Highlights of business world lead local interest in 2013

Authored by Jim Langham on Dec 30, 2013

Various highlights of the business world are among the stories that captured public interest in 2013. Sometimes it involved expanding business interests while other times, businesses closed or reshaped their interests.
One of the leading closures was the decision of Bearcreek Farms officials to make 2013 their final year in operation.
Carla (Strong) Loy, general manager of Bearcreek farms, had said early in the year that family members had made the difficult decision to phase out the business in 2013 and then close it as a resort beginning with 2014.
Loy said at the time that Bearcreek Farms had always been considered a hobby for her father, Don Strong, for 37 years that the business had been in operation.
“I probably had the biggest say in deciding what’s best for the family,” Loy said. “It is time for a change; there have been lots and lots of things that have been fun that haven’t worked financially. We have to face reality at some point in time.”
On the upbeat side, Schwartz Construction Company of Geneva was selected as the 2013 Berne Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year.
Then chamber director Sheree Barkley cited the company’s excellence in construction projects around Berne, including Swiss Village and the Swiss Clock Tower, were the reason for the award.
The award was formally given at the Chamber’s annual awards banquet which was held at Swiss Village on Jan. 15.
“We had three large projects within a quarter of a mile of each other with Swiss Village, the Mennonite Church and the Clock Tower,” said business owner Mike Schwartz. “I feel so blessed.”
Schwartz said he has enjoyed the opportunity that he often referred to as “Berne’s Main Street.” His construction projects on Main Street have included Swiss Village, Mennonite Church, Clock Tower, Bixler Insurance, Hitzer Warehouse, Boys and Girls Club and Bethel Brethren Church. When local famed restoration expert Amos Schwartz looked over a building as a potential project, he always said that he looked for the good, not the bad in his potential search.
In late winter, the area lost one of its most prominent restoration business contractors with the passing of Amos Schwartz. Schwartz was well-known for his attention to the cider press at Swiss Heritage Village, but had a statewide reputation in restorations, including work for former governor first lady, Judy O’Bannon.
“When I go into a barn or an old building, I always try to look for the good in that building, not the bad,” Schwartz had said. “The bad we can fix but we want the building to be known as ‘good.’”
In March, one of the area’s most prominent non-profit ministries, Compassionate Ministries, relocated from its hidden shop near the Chamber of Commerce Building on East Main Street to a more prominent location on South Jefferson Street.
“I have to admit it, it’s great to be here,” commented Don Sauls, director of Compassionate Ministries at the time. “This is going to be great. People who come to get help will have much more privacy. There won’t be such crowded conditions. They will have more privacy in talking about their needs.”
In April, a rare multi-individual award was given when the Geneva Chamber of Commerce gave an award to the entire Geneva Volunteer Fire Department.
“The Geneva Volunteer Fire Department is always there to serve 24/7 and an avid fixture in this community,” said Geneva Chamber of Commerce director Pam Krause. “This department is always diligent in all of its projects.”
Late in April, when Randy Lehman, executive director for the Limberlost Historic Site, was about to initiate dedication ceremonies for the new Limberlost Visitor Center, an unexpected guest made its presence known at the event.
Lehman was obviously startled as he looked up and said, “and there’s our bald eagle. Perhaps Gene Stratton-Porter is making her present known after all today.”
State officials present from Indianapolis seemed be especially thrilled to see the national bird that is emerging in greater numbers with the development of the wetlands surrounding the Limberlost Historic Site. Much of that work has been done by the hard work of Limberlost Wetland developer Ken Brunswick.
In mid-May, a hard-sought-after vision was fulfilled with the installation new playground equipment at the Lehman Park.
Thanks to hard work by volunteers and professionals, Amanda Patterson, who headed up the drive for new equipment at the Lehman Park, was able to pull away the yellow ribbons that been wrapped around the new playground.
The equipment installation occurred after removal of condemned equipment and a large successful financial campaign to purchase the new equipment.
In early June, at the Adams Central graduation, long-term school superintendent Mike Pettibone made his final remarks as superintendent following announcement earlier in the year of his retirement. The AC school board later hired Dr. Lori Richmond as the new school superintendent.
As the year progressed, the Berne City Council knocked out the implementation of super abatement privileges to attract new businesses and especially expansion by local businesses. Key Fasteners and Smith Brothers of Berne joined FCC in receiving special privileged abatement. Factors such as employment, pay, benefits and company growth contributed to the special abatement.
During Swiss Days, a new event which was introduced to the agenda this year, became immediately popular in its presentation at the Burkhalter Auditorium, due in part of the humor projected by a judging panel made up of Rev. Jerry Flueckiger, Sheree Barkley, Toni Nevil and Toni Brewster. The panel brought major bursts of laughter as they interacted with the audience, explaining their voting points in often humorous candor, following the presentation of each contestant.
Flueckiger especially set the audience off with his dry wit and humor. Following an Elvis impersonation by Jeremy Oswalt, Flueckiger, who is on the pastoral staff at First Mennonite Church, responded, “he reminds me of the worship leader at our church.”
When talented 2012 Miss Adams County, Kaylea Konger, gave a gag performance of dancing and music filled with energy and wit, Flueckiger said, “That was amazing. It reminded me of one of our office secretaries, Renee.” The audience immediately responded with hardy laughter.
At the end of August, honored guests at the dedication of the renovated Peace Monument on the Adams County Courthouse lawn included such government dignitaries as state Senator Travis Holdman and State Reprsentative Matt Lehman.
It was October 30, 1913, when the original monument was unveiled and presented on the southwest side of the Adams County Courthouse. Over the past several months, an aggressive attempt has been made to restore the original monument, including restoration of a fountain, and to construct a wall lauding those veterans who have served the United States since the 1913 construction.
In October, the Monroe Volunteer Fire Department moved into its new facility, which also includes a council chamber and offices for city officials.
In addition to much more room for vehicle and equipment storage, the new facility will also serve as the town’s government hall, complete with offices and storage for local town workers and records.
“With enlarged and more classrooms, we have the capability to host various meetings and seminars,” said Fire Chief Russell Cook. “We have room for speakers and lectures. There are various things going on out there. Since we are in the middle of the county, we could hold some of those meetings now.”
The cost of the new station was $625,000.
In early November, a large crowd gathered at West Missionary Church to celebrate one of the largest church additions in the history of the church.
According to Rev. Keith Rupp, the church’s pastor, the addition fulfills the need of a large and classroom space, a new kitchen, gym/fellowship hall and youth complex.
“It gives us larger classrooms. Classroom space is always at a premium,” said Rupp. “The kitchen is a complete state of the art facility that we can use for various fellowships and dinners.
“The gym can be used for youth activities, sports, fellowship hall and various other gatherings. A window from the kitchen opens up to the gym, giving it significant fellowship dinner possibilities,” added Rupp.

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