Conexus Indiana Exec Weighs-In on Distribution and Manufacturing Surge

Inside Indiana Business

Indiana is seeing a surge in companies adding distribution centers and manufacturing facilities, including tens of millions in investment and hundreds of jobs. Conexus Indiana exec Dave Holt weighs-in on what it means for the state.




More than 70 Students to Compete in First Logistics Case Competition

Winning team to take home $5,000 cash prize

Indianapolis, Ind. – As the “Crossroads of America,” Indiana is a global logistics leader thanks to its central location and excellent business environment. Logistics career opportunities, which pay a median salary of $74,000, are only expected to increase as the business of moving products from manufacturing floor to store shelf is projected to double by 2035. The logistics sector employs approximately 300,000 Hoosiers and an estimated 75,000 more are employed in logistics positions by the state’s manufacturers.

To increase awareness of logistics career opportunities and build the pipeline of students seeking logistics careers, Conexus Indiana is sponsoring the Conexus Indiana Logistics Case Competition. This first-time event challenges teams from 18 Indiana colleges to develop the best solution to a logistics-related issue.

Students will join Indiana’s leading logistics business executives in Indianapolis from October 12 through October 14, 2016. Students will travel to Indianapolis for a kick-off event with an executive networking dinner. They will be presented the case that same evening.

The following day, Indianapolis law firm Frost Brown Todd LLC will host students for a daytime workshop. An evening reception will follow at the Indianapolis Zoo and be centered around students discussing potential careers and future job roles with business representatives. The event will culminate with case presentations at Rolls-Royce to the judges and the awarding of cash prizes, which range from $5,000 (1st place), $2,000 (2nd place) and $1,000 (3rd place).

“For three days, these teams will enjoy unparalleled networking access to many of the state’s highest ranking logistics executives – C-suite decision-makers representing a wealth of knowledge and experience – all while working as teams to develop the winning response to a real-world logistics business case,” said Nick Hoagland, COO/CPO of Backhaul Direct, vice chair of the Conexus Indiana Logistics Council and chair for the council’s Workforce Development Task Force.

“The challenge will be intense, replicating the kinds of issues today’s industry leaders face regularly in high-tech logistics environments,” added Mark DeFabis, CEO of Integrated Distribution Services and chairman of the Conexus Indiana Logistics Council. “While winners will be announced and awards presented to the top teams, students also will benefit from the experience and unprecedented access to a brain trust of logistics leaders.”

Conexus Indiana has worked closely with Indiana’s universities to encourage the best and brightest students pursue the skills and education to succeed in the logistics industry. In addition to the Conexus Indiana Logistics Case Competition, Conexus Indiana sponsors multiple opportunities for students to meet with logistics executives on campus and at Hoosier logistics company sites.

Case Competition Schedule of Events:

Wednesday, October 12

4 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. / Student arrival at Crowne Plaza Hotel

7 p.m. – 9 p.m. / Introduction dinner at Prime 47 and case distribution

Thursday, October 13

7:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. / Organized breakfast at Crowne Plaza Hotel

8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. / Conference room at Frost Brown Todd available for student work

12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. / Organized lunch at Frost Brown Todd

6 p.m. – 9 p.m. / Organized dinner, recruiting & networking event at Indianapolis Zoo

Friday, October 14

7 a.m. – 8 a.m./ Organized breakfast at Crowne Plaza Hotel

8 a.m. – noon / Final presentations begin at Rolls-Royce

Noon – 2 p.m. / Awards presentation and lunch

2 p.m. – 3 p.m./ Students depart for home

Competing Schools:

Ancilla College

Ball State University

Butler University

Franklin College

Indiana State University

Indiana University (Kelley)

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)

Ivy Tech Community College (Indianapolis)

Ivy Tech Community College (Lafayette/Fort Wayne)

Manchester College

Marian University

Purdue University (Krannert)

Purdue University (Polytechnic)

University of Southern Indiana

University of Evansville

University of Indianapolis

Vincennes University

Valparaiso University


About Conexus Indiana:

Conexus Indiana is the state’s advanced manufacturing and logistics initiative, dedicated to making Indiana a global leader. Conexus is focused on strategic priorities like workforce development, creating new industry partnerships and promoting Indiana’s advantages in manufacturing and logistics. Learn more at

Southwest Regional Logistics Council Unveils First-ever Plan to Strengthen Southwest Indiana’s Logistics Industry

Plan calls for significant infrastructure improvements, outlines talent development and public policy priorities

(Evansville, Ind., June 16, 2015) The Conexus Indiana Southwest Regional Logistics Council (SWRLC) today released its regional logistics strategic plan that details long-term infrastructure, public policy and talent development priorities to grow the logistics industry and the economy in the 18-county region.*

SWRLC, created by Conexus Indiana at the end of 2012, brought together 38 logistics executives and thought leaders from Southwest Indiana into a partnership with regional economic groups and chambers of commerce to develop strategies, goals and tactics to maximize short- and long-term success for the logistics sector in the region.

“We titled this document A Plan for Growing Southwest Indiana’s Logistics Sector because  the region has significant opportunities to continue to grow the logistics industry and leverage its location as the ‘Crossroads of America,’” said Barry Cox, president and COO of The Cox Group and chair of the SWRLC. “By focusing on our strengths and continuing to identify needs, Southwest Indiana can ensure more efficient freight movement, more high-paying logistics jobs for Hoosiers, and increase the number of logistics businesses choosing to do business or expand in our region.”

In developing A Plan for Growing Southwest Indiana’s Logistics Sector, council members identified 80 infrastructure projects, as well as public policy and workforce development opportunities.

The plan identifies road, rail, air and waterborne infrastructure projects at the regional and local levels, prioritizes those projects and outlines costs. Among the priority projects are the Olmsted Lock reconstruction, I-69 Completion and I-69 Ohio River Bridge, the Midwest Corridor connecting Jasper/Huntingburg to I-69, the Newport intermodal facility, and I-70 Third Lane/Dedicated Truck Lanes. The infrastructure projects, once implemented, will decrease transportation bottlenecks, increase direct rail service to Indiana ports, increase use of regional air facilities for freight, and improve mode-to-mode connectivity (road to rail, air and water, and rail to water).

“This is the first time we’ve had a detailed asset map of the region’s logistics resources, and a plan to expand and improve those assets with targeted and increased funding, public policy, workforce development and productive public/private partnerships,” said Greg Wathen, president of the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana. Ed Hafer, president of the Evansville Regional Business Committee Inc., said, “This roadmap is invaluable to our business community, as well as our residents who will benefit from improved mobility and job opportunities.”

Identifying infrastructure priorities, though, is just one step in keeping Indiana at the forefront of the global supply chain. The plan also addresses the importance of ensuring federal, state and local governments do not regulate barriers to the safe, efficient and innovative movement of goods and resources through the region and, equally important, ensure adequate funding to support those infrastructure priorities.

The plan calls for improved educational opportunities to meet the next generation of business needs for skilled workers in the regional logistics industry, and increase the job prospects and upward mobility of those workers. Responding to the shortages of air cargo pilots, truck drivers, barge captains and deck hands, maintenance technicians, 4-year degree supervisors and supply chain graduates is also recognized as an essential function of workforce development in the region.

“In order to maximize opportunities for area businesses, we must ensure that transportation costs, freight movement efficiency and productivity are the most favorable in the country,” said Southwest Indiana Chamber President & CEO Christy Gillenwater. “Since we are located at the population center for the United States, logistics excellence has enormous strategic importance for maximizing our economic strength.”

The SWRLC is one of six regional councils developed by the Conexus Indiana Logistics Council (CILC) at the request of the Indiana Department of Transportation, Indiana Economic Development Corporation and the Ports of Indiana to identify state, regional and local logistics needs in each area of the state.

“Each of these regional councils enjoys the support, dedication and hard work of volunteer logistics executives, local chambers of commerce, economic development groups and both public and nonprofit organizations that share our overarching concern for the future of Indiana’s position as the ‘Crossroads of America,’” said David Holt, vice president of operations and business development at Conexus Indiana.

A summary of strategies, goals and tactics identified in A Plan for Growing Southwest Indiana’s Logistics Sector is attached, and the entire Plan can be downloaded at

About Conexus Indiana:

Conexus Indiana is the state’s advanced manufacturing and logistics initiative, dedicated to making Indiana a global leader. Conexus Indiana is focused on strategic priorities like workforce development, creating new industry partnerships and promoting Indiana’s advantages in manufacturing and logistics. Learn more at

About the Conexus Indiana Logistics Council:

Conexus Indiana created the Conexus Indiana Logistics Council for executives in the industry to explore short- and long-term issues, opportunities and obstacles to growth in their businesses, and to develop strategies to ensure Indiana remains a logistics leader. The Council and its six regional councils are an unprecedented collaboration of logistics executives and thought leaders from throughout the state representing all sectors of the logistics user community.

*The Indiana counties within the Southwest region are Clay, Crawford, Davies, DuBois, Gibson, Greene, Knox, Lawrence, Martin, Orange, Perry, Pike, Posey, Spencer, Sullivan, Vanderburgh, Vigo and Warrick.2015 SWRLC Strategic Plan Final 6-10-15

Employer Applications to Host Interns Due January 31st

Want to start a high school internship program, but don’t know where to start?  Conexus has taken the guesswork out of hosting high school interns at Indiana manufacturing and logistics companies with the Conexus Interns Program.  And the best part?  We’ll pay for your interns this summer.  For more information and a copy of the application, go to or contact Tracey Everett (, 317-638-2106).  Start training your future workforce this summer-applications are due January 31st!

Attention Small Businesses

The State of Indiana has launched a program to help small businesses capture federal research & development funding. The goal of the program is to help Indiana companies commercialize technologies and create new jobs. As published recently by Inside Indiana Business, Ryan Metzing, Director of Conexus Indiana’s aerospace & defense initiative, offers his perspective on how our state can support small, high-tech companies along the commercialization path.

Indiana Builds on Small Business Grant Program

Indiana Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann announced this past July a partnership between the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, the Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (OSBE), and Elevate Ventures to help small businesses tap into the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

These programs offer non-dilutive funding to small businesses to develop and hopefully commercialize new technologies. Last year alone, the federal government distributed nearly $2 billion of these awards to small businesses in a variety of different industry sectors.

Only 32 Indiana businesses were part of that distribution.

The state’s new program is intended to boost that number.

Through this new partnership, the Indiana Procurement Technical Assistance Center, which operates under OSBE, is offering small businesses free technical assistance with the complicated SBIR and STTR proposal-writing process. This assistance includes help with the identification of research topics that best align with the company’s expertise or technological vision. Additionally, Elevate Ventures is utilizing the 21st Century Research & Technology Fund to supplement proposals (Phase 1 only) with a support letter committing $0.50 of additional funding for every federal dollar awarded, up to $50,000.

More is still needed, though.

In addition to technical and financial assistance, which improve a company’s odds of winning an SBIR or STTR award in the first place, the bigger priority for our state’s economy is to help small businesses commercialize resulting technologies and transform them into sources of long-term revenue. Commercialization, after all, is the goal of this entire program, and it leads to something we all care about: new jobs.

So how do we support small, high-tech companies in a more comprehensive way?

For starters, we need to facilitate more collaboration and connectivity within Indiana’s diverse SBIR/STTR community. We need to connect SBIR and STTR award recipients with large businesses and university programs around the state that can bring a higher level of technical expertise, business acumen, or financial resources to the development process. We need to encourage, and perhaps provide incentives for, research partnerships between these entities, and maybe even incentivize research that is better aligned with existing or projected commercial activities in the state. We also need representatives from Indiana’s SBIR/STTR community to convene regularly, build personal relationships, and exchange ideas that have potential to rise the tide for all involved.

Such a gathering occurred last month.

On Dec. 5, the Indiana Aerospace & Defense Council and Rolls-Royce co-hosted a multi-industry event to support the state’s new program. The event, titled Fueling Innovation and Business Growth through Federal R&D Programs, featured remarks from the Lieutenant Governor, as well as panel discussions with industry, university and federal government representatives. Elevate Ventures and the Indiana Procurement Technical Assistance Center also spoke with attendees about their services.

This event offered a variety of perspectives and best practices to help Hoosier businesses better leverage federal R&D programs. Small businesses (Aerodyn Engineering, Go Electric, IN Space, CreateAbility, Wolf Technical Services, and SkySight Technologies) shared both success stories and lessons learned in their attempts to commercialize federally funded technologies, and they also articulated how the state’s matching funds program helps companies move farther down the commercialization path. Conversely, large businesses (Rolls-Royce, Ultra Electronics, Raytheon, and Exelis) talked about how they are partnering with small businesses across the country to support their own technology development and commercialization efforts, and university panelists (Purdue, IU, Rose Hulman, IUPUI, and IPFW) shared with attendees their respective efforts to help small businesses bring new technologies to market.

As the state’s SBIR/STTR program moves forward, and more small businesses attract federal research and development funding, events like this need to continue. We need to keep a sharp focus on commercialization, and these sorts of gatherings ensure that small businesses in our state have a well-functioning and active network of resources available at their disposal.

Ryan Metzing is Director of the Indiana Aerospace & Defense Council (IADC), a Conexus Indiana initiative to support and grow Indiana’s aerospace and defense sector.

Find the original post here.

Conexus Indiana Launches Industry Driven High School Internship Program

The State of Indiana awarded Conexus Indiana an Innovative Curriculum grant to launch an advanced manufacturing and logistics (AML) high school internship program which is fully compliant with state and federal insurance and labor laws.  This program uses an industry-driven framework that allows for broad-based implementation across Indiana.  Called the “Conexus Interns Program,” the goal of the program is to convert current advanced manufacturing and logistics (AML) students to employees or post-secondary student in the AML field.

Program Highlights:

  • The program provides funding for 80 interns spread across 21 Central and Northeast Central Indiana counties in 2015 (with a statewide expansion expected in the future).
  • Interns must be 16 years or older and must be currently enrolled in, or have recently completed, Hire Technology, a PLTW pre-engineering course, or another Conexus approved course.
  • Internship are full time (40 hours), will last 6 weeks, and take place during the summer. Companies may arrange for an alternate summer schedule as long as total internship hours equal 240.
  • In 2015, Conexus Indiana will provide each participating company with a stipend to cover 100% of intern pay; Conexus will cover 50% of intern compensation in 2016; subsequent years must be funded by the company.  The company is responsible for any other costs associated with hiring an intern.
  • Employers will provide impactful AML-specific experiences to participating students.
  • As a part of the program, each summer’s cohort of students will attend two intern meetings where they will be coached on careers and become a part of an AML youth community.

Interested in hosting interns through this program? Companies are encouraged to apply to host interns now.  Click here to download the application.

Applications should be submitted by January 31st, 2015 to:

Tracey Everett

Fax (317-236-6275)

111 Monument Circle

Suite 1800

Indianapolis, IN 46204

Brownstown program prepares students to enter workforce

A manufacturing and logistics class at Brownstown Central High School helped a 19-year-old land his job.

Levi Hinderlider is a leadership development trainee at Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing Inc. He credits his position to Dan Schwartz’s teaching style and opportunities offered in his classroom.

“I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for him,” Hinderlider said.

The Brownstown resident was hired to join Toyota’s newly developed program, which is designed to prepare employees to assume leadership roles.

He is one of four people hired for the yearlong, full-time, paid position. He will learn how the company is run, how to communicate effectively and the responsibilities of each department.

Ultimately, Hinderlider will be placed as a manufacturing front-line leader at the Columbus-based facility in a specific department.

Steve Pride, senior manager for human resources at Toyota, said the program will prepare trainees for their next role.

“He will gain a wider perspective of the overall business,” Pride said. “He’ll then be more successful in the manufacturing areas as a front-line leader.”

Post-high school plans

As a high school student, he was unsure what he wanted to do following graduation, Hinderlider said.

That was until Schwartz reached out to him.

Schwartz, a 34-year educator, told Hinderlider about the new Hire Technology program he was offering at Brownstown that specializes in manufacturing and logistics. The two-year curriculum offers dual credits and industry credentials.

It was developed by Conexus Indiana, the state’s advanced manufacturing and logistics initiative, and Ivy Tech Community College. Statewide, more than 130 high schools offer the program, serving more than 1,500 students.

Schwartz was trained in how the curriculum is supposed to run. He then was allowed to put his own spin on it.

He chooses to teach through hands-on projects and introduces students to area companies. He partners with Excel, Aisin and Cummins to find out exactly what the students should be learning in order to be successful in those fields.

Contextualized math, science, technology, engineering and applied problem-solving skills are among the concepts key to the program. But what sets Schwartz’s class apart is his approach with each lesson, teaching alongside the students even when it’s on the computer or Web-based. That way, he can be certain students understand.

Schwartz even went as far as setting up interviews for students to find jobs and internships through industry leaders, including Toyota.

That’s where Hinderlider caught the attention of Toyota recruiters and eventually was offered his current position.

‘Potential for leadership’

Pride said Hinderlider had the “basic building blocks” in manufacturing that are needed to transition into Toyota’s trainee program.

“When we met Levi, we immediately saw a skill set Levi had and his potential for leadership and attitude that we could build upon,” Pride said.

Today, Hinderlider said, he often utilizes what Schwartz taught him about terminology, communication and operating skills.

“He really applies things to real-life scenarios,” Hinderlider said. “It’s things that you actually see in manufacturing.”

Schwartz said Hinderlider’s story is exactly what he’s striving for with his classes.

“It’s really great because you know whenever you get a success story, it makes everything we’re doing worthwhile,” Schwartz said.

Just this year, Schwartz received the Conexus Indiana Best Hire Technology Launch award for how he effectively launched his classes.

Toyota’s program

Pride said Toyota’s leadership program accepts recent high school graduates with a technical or mechanical manufacturing background and also college students. Specifically, the company looks for trainees who are from the surrounding area.

“More than 75 percent of Toyota’s workforce is from the three-county area,” Pride said.

Through training, employees will grasp problem-solving skills, project management and most importantly how to work with people. In a leadership role, one must work with an array of people who learn in different ways — all with their own personalities.

“With that background and skill set, they will become more successful in helping other associates,” Pride said.

The trainees also learn what each department’s responsibility is, such as safety, quality assurance and production control.

“They will receive a well-rounded understanding of how the company functions,” Pride said.

He said the program will continue next year.

Find the original story here…

Tribune photo by Aaron Piper / Levi Hinderlider

Tribune photo by Aaron Piper / Levi Hinderlider

Event to Focus on Bringing More Small Business Funding to Indiana

The Indiana Aerospace & Defense Council (IADC), a Conexus Indiana initiative to support and grow Indiana’s aerospace and defense sector, is organizing a multi-industry event to explore topics relevant to the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. The event, titled Fueling Innovation and Business Growth through Federal R&D Programs, will be hosted on Dec. 5, 2014, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Indianapolis offices of Rolls-Royce Corporation, 450 S. Meridian St.

The SBIR and STTR federal programs are the small business community’s largest source of early stage and high-risk R&D funding. The event will offer a variety of perspectives and best practices to bring more of this funding to Indiana, and will feature remarks from Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann and panel discussions with:

  • Small Indiana companies using federal R&D contracts to develop new technologies and fuel business growth;
  • Large Indiana companies leveraging federal research programs and partnering with small businesses to support their own technology development and commercialization efforts;
  • Representatives from in-state universities with programs available to help small businesses and entrepreneurs develop and commercialize new technologies; and
  • University researchers using federal R&D programs to develop technologies and launch new businesses.

The Indiana Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (OSBE) and Elevate Ventures also will speak with attendees about the state’s newest programs to support Hoosier companies in their pursuit of federal research and development awards.

The event is free of charge. Registration is requested, and can be completed online here.