Regional Opportunity Initiatives is proud to announce the 2020 winners of the Indiana Uplands Regional Innovation Awards. The Indiana Uplands Regional Innovation Awards recognize deserving people, organizations, and projects that have made meaningful improvements to education, workforce, economic development, and quality of place within the eleven counties of the Uplands region, namely Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen, and Washington counties.
Now in their third year, these awards highlight the amazing people and groups working to make the Indiana Uplands a terrific place to work, live, learn, and play. This year’s seven award winners were announced at ROI’s 2020 Annual Report to the Region held virtually on Tuesday, October 13. “We were thrilled to receive twenty-six nominations for this year’s seven awards – each nomination representing more evidence that the Indiana Uplands region is a region on the way up,” said ROI President and CEO Tina Peterson.
“This year’s award honorees have shown tremendous resiliency during a challenging year for their organizations and communities,” added Peterson. “In the face of this year’s pandemic, they have all stepped up in innovative ways. They have demonstrated leadership and an unwavering commitment to making a difference in the lives of Uplanders. It is a remarkable honor to recognize these incredible organizations and individuals.”
The 2020 Indiana Uplands Regional Innovation Award Winners include:
• Becky Skillman Regional Leadership Award: Dr. Laura Hammack
• Regional Diversity Award: Boston Scientific
• Regional Collaboration Award: White River Military Coordination Alliance
• Quality of Place Innovation Award: Greene County General Hospital’s School-Based Telehealth Program
• STEM Innovation Award: NSWC Crane STEM Team
• Talent Innovation Award: Lawrence County Workforce Coalition
• Regional Resiliency Award: Project Hope
The Becky Skillman Regional Leadership Award recognizes an individual or organization that has shown uncommon dedication to bringing the Indiana Uplands region together in pursuit of regional success and prosperity.
In her role as the Superintendent of Brown County Schools, Dr. Laura Hammack has been an innovator, a role model, a mentor, and an advocate for all things Indiana Uplands. Regional prosperity comes from a focus on people, policy, and place. Dr. Hammack has proven her dedication to regional leadership by focusing on all three pillars. As one of the first superintendents to sign on to participate in ROI’s Ready Schools transformation initiative four years ago, Hammack embraced the opportunity not just for what it could bring to the students and educators but for what it could mean for her community. She recognized that this effort would address economic development for her community.
Dr. Hammack has become a trusted mentor and advisor to fellow superintendents and educators across the region. Nothing is proprietary with Dr. Hammack or Brown County Schools. She shares freely with her peers and with regional partners. She regularly works with leaders across her county and beyond to advance place-based issues. She is helping optimize infrastructure investments by partnering with high-speed internet providers, works with others to enhance transportation connections, participates in local efforts related to housing, and broadly supports community economic development and prosperity in all ways possible. Dr. Hammack supports the Indiana Uplands with a level of devotion that is inspiring and impactful. She is modeling how to overcome challenges of small communities and school districts by seeking needed resources, reaching beyond boundaries, and never accepting anything less than the best to ensure her students, employees, community, and region steadfastly pursue success.
New in 2020, the Uplands Diversity Award honors individuals or organizations that have implemented innovative strategies for attracting and/or retaining diversity in the regional workforce.
After the initial impact of COVID, Boston Scientific in Spencer experienced a shortage of product builders to manufacture medical devices and recognized they had an opportunity and responsibility to diversify their manufacturing team. Looking for a creative solution, members of the Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Achievement (HOLA) developed an idea to help fellow Latinos in the community find stable employment. HOLA worked together with the Operations, Quality, Engineering, and HR teams and, in two months, was ready to begin recruiting for a Spanish speaking shift to start in the third quarter of 2020.
This new program, now launched, is offering a stable employment option for Latinos who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID 19. The program provides English language instruction to these new employees while opening the door to life-changing opportunities through Boston Scientific’s education assistance program. Boston Scientific is also helping their English speaking employees learn Spanish to create a more inclusive workplace. This program is creating a model that others could replicate across the Indiana Uplands.
The Regional Collaboration Award recognizes two or more organizations that have worked collaboratively to advance prosperity for residents of the Uplands region through education, economic, or quality of place efforts.
The White River Military Coordination Alliance was formed in 2018 to promote positive development and growth in communities within Davies, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, and Sullivan counties that surround Naval Support Activity Crane, and bring awareness to the strategic value of Crane within the Indiana Uplands.
Today, the Alliance boasts twenty-four collaborative partners representing local and regional economic development organizations, government entities, regional planning organizations, state agencies, and local businesses. Over the last year, the Alliance has been involved in many projects that promote economic prosperity, land conservation, and public safety in support of Crane’s activity in our region.
The Alliance coordinated a 911 call transfer and coordination MOU with the Navy and county dispatch centers in the five-county area to improve public safety and facilitate mutual aid. The Alliance also deployed a Conservation Mapping Toolkit to help Uplands landowners identify conservation programs and incentives available to them. This toolkit brought national attention to the Alliance this year for the community outreach and collaboration that is connecting landowners with area land trusts and conservation organizations.
The Quality of Place Innovation Award recognizes projects and meaningful community improvements that enhance the Indiana Uplands as an inventive, industrious, and friendly place to live, work, and play.
Thanks to a grant from the Indiana Rural Health Foundation, Greene County General Hospital partnered with White River Valley Schools to implement Greene County’s first school-based telehealth program in White River Valley Elementary School in 2018. What began as a much-needed school-based telehealth program designed to keep healthcare disruptions from interrupting student learning has grown into a county-wide initiative. Today, the program has expanded to nine schools, including seven in Greene County and two more in Owen County.
The School-Based Telehealth Program has succeeded in reaching students who otherwise might not have received care. The program eliminates the need for parents to leave work and students to miss school. It is a meaningful, inventive quality of place innovation that makes this region a better place to live, work, and play.
The STEM Innovation Award recognizes a program or organization that has made meaningful and novel contributions to STEM education or training in the Indiana Uplands.
The NSWC Crane STEM Team began in 2010, and in the ten years since, its portfolio of STEM offerings has grown to support more than 5,000 students, 100 teachers, and 30 schools annually across the Indiana Uplands. The STEM Team provides curriculum for students in grades 1 to 6 that include 3 to 4 modules per grade, each designed to provide age-appropriate, hands-on activities such as coding, robotics, tinkering, circuit boards, and much more.
Local students participate in direct programming provided by the NSWC Crane STEM Team, including summer STEM Camps and after-school programming at WestGate Academy. The Team also supports science fairs, a STEM club, and VEX and First Robotics competitions for students.
To make this all possible, more than 100 NSWC Crane employees actively participate in sponsored school partnerships; providing outreach to schools in their communities as well as mentoring and teaching in K-12 classrooms. Perhaps most significantly, this STEM program has created a pipeline of NSWC employees who benefited from NSWC Crane’s STEM initiatives at some point during their educational careers. These employees are now serving as STEM mentors and coaches in local schools themselves, helping to build and attract the next generation of STEM employees for NSWC Crane and other regional employers.
The Talent Innovation Award recognizes an entity that has designed and deployed an innovative strategy for improving our regional workforce through training, skill advancement, or talent attraction to the Indiana Uplands.
Created in 2018, the Lawrence County Workforce Coalition began with a mission to increase the number of workers qualified to fill employment positions by adopting an industry-driven approach that aligns workforce needs with education and training offerings. Over the past two years, the Coalition has launched and developed a number of innovative workforce programs combining classroom instruction and hands-on training. Students are developing technical skills in welding, construction trades, and machining at the North Lawrence Career Center. Graduates leave these programs with a certificate and often with a job offer or plans for continuing education.
Students in the Introduction to Local Jobs and Skills class gain knowledge, skills, and the confidence to pursue a path to success. By closing the skills gap, local employers are finding a ready pool of job candidates. Sixteen students have already completed the course, with many finding full-time positions in manufacturing facilities earning $15 to $25 an hour.
Through the Coalition’s justice-involved programs, the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office and local judges are offering time cuts, termination of probation, and even expungements for some participants to incent completion of the Jobs and Skills class and/or the Coalition’s High School Equivalency program. From January to March of this year, one-third of all high school equivalency certificates in Indiana were earned by Lawrence County residents.
In addition to these workforce programs, the Coalition has tripled local internships, helped the Career Center develop a new strategic plan, expanded Manufacturing Day for area students, supported the construction of the STEM Launching Center at the Boys & Girls Club, and more. Thanks to the Lawrence County Workforce Coalition, students young and old are provided with life-changing experiences and a new trajectory forward.
New in 2020, the Uplands Regional Resiliency Award recognizes organizations in the Uplands that have persevered through a crisis, pivoting successfully by adapting to change that was unforeseen and beyond their control. This award honors those who have risen to a challenge and, by doing so, have advanced resilience in their community and the Uplands region.
This summer, Project HOPE saved the day for more than 150 small businesses struggling to sustain their organizations during the pandemic. A collaboration between IU’s Kelly School of Business MSIS program, Ivy Tech, and the Small Business Development Center’s Bloomington regional office, this program was envisioned originally as a vehicle to help students who had lost summer internships and jobs due to COVID 19.
Project Hope’s 120 student workers worked with businesses to create social media pages and websites. They updated websites, provided technical assistance for digital marketing, and helped businesses reach new clients. Working closely with new businesses, students gained exposure to a diverse set of businesses and created a robust professional network for these individuals to advance their careers. Living up to its name, Project Hope provided hope to businesses and to students when they needed it most.