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PORTLAND, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A manufacturing training program launched by the John Jay Center for Learning in the Jay County town of Portland has been designated as a State Earn and Learn program. The SkillsTrac training program helps adult students to earn a state certification in a variety of manufacturing jobs. The program was designed and is supported by local manufacturing companies that are trying to build a pipeline of talent in east central Indiana. It includes students and manufacturers from Jay, Blackford, Wells, and Adams counties, along with added involvement from companies in Ohio.

“By partnering with the end user to create and deliver quality education and training, we are enabling students to better their lives financially and positively contribute to the communities in which they work and live,” said Rusty Inman, director of the John Jay Center for Learning. “We are succeeding in our mission and lives are being changed through our work.”

SEAL programs are geared toward both adult and youth populations, and they satisfy Indiana’s new graduation pathway requirements. Claire Berger, regional director of the Office of Work-Based Learning and Apprenticeship, says SkillsTrac SEAL program should be held up as a model for effective adult training around industrial maintenance.

“Rusty and his team have collaborated with the key stakeholders in the area to build a program that meets the needs of not only the industries in and around Portland, but the people of Portland and the community,” said Berger. “Years of discussions with stakeholders, planning for the development of the lab space, and finding the right resources has resulted in an extremely strong, flexible program.”

PORTLAND, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A small software company based in Jay County is playing a major role in helping global agriculture companies fulfill their sustainability initiatives, while also helping farmers earn a premium for their crops.

The MyFarms platform helps farmers track their production practices, including data on erosion rates and water, air and soil quality.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, MyFarms founder and chief executive officer Chris Fennig said the environmental impact is a key component.

“It’s a platform that is built with the farmer in mind but also caters to some of the world’s largest businesses that want to empower farmers but also want to track progress toward environmental goals that they have as a company,” said Fennig.

One such company is Germany-based BASF, which owns two of the most well-known cotton seed varieties in the U.S.

“For consumers, knowing where cotton comes from and how it is grown is increasingly important. It is a story we value, and one we can help share,” Malin Westfall, U.S. Cotton Lead for BASF, said in a news release when the company launched its sustainability program.

Cotton farmers who grow certain BASF brands can get their cotton certified and verified through independent audits, “allowing us to track specific environmental and social measures to an individual farmer.”

The registered growers get paid more for their cotton.

The verification is attractive to clothing brands that want to lessen the impact on the environment through the farmers where they get their raw products, such as cotton.

Fennig says the data collected by MyFarms goes to a third party to certify the sustainability of the crop.

‘Essentially every pass across the field is documented by the grower whether it be the planting operation, fertilizer, spraying tillage operations. And then we pass that data that operational data to third party scientific models,” explained Fennig. “Then we take the output of those models, and we aggregate them. The brands can speak to consumers about topics that are of great importance to them.”

Fennig, who grew up on a fourth-generation family farm near Portland, says the platform can be accessed for any crop where the end-user wants to know the sustainability practices of the farm.

“Any major corporation that’s taking those concerns seriously, when they do a truly science-based analysis of their supply chain…if you want to be serious about mitigating some of these environmental issues, those are the types of things that we get called on to help out with,” said Fennig.

MyFarms has recently partnered with Indianapolis-based Eleven Fifty Academy to hire several of their graduates to join the software development team.

MUNCIE, Ind. (WISH) — Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana is continuing to distribute food in “tailgate” events, with new dates confirmed for the coming week.

The group expanded its tailgate events in April on the coronavirus began taking a toll on Indiana. Gov. Eric Holcomb dispatched 30 Army National Guard members to help with the efforts to expand the food distribution.

Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana is the region’s largest hunger-relief organization serving over 100 pantries and meal programs in eight counties: Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash.

Here are upcoming food distributions:

No IDs or proof of address or need are required; all are welcome. Distribution is while supplies last. If you are walking up or coming via a vehicle too small to carry a load of food, please arrive an hour after the tailgate starts.

Coronavirus links

Indiana coronavirus timeline

With information from the Indiana Department of Health through March 4, 2021, this timeline reflects updated tallies of deaths and positive tests prior to that date.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) – Indiana’s state consumer advocate says Indiana Michigan Power’s proposed electricity rate increase be slashed by more than half.

The Office of Utility Consumer Counselor is recommending that the state utility commission approve $125 million in additional annual revenue for Indiana Michigan rather than its requested $263 million. The consumer office says the utility’s proposal would unfairly raise rates for customers using little electricity.

Indiana Michigan’s request would increase rates by 39 percent for households using 250 kilowatt-hours a month, while those using 1,000 kilowatt-hours would see a 20 percent increase.

The company says its rate increase is aimed at reducing outages with better tree management and diversifying energy-generation sources.

A state utility commission hearing is scheduled for January.

The company has about 460,000 customers in northern and northeastern Indiana.

DEERFIELD, Ind. (WISH) — A $200 million wind-turbine project in Jay and Randolph counties hosted a construction tour Monday.

The project includes construction of the Bluff Point Wind Energy Center in southern Jay County and 57 General Electric wind turbines, said NextEra Energy Resources in a news release.

“This project has been years in the making and it’s exciting to see it all come together,” said Zack Melda, project director for NextEra Energy Resources, in the release.

The wind turbines are expected to generate power to more than 36,000 homes, and the center is expected to create more than $30 million in tax revenue for Jay and Randolph counties over its operational life. “It has created 200 construction jobs and will create another 8-12 full-time jobs once the site is operational in November,” the release said.

The wind energy center is located about 2 miles north of Deerfield and 7 miles south of Portland off U.S. 27.

“This project has been years in the making and it’s exciting to see it all come together,” said Zack Melda, project director for NextEra Energy Resources. “We have great community partners here in Randolph and Jay counties and we are so pleased to know they will benefit from the good jobs, added tax revenue and clean, home-grown energy this project will create.”

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – First-time college students will test their independence as they head off to school this fall, but they may also get experience with scammers.

“This is a demographic where they’re actually more susceptible than they may think,” Michelle Shaffer with the Better Business Bureau said.

One of the most common scams targeting college students comes from student loan forgiveness companies.

“They are businesses that really are going to charge a fee for a lot of services that are actually free if you go directly to the government,” Shaffer said.

Another big scam is off-campus rentals. If you rent an apartment or room sight unseen, it may be offered to multiple people, or may not even exist. You may not find out until your deposit and first month’s rent check are already cashed.

Students should do a quick investigation of public records to confirm the ownership and status of the property.

“Whenever you see the words ‘wire funds’ it’s usually a pretty big red flag,” Shaffer said.

Credit card scams can also hit college students hard. It’s best to have a parent review any credit card offers before signing up.

“Things like extremely high interest rates,” Shaffer said. “Make sure you’re working with an entity that has a familiar name.”

These threats aren’t just out there for young college students; everyone is susceptible. Scammers are always coming up with new ways to get money.

PORTLAND, Ind. (AP) – A prosecutor is seeking a life sentence for a Jay County man accused of killing his girlfriend’s 5-week-old daughter.

The (Muncie) Star Press reports that 21-year-old Dalton R. Davis is charged with murder in the death of Lillian Grace Lloyd. He’s accused of slamming the infant repeatedly against the cement ground outside their home because he was upset with her mother.

Jay County Prosecutor Wes Schemenaur filed documents Thursday to pursue a life sentence without the possibility of parole for Davis. A murder conviction in Indiana usually carries a maximum sentence of 65 years in prison.

Davis was arrested Sept. 30 and is being held without bond in the Jay County jail.

It wasn’t immediately known if Davis has an attorney.

PORTLAND, Ind. (AP) – An eastern Indiana man who pleaded guilty to murder in the fatal stabbing his wife has been sentenced to 60 years in prison.

Jay Circuit Judge Brian Hutchison handed down the sentence to 53-year-old Richard Straley of Portland on Monday.

Investigators say that after 58-year-old Connie Straley was stabbed in the neck March 18, she staggered to a neighbor’s apartment and collapsed. She later pronounced dead at a hospital. They say Richard Straley was wearing clothes soaked with his wife’s blood and asked an officer, “I killed her, didn’t I?”

Straley admitted committing the slaying during his sentencing hearing.

PORTLAND, Ind. (AP) – An Indiana man has pleaded guilty to accusations that he fatally stabbed his wife in the neck during an argument.

The Star Press reports 53-year-old Richard A. Straley of Portland pleaded guilty to a murder charge Tuesday. Authorities say he stabbed his 58-year-old wife at their home in March.

Robert Beymer, an attorney who represented Straley, tells the newspaper that Straley pleaded guilty against the advice of public defenders and “wanted to get it over with.”

Beymer says he hoped he could show that Straley acted in sudden heat and should be charged with voluntary manslaughter rather than murder.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 22. Straley faces a possible maximum sentence of 65 years in prison.

JAY COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) -The Jay County prosecutor has filed murder charges against a man for fatally stabbing his wife.

According to police, the stabbing happened in Portland, Ind.

A woman at the residence was found suffering from multiple stab wounds. Connie Straley, 58, was transported to Jay County Hospital where she later died.

Police arrested Richard Starley, 54, in connection to the stabbing. He was booked in the Jay County Security Center on a preliminary charge of murder on Wednesday.

The prosecutor filed charges on Thursday. Richard Starley had two prior felony convictions that were unrelated to the murder charges.

No bond has been set for Richard Starley.

An autopsy for Connie was scheduled for Thursday.