Pickin’ Pumpkins (and Much More in Indiana)

I love fall. It is my favorite season of the year, by far.

The air is cool and crisp and everything smells like straw and cinnamon. Brilliant hues of orange, red and yellow are everywhere – in the trees and bushes and in piles of fallen leaves. There are hayrides and bonfires to attend; apple cider and pumpkin pie to consume. It’s not too cold to play outside yet and just around the corner are Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Honestly, fall is one of the top reasons I know I don’t ever want to live anywhere else. Nothing, to me, beats fall in the Hoosier state.

To celebrate and honor our most favorite season, my husband and I took our nine-month-old daughter to her very first apple orchard and pumpkin patch (via hayride) in Hendricks County. We took part in an apple festival, visited vendors and sampled sweet and tart apple treats and cider. It was oh-so-quaint (until she tried to stuff a handful of hay into her mouth, that is).

Even with the severe drought we encountered this summer, the pumpkin patch was bursting with bright orange surprises. My husband made a muddy forage for our prized pumpkin and we created a fun memory. All-in-all, we spent less than $25 for an afternoon of family enjoyment and appreciation of the bountiful nature we have around us.

But maybe a pumpkin patch isn’t your thing. There are a TON of other things to do in Indiana during the fall.

If you want something the whole family can enjoy, try a trip to the numerous festivals around the state. More of a sophisticated palate might like to sample from Indiana’s wineries and breweries.

Or, did you know that Kokomo is home to the oldest manufacturer of opalescent and cathedral stained glass in the world? You’d learn more about that on the Glass Trail. Maybe you’re more into exploration and adventure – the Indiana Cave Trail might suit your liking in southern Indiana.

Even though I’ve lived here the majority of my life, I had no idea where to start looking – and even less of an idea as to what Indiana has available – until I stumbled across the Visit Indiana (Indiana Office of Tourism Development) web site dedicated to Hoosier fall offerings. Check it out for yourself and take in some of the wonderful treats Indiana has to offer: www.in.gov/visitindiana/fall/.

Fort Wayne’s Steel Dynamics Builds Strong Foundation in Pittsboro

Here’s an encouraging piece from the Indianapolis Star about how Steel Dynamics is turning a near-bankrupt steel mill in Hendricks County into a thriving source of production and jobs. Through heavy investment, the company ultimately hopes to enhance its production by over 50% and produce nearly one million tons of steel annually at the plant.

Designed and built in the late 1990s by Qualitech Steel Corp., the mill barely had come online, melting test batches of high-quality bar steel intended for automotive and appliance manufacturing, when the world steel market was flooded by cheap Chinese exports and the price of steel fell through the floor. Nearly a dozen "mini-mills" like Pittsboro’s were left in bankruptcy court.

Indiana’s investment of $40 million in incentives and Hendricks County’s $20 million bond issue were at risk if the mill didn’t reopen.

After a legally disputed auction, the Steel Dynamics offer of $45 million won the court-run bidding against North Carolina’s Nucor in 2002.

Steel Dynamics also invested nearly $100 million to redesign, remodel and reequip the plant to reopen in 2004. The trends have been up ever since.

Employment at the mill has increased steadily over the years from 400 to 500 workers. Steel Dynamics has not announced whether new jobs will be created in the next two years.

It will expand the facilities and add a second line for rolling out long bars of high-quality steel, the type suitable for machining into parts of cars, engines and other manufacturing. Companies such as Caterpillar are among the steelmaker’s bigger customers.

The mill occasionally has turned out other types and qualities of steel, including rebar used as concrete reinforcement in the $1 billion terminal building and other improvements opened in 2008 at Indianapolis International Airport.

Steel Dynamics said that with the latest addition, its engineered bar products division will be among the largest making specialty-bar-quality steel in North America.

It also will expand the mill’s bar-finishing capability, potentially doubling the amount of finished products that can be inspected.

The current production line rolls out long steel bars in diameters from 1 inch to 9 inches. The new line will focus on 1- to 3-inch-diameter bars favored for use in transportation, energy and automotive applications.