A Day at the Farm: Planting Memories, Exploring a Legacy

Pictures will speak a thousand words in the upcoming issue of BizVoice® in my feature story on twins Ted and Tom McKinney. For me, images of my day at the family farm in Tipton where they grew up are etched in my mind. The experience was among my most enjoyable memories – professionally and personally.

I visited the farm to interview them for an article that will appear as part of our agriculture series in the July-August issue. Why the McKinneys? That’s the question Ted humbly asked as we met and shook hands.

First, the family history is deeply rooted in farming. There’s the strong Purdue University connection (they’re third generation graduates of the College of Agriculture). And like their parents and grandparents before, both Ted and Tom are dedicated to making a difference in their community.

Tom is a seventh-generation Indiana farmer (he guides operations at the Tipton farm and another family farm in neighboring Clinton County). Ted is director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.

Touring the farm, which spans a few thousand acres, brought the McKinney legacy to life. Their passion for agriculture was contagious. Their childhood memories were rich. I could almost see the old yellow barn that served as a clubhouse of sorts in their youth before it was destroyed by straight line winds and made way for a modern shop.

I could picture them working alongside teens in the 1970s detasseling seed corn (the McKinneys were just 16 years old when they started managing their own crews) as they cultivated a strong work ethic and spirit of camaraderie. Tom operated the business for more than three decades.

“It was more than a money-making business. It was about transforming people’s lives,” declares his brother Ted.

Both have spent their lives trying to do just that.

Ted, among other causes, has been heavily involved in FFA and was instrumental in bringing both the organization’s national center and its convention to Indianapolis. Tom is president of the Indiana 4-H Foundation and has donated his time to a variety of other state and local initiatives. Each has brought his leadership to a variety of roles at Purdue.

Check out our memorable afternoon with one of Indiana’s first farming families in BizVoice when the July-August issue debuts on June 30.

Communities Take Team Approach to Addressing Skills Gap

I’ve been writing BizVoice® magazine stories for seven-plus years, but the excitement that comes with discovering new projects, programs and people never wears off. The best part is knowing that our stories are resonating with readers.

You can imagine how happy I was when Shelbyville Mayor Tom DeBaun contacted me in response to a story I wrote in the current issue about a regional effort focused on bridging the manufacturing skills gap (more on that in a minute!). Mayor DeBaun shared with me that similar efforts are underway in Shelbyville – and they sound pretty cool.

Project Impact 2016 emphasizes STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) starting with the development of student interest as high school freshmen and ultimately placing college students from Rose-Hulman into local facilities. In addition, Blue River Career Programs and Duke Energy are partnering with the city to build area-specific high school curriculum based on the input of industrial partners.

There’s also the Manufacturing Skills Connection web site, which contains job listings and training opportunities. Scholarships are available for an eight-week Certified Production Technician (CPT) program offered by Ivy Tech Corporate College.

I describe two similar efforts in my recent BizVoice story. Manufacturing Matters – which kicked off last fall in East Central Indiana – includes Wayne, Fayette, Rush, Union and Franklin counties as well as two nearby Ohio counties. Meanwhile, the Advancing Manufacturing initiative is part of a 12-county regional effort covering Benton, Carroll, Cass, Clinton, Fountain, Howard, Miami, Montgomery, Tippecanoe, Tipton, Warren and White counties.

Employer partners like Nanshan America Advanced Aluminum Technologies offer a glimpse of the manufacturing world by hosting field trips, participating in interview fairs, presenting workshops and more. Nanshan’s 600,000-square-feet, two-press aluminum extrusion operation in Lafayette makes products for industries ranging from transportation and machinery to building and construction (see employees in action).

It always amazes me to see the people behind the machines who truly are making a difference at manufacturing companies across the state. That’s the bottom line: It’s about people. Initiatives like these remind us of that and help prepare the next generation of our manufacturing workforce.

Hog Heaven: Frankfort Company to be Featured on QVC

From Clinton County to the bright lights of the television studio: Indiana Chamber member Shoup’s Country Foods (Frankfort) will be featured this Memorial Day (May 31) on QVC between 11 a.m. and noon. The network will promote Shoup’s famous Hogburgers — aka "the ultimate porkburger" — as well as Shoup’s seasoning. Representing the company will be Amy Shoup Mennen and Cindy Shoup Cacy.

And if the thought of these meaty treats gets your mouth watering, go ahead and check out the company’s web site. Perhaps you can place an order for your own Memorial Day celebration. You might also be interested in Shoup’s catering offerings and mini-hog roasts, as well.