-square-foot addition is located on the west side of the hospital. Beacon says the MRI Cneter provides advanced MRI scanning capabilities that benefit both physicians and patients.

The wide-bore scanner used in the center has more space designed to reduce claustrophobia among patients, as well as high magnet strength designed to make procedure times shorter.

“We decided to locate the MRI Center at Beacon Granger to offer our patients a convenient location in an outpatient setting,” Derek Taylor, director of imaging services at Beacon, said in written remarks. “We are excited to offer state-of-the-art equipment in a space where our MRI technologists will deliver a high level of service that patients can count on.”

Beacon Health says Mishawaka-based Radiology Inc. will read scans performed at the MRI Center at Beacon Granger, in addition to the health system’s other MRI centers throughout its network.

GRANGER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A sound insulation company headquartered in Pennsylvania has announced plans to close its facility in Granger. In a notice to the state, Molded Acoustical Products of Easton Inc. says the closure will result in the layoffs of 114 employees.

MAP cites “economic conditions” as the reason for the closure. The company says it had been trying to secure capital investment or a potential buyer, which would have prevented or postponed a closure.

“Unfortunately the sale process was not successful,” the company said in the notice. “The Company’s customers have now advised that they will re-source the business as quickly as possible. As a result of these unexpected events, the Company has made the difficult decision to cease operations and is providing as much notice as practicable of this closing.”

The company expects the closure to take place in February. The layoffs are expected to be permanent and the affected employees do not have bumping rights.

MAP did not specify if any assistance will be provided to the affected employees.

GRANGER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A Granger-based startup has received a $20,000 investment from Indianapolis-based Elevate Ventures. Gitta LLC, which has developed the GittaSitta app to streamline the process for users to find a babysitter, says it will use the funding for product development and advertising.

GittaSitta was founded in 2019 by Mandy Kinnucan and Anna Johnson, and developed in partnership with a team from the IDEA Center at the University of Notre Dame. The company recently launched the platform, which allows parents to add sitters from their contact list and send a text message to the sitters in order of preference, who then have a deadline to respond to the request.

“Elevate Ventures has been a tremendous source of support as we launch GittaSitta,” Kinnucan said in a news release. “The Community Ideation Fund will provide a solid foundation as we roll out the 1.0 version of GittaSitta and begin our advertising campaign. We know when moms and dads hear about how much easier it can be to line up the sitters they love, GittaSitta is going to be the first thing busy parents turn to when they want some kid-free time!”

The funding comes from Elevate’s Community Ideation Fund, which the organization says is made possible through its partnership with Startup South Bend-Elkhart. 

GRANGER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A Granger-based startup has launched an app designed to make it easier for parents to book a babysitter. Gitta LLC was co-founded in 2019 by Mandy Kinnucan and Anna Johnson, who say they had become frustrated with the “text-and-wait” process of finding a sitter. With the help of a developer at the IDEA Center at the University of Notre Dame, the pair created the GittaSitta app, which allows users to organize, manage, and communicate with sitters on their contact list.

Kinnucan, who serves as chief executive officer, tells Inside INdiana Business they created the company with zero startup experience.

“I really find it remarkable the Indiana ecosystem, the startup ecosystem and the support that’s available there,” said Kinnucan. “We worked with the IDEA Center initially and so that was a great connection and then from there, getting connected with the gBETA folks was tremendous. It’s a pre-accelerator; it was seven weeks long [and] put us in touch with tons of mentors and investors.”

The app allows parents to rank and order the sitters in their contacts and pick a date and time during which they would need a sitter. The app then sends a text message to the sitters in order of preference. If a sitter declines the offer or does not respond in time, then the message is automatically sent to the next sitter on the list until one accepts the offer.

“We started the company in late 2019. When we realized there was no product on the market and it was an easy app solution that we could create, that’s when it all sort of came to fruition,” said Kinnucan. 

GittaSitta received $20,000 in pre-seed funding through the Elevate Nexus pitch competition last December. The company then took part in the gBETA Indy spring cohort earlier this year, which focused on supporting tech and product-based startups.

In May, GittaSitta won the $25,000 Community Venture award from Startup South Bend-Elkhart and Indianapolis-based Elevate Ventures as part of the 2021 McCloskey New Venture Competition at Notre Dame.

Kinnucan says coming from outside the tech world, she and Johnson had no idea of the tech ecosystem in Indiana and its collaborative nature.

“As soon as we even just kind of scratched the surface, it’s really helped our company grow and it’s infused excitement into our company. We were excited about the solution, but to have troops rally around us and say, ‘This is a great solution and we’re going to help provide financial support and resources and give you the kind of support you need as a new entrepreneur’ has just been incredible.”

The startup has spent the last several months beta testing the app with more than 60 users. Johnson, who serves as chief operating officer, says the feedback has been critical for the app’s development.

“We went back and changed the app based on their suggestions,” said Johnson. “We didn’t really have negatives; we just had constructive feedback. It was just an eye-opening experience because we’ve never conducted a beta test either and just to know that other moms and dads feel the same way that we did where it was something that they would use and want us to keep going forward with, it was great.”

The GittaSitta app is currently available on iOS and Kinnucan says the company is currently working to bring the app to Android devices as well. Kinnucan says in the long-term they want to expand the “Gitta” model to other verticals beyond babysitting.

GRANGER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Officials will flip the switch Thursday on a new 20-megawatt solar farm in northern Indiana. The St. Joseph Solar Farm is owned and operated by Fort Wayne-based Indiana Michigan Power Co., but much of the power will be purchased by the University of Notre Dame.

The solar farm operates with 57,000 photovoltaic panels on 230 acres of former farmland in St. Joseph county.

I&M, a subsidiary of Ohio-based American Electric Power Co. Inc. (Nasdaq: AEP), broke ground on the $37 million renewable energy project last spring.

Notre Dame has agreed to purchase power from the facility. The school says it will purchase 40% of the total output from the facility in the form of clean energy credits.

Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch will be joined by officials from Notre Dame and the power company for the ceremony.

This is I&M’s fifth solar project and Notre Dame’s largest solar project. There is a historical link between the university and the farmland. Click here to read the story from a recent edition of our quarterly INPower e-newsletter.

GRANGER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Contractors have begun moving dirt on a planned 20-megawatt solar farm in St. Joseph County to help provide power to thousands of homes and businesses in northern Indiana, more than doubling its current output.

Fort Wayne-based I&M, a division of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), says the St. Joseph Solar Farm will be the company’s largest solar-generating facility.

The utility says this farm will have the capacity to produce enough energy to power 2,700 homes annually.

I&M currently operates four solar generation facilities. Three are in Indiana and one in Michigan. The company says those solar facilities generate nearly 15 megawatts of electricity, with enough energy to power 2,000 homes annually.

The facility will have approximately 57,000 solar panels.

“The St. Joseph Solar Farm will provide I&M customers with local green resources, to be used by local homes and businesses in addition to helping to attract businesses looking for renewable energy options,” said Toby Thomas, I&M president and chief operating officer.

I&M says it is working in partnership with the University of Notre Dame on the project, collaborating on educational opportunities and research benefits.

St. Joseph Solar Farm is expected to operational by the spring of 2021.

GRANGER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – Granger-based environmental microbiology testing laboratory Scientific Methods has been awarded a Small Business Innovation Research Phase I grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The funding will supports the company’s initiatives to develop a field-deployable kit for detecting antibiotic resistant bacteria in wastewater.

As a result of the award, Scientific Methods is now eligible to apply for Elevate Venture’s state match funding through the 21st Century Research & Technology Fund. The company is also positioned to compete for a Phase II award of up to $300,000 to further develop the technology.

“This award demonstrates an important success for the company and reflects the South Bend – Elkhart Region’s increasing focus on innovation and R&D activities within regional industries, as well as the intentional pursuit of new markets and new products lines to diversify existing customer bases,” said John Miller, chair of Startup South Bend – Elkhart, an initiative of the South Bend – Elkhart Regional Partnership.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH)- As Indiana lawmakers enjoy their extended midsession break until Monday, we are working for you.

We’re taking a look ahead at the rest of the legislative session.

What’s next? What bills have a chance … and what bills don’t?

Lawmakers said they’ve got a lot of work to do, and not a lot of time to do it. Senate President Pro Tem David Long said they’ll start working on House bills soon, like …

“Workforce development. They have a significant bill, House Bill 1002.” Long explained. “We’ve got to mash those up where we have common agreement. And eliminate that which we can’t agree on.”

Senate Democrats and Republicans also seem to agree that something needs to be done about thousands of rape kits sitting untested in Indiana. A bill that calls for a study to figure out a kit-tracking system passed the Senate on Tuesday 48 to 0. The bill was referred to the House on Wednesday.

Long said, “I think it has legs and it should pass the House.”

Those kits and the bill are something the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council closely follows.

David Powell, executive director of the council, said, “Hopefully come up with something the General Assembly can afford to pay for because, ultimately, it’ll require some money.”

Senators do not seem to completely agree on churches allowing guns in more cases. Still, that bill passed the Senate on Tuesday 43-5. That bill referred to the House on Wednesday.

Long said, “After the church shootings that have occurred, I think we have a bipartisan support for recognizing ‘You know what, there’s bad people out there, and people need to protect themselves, even in a house of worship, unfortunately.”

There wasn’t enough support for the bias hate crimes bill of Republican Sen. Sue Glick, of LaGrange. She carried the session’s last-surviving hate crimes bill, but it died last week. Glick said she believes people’s opinions are changing.

Glick said, “We think that’s going to help the situation. It’s just frustrating that we haven’t been able to advance it the last couple years.”

On Wednesday, Indiana’s House Democratic caucus leaders said they are hopeful their bills about bullying, diabetes education and lifting the ban on light rail will get through the Senate with bipartisan support.

Long said other bills that are important include dealing with the opioid crisis and refreshing forfeiture laws.

Of course, we can’t forget Sunday sales and CBD oil. Those bills are making their way through their respective chambers.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana lawmakers are considering whether to give in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants who have been raised and educated in the state school system.

It’s an issue the legislature has been looking at for a long time. Basically, you have a 2011 law that bars undocumented immigrants from getting in-state tuition at public universities. Indiana is one of three states with that kind of law.

Experts could not estimate how many students in Indiana are undocumented immigrants but do know this: even if they’ve lived in the Hoosier State most of their lives, they are paying tuition at public universities as if they’re from out of state. The difference can be substantial, around $20,000 a year.

“It’s devastating for them,” said Angela Adams, with Adams Immigration Law LLC.

She said many of these folks cannot go to college as a result, which is unfair because many have come to the United States at young ages with their parents.

“Oftentimes they find out really late in high school or even college that they’re even undocumented,” she said.

So they made their case to state lawmakers at a summer study committee hearing this week.

“It’s something we definitely have to look at,” said Rep. Dale DeVon, a Republican from Granger. “I think we need to look at the pros and cons behind it.”

Adams and state lawmakers said if a bill is presented, those qualifying should be law-abiding and longtime Hoosier residents.

“We don’t want someone to just move in and in a matter of 12 months, then, OK, you can get in-state tuition,” said Sen. Dennis Kruse, a Republican from Auburn, and the chair of the education committee that met this week.

Adams said this discussion could intensify because President Donald Trump could reverse a President Barack Obama executive order known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which protects undocumented immigrants who meet a range of criteria.

Adams said for now they tend to be eligible for in-state tuition rates.

If you’re wondering why undocumented immigrants don’t just become U.S. citizens, she said there’s a reason.

“If they left the country to fix their status, they would not be able to come back because they would be subject to a bar, an exclusion. It’s legally impossible for many of those kids to obtain lawful immigration status,” Adams said.

Kruse said he hopes the committee gets more information about how many students could benefit from a potential law change before recommendations are made later this year.

The focus is on college students because a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allows for all students, no matter their immigration status, to get education through high school.