(INDIANAPOLIS) — The Indiana Chamber of Commerce presented its top honors tonight at its 28th Annual Awards Dinner – the state’s largest celebration by the business community. A record crowd of more than 2,000 at the Indiana Convention Center saw the organization recognize some of the state’s very best:
- Business Leader of the Year: Tom Easterday of Subaru Indiana Automotive in Lafayette
- Government Leader of the Year: State Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso)
- Indiana Chamber Foundation’s Indiana Vision 2025 Dynamic Leader of the Year: Scott McCorkle
- Lifeline Data Centers Community of the Year: Goshen
“All of our award winners have displayed a thoughtful vision, tremendous leadership and a drive to be the absolute best at what they do, which has positively impacted their companies, communities and state in a significant way,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.
During the event, Chuck Baldwin – who is managing director of the Ogletree Deakins law firm and based in Indianapolis – was formally elected the Indiana Chamber’s 2018 chair of the board of directors. Additionally, Brinegar was presented a Sagamore of the Wabash by Gov. Eric Holcomb for his “exceptional business leadership”.
The dinner was presented in partnership with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
Details about the four Indiana Chamber award winners:
Business Leader of the Year: Tom Easterday, Subaru of Indiana Automotive), Lafayette
Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA) has been driving economic impact in Lafayette and throughout the state for 28 years. Easterday has helped lead that effort since before the first vehicle came off the assembly line. For the last two decades, he’s been the top American employee. Easterday holds the titles of senior executive vice president, secretary and chief legal officer.
“Tom has really been instrumental in growing and leading SIA to be one of the most highly rated, well respected automotive assembly facilities in the country,” Brinegar notes.
“He is very calm and very thoughtful. I’ve been to that facility several times. And when you walk around with him, you pick up how admired he is, how well respected he is and how well liked he is by the associates there.”
Easterday has cheered milestones such as the five millionth vehicle produced and witnessed the plant grow to employ nearly 6,000. He is also part of guiding every new hire through orientation. He works closely with associates, both in the facility and in the community. And he deflects praise to those producing the vehicles – Outbacks, Legacys, Imprezas and (beginning in 2018) Ascents.
Dan Evans, the recently retired head of Indiana University Health, has known Easterday for 35 years. “He’s been able to deal with very complex cultural issues of managing a Japanese-owned facility in Indiana, and has achieved huge success in so doing,” he says.
“Tom’s leadership extends beyond his mere job. And, in my opinion, that’s a sign of the ultimate leadership, which is wisdom. Tom has wisdom and applies it.”
Easterday has brought open communication policies to SIA and tries to make the plant feel like a small town. Each person wears a Subaru shirt with their first name on it. The Annual Associates Appreciation Day drew 10,000 employees and family members.
Easterday was also instrumental in Purdue establishing a branch campus on-site for manufacturing-related certificates and degrees. Associates who receive a C or better have their tuition paid for by SIA.
Easterday: “As a company, we try to pride ourselves on quality, safety and environmental stewardship. We have a great spirit of teamwork here at SIA, and I think the communications that we do are an important part of that. I have an open office. At any point of time I may have someone come over to my desk. If it’s important to them for that moment, it’s important to me.”
Government Leader of the Year: State Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso)
Soliday enjoyed a celebrated 35-year career in the skies with United Airlines. In his current role representing the constituents of his hometown of Valparaiso, he hit the road by championing long-term transportation infrastructure funding legislation that will benefit all Hoosiers for many years.
Compiling the data and relying on the facts allowed Soliday to bring together a broad coalition. Clear communication, teamwork and perseverance are other factors that contributed to this critical success.
House Enrolled Act 1002, the landmark infrastructure funding bill signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb earlier this year, will allow Indiana to raise $1.2 billion annually for infrastructure costs.
Adequate funding is one of the goals in the Indiana Chamber’s long-term economic development plan, Indiana Vision 2025.
“It took a lot of information gathering, a lot of making the case by seeing what needed to take place between six years ago, which is roughly the time we started on this venture, and now. (Soliday) could look forward and see the need, as did the Chamber,” Brinegar says.
“He was a stalwart in working through the necessary information, building the case and offering forward-thinking legislation that was not without controversy.”
Unlikely allies – municipalities, unions and business advocacy groups, for example – joined forces. People and organizations with competing interests won’t always agree and that’s fine, Soliday says. But it takes working through ideology and accepting compromise at times to get legislation such as House Bill 1002 across the finish line.
Soliday: “It’s a model I learned a long time ago … it’s really simple: Define the problem first. Define the problem, gather information, make a plan, act on a plan. A lot of people make plans and never act. The most important part is critique all along the way. Have I taken my mind off what the real problem is?”
Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas calls Soliday “fearless” and says, “If he thinks something is right, he will fight for it regardless of the obstacles in his way. He was a helicopter fighter pilot in Vietnam and he brings those qualities of grit and dedication and courage with him to everything he does.
“As (former Governor) Mitch Daniels used to say, you shouldn’t run for office to be something, but to do something. (Soliday) doesn’t need to be anything, but he saw the need and the opportunity to strengthen the state and that is what motivated him to take on the (legislator) role.”
Indiana Vision 2025 Dynamic Leaders of the Year: Scott McCorkle
One way of understanding McCorkle’s work approach and career success is by looking at the first and last days of his tenure at ExactTarget/Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
Most people are engaged in a series of welcome meetings on the front end and a round of farewells on their way out the door. Not McCorkle. In 2005, he continued his personal tradition of talking to a customer every single day. In 2016, he concluded that phase of his career – as CEO – by closing a major deal.
“Scott’s tremendous accomplishments with a number of organizations over the past 20-plus years have helped set the stage for today’s technology and innovation successes,” Brinegar states. “His current focus, helping others realize their entrepreneurial dreams, will be a key part of continuing that momentum.”
McCorkle: “There were those along the way who sure helped me in feedback, investments, introductions. There is a feeling then of wanting to help others. It’s also that it’s just fun to do, to see ideas come to life and to be part of the brainstorming or feedback around those ideas.”
Today, his new, multiple roles have him assisting others in realizing their potential.
McCorkle is executive chairman for both Torchlite and Vibenomics, known as Fuzic until its mid-October rebranding. Both have secured additional funding and are aggressively expanding. He is also an executive in residence at High Alpha, which now has a portfolio of nine companies in the business-to-business SaaS (software as a service) world with more to come.
“I thought I would take a longer break. I really hadn’t taken a break like that to sort of disconnect from the day-to-day operational intensity of a fast-growing SaaS business. I could feel my brain changing, healing,” he says with a chuckle, “where there became room for other ideas. And that was fun, to be able to think about categories I hadn’t been thinking about.
“That I hopped back into things now kind of faster than I thought I would is a result of being attracted to a couple of ideas that I thought were really good ideas. I can say that focusing on more than one (company) turns out to require a very different muscle. I’m still getting that up to full strength. It’s hard work, but it’s really fun.”
Community of the Year: Goshen
Atop a desk in Mayor Jeremy Stutsman’s office, a sign bears the message: “When you get there, remember where you came from.”
He hasn’t forgotten. Neither have the many Goshen natives who have chosen to build their lives there or those who have left but later returned.
Diversity is celebrated in a community where nearly one third of the residents are Latino. Downtown revitalization has transformed the heart of the city. Businesses, some dating back to the early 1900s, line the streets. Entrepreneurs, striving to preserve Goshen’s history while shaping its future, also are moving in.
“The economic turnaround in Elkhart County is a tremendous story,” Brinegar offers. “Goshen has set itself apart with dynamic downtown offerings, creating new spaces and events for its residents to enjoy and embracing businesses both old and new.”
Stutzman: “Goshen has come a long way since I was in high school and I wanted to be a part of trying to keep that momentum of quality of life and cooperation going. That’s one of the good things about Goshen – how many partnerships there are. We all still have our moments where we disagree, but it’s a great city for working together.”
The 28th Annual Awards Dinner was presented in partnership with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
The partner sponsor is OneAmerica; opening reception sponsor is AAR; reception sponsor is Hirons Advertising, Public Relations, Digital. Lifeline Data Centers is the Community of the Year sponsor. The Indiana Chamber Foundation sponsored the Indiana Vision 2025 Dynamic Leader of the Year honor. Indiana Vision 2025 is the Indiana Chamber’s long-range economic development plan and the award emphasizes entrepreneurship and others facets of the plan’s Dynamic and Creative Culture driver.
Corporate sponsors are: AT&T; French Lick Resort; Hoosier Park Racing & Casino and Indiana Grand Racing & Casino; NIPSCO; Ogletree Deakins; Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc.; Tilson; Trine University; Wellness Council of Indiana; and Zimmer Biomet.
Contributing sponsors are: AECOM Hunt; Allison Transmission; Community Health Network; Dow AgroSciences; FedEx; Fineline Printing Group; IGT Indiana; Indiana Soybean Alliance/Indiana Corn Marketing Council; Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick; Indiana Wesleyan University Athletics; JPMorgan Chase; KERAMIDA Inc.; Markey’s Rental & Staging; MCM CPAs & Advisors; NHK Seating of America, Inc.; Pacers Sports & Entertainment; Roche Diagnostics Corporation; The Kroger Co.; Vectren; Vera Bradley; WFYI Productions; and WGU Indiana.
The awards dinner followed the Indiana Chamber’s fall board of directors and annual membership meetings. Indiana Chamber Volunteers of the Year Dennis Faulkenberg (APPIAN, Indianapolis), David McKinnis (Purdue University) and Stephanie A. Smithey (Ogletree Deakins, Indianapolis) were announced during a luncheon ceremony.
Recent Indiana Chamber ANNUAL AWARD Winners:
Business Leader of the Year
Sonny Beck, Beck’s Hybrids, Atlanta – 2016
Mike Packnett, Parkview Health, Fort Wayne – 2015
Mike Kubacki, Lake City Bank, Warsaw – 2014
Steve Ferguson, Cook Group, Inc., Bloomington – 2013
Scott Dorsey, ExactTarget, Indianapolis – 2012
Government Leader of the Year
State Rep. Dan Leonard (R-Huntington) – 2016
State Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek) – 2015
Congresswoman Susan Brooks – 2014
Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar – 2013
Sen. Carlin Yoder and Rep. Jerry Torr – 2012
Community of the Year
Fishers – 2016
Carmel – 2015
Bloomington – 2014
Bedford – 2013
Indianapolis – 2012
Indiana Vision 2025 Dynamic Leader of the Year
Matt MacBeth and Don Inmon, pi lab, Fishers – 2016
Dustin Sapp, TinderBox, Indianapolis – 2015
The Indiana Chamber partners with 25,000 members and investors – representing over four million Hoosiers – to achieve the mission of “cultivating a world-class environment which provides economic opportunity and prosperity.”