Around the Region

A lot has happened in Northwest Indiana's business community the past three months. Here are some of the highlights.

Accounting
Peggy Rogers has opened a full-service accounting office in Valparaiso. Peggy Rogers & Associates LLC will offer accounting services, assurance, tax services and consulting. Most recently, Rogers was a partner at a firm in Michigan City.

Advertising/Communication
Whiteco Industries Inc.'s View Outdoor Advertising has acquired 26 billboard locations in Lake County from Outdoor One, owned by Lou O'Donnell of Michigan City. O'Donnell will retain ownership of locations in LaPorte and St. Joseph counties. Most of the billboards in the transaction are located along Interstate 94, Interstate 65 and the Indiana Toll Road. … VIA Marketing of Merrillville has announced that Kathern Nuzzo has joined the firm as an account executive. She previously was with Red Lobster Restaurants in Orlando, Fla. … Figment Creative Group of Michigan City is celebrating its 15th anniversary. Owner Polly Liebig has handled clients such as Quaker Oats, PepsiCo., and NIPSCO. She is a graduate of the Art Institute in Chicago and the American Academy of Art. … V as in Victor, a Hobart creative agency, has completed work on a new advertising campaign for The Lakshore 89.1, the region's National Public Radio affiliate. The ads emphasize the station's role as “The Voice of Northwest Indiana.” … Leslie Lopez has joined VIA Marketing in Merrillville as a graphic designer. Lopez, of Hammond, is a graduate of Purdue University Calumet. … Clint Damore has joined VIA Marketing in Merrillville as a graphic designer. Damore is a graduate of Prairie State College and the Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago. Mary T. Burke has joined the staff of Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly magazine as director of new business development. She is responsible for new sales development primarily in Porter, LaPorte and St. Joseph counties and throughout Northwest Indiana. Burke, of Porter, is a graduate of Calumet College of St. Joseph with a degree in organizational management. Her sales and organizational skills are impressive including as a member of the Association Forum of Chicagoland, 13 years with the National Association of Realtors and with Indiana Dunes Tourism.

Agriculture
Select Milk Producers plans to introduce a series of new beverages featuring milk produced by Fair Oaks Dairy. Steve Jones, CEO of Select Milk Producers, said the first product will be Athletes HoneyMilk, which will be sold in area supermarkets, including Strack & Van Til and Chicago-area Walmart stores. Jones is a former president of Minute Maid and chief marketing officer at Coca-Cola. He said Select Milk Producers has created new technology that allows the various milk components to be separated so each can be included in various beverages without the use of preservatives or chemicals.

Banking
Centier Bank has been recognized by the Indiana District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration as Third Party Lender of the Year for 2011. The SBA said Centier had taken part in 12 SBA loans, accounting for $16.2 million in projects. That amount represents 8 percent of all SBA lending in the state. Because of Centier's loans, the SBA said 160 jobs were created or retained. … Centier Bank of Munster has opened a loan production office in Carmel in central Indiana. It is the first office for Centier in Hamilton County. … Nancy Naville-Strong has joined Centier Bank as assistant manager/consumer lending officer at the Lafayette branch. She has 25 years of banking experience in Lafayette. … LaPorte Savings Bank has been recognized as a 5-Star bank by Bauer Financial Inc. of Coral Gables, Fla. It is the fifth year in a row LaPorte Savings Bank has been recognized as a 5-Star bank. … Thomas F. Prisby, chairman and chief executive officer of Citizens Financial Bank, has announced his retirement after 30 years with the institution. Prisby joined the bank in 1982 and served as president and chief operating officer from 1989 to 1996. Prisby has been president and CEO since 1996. … United Federal Credit Union of St. Joseph, Mich., has completed its acquisition of Griffith Savings Bank. The acquisition was announced last fall, but the deal wasn't completed until the FDIC signed off on the deal. According to the FDIC, the purchase by United Federal is the first time a federally chartered credit union has purchased a state-chartered mutual savings bank. United Federal, founded in 1949 as the credit union for Whirlpool Corp. employees, acquired the loans, investments, real estate and other assets of Griffith Savings Bank.

Construction
Berglund Construction has named Scott Olthoff as project coordinator at its Chesterton office. Olthoff has been involved in projects with Silva International, Faith Church in Dyer, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, and Plaza 32, a high-rise condominium project in Chicago. … The Construction Advancement Foundation of Northwest Indiana has named officers for 2012. They are Shawn Kelly of DLZ Industrial, president; Joe Coar of Tonn and Blank Construction, vice president; and Mark Danielson of Larson-Danielson Construction, secretary and treasurer. … The Northwest Indiana Contractors Association has named officers for 2012. They are Mark Grimmer of Grimmer Construction, president; Bill Rathjen of The Pangere Corp., vice president; and Tim Larson of Larson-Danielson Construction, secretary and treasurer. … Boyd Construction Co. of Hobart has received the Centennial Business Award from the Indianapolis Historical Society. The company was founded in 1911 by Vincent R. Boyd. The company is owned today by Richard Boyd, William C. Boyd and Robert W. Boyd.

Education
Mass. Electric Construction Co. of Irving, Texas, has donated $52,500 to Purdue University Calumet's Construction Management and Engineering Technologies program. The Texas company has employed PUC graduates and is one of the nation's largest electrical contractors. … Becky Manis has been named executive director of the Challenger Learning Center in Hammond. She will be responsible for promoting the center as a premier educational destination for corporate and school groups. … Purdue University Calumet's Educational Talent Search program has received a $5,000 grant from the UPS Foundation to help bridge the educational opportunity gap for first generation and low-income students. … ArcelorMittal Steel has provided a grant to Indiana University's Kelly School of Business to expand its undergraduate building. Since 2007, ArcelorMittal has provided $850,000 to IU. … Semiconductor Research Corp. has given two grants worth $3.5 million to the University of Notre Dame for nanotechnology research aimed at the next generation of super-fast computers. … Carin Chuang, an assistant professor of computer and information technology at Purdue University North Central, has earned an Indiana Campus Compact Scholarship of Engagement Grant for the spring semester. The grant will allow her and her students to partner with the Westville Chamber of Commerce to develop a new information system for the chamber.

Environment
Two Northwest Indiana environmental organizations have merged. The Hoosier Environmental Council and the Legal Environmental Aid Foundation are now a single organization operating as the Hoosier Environmental Council. The organization will operate out of an office in Valparaiso. … The Sierra Club has come out in support of a plan presented by Northern Indiana Public Service Co. to develop a clean energy program that would encourage residents and businesses to install solar or wind energy systems. NIPSCO has endorsed a feed-in program that would allow the utility to buy that energy for use on its grid. … Legacy Environmental Services Inc. is expanding from its office at the Purdue Research Park into Fort Myers, Fla. The company provides sustainability consulting and project management for alternative fuels and energy.

Gaming
Majestic Star Casino in Gary has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Wayzata Investment Partners of Minnesota now owns the casino. At the time Majestic Star filed bankruptcy, Wayzata was the largest investor. Majestic was previously owned by the late Donald Barden. Wayzata also owns the Fitzgerald casinos in Mississippi and Colorado. … Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich., will add a Hard Rock Cafe to its lineup when a remodeling project is completed there in the summer. The project also includes a 1,600-seat entertainment venue and a nine-story, 250-room hotel. … Ameristar Casino in East Chicago has hired Southeast Cleaning of Pompano Beach, Fla., to take over the housekeeping needs of its 290-room hotel. The 69 housekeeping employees of the hotel will be allowed to apply for their job after Southeast takes over.

Government
John Swanson, executive director of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, has been elected president of the Indiana Association of Regional Councils for 2012. He is the first representative from Northwest Indiana to lead the 14-year-old organization. … The Regional Development Company has announced new board members. They are John Matthiesen of Clifton Gunderson LLP; Keven Jennings of Lafayette Savings Bank; Bert Cook of Portage Economic Development Corp.; and Don Koliboski of the Northwest Indiana Forum.

Health Care
Regional Mental Health in Merrillville has received a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to build a 15-unit apartment complex for the chronically mentally ill. The project will be built in Griffith with construction scheduled to begin in the fall. … Memorial Hospital in South Bend has opened a new center dedicated for vascular disease testing and wound care. Memorial Wound Care Services will be a part of The Leighton Heart & Vascular Center on the first floor of the hospital. … Memorial Health Systems of South Bend and Elkhart General Health System have signed an affiliation agreement that will create a new parent company to oversee operation of both hospitals. … Clint Bolser has been named CEO at Logan Center in South Bend. He replaces the retiring Dan Harshman. Bolser was recently with Nobel of Indiana, a similar organization that provides education and programs for the mentally challenged. … St. Mary Medical Center of Hobart will build a 55,000-square-foot outpatient center near Indiana 49 and Burlington Beach Road near Valparaiso. … Community Hospital in Munster has expanded and renovated MRI services at its new MRI Center in Crown Point as well as at the hospital. The project includes the addition of $1.7 million Panorama 1.0T Open MRI from Philips Medical Systems. … Memorial Children's Hospital in South Bend has opened a new pediatric specialties office, the first multi-specialty pediatric center in the region. Services include pediatric neurology, developmental and behavioral pediatrics, pediatric endocrinology, pediatric pulmonology and infectious diseases. … The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Franciscan Alliance have expanded their partnership to St. Anthony Health-Crown Point and St. Anthony Health-Michigan City. The partnership was launched in 2008 at St. Margaret Health-Hammond. … Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Michigan City's Duneland Health and Fitness Institute and Franciscan St. Margaret Health's Omni 41 Health and Fitness Connection are the first facilities of their kind to achieve International Organization of Standardization 9001:2008 certification. ISO is the world's largest developer of international standards that are used in 162 nations. … William H. Cummins has been named president and CEO of HealtheACCESS Clinics LLC. He is currently CEO of Regency Hospitals, Northwest Indiana, in Portage and East Chicago. Previously, he was CEO at Porter Hospital. … Sister Aline Shultz, vice president of marketing and development for Franciscan Alliance, has received the Athena Leadership Award from the Crossroads Chamber of Commerce in Merrillville. She was cited for bringing on-site nursing programs from the University of St. Francis to Crown Point and the corporate re-branding effort of Franciscan Alliance. … Greg Losasso has been named president of Elkhart General Hospital. He joined the hospital in 2006 as vice president of operations. Previously, he was vice president of diagnostic and therapeutic services at Methodist Hospitals in Gary. … Kreg Gruber has been named president of Memorial Hospital of South Bend. Since 2006, he was chief operating officer of the hospital. Previously he was president of Doctors Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. … Dr. Raymond Drasga has retired after 30 years with Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Crown Point. He was medical director of the Burrell Cancer Institute and led efforts in the founding of St. Clare Health Clinic. … IU Health LaPorte VNA Services has opened an office on County Road 600 North in Hamlet in Starke County. The office will provide home health services to clients in the rural community, seven days a week. … Linda Delunas has been named director of the School of Nursing at Indiana University Northwest in Gary. She has been with IUN since 1984. She will continue in her current position as associate dean of the College of Health and Human Services. … Medical Specialists in Munster has announced it will erect a new building at 45th and Calumet avenues. Dr. Alexander Stemer, CEO, said the new two-story building will contain 36,000 square feet and should open sometime in early 2013. Stemer said the addition will contain services for bone and joint patients. … Noel and Marianne Frigo, the owners of FirstCare in Valparaiso, have expanded their business through the addition of a Home Helpers franchise. The Frigos founded FirstCare in 1991 to provide contract therapy services for hospitals, clinics and home health agencies. By adding Home Helpers, they now are involved with in-home health care for Northwest Indiana residents. “As we were working with patients and their therapy needs, we noticed patients required substantial help at home,” said Noel Frigo. Home Helpers, founded in 1997, provides assistance with laundry, light housekeeping, grocery shopping, getting dressed and bathing.

Hospitality
The University of Notre Dame has announced a $32 million renovation of the historic Morris Inn. The hotel has been on the campus for 60 years. The project includes the addition of 46 guest rooms, a 300-seat ballroom and other amenities. The project will begin in late 2012 and is to be completed by the fall of 2013. … Scott Tuft has been named to the board of directors of Indiana Dunes Tourism in Porter County. He is a 20-year resident of the county and is director of sales and marketing for Accuraft Imaging in Hammond.

Insurance
Sandy Junk has joined Gibson Insurance Group in South Bend as a client manager in commercial insurance, specializing in business property and casualty accounts. … Jocelyn Pollard of Gibson Insurance Group has received the Group Benefits Associate designation from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. She is a financial analyst in employee benefits and provides marketing and service support to new and existing employee benefit clients. … Jan Phifer has joined Gibson Insurance Group of South Bend as a client executive in the employee benefits practice. She is responsible for providing support for new and existing employee benefit clients and for working with clients in developing and implementing their plan renewals. … Terry Ford has joined Gibson Insurance Group as a client executive in the property and casualty practice. He specializes in working to identify and address client's strategic, business and hazard risk exposures. … Jenn Burton of Gibson Insurance Group has been promoted to client executive for the business and private client group. She will focus on commercial property and casualty accounts. … Michelle Wasoski of Gibson Insurance is now a client manager for the business and private client group. She specializes in commercial property and casualty accounts designing risk management and insurance programs for small businesses. … Michael Anton Jr. of Anton Insurance Agency in Valparaiso and Chesterton has been named vice president and treasurer of the Independent Insurance Agents of Indiana's 2012 Leadership Team. … Sandy Vice has joined Gibson Insurance Group in South Bend as claims specialist in risk management services. She is responsible for processing and servicing personal and commercial claims. … Shannon Clifton of Gibson Insurance Group of South Bend has been awarded the Associate in Insurance Services designation from the Insurance Institute of America. She is client manager in the business and private client group and is responsible for sales and servicing of personal insurance accounts focusing on auto, homeowners, personal umbrella liability, recreational motorcraft and collectibles.

Legal
Robert J. Konopa, partner at Tuesley Hall Konopa in South Bend, has been named Best Lawyers' 2012 South Bend Personal Injury Litigation Lawyer of the Year. Best Lawyers is the oldest peer-review publication in the legal profession. … Tony Walker, a private practice attorney in Gary, has been appointed to the Indiana State Board of Education by Gov. Mitch Daniels. He also is president of the Gary Library Board.

Manufacturing
Michigan City Paper Box Co. has received $725,000 in tax abatement that will be used to upgrade equipment. The project will retain 54 jobs. The equipment is two automated machines that will allow the company to make rigid boxes for commercial and retail customers. … Bayer HealthCare has sold its manufacturing plant in Mishawaka to Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics. The plant has 270 employees who manufacture diabetes diagnostic equipment. Siemens is expected to take over the operation and keep it in Mishawaka. … Potash Corp. of Canada will invest $64 million to build a 136,000-square-foot transfer facility at Gibson Yard in Hammond. The company is the world's largest fertilizer producer. When completed, the plant will employ 25 people. … Eckart Effect Pigments of Wesel, Germany, has acquired the aluminum pigment production line owned by Avery Dennison Corp. in Schererville. The 40 employees will be retained by Eckhart. … Graphic Packaging International Inc. has closed its LaPorte operation, putting 100 employees out of work. The company issued a statement saying the economy and a need to reduce expenses were the reasons for the closing. … In Touch Pharmaceuticals in Valparaiso has added 50 people to its payroll in order to keep up with growing sales. The company plans to expand its existing building in the Eastport Center. … SunCoke Energy Inc. of Lisle, Ill., has invested $14 million to increase its partnership holdings with Indiana Harbor Coke Co. of East Chicago. SunCoke now owns 85 percent of the operation, which has 1.2 million tons of capacity. It is a primary supplier of coke to ArcelorMittal's Indiana Harbor Works. … Munster Steel is leaving its long-time home in Munster for a 123,000-square-foot building in the West Point Industrial Park in Hammond. The company plans to invest between $5 million and $6 million in the move. … AM General in Mishawaka has laid off 350 workers because of troop reductions in Iraq. The layoffs are necessary because the demand for Humvees by the military has declined. … Modern Forge has received a zoning variance from Merrillville to build a 65-foot tall addition onto its building on Colorado Street. The addition is needed for specialized machinery, but is twice as tall as local ordinances allow. The project is part of a $17 million expansion for the company, which recently moved to Merrillville from Blue Island, Ill. … Alcoa Howmet in LaPorte has received the Lugar Energy Patriot Award from U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar. The plant was cited for its work in educating employees and students about identifying potential energy savings. The award is set up to recognize professionals, scholars, students or businesses involved in reducing the nation's dependence on foreign energy. Alcoa Howmet makes castings for aerospace and gas turbine operations. … Hoosier Racing Tire of Lakeville has announced an $8 million project to add 37,000 square feet of production space to its manufacturing plant in Plymouth. When finished, 20 new jobs will be created. As part of the financing package, the city of Plymouth has provided tax abatement and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. is providing $140,000 in tax credits. Hoosier Racing Tire is the largest manufacturer of racing tires in the world. It has more than 400 employees.

Real Estate
South Bend city officials have put on hold until spring plans to invest $5.7 million into a project to restore the 25-story Chase Tower, the tallest building in Northwest Indiana. Without major repairs, 22 tenants in the building say they will move. Satish Sunny Gabhawala, president and CEO of Care Hospitality is acquiring the building and has pledged to invest $19 million into the renovation. … Real Estate Management Corp. has changed its name to Bradley Residential Management. The company is led by President and CEO Brad Toothaker. … Joe Candella has joined the commercial real estate firm CBRE/Bradley and the residential property management firm, Bradley Residential Management. Candella has 25 years of experience in real estate, including asset management of commercial and residential portfolios and has served in executive roles for real estate operations. He will serve as executive vice president of asset services and oversee commercial property management and maintenance. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago and holds an Illinois broker's license.

Retail
Family Express Corp. has announced it will open three new stores in Lake County in 2012. The company, which operates 57 convenience stores across northern and central Indiana, said the Lake County expansion will give it a higher profile in an area that is in its backyard. The Valparaiso based company was founded 40 years ago. … Tire Rack, a South Bend-based national tire distributor, will add 132,000 square feet of warehouse space to its 532,000-square-foot operation along the Indiana Toll Road. The expansion will cost $3.8 million, not including the cost of equipment, and increase employment from 190 to 210 people. … hhgregg Inc. has opened a store in Highland, taking over the recently vacated Borders book store space in the Highland Grove shopping mall. … Napleton Auto Group in Schererville and Hammond is marking its 80th anniversary this year. The company has 57 new car franchises in 23 locations in the Midwest and Florida. … University Park Mall in Mishawaka, a part of the Simon Property Group, has installed electric charging stations for alternative fuel cars. The two charging stations can fully charge a car in 60 to 90 minutes. … Tom Julian, a long-time employee of the recently closed River Oaks Ford in Illinois, has been hired as sales manager for Webb Ford in Highland. Julian has 34 years of experience in auto sales. … Two days after Sears announced it would close its Kmart store in Portage, Michigan-based Meijer Inc., announced it would buy the property at U.S. 6 and Airport Road. The purchase price was not disclosed. A spokesman for Meijer confirmed the company was interested in locating a store in Portage, its first in Porter County, but did not disclose any information on where that store might locate. Last week, Sears, the parent company for Kmart, announced that because of lower-than-expected holiday sales, it was closing 80 stores around the country. The only two locations in Northwest Indiana were Kmart stores in St. John and Portage. … Greco Nut and Candy, a fixture in Chicago's south suburbs for more than 30 years, will add a new location in Highland. Owners John and Jean Fager took over the business four years ago. The store provides a variety of American-made candy, including products made by Albanese Confectionary Group in Merrillville. The store will carry some 500 items.

Service
Geisen Funeral Home has been cited by the National Funeral Directors Association with a Pursuit of Excellence Award for its service to clients and its involvement with community activities like Meals on Wheels. … Bill Gregory has been named interim director of the Northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center in Crown Point. Most recently, he was executive director of the Center for Management Development at Indiana University Northwest. … The Portage Economic Development Corp. has named Jim Fitzer its interim executive director. He recently retired from NIPSCO as manager of public affairs after 38 years with the utility. “Bringing in Mr. Fitzer is an opportunity for the new mayor and his leadership team to gain critical knowledge and insight about PEDCO, its partner organizations and the work being done to create jobs and capital investment in Portage,” said Diane Thalman, board chair of PEDCO. Fitzer is responsible for day-to-day operations, economic development and representing PEDCO at regional meetings.

Sports
The South Bend Silver Hawks have signed an agreement with the South Bend Parks Department that will keep the team in the city for the next 20 years. Part of the agreement will allow current owner Joe Kernan to sell the team to Chicagoan Andrew Berlin. … The Gary SouthShore RailCats have named Kevin Spudic president and general manager. The Highland native previously was with the Chicago White Sox, Chicago Fire and Chicago Enforcers.

Technology
Triskell, a pharmaceutical systems company, will move to Innovation Park in South Bend in 2012. Founder Jean LeFloch, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, is moving the company from Sarasota, Fla., to take advantage of the research and commercialization opportunities provided in Innovation Park. … Ignition Park in South Bend, a technology development business center, is expanding by 23 acres. The expansion involves the acquisition of property by the city of South Bend, which is spending $2.2 million in acquisition and relocation costs.

Transportation
The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District has announced it wants to raise fares on The South Shore commuter railroad by 5 percent. The increase would go into effect Feb. 15, but before that can happen, a series of five public meetings will be scheduled to get public input. … South Bend Regional Airport has received a $750,000 grant to create a low-cost westbound air service. The grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation is to be matched with $475,000 in airport, state and local funds. The money will be used to work with Frontier to connect its Denver hub with South Bend. … Allegiant Air will begin twice weekly passenger service on Feb. 15 between Gary/Chicago International Airport and Sanford Orlando Airport in Florida. The flights will be on Thursday and Sunday and is the first passenger service at Gary since 2007. … The project to add a third lane to the Indiana Toll Road between Gary and Lake Station has been completed. The $250 million project added a third travel lane along 10 miles of the Toll Road.

Utilities
Work is underway on the biggest project in NIPSCO's history – construction of a 499-foot tall concrete chimney. The project, which costs $510 million, is part of an $800 million project aimed at reducing emissions and pollutants at the R.M. Schahfer Generating Station in Wheatfield. After work there is completed in 2013, work will begin on a similar structure at the Michigan City Generating Station. The chimney is packed with scrubbers and other anti-pollution devices to remove particulates and sulfur dioxide.

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