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VINCENNES, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) – Vincennes University is receiving $2.3 million from the U.S. Department of Education to support its TRIO Upward Bound program. The university says the funding will help serve populations of first-generation and income-eligible high school students who want to pursue a college education.

The program, which serves 12 southwest Indiana high schools, will receive nearly $450,000 each year for a five-year cycle.

“This grant will help potential first-generation college students advance their education at a two-year or four-year college,” VU Upward Bound Director Lisa Spivey said. “Navigating the college preparation process can be a daunting task, and Upward Bound activities can make this a much smoother process for students.”

The funding will ultimately support program offerings including academic advising, financial literacy, and assistance with financial aid applications, among others. VU says Upward Bound also offers enrichment and cultural activities during the academic year.

As part of the program, Upward Bound students can earn 12 semester hours of college credit at VU if they meet certain requirements.

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 (Inside INdiana Business) – Vincennes University has extended the contract for President Dr. Chuck Johnson through 2024. Board of Trustees Chair John Stachura and others praised Johnson for his “superb leadership and contributions to fulfilling the University’s mission.”

“We are very pleased with the direction Dr. Johnson is taking us,” Trustee Mike Sievers said. “We’ve gone through some really challenging times in the last 18 or 24 months. In spite of those obstacles, we are really headed in the right direction. His leadership is taking the University where it needs to go. We are very appreciative of his work.”

The board also adopted a resolution of appreciation for the service of longtime administrator Mike Gress. The university says Gress, who is now retired after 41 years, started as a VU faculty member in 1980.

“Mike Gress is really a champion for Vincennes University,” Johnson said. “Every institution has a person or persons that they can call on in times of challenge or times of difficulty to step up and be heroes. Mike has certainly been a hero for this institution, taking on some of the toughest tasks with great conviction, a wonderful work ethic, and a tremendous passion for quality, and has delivered for this institution time and time again. We would not be where we are as an institution if not for Mike’s great efforts.”

The board also approved a nursing degree program in which LPNs can earn a bachelor’s degree in three years.

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.”

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.

WASHINGTON (Inside INdiana Business) – The city of Vincennes is the recipient of a more than $730,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). The EDA says the funding will support renovation efforts for the historic Pantheon Theatre.

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

The theatre is currently being converted into a shared coworking, training and meeting space for entrepreneurs and small businesses. 

According to the EDA, the project will be located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Opportunity Zone and will be matched with $183,020 in local funds. The project is expected to create or retain 50 jobs and generate $7 million in private investment.

“Vincennes has been significantly impacted by the downturn in the mining industry, and the Pantheon Theatre project will bring much-needed economic stability by providing business development services,” said Dana Gartzke, performing the delegated duties of the assistant secretary of commerce for economic development. “We are pleased to support Vincennes’ strategy to diversify its economic base, and the project’s location in an Opportunity Zone will attract new investment that will support the region’s overall economic resilience and recovery efforts.”

The funding will serve one of the state’s 156 Opportunity Zones.

The project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the Southern Indiana Development Commission, which the EDA funds.

In June, Purdue University and the Purdue Research Foundation announced a commercialization initiative at the Pantheon.

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.