The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Annual Report: Business & Industry

March 27, 2012

Bright Automotive may be gone, but not the future

Central Indiana could pool resources to finance startups

There’s no question the demise of Bright Automotive last month represents a blow to Madison County and the hybrid-electric niche it occupies in the automotive industry.

But county economic development officials aren’t willing to let the engineering expertise that existed here with Bright slip away without a fight.

“Bright was a four-year project and they fit well into our technical niche and into our community,” said Charles Staley, president and CEO of the Flagship Enterprise Center.

Madison County, he said, is home to national experts in hybrid power, transmissions and electrical technologies. “I think that’s a sweet spot for Madison County and is something we do very, very well.”

He said meetings have already been scheduled with companies that may be interested in tapping that expertise that exists here and which could potentially be located in the Enterprise Center.

“In this business you kiss a lot of toads before you come to a prince,” Staley said, “but you always miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

One barrier to the creation of small startup manufacturing operations here is a lack of local venture capital, said Pete Bitar, founder and owner of Xtreme Alternative Defense Systems.

Extreme A.D.S. focuses on defense-related nonlethal and counter-IED directed energy systems aimed at providing non-lethal methods for protecting troops and civilians in combat areas.

Bitar added that one key to success is a willingness to take a chance. “We need to foster the risk element of entrepreneurship.”

Too many businesses have to go to the coasts to find venture capital, Bitar said. No local banks would take a risk on his venture “because they didn’t get it.”

Greg Winkler, Anderson’s interim economic development director, agrees with Bitar.

Although he thinks central Indiana has come a long way in the past eight to 10 years, “we really need to foster our connection to capital markets in every way, shape and form,” Winkler said.

One of the reasons Silicon Valley has become the world’s leading high-tech incubator, Winkler believes, is because the entrepreneurs and the investors in their projects all know each other — many even attended the same schools — and that tends to create a high level of trust and comfort, which can mitigate a sense of risk.

And there is no reason why those same kinds of relationships can’t be fostered in central Indiana because “you’ve got some of the most innovative, creative design folks living within 50 miles of Anderson.”

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Annual Report: Business & Industry
  • Meyers Auto-3.jpg Auto dealers seeing increase in sales

    Overall auto sales have been climbing in the U.S., and it’s just as true in Madison County, where many dealerships have seen consumer demand on the increase.

    March 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • 0216 Welder working Ed Martin building12a.jpg Job loss, low incomes lead to population drop

    Though the federal government reports that the nation is on an economic upswing, Madison County continues to struggle with a 10.2 percent unemployment rate.

    March 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • 8 AR exit 10 3.jpg Healthy growth

    Growth along the Interstate 69 corridor has been healthy, at least for two area hospitals.

    March 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • Flagship forms hub of Exit 22

    The Flagship Enterprise Center at Exit 22 was created in 2005. The business incubator has helped more than 100 companies get a start.

    March 27, 2012

  • 7 Jahnae_Casino_1.jpg Hoosier Park VP sees tourism driving economic turnaround

    Jahnae Erpenbach, the vice president and general manager of gaming at Hoosier Park, strongly believes that the city of Anderson and Madison County are near a turning point in the area’s economic fortunes.

    March 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • 0717 news Bank Robbery12.jpg Local banks saw a year of growth

    During 2011, banks saw modest growth, returning to the industry despite a rough year in the media spotlight.

    March 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • 0903 biz Mike Baker1a.jpg Interest in people keeps Baker banking

    Mike Baker, the regional president of North Central and Muncie regions of First Merchants Bank, entered the banking industry in 1983.

    March 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • Bright Automotive Electric Car Bright Automotive may be gone, but not the future

    There’s no question the demise of Bright Automotive represents a blow to Madison County and the hybrid-electric niche it occupies in the automotive industry. But county economic development officials aren’t willing to let the engineering expertise that existed here with Bright slip away without a fight.

    March 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • 0210 news city council 033.jpg Economic Development director on the lookout for businesses

    As the city’s economic development director, Greg Winkler’s job entails seeking companies that are looking to expand or relocate. He tries to make such companies “give Anderson a hard look.”

    March 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • 0119_The Farm Site[1].jpg City wants to bring foreign companies, jobs

    One of last year’s biggest economic development announcements in Anderson was the news that a 72-acre baseball and softball training and competition complex would be built along Interstate 69.

    March 27, 2012 1 Photo

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