Purdue “TAPs” Into State Need, Makes Big Impact

Purdue has been one of many Indiana resources working to enhance higher education and the Hoosier workforce over the years. The school recently hit a milestone with its impressive efforts:

Purdue University’s Technical Assistance Program reached a milestone during its 2009-10 fiscal year: $750 million in economic impact in Indiana since its inception in 1986.

Along the way, TAP has assisted more than 8,900 organizations, trained more than 9,400 employees, and saved or added more than 5,500 jobs in the state,

"As we reach our 25th anniversary, TAP is recommitting itself to helping Indiana businesses, manufacturers, health-care providers and government organizations grow," said David McKinnis, TAP director and associate vice provost for engagement.

According to its recently released annual report, TAP provided services that helped Indiana companies increase or retain sales worth $54.1 million during the fiscal year that ended June 30. Companies working with TAP realized cost savings of $6.8 million. TAP’s efforts led to $26.1 million in capital investment.

During 2009-10, TAP worked with 541 employers, hospitals, health-care providers and governmental units in 82 Indiana counties. It trained 3,731 employees, and its work is credited with creating or saving 1,098 jobs.

"Many companies have undergone significant changes during the recession, and now is the perfect time to plan for how those changes will affect performance in an improving economy," McKinnis said. "Our team is focused on developing programming and recommendations that can help businesses in Indiana thrive going forward."

One business that used TAP during the year – and is continuing to use it going forward – is Whitney Tool Company of Bedford, a manufacturer of milling-type cutting tools, counterbores, drill and tap extensions, combined drills, countersinks, and other specialty milling cutters.

Whitney Tool worked with the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a division of TAP, to develop a quality management system to help improve customer satisfaction and overall company performance.

MEP also conducted a value stream mapping class at Whitney Tool that helped the company reduce product lead times by a week.

Currently, Whitney Tool is working with TAP to upgrade its website to support e-commerce and search-engine optimization.

"Purdue’s TAP has been an outstanding resource in helping us continuously improve our operations to secure our jobs for tomorrow," said W. Scott Baker, Whitney Tool operations manager. "The TAP and MEP teams exert whatever effort is required to deliver high-quality results above and beyond expectations within set timelines. Without their efforts, small businesses like ours could not survive in today’s world."

I was fortunate to write about Purdue’s TAP green training initiative in a BizVoice article last summer.

Packing a Punch at Purdue

Purdue University doesn’t need me to make the case for its importance to the state of Indiana and beyond. It has thousands of professors, students, research leaders, and business men and women doing that every day.

But despite at least three-plus decades of personal experience (starting with a cousin who graduated from the university and still serves on the faculty in the veterinary medicine school to more than a few athletic contests, including covering the top-ranked basketball team in 1987-88), a half-day on campus earlier this month reinforced the impact being made in West Lafayette and throughout the state.

Just a few observations:

  • Discovery Park is a nice name with a clear mission. Behind the name are five leading centers, all opening between 2004 and 2009 and featuring $205 million in private donations, bringing together experts from a variety of disciplines who are working together on our future. The learning opportunities for students are nearly endless.
  • Purdue Research Parks: There is the largest gathering of technology companies in the state in West Lafayette and growing enterprises in Merrillville, New Albany and Indianapolis (AmeriPlex complex near the airport).
  • The Technical Assistance Program has been working with Indiana companies for 24 years. It drives immediate improvements in companies, training employees, increasing sales and retaining/creating jobs. And now it is doing so in the manufacturing, energy, health care and green sectors, among others.
  • And while others might come to mind first when thinking about education, Purdue’s I-STEM Resource Network and role as one of four homes for the Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellowship program are critical. I-STEM is a partnership that includes 19 institutions, K-12 schools, business and government with the bottom line of improving outcomes for students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics studies.

One of my absolute favorite people in 12-plus years in this position was former Purdue President Martin Jischke. He was the driving force behind most of the entities mentioned above, as well as numerous others. Today’s leaders and practitioners are carrying the ball forward.

We’ll continue to help tell the Purdue stories in the months and years ahead. It was good to be reminded about the excellent work taking place there during the recent visit.

And will the 2010-2011 basketball triplets (Hummel, Moore and Johnson) equal or exceed the exploits of Troy Lewis, Todd Mitchell and Everette Stephens from 23 years ago? We’ll have to wait and see on that one.