MUNSTER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Munster-based Finward Bancorp (Nasdaq: FNWD) says the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions has approved its proposed merger with Royal Financial Inc. in Chicago. The parent of Peoples Bank says it has now received all necessary regulatory approvals for the merger to be completed.
The merger was first announced in late July. When complete, Royal Savings Bank will merge with and into Peoples Bank, with at least one Royal Savings Bank location expected to close.
The deal previously received approval from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., while the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago approved Finward’s waiver from its application filing requirements.
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation also issued a letter of no objection to Peoples Bank establishing foreign trust offices at current Royal Savings Bank branches.
“With these approvals, we enter the new year on target to achieve key strategic milestones,” said Benjamin Bochnowski, chief executive officer of Finward. “Integration of our organizations is on track for early Q2 2022, as we create value for all of our stakeholders.”
The merger is expected to be close at the end of next month.
MUNSTER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The Munster-based parent of Peoples Bank has received approval to list its stock on the Nasdaq Capital Market. Finward Bancorp, formerly known as NorthWest Indiana Bancorp, says it will begin trading on the market starting Wednesday.
Finward filed its application to be listed on the Nasdaq in April, shortly after announcing plans to do so in January. The banking company plans to trade on the market under the symbol “FNWD.” Its stock is currently trading under the OTC Pink Marketplace until the Nasdaq listing begins.
Chief Executive Officer Benjamin Bochnowski says moving to a national securities exchange represents a significant corporate milestone for Finward.
“This has been a long-term strategic goal, and I am proud of what our team has accomplished to get us here,” Bochnowski said in a news release. “We firmly believe that the Nasdaq is the right exchange for us to carry out our mission and create value for all of our stakeholders: our customers, our communities, our employees, and our shareholders. For our shareholders, trading Finward’s common stock on the Nasdaq Capital Market should improve the Bancorp’s visibility among investors, which we believe will serve to broaden our investor base and enhance our trading liquidity.”
The move caps off a big year for the banking company, which announced its rebranding earlier this year, a move that was completed in May.
CROWN POINT, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The state has received a $1.3 million default judgment against a debt collection agency in Munster that was accused of engaging in “abusive and deceptive business practices.” Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office alleges that New Britain Financial LLC violated the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act on numerous occasions.
Former Attorney General Curtis Hill filed a civil complaint last September, accusing New Britain and its owner, Nelson Macwan of Illinois, of threatening consumers with lawsuits, arrest, garnishments and liens without having judgments against the consumers. The company was also accused of acting as a debt collection agency from Indiana without a license.
The company’s license was not renewed in 2019 after the Indiana Secretary of State’s office learned that Macwan was prohibited from operating as a debt collector in Illinois due to abusive debt collection practices.
The judgment was issued by the Lake County Superior Court after New Britain Financial and Macwan failed to respond to the civil complaint. The judgment includes more than $300,000 in restitution for consumers, and more than $1 million in civil penalties.
Additionally, New Britain Financial and Macwan are prohibited from engaging in debt collection in the state of Indiana.
You can view the full judgment by clicking here.
MUNSTER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The parent of Peoples Bank is looking to implement what it calls a full rebranding effort. Benjamin Bochnowski, chief executive officer of NorthWest Indiana Bancorp, says the bank is seeking shareholder approval to change its name to Finward Bancorp.
The bank says the name change reflects its “growth and evolution” in recent years to “capture the dynamic ‘forward movement’ in the business and strategic direction of the Bancorp.” Additionally, the change is meant to reflect the bank’s current geographic footprint, which includes areas of Illinois in addition to northwest Indiana.
“The name is a combination of two concepts: financial services and forward. Together, these two essential ideas combine to create something stronger: Finward,” Bochnowski said in a news release. “Taking geography out of the holding company’s name reflects the company’s growth in the greater Chicagoland market.”
The bank will hold a special meeting of shareholders on March 3 to hopefully receive approval for the name change.
The announcement comes a month after the bank detailed its intentions to seek a listing of its common stock on the Nasdaq Stock Market. The bank’s stock currently trades on the OTC Pink Marketplace and says when the name change occurs, its stock will trade under the ticker symbol FNWD.
MUNSTER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Mishawaka-based Franciscan Health is celebrating the opening of its $16.5 million surgical unit expansion at Franciscan Health Munster Hospital. The health system says the project adds 20,000 square feet and 25 private patient rooms.
The expansion brings the total number of inpatient hospital beds at the facility to 88. Franciscan says some of the new rooms are specialty rooms that can accommodate bariatric patients, ADA patients, and patients requiring isolation.
“The new 25 bed surgical unit at Franciscan Health Munster is a wonderful addition to our hospital,” Sean Leahy, chief operating officer for Franciscan Health Munster, Hammond and Dyer, said in a news release. “This state-of-the-art addition was designed and built with safety, quality, beauty, and comfort all in mind. We are thrilled to provide such an outstanding healing environment to the communities we’re privileged to serve.”
The health system says the expansion will also help the hospital meet anticipated demand created by the nearby Centennial Village development.
The expansion comes in addition to a recently-completed, multi-phase renovation project in the hospital’s surgery department, which included modernizing half of the campus’ operating rooms and creating private “prep, hold, recovery” patient rooms, among other enhancements.
MUNSTER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Indiana’s attorney general is accusing a Munster-based debt collection agency of “deceptive and abusive” practices. Curtis Hill has filed a civil complaint against New Britain Financial and its founder, Nelson Macwan, alleging the company also acted as a debt collection agency without a license.
Hill’s office says Macwan created the company in 2015 and the Indiana Secretary of State renewed its license each year, with some gaps, through 2018.
However, the company’s license was not renewed for 2019 after the SOS office learned that Macwan was prohibited from operating as a debt collector in Illinois due to abusive debt collection practices, according to the attorney general. Macwan served jail time in 2017 for violating an injunction in Illinois.
The complaint alleges New Britain Financial continued to operate in Indiana despite being denied a license, which is a violation of the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act.
Hill’s office says the company has also threatened consumers with lawsuits, arrest, garnishments and liens without having judgments against them.
“Debt collection is a serious business that can have life-changing impacts on consumers’ lives, and it should be carried out only by individuals who bring integrity to the job,” Hill said in a news release. “The allegations against New Britain Financial and its owner are serious, and we aim to permanently prevent them from performing these duties in our state.”
Hill’s complaint seeks a permanent injunction against Macwan and New Britain Financial to prohibit them from engaging in debt collection in or from Indiana. The attorney general is also seeking restitution for consumers who have been impacted.
MUNSTER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A northwest Indiana craft brewery is being featured among a list of “30 Beers That Changed America.” The list from food, drink, travel and entertainment website Thrillist includes Dark Lord from Munster-based 3 Floyds Brewing Co., putting it alongside well-known brands such as Budweiser, Coors, and Samuel Adams.
The website says the beer, which is nearing its 20th anniversary, is “now synonymous with the most legendary release party in craft beer.” 3 Floyds regularly holds its Dark Lord Day event in Munster, though this year’s edition has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Other breweries have followed suit with their own hyped-up release bashes, but there remains only one Dark Lord Day, when an industrial enclave in northwest Indiana becomes the epicenter of the craft beer universe,” Thrillist says.
You can connect to the full list by clicking here.
MUNSTER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – Munster-based Midwest Express Clinic says COVID-19 testing is now available to everyone at its northwest Indiana clinics. Midwest Express Clinic also has locations in Illinois.
The clinic says testing is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Schererville, Crown Point, Dyer, Munster, Merrillville, and Hammond.
The clinic says the effort includes both testing for the coronavirus, as well as COVID-19 antibodies. The clinic was previously only offering testing to frontline workers, critical care, first responders, and essential workers.
“We’ve seen a great number of asymptomatic individuals test positive. These are asymptomatic carriers who are contagious and can easily pass this on to others in the community. By testing them and quarantining them, we hope to help mitigate and prevent further spread of this virus,” said Midwest Express Clinic Medical Director Dr. Golsa Shahkar.
“Anybody deemed high-risk and anyone showing symptoms should get tested. We recommend essential workers and anyone with known exposure to COVID-19 get tested, too,” said MEC Family Nurse Practitioner Kaitlyn Steinberg.
Patients must not show symptoms for a minimum of seven days for the antibody test, and MEC says it recommends waiting 14 days.
Anyone looking for a screening or visiting for any other reason are asked to check-in online.
MUNSTER, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – Munster-based Midwest Express Clinic says it is now offering antibody testing for COVID-19 at several locations in northwest Indiana. The clinic says testing is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at all branches, including those in Illinois, and results are ready in three to four days.
The testing is available at the clinic’s locations in Schererville, Crown Point, Dyer, Munster, Merrillville and Hammond.
According to the clinic, each of its offices is stocked with the most accurate tests available. Patients must not show symptoms for a minimum of seven days for the antibody test, and the clinic recommends waiting for 14 days.
“We want to offer the antibody testing to give people the comfort of knowing whether they have developed immunity and help them get back to work and return to their daily lives,” Midwest Express Clinic medical director Dr. Golsa Shahkar said. “Since we’re using the most effective test out there, we can give people that confidence.”
COVID-19 swab testing is also being done at 10 of the locations, including in Munster, Schererville, Crown Point and Merrillville, and is available to anyone experiencing symptoms, including front line, critical care, first responders and essential workers.
The clinic says it is doing about 300 swabs each day and has performed about 10,000 in total.
MUNSTER, Ind. (AP) – The Indiana Department of Transportation has formally asked vendors for information regarding possible tolling on Interstates 65, 70 and 94, as required by the General Assembly.
The (Northwest Indiana) Times reports the agency on Friday issued a request for information asking potential contractors for advice on planning a tolling program that can be expanded.
A request for information is a formal information-gathering process that generally, but not necessarily, leads to a request for proposals to do necessary planning work.
A law passed this year by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb required INDOT to investigate tolling with the intention of creating $5 billion in funding for the state’s roads and bridges. Higher gas taxes and vehicle registration fees also are part of the funding plan.