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THORNTOWN, Ind. (WISH) — A van carrying young athletes collided with a backhoe Tuesday afternoon on U.S. 52, injuring three people, the Boone County Sheriff’s Office says.

The backhoe driver, Edward Shelley, 80, of Thorntown, was taken to a local hospital with serious injuries.

From the van, a juvenile, who was not identified, and its driver, Sara Edwards, 19, of Lafayette, were taken to hospitals with injuries not believed to be life-threatening. The other van passengers, who ranged in age from 14-19, were not injured.

U.S. 52 remained closed at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday. The road was expected to reopen by 6:45 p.m. Tuesday.

About 4 p.m. Tuesday, investigators believe the backhoe was going east and crossing U.S. 52 at County Road 650 North when it collided with the southbound van. The intersection is about 2 miles east of Thorntown.

Six volleyball players from Lafayette were traveling in the van on the way to the sports complex in Plainfield to play a league game. The players are home-schooled.

A 911 call alerted authorities about the crash. A Thorntown-Sugar Creek Township firefighter, who was not named, was just south of the crash, got to all patients
quickly, and began first aid.

No drugs or alcohol are believed to be involved.

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Germany-based biomedical company Evonik says the expansion of its facility in Lafayette will help ensure that the U.S. is prepared for another pandemic. The company announced in early June it will build an additional facility at its current site in Tippecanoe County to manufacture lipids, molecules that encapsulate and deliver mRNA vaccines to cells in the body. The technology was used in the production of two COVID treatments.

In an interview with Business of Health reporter Kylie Veleta, Evonik Global Project Manager Yvonne Hurt said mRNA technology shows promise in the treatment of other diseases.

“As the future of medicine, mRNA can be used to treat COVID. Potential areas could be the flu, Zika, HIV, or even cancer,” said Hurt. “It’s currently actually the most advanced way to deliver drugs.”

Evonik operates two lipid producing plants in Germany. Their output was used in the Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine. Hurt says the Lafayette plant, the company’s first lipid plant in the U.S., will be able out-produce the European facilities.

Evonik says the $220 million investment to expand operations in Lafayette will be offset by more than $150 million from the federal government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

That investment puts the U.S. government at the head of the line when responding to another pandemic.

“This new facility really ensures a rapid and extensive supply of lipids in case of a future pandemic,” said Hurt. “The U.S. government gets priority access for a 10-year period and most favorite customer pricing on those lipids.”

Evonik already operates a plant in Tippecanoe County, producing pharmaceutical ingredients. It employs 650 workers. The new plant will eventually employ up to 80 high-skill jobs in the areas of operations, engineering, and quality assurance.

Construction is set to begin in 2023 and the company will begin hiring for positions in Lafayette in 2024. Evonik plans for the new plant to become operational in 2025.

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Lafayette-based trailer maker Wabash (NYSE: WNC) has launched a tech-enabled parts distribution network. The company says the network will allow it to simplify and expand its parts distribution capabilities across all product lines.

Wabash says the single channel distribution network will eventually include its entire aftermarket portfolio as well as a wide range of transportation parts.

The manufacturer says the streamlined system will allow it to increase inventory and get replacement parts out the door quicker.

“As an end-to-end solutions and service provider, we’re able to offer customers the convenience of working with a one-stop-shop through the entire product lifecycle,” said Nick Adler, vice president of Wabash Parts and Services. “We’re excited to bring our customers best-in-class parts and services including a simplified experience, an extensive selection of well-stocked parts, and faster deliveries — all through Wabash.”

The company’s distribution capabilities currently serve van trailer and truck body customers and dealers. Wabash says parts distribution for other Wabash product lines will phase in throughout 2022.

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Lafayette-based Wabash (NYSE: WNC) is reporting first quarter net income of $12 million, up from $3.2 million during the same period a year ago. The trailer manufacturer says Q1 net sales increased nearly 40% over the prior year as the company responds to strong customer demand.

Wabash, formerly known as Wabash National, says the backlog of orders is approximately $2.3 billion, an increase of $800 million compared to the same quarter last year.

“Evidenced by record first quarter backlog, demand across our portfolio of solutions remains strong,” said Brent Yeagy, president and chief executive officer. “With our customer base and supply chain both overwhelmingly levered to the United States, we are largely insulated from international volatility and fortunately situated to benefit from improving labor market trends and new and existing customers that are utilizing trailers in new and interesting ways.”

The company says it shipped 11,695 new trailers during the first quarter, compared to 9,600 during the same period the previous year. Click here to view the earnings report.

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WISH) — A Lafayette man was sentenced to 90 years in prison Thursday after pleading guilty to the attempted murder and molesting of a 9-year-old girl in April.

According to the Tippecanoe County prosecutor, James Chadwell, who was last known to be age 42, had pleaded guilty in October to attempted murder and child molesting.

On April 19, officers found the missing child locked in Chadwell’s basement. Police say she had visible injuries, including a possible dog bite to her leg. Lafayette Police Department officers were called just before 7 p.m. April 19 to the 2400 block of Main Street on reports of the missing and endangered 9-year-old girl.

The story was featured on “Inside Edition,” which interviewed Chadwell’s brother, Ashley Chadwell. On that show, she was asked if she believed her brother committed the crimes: “Absolutely, absolutely. He’s shown numerous times not only to his friends, but his family as well, that he has that kind of evil streak in him. He’s a monster. He’s an absolute evil person.”

Charges of kidnapping, criminal confinement, battery resulting in serious bodily injury, and strangulation were vacated during the sentencing.

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Lafayette-based Wabash (NYSE:WNC) says it has launched a light-duty, home delivery refrigerated truck body and already has a large contract for the new product. The company, formerly known as Wabash National, says a large national grocery retailer has placed a $10 million order for delivery in the first half of 2022.

Wabash says the purpose-built truck body was designed to facilitate a rack and tote system unique to the food distribution industry. It will allow the grocer to have separate temperature zones for fresh and frozen goods. The design features walk-in side doors that provide cargo access for the driver.

The company says it is continuing to develop new engineering solutions for the refrigerated home delivery market as it responds to changes in logistics and ecommerce sectors.

“Collaborating with our customers on innovative efforts to improve grocery home delivery has been a rewarding journey,” said Kevin Page, Wabash’s senior vice president – customer value creation. “We begin all of our R&D efforts with our eyes on what customers will need in the future. Over the last year, we saw the need to deliver a sustainable solution that helps grocery retailers meet home delivery goals while reducing their carbon footprints.”

The new refrigerated truck body uses Wabash’s molded structural composite technology which the company says improves thermal efficiency up to 30% and reduces truck weight.

Wabash says the lighter-weight body will help with the adoption of an electric chassis.

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Lafayette-based Wabash National Corp. (NYSE: WNC) says demand for its trailers has reached an all-time high. The manufacturer says it has a $1.9 billion backlog of orders, an increase of 87% compared to September 2020.

The company is reporting third quarter net income of $11 million, compared to $3.8 million during the same period a year ago.

“Wabash continues to execute well in the midst of an uneven business and manufacturing environment,” said Brent Yeagy, president and chief executive officer. “Generating earnings per share exceeding our prior outlook speaks to our employees’ agile performance and this management team’s ability to provide credible guidance. We continue to monitor changes in the supply chain and offer our best look at future financial performance.”

Wabash says net sales for Q3 was $483 million, an increase of 37% versus the third quarter of 2020. The company shipped 12,455 trailers during the quarter, compared to 8,485 the prior year.

Click here to view the full report.

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Lafayette-based Wabash National Corp. (NYSE: WNC) says it has forged a 10-year agreement with one of its key suppliers, which the trailer maker says should give it more certainty in sourcing materials. Wabash says the decade-long agreement with Norway-based Hydro will provide greater reliability in accessing aluminum products.

Wabash says Hydro has been a supplier of aluminum extrusions for more than 12 years.

“We selected Hydro as a strategic supplier partner because we share the same values and vision for where our industry is headed,” said Richard Mansilla, vice president, global supply chain for Wabash. “We believe this partnership with Hydro will help us address our aluminum supply needs in the near term to aid in Wabash National’s ability to increase production of dry van trailers and refrigerated trailers and truck bodies.”

Under this agreement, Hydro will be a key supplier for Wabash National’s demand for dry van trailers, truck bodies and refrigerated trailers with molded structural composite technology.

Wabash says MSC improves thermal efficiency by 25% and reducing weight more than traditional designs.

The agreement runs through 2031.

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A Lafayette-based company that started as a mechanical engineer’s hobby is celebrating 20 years of operation. Blichmann Engineering manufactures home and nano brewing equipment and over the last two decades has sold more than 1.5 million products in more than 40 countries. Founder and President John Blichmann, a former engineer for Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) who was also a home brewer, said the business was born out a need for equipment that just wasn’t available. “My intention was this was just going to be a fun hobby job that would let me buy new gadgets and gizmos…and it quickly spiraled out of control in a good way.”

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Blichmann said the idea started from a conversation with an Indianapolis home-brewing store owner.

“My plan was … I’m going to make five of these fermenters and sell three of them on this new thing called eBay. That’s how long ago that was (laughing),” said Blichmann. “And the store owner down there said, ‘You know, there’s really nobody manufacturing products for this industry specifically for home brewers. Have you ever thought about manufacturing them and selling them to retailers?’ I thought about it for a bit and heeded her advice and started Blichmann Engineering in 2001.”

Blichmann said he has been home brewing since the early 1990s and built his own conical fermenters since there was nothing on the market. He started Blichmann Engineering out of his garage while still working for Caterpillar, but in 2002, he decided to quit his full-time job to focus on his new venture while also being a stay-at-home dad.

Blichmann says he was able to get into the home-brewing market just as it was beginning to gain steam, which led to his company’s early success.

“I think I just got in at the right time and craft beers started becoming popular, mostly from the home brewers that were starting to make great beers at home and it just started growing quickly,” he said. “In that 2006 time frame, it was just exploding in the craft beer scene. You were starting to see craft breweries opening everywhere. Home brewing went from a niche hobby to a more mainstream hobby and then, 2008 on, it just grew exponentially.”

Blichmann Engineering has grown from one employee in 2001 to 30 employees in 2021. Looking toward the future, Blichmann says the company is evolving to include the commercial brewing industry.

“What we noticed is a lot of the commercial brewing equipment manufacturers in the world were really focused on larger breweries and as home brewers, most of the people who are starting these small, local breweries are home brewers. They know our brand and we’ve really leveraged that brand to develop products specifically for the small commercial brewers that are just starting up.”

Blichmann adds the business-friendly environment in Indiana has contributed to his company’s success, saying “I wouldn’t want to do business anywhere else.”

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Greater Lafayette Commerce has unveiled a digital tool to education K-12 students about careers in the manufacturing sector. The organization is partnering with West Lafayette-based Skyepack Inc. to develop and roll out the Manufacturing Month program.

GLC says the platform gives students the chance to explore future careers and get a head start on preparing for job opportunities. It includes interactive learning features such as videos, drag-and-drop activities, and practice quizzes to help students learn the fundamentals of manufacturing. 

“These features are designed to hold students’ attention and increase the transfer of knowledge and skills in the manufacturing space,” said Eric Davis, chief executive officer of Skyepack. “It’s been wonderful working on this effort, and I really think it has the potential to help other communities needing to educate young people in support of their local manufacturers.”

Kara Webb, workforce development director for Greater Lafayette Commerce, says the idea for the program builds on the virtual Manufacturing Week program held last year due to the pandemic. Tippecanoe School Corp. Superintendent Scott Hanbeck says last year’s program provided benefits to teachers as well as students.

“Many of our community’s largest employers are manufacturers and we always want to support them,” said Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski. “I’ve seen how students’ eyes light up when they learn how high-tech today’s manufacturing environment can be. It may, indeed, be many students’ first exposure to all the different things happening in today’s manufacturing setting. I really think this virtual platform will help other communities wanting to support their local manufacturers.”

You can learn more about the Manufacturing Month program by clicking here.