Flagship hosts first Grow Conference

Fri, 2009-05-15 11:48 -- univcomm
May 15, 2009

Businesses from a 30-mile radius sent representatives to the Flagship Enterprise Center on Thursday for the center’s first Grow Conference, which presented tools for businesses to survive during an economic drought.

The Grow Conference featured speakers, ranging from Anderson University Falls School of Business Dean Terry Truitt to Continental Inc. owner Judy Nagengast, and workshops on lean operations and quality control. Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman was the keynote speaker during lunch at the conference.

aufcSkillman said Indiana had continued to make strides toward becoming a leading state for business, even with a souring economy. She cited various studies, including one from the Council on State Taxation that placed Indiana fifth in the nation for friendly business tax policies.

“We do have an advantage over almost all states in the country,” she said, noting Indiana’s dedicated work force and location in the middle of the country. “We all have a role to play in the economic recovery of our state. Indiana will see a complete economic comeback.”

Skillman, who was on hand when the Flagship opened its doors in 2005, mentioned Anderson companies Nestlé, Comfort Motion Technologies and Bright Automotive as being bright spots in the economy.

“In this region, there is ... a lot going right,” she said.

Since 2005, 10 business opening or expansion announcements have been made in Madison County with assistance from the state, Skillman said, a $700 million investment.

“More than 600,000 Hoosiers are working for themselves,” she said. “Our economic health will depend on how our small businesses do.

“We need places like (the Flagship) to push those great ideas, those new ideas out into the marketplace.”

State Rep. Scott Reske, D-Pendleton, who attended the conference, said it took a bipartisan effort to get Indiana in a good position to attract new business. Reske, who chairs the Economic Development Committee in the Indiana House, said Indiana’s jump to one of the best places for business happened in 2002, when then-Gov. Frank O’Bannon restructured taxes.

About 60 businesses and 140 people attended the conference, and Flagship CEO Chuck Staley was thrilled with the turnout.

“We had hoped for this many, but I’m not sure we actually expected it,” he said.

Flagship Director DeWayne Landwehr said he wasn’t sure how many businesses would take part in the conference due to the slow economy.

“I was concerned, with the downturn in the economy, we would have trouble getting people to support it,” he said. “My overarching goal is the increase the overall economic health of Madison County.”

Tammy Rimer, owner of Anderson public relations and marketing business Community Networks, said the conference provided her with good networking opportunities.

“The speakers have been beneficial in some way or another,” she said. “Because of the nature of our business, the networking will be beneficial.”

—Aleasha Sandley is a reporter for the Herald Bulletin in Anderson. Story republished with permission.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,800 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.