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RICHMOND, Ind. (WISH) — Residents affected by the fire at a warehouse and the subsequent evacuation of their homes have filed a class-action lawsuit against Seth Smith and his company Cornerstone Trading Group LLC.

The plantiffs in the suit are residents whose properties are located in proximity to the plastic recycling facility at 308 N.W. F St. in Richmond, which burned on April 11.

The lawsuit blames Smith and the facility’s long history of unsafe building orders and fire hazard reports issued by the Wane County recorder.

The lawsuit also alleges that the company knew the hazards existed, but failed to take action to correct the unsafe conditions.

The fire caused approximately 2,000 residents to be evacuated from their homes and numerous businesses were forced to cease operations, according to the lawsuit.

This resulted in loss of income and profits as well as health issues due to the inhalation of noxious gases and smoke, according to court documents.

Residents also allege they have experienced a rapid decline in the value of their property since the fire.

The lawsuit asks for an amount in excess of $25,000 damages.

RICHMOND, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — An insulation and commercial roofing company has completed a $20 million investment in its Richmond facility. Johns Manville says the effort supported new equipment for its blowing wool insulation manufacturing process and helped retain more than 100 jobs.

The Denver-based company manufactures insulation and commercial roofing as well as glass fibers and nonwovens for commercial, industrial, and residential applications.

The company shut down the facility in late April in order to rebuild a glass melter and fiberglass collection chambers. Crews also upgraded electrical and controls equipment and installed new robotics.

The facility reopened on July 2 with training for employees on the new equipment.

“We continue to invest in our business, customers and communities,” Plant Manager Don Heaslip said in written remarks. “Growing the availability of our products while creating new jobs is a win-win – and having the support of the EDC makes doing so even more meaningful.”

In addition to the jobs retained, Johns Manville says it added two full-time apprenticeship positions as a result of the investment.

The Economic Development Corp. of Wayne County has offered a $50,000 Economic Development Income Tax grant to assist with training costs. The grant must still be approved by the Wayne County Commissioners.

Johns Manville will receive a $50,000 Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT) Grant from the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) of Wayne County to assist with costs associated with training of new and incumbent staff on the new equipment.

Johns Manville has nearly 50 manufacturing facilities throughout the U.S. and Europe and employs some 8,000 workers.

RICHMOND, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) —  Legendary tennis star Venus Williams says her IU East experience gave her the wings to fly in the business world once she left tennis. The university is currently working to produce the next generation of business leaders through a program called BOSS, or Business Opportunities for Self Starters. “It’s given a lot of students the opportunity to dream and think bigger than what they had before,” said Tim Scales, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at IU East.

Scales discussed the program and his plans to take it statewide in an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick. Click here to watch interview.

BOSS was originally created 15 years ago as a two-year pilot project focused on high school students. Scales says the program has been self-sustaining since its inception and has served more than 5,000 students.

“Several of those students have started businesses, mostly starting small and growing big,” said Scales. “You know, 15 years ago, it might’ve just been one or two small businesses. Today, there are much larger businesses that are coming out of it. So, it takes time for entrepreneurship to grow, but it’s just been amazing the opportunities the students have taken advantage of through the program.”

Over time, participating students have worked to grow the program. Cole Fosbrink, a recent IU East graduate, and a couple of his classmates created CEO, or Cash Equal Opportunities, which teaches financial literacy.

“We noticed that not much financial literacy was being taught in high schools. So, we just created a program – myself and two other students – to create a curriculum that just teaches financial literacy and personal finance to high school kids,” said Fosbrink.

Scales says he has plans to grow the BOSS program by taking it around the state.

“This year, we just finished a two week pilot at the IU East campus, and the pilot program is the BOSS Experience,” he said. “And that was with graduate students – the students who recently graduated from the college. So next year, I want to take the pilot program from this year [and] take it statewide. So I would love next year to see every IU campus involved in the BOSS Experience. And then after that, we’ll see where it goes across the state but next year for sure all IU campuses.”

You can learn more about the BOSS program by clicking here.

LATEST: This Silver Alert has been canceled as of Dec. 9. The Richmond Police Department said that Tout has been located and is safe.

RICHMOND, Ind. (WISH) — A 14-year-old girl last seen Sunday night is believed to be in extreme danger and may require medical aid, an Indiana Silver Alert from Richmond Police Department says.

Courtney Tout was described as 5-feet-5 and 120 pounds with strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes. She also has a nose piercing.

Courtney is missing from Richmond, about an 80-minute drive east of Indianapolis. She was last seen at 7 p.m. Oct. 26.

Anyone with information was asked to call the Richmond Police Department at 765-983-7247 or 911.

RICHMOND, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A study conducted by researchers at Earlham College suggests the removal of the Weir Dam in Richmond “should not release significant contamination” into the Whitewater River. The researchers sought to determine if there were any potentially harmful levels of contaminants in the sediment trapped behind the dam.

Earlham says the more than century-old dam was built to divert cooling water to a city-owned natural gas plant that no longer exists. The city plans to remove the dam late next summer with the goal of opening the river to fish passage, improving safety and providing redevelopment opportunities for recreation.

The team of researchers was led by Andy Moore, professor of earth and environmental science at Earlham, and Shannon Hayes, a licensed geologist and geology curator at the college. Several Earlham students were involved in the study.

The team collected sediment samples that were analyzed by an independent lab, which found trace amounts of metals and hydrocarbons, but no pesticides or PCBs.

“The sediment accumulated behind the dam is a record of the industrial history of the Whitewater Gorge,” said Moore. “While we cannot guarantee there isn’t any contamination, the concentrations measured were much lower than any of us anticipated.”

Hayes says the team will continue its research after the dam is removed to track sediment migration and monitor the river’s recovery.

RICHMOND, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The president of the Economic Development Corp. of Wayne County says the planned $17 million expansion of Kansas-based Hill’s Pet Nutrition’s facility in Richmond shows the company’s confidence in the city and county. The pet food company announced this week the expansion will take place over two phases and create 65 jobs by the end of 2023. “They see it worthwhile to continue investing in this plant in Richmond when they have the opportunity to invest in their other dry food pet food plants in either Kentucky or Kansas,” said Valerie Shaffer. 

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Shaffer said the expansion builds upon the growing animal food production cluster in the county.

“It started with Purina about 50 years ago. Hill’s came along about 30 years ago and then just about four years ago, we had a significant investment by Blue Buffalo in a new 400,000-square-foot plant. And that also joins another company over in Hagerstown called Country View Family Farms that produces hog feed,” said Shaffer. “So, animal food production is certainly one of our targeted industry clusters that we hope to continue to build upon.”

Shaffer says the county continues to bolster efforts to create a workforce pipeline for companies like Hill’s to find the talent it needs.

“For a couple of years now, we have had a regional jobs portal with our partners in Randolph and Jay counties where we allow our employers to post open positions for free and we spend a great deal of money on marketing those positions throughout our region and beyond,” she said. “In addition to that, Wayne County has developed a talent recruitment website and campaign where we have an abundance of resources for anyone who is looking to relocate to the area so that they can find the information that they need to make an informed decision.”

She adds regional partners are working on various training and upskilling efforts across the talent pipeline, which is a direct result of collaboration for the 21st Century Talent Region designation from the state. 

Shaffer says in addition to growing the talent pipeline, the EDC continues to meet with employers to find new ways to support their efforts.

“Whether it is finding supplies that they need or, obviously, finding workforce, we’re always looking to find what those pain points are to growth and be partners in alleviating those pain points so they can continue to thrive in Wayne County,” said Shaffer. “We’re always interested in of course seeking out new investment and new business, but our primary employers are our number one priority.”

The first phase of the Hill’s Pet Nutrition expansion is slated to begin this year and be complete in early 2022.

RICHMOND, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A Kansas-based pet food company has announced plans to expand in Wayne County. Hill’s Pet Nutrition says it will invest more than $17 million to expand production capacity at its facility in Richmond and create nearly 65 jobs by the end of 2023.

Hill’s says the expansion will take place over two phases. The first phase, set to begin this year and be complete in early 2022, will include transitioning operations from five days per week to seven and the addition of 44 jobs. The second phase will add a new packaging line and create 20 jobs beginning in late 2022 and ending in mid-to-late 2023.

“Hill’s produces quality products that help us care for our beloved pets and provides community support to our pets with amenities like the Hill’s Bark Park,” Richmond Mayor Dave Snow said in a news release. “I am thrilled Hill’s has taken on this valuable expansion, and I am looking forward to many more years of partnership and growth.”

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has offered Hill’s Pet Nutrition up to $750,000 in conditional tax credits, which the company will not be eligible to claim until Hoosier workers are hired for the new jobs. Wayne County will also consider a $203,000 Economic Development Income Tax grant to offset the training and equipment purchase costs.

RICHMOND, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Reid Health says it has moved its hospice program to a new location to allow for growth and to better serve patients and families. Reid Health says the hospice program will operate from a building a few blocks from Reid Hospital in Richmond. 

“We’re excited to have more of a presence out in the community. We’ll have more space now for family meetings, public inquiries and our staff,” said Jessica Dixon, director of hospice for Reid Health.

The health system says the hospice program provides services in Indiana within a 50-mile radius of the hospital and offers medical care, nursing care, social worker support and bereavement counseling at a patient’s home, in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and in in-patient settings. 

“This new location makes for an easier and more dedicated access point for our patients and their families. It also better meets the needs of our staff as we continue to grow our program,” Jenny Frame, hospice care coordinator for Reid Health.

RICHMOND, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Earlham College says it will use its collections of art, geological, archaeological and natural history elements to teach a new museum studies major. Earlham says museum students will work at the Joseph Moore Museum by leading tours and education programs, along with developing new exhibits and revamping existing ones. 

The program is the sixth new major added to the College’s curriculum within the last year. Ann-Eliza Lewis, collections manager at the Joseph Moore Museum of Natural History at Earlham, says the museum world has undergone major change.

“Twenty-something years ago, when I finished graduate school, there weren’t many museum studies programs, so we were all self-taught. The field has really professionalized. Now you need a degree or a certificate to get a job in the field, says Lewis.

Earlham has offered a minor in museum studies since 1995, which Lewis says has proven popular with students pursuing any kind of degree. Lewis says the program’s first graduate, Fiona Kelly, will graduate this spring as a double-major.

“We purposely designed the museum studies major to help students interested in double-majoring. We’re happy if you’re a biology major and a museum studies major because it only makes your museum studies knowledge stronger, said Lewis.

Indiana Humanities awarded a grant to a team of interdisciplinary students currently working on an exhibit for Lady Ta’an, which is Earlham’s Egyptian mummy. 

WAYNE COUNTY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The city of Richmond and Wayne County are working to help local restaurants stay afloat as the pandemic continues. A COVID-19 Restaurant Subsidy Program has been created to provide up to $3,000 for restaurants to cover rental, mortgage or utility payments.

The Economic Development Corp. of Wayne County says restaurants can apply for up to $1,000 in assistance per month for three months. Any funding awarded will be paid directly to landlords, mortgage holders or utility companies.

Restaurant owners interested in applying for funding must meet several criteria to be eligible. The requirements include:

The EDC says the program will remain in place through March 31 or until the allotted funding has been exhausted. You can learn more about the program by clicking here.

The funding is being provided by Wayne County, the city of Richmond, the EDC of Wayne County and the Economic Growth Group.