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BICKNELL, Ind. (WISH) — A man died while driving an all-terrain vehicle early Sunday morning in rural Knox County, Indiana State Police said in a news release.

State troopers were called at 1 a.m. Sunday to a single-vehicle crash on Albrecht Road near Oaktown Road. That’s about 4 miles northwest of the town of Bicknell.

Charles Hunt, 64, of Edwardsport, was operating his ATV when he abruptly went off Albrecht Road and into a ditch. He was ejected from the ATV.

He died at the crash scene, the Knox County Coroner’s Office says.

VINCENNES, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – Knox County is working with several other counties in southwest Indiana to better understand the region’s supply and demand of childcare. Knox County Indiana Economic Development says it has joined the Southern Indiana Gateway region to support the efforts.

In addition to Knox County, the region includes Crawford, Dubois, Orange, Perry, Pike, and Spencer counties. The region earned the 21st Century Talent Region designation last year, a statewide initiative that supports regions as they build and implement plans to increase educational attainment, raise household income and grow population.

The Knox County EDC says it joined the collaborative to help support efforts for more in-depth data on the availability of childcare. The region is partnering with Transform Consulting Group, a consulting firm in Wabash, to gather up-to-date data on the number and types of childcare seats available within each county.

“From an economic development perspective, it is critical to understand supply in terms of how many seats actually meet the needs of working parents,” said Erin Emerson, executive director of the Perry County Development Corp. “Lack of access to childcare is negatively impacting the daily lives and decisions of residents in our region and the productivity and bottom lines of local businesses as well as severely limiting our regional growth potential.”

The organization cites Early Learning Indiana’s Closing the Gap Report, which estimated that “existing capacity across all programs can serve just over half of all the population of children aged 0 to 5 who may be in need of care” and that rural counties are more likely to have inadequate access.

The organization plans to focus on data collection over the next couple of months and will release a final report in July.

VINCENNES, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Vincennes-based Skill Precast LLC is planning to build a new manufacturing site in Knox County. The company, which manufactures precast concrete wall panels and pole bases, says it will invest $2.2 million to construct the facility and create up to 15 jobs.

Skill Precast is a licensee of Pennsylvania-based Superior Walls for residential basement wall products. The company says the investment includes the cost of the new building and associated equipment.

“For nearly 20 years, the Skill family of businesses has completed quality projects in the construction industry,” Skill Precast President Brandon Tully said in a news release. “In 2021, we decided to get back into the precast sector, with the intent to provide high-quality, innovative, efficient products, so it didn’t take us long to begin our relationship with Superior Walls.”

Skill Precast says it is currently hiring production team members. Those interested in applying can reach out to the company here.

The company did not provide an estimated time frame for the expansion to be completed.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has offered Skill Precast up to $150,000 in conditional tax credits, which the company will not be eligible to claim until Hoosier workers are hired for the new jobs.

The Knox County Council has also approved a 10-year tax abatement for the project.

VINCENNES, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The president and chief executive officer of The Pantheon in Vincennes says the first startup to launch using the business development services offered at the business incubator is evidence of the need for such services in the area.

The Pantheon is cutting the ribbon this afternoon on RedAubsTech, an IT services company founded by longtime IT consultant Mike Folsom.

“Our mission is to provide these services to make sure that these companies grow and stay here in our community to build wealth and meaningful jobs,” said Nichole Like.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Like said the launch of the new startup is validation of what The Pantheon brings to the table.

“There’s pent-up demand for entrepreneurial services in Vincennes and Knox County and the surrounding area and we’re now providing those services as we’re just so happy that Michael Folsom and various other coworkers and entrepreneurs here in our community are now able to tap into those services locally,” Like said.

The Pantheon is located inside a nearly century-old theater that was renovated to serve as a business incubator.

In addition to coworking office space, Like says The Pantheon provides a variety of offerings from business plan development to entrepreneurial law services through partnerships with the Indiana Small Business Development Center, the IU Entrepreneurial Law Clinic and Purdue Foundry.

Like says in rural Indiana, such services are difficult to come by.

“There’s really no substitute for that face-to-face meeting and being able to sit down with someone and either go through Firestarter, which is a six-week ideation cohort with Purdue Foundry or being able to sit down with ISBDC and talk over a business plan for three to four weeks in a row until you get it developed,” she said. “They’re services that allow people to start and maintain successful businesses.”

Like says the long-term goal for The Pantheon is to continue create a support system where people with an entrepreneurial mindset to go and network, get new ideas, and collaborate to launch new businesses.

“It’s all these helpful things that happen with coworking and business incubation that help to kind of create that nucleus of entrepreneurial activity that can help to reignite the growth of small businesses and meaningful opportunities in a rural community.”

VINCENNES, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The Pantheon in Vincennes will Monday hold a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new IT services company. The business incubator says RedAubsTechnology is the first startup to launch after utilizing the business resources and guidance it offers.

RedAubsTech was founded by Mike Folsom, a former Army National Guardsman who had worked as an IT consultant for other companies for years. He says while he has the expertise in IT, he had no idea how to start a business and The Pantheon was suggested by a friend.

“They have all the resources there,” Folsom said in a news release. “It allowed me to come up with a business plan that resulted in investors making my business possible.”

Folsom has based his company out of The Pantheon, a nearly century-old former theater, which was recently transformed into an innovation and entrepreneurial center. He says RedAubsTech provides a full range of IT services both for clients in the region and remotely to anyone around the world.

“Michael is the perfect example of a hard working entrepreneur, who possesses the technical skills and work ethic, and just needed help with business plan development and office space to transform his dream into a business,” said Nichole Like, chief executive officer of The Pantheon. “We are thrilled to see him launch RedAubs from The Pantheon and look forward to telling this story time and time again as we build a vibrant entrepreneurial system in our community.”

KNOX COUNTY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A survey designed to gauge broadband access, identify demand and test internet speeds in Knox County has yielded interesting results. The survey, conducted by the Purdue University Center for Regional Development, shows nearly 90% of the more than 1,000 respondents had internet access at home, even in rural areas, but reliability and technology remain a challenge. Chris Pfaff, chief executive officer of the Knox County Development Corp., says the county wanted to get an idea of its broadband situation from users.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Pfaff said the survey wasn’t just about where broadband exists.

“We asked a number of questions about affordability, for example, and learned some things there,” said Pfaff. “But really, the underlying motivation is to make sure that we have ground truth in where our broadband providers are, where the gaps lie and then, we feel like that will help us go after some additional federal and potentially state dollars to help with broadband deployment throughout Knox County.”

The study was conducted for the Knox Broadband Task Force. Of the 90% of respondents who said they had internet access, nearly half were not satisfied because it was either too slow or unreliable. 

“But that could be people using their cell phone data plan, for example, satellite or DSL and what we learned is that if those are the three technologies that you’re relying on for home internet usage, it’s typically unreliable,” Pfaff said. “It’s typically slower and dissatisfaction rates among those technologies were the highest.”

The survey shows half of seniors and 44% of elementary age children had no home internet or were using satellite, DSL or cellular connections. Additionally, 53% of speed tests for those with internet failed to meet the broadband threshold established by the Federal Communications Commission.

The Knox Broadband Task Force includes several internet service providers, which Pfaff says has been helpful by collaborating to find solutions to bring more reliable broadband to residents, while also bringing a return on investment for providers.

“The return on investment for an internet service provider in a rural area is a very thin margin,” he said. “One of the things that we’re working toward is a personal property tax on internet equipment. That little gesture can sometimes make the difference in a company being able to deploy fiber into the most rural parts of the county, whereas they may not have seen an ROI without that.”

Pfaff says the task force will use the results of the survey continue to identify additional funding opportunities both on the state and federal levels. Additionally, he says the county will also look at the use of more fixed wireless service.

“We’re a relatively large county…and over the next two to six years, as some of the federal funding comes through, we don’t want to wait that long for fiber to get to every home, if we can achieve that. So, we believe that fixed wireless may be a good interim solution for us while those folks with federal funding make their way across the state and the region with additional investments in the region.”

You can view the full results of the survey by clicking here.

VINCENNES, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Vincennes University is using a recently-awarded $8 million grant from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. to create a talent pipeline for the future of automation in manufacturing and logistics. The university says it is establishing the Center for Applied Robotics and Automation, which will focus on collaborative robots, or “cobots,” that are designed to work alongside humans in manufacturing and logistics settings, among others. VU President Chuck Johnson says the center is designed to prepare students for careers in cobot environments when they graduate.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Johnson said the idea follows a year-long collaboration with Carmel-based Telamon Corp. and Techman Robot in Taiwan to build an understanding of cobots. 

“As we start to see cobots being more and more utilized and invested in by companies, this will become a technology that we need to make sure that our students and graduates are able to work with and understand the implications,” said Johnson. “This was a great opportunity to take a concept that we’d been working with and to build on existing partnerships that we’ve had to turn this into something special for VU and the state of Indiana.”

VU describes cobots as smaller industrial robots that can be used in a shared workspace with human workers and provide them with additional support. The center will serve as a training lab and hub throughout the state.

“The center will involve a combination of developing credentials around cobots and certifications that will be based on applications of industry standards, as well as related programming,” said Johnson. “These things will stack into some of our existing academic areas and programs such as our industrial maintenance programs. But also, it will involve industry training and developing credentials that can allow industry to know that they’re getting people who are well prepared to work in cobot environments.”

As part of the grant, VU plans to continue working with Eleven Fifty Academy in Indianapolis related to cybersecurity. The university says a portion of the grant will fund a Progressive Income Share Agreement to provide financial assistance for students enrolled in the program.

Johnson says they will soon begin a search for a director for the center. The university is also planning to establish cobot learning labs at sites in Vincennes, Jasper and central Indiana, as well as career centers throughout the state.

“We’ll be working very closely after that with our high school (career and technical education) partners on getting cobots deployed in some of their areas and building out the curriculum as we go along with this,” said Johnson. “It’s going to be a multi-phased approach and a lot of pieces and we’re just excited to get started right away.”

The grant was part of the third and final phase of Lilly Endowment’s Charting the Future for Indiana’s Colleges and Universities initiative. A total of more than $138 million has been awarded across all three phases of the initiative.

VINCENNES, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Vincennes University is adding its name to the growing list of Hoosier higher education institutions resuming normal operations in the upcoming academic year.

The university’s board of trustees has approved a return to full face-to-face instruction and campus activities this fall.

VU President Chuck Johnson says the university has worked hard to maintain the safety of all of its sites during the pandemic, including contact tracing and, when necessary, isolation and quarantining. 

“We’ve done remarkably well despite some of the challenges of the pandemic,” said Johnson. “Now that cases seem to be on the waning side and vaccines seem to becoming more prevalent, we are entering into a period of time where we can begin to plan a fall semester that resumes normality to the greatest degree possible.”

The university says administrators are continuing to monitor the pandemic and will continue to follow the rules and recommendations of local, state and national officials. Johnson says VU will be ready to pivot in order to keep everyone safe, if necessary.

SANDBORN, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A Knox County building supplies manufacturer says it plans to invest more than $3.5 million to expand operations and add more than two dozen jobs.

Blue Jay Supplies, which is in the town of Sandborn, manufactures trusses and wood wall panels. The products are used in a variety of construction projects, such as apartment buildings and student housing.

“This expanded facility allows us to keep pace with market demand,” said Larry Wagler, owner of Blue Jay Supplies. “To be successful, we must continue to invest, so we’re happy to take this important step in Sandborn and Knox County.”

The company currently employs 104 workers. As it expands production, Blue Jay says it will hire 28 new employees by 2023.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered the company up to $165,000 in conditional tax credits based on the company’s planned capital investment in Indiana.

The IEDC says the Knox County Council is also considering additional incentives.

VINCENNES, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A senior U.S. Department of Commerce official will be in Vincennes on Friday to make what is being called a major grant announcement. The department says the grant will support locally-driven efforts to boost entrepreneurship.

Dana Gartzke, performing the delegated duties of the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development will be joined by Vincennes Mayor Joe Yochum and Knox County Council President Bob Lechner for the announcement.

Few details are available, however the announcement will take place at the Pantheon Business and Innovation Theatre, a business incubator and coworking space in the Knox County city.

In June, Purdue University and the Purdue Research Foundation announced a commercialization initiative at the Pantheon. Nichole Like and Drew Garretson from the Pantheon appeared on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick to talk about the effort, which you can watch by clicking here.