The Importance of Renewable Energy Taking Hold in New Construction

Trends in new construction point to the increased use of solar of panels, allowing buildings to be self-powered. The term is “net-zero-energy” construction. When the team from FURRION approached Majority Builders to design their new Office and Innovation Center in Elkhart, Indiana, they specified that Photovoltaic Solar Panels fill the roof space and as a result, Furrion’s new building is energy self-sufficient. Solar panels are silent, require little maintenance and have become more efficient with the costs significantly decreasing in recent years. The panels were installed by Jefferson Electric

Solar power generation in the U.S. has quintupled over the last five years. The U.S. Energy Information Agency projects solar to grow by another 13 percent in 2018. With this year’s new tax bill, renewable energy will still receive tax credits for solar, wind and geothermal.

Photovoltaic Solar Panels are the leading renewable energy technology for buildings. The future is at hand.

To understand how PV Panels work, check out this video on YouTube:  https://youtu.be/f8_NdUb8sjc

FURRION Office & Innovation Center | Not your fathers’ office.

FURRION Corporation wanted to build a new corporate headquarters in Elkhart that would reflect the vision, innovation and market impact of their products. They chose Majority Builders to design and build their exciting, futuristic complex.

Elkhart County is known for its RV products creativity. FURRION is a newcomer as an RV electronics and appliance supplier. Their products have pushed the envelope of design and integration. They came to Majority Builders with a vision – our Design-Build team made their dream a reality.  At night the view for the I-80 Toll Road is riveting with exterior accent lighting highlighting the modern angled window architecture.

Entering through the front doors, you’ll find an expansive and impressive display area that is highlighted by a central hanging ceiling panel with accent light bands and a grand staircase to the second floor. The offices are floor to ceiling glass, looking over the product display below.

The exterior is a concrete sheet panel skin with angled windows that are unlike anything in the county. On the roof, there is an array of solar cell panels covering the entire surface.

What’s more, there is a helipad and fountain to round out this high-tech office and innovation center campus located at 52567 Independence Court, Elkhart East Corporate Park, Elkhart, IN 46514.

The Excel Center

After all of these years of the United States, and specifically our region, focusing on educational results and graduation rates, the high school drop-out epidemic is still a major issue. Currently Indiana has a 15% drop-out rate with Michigan at 17%, Ohio 18% and Illinois at 17%.  Many adults, after many years of adulthood, still find themselves without what many of us take for granted… a high school diploma.  For many adults, there is no age limit, who have not achieved the basic high school graduation, getting an after high school college degree, seem unattainable.  This past year, Goodwill Industries, helped to be the main catalyst of starting a school for adults called the Excel Center, located in South Bend, in a creative and strategic reuse if an old Bendix Building.  The 6-9 month program helps to address those roughly 36,000 adults/ dropouts across our region from South Bend, Elkhart, Warsaw, and Goshen that do not possess a high school diploma.  South Bend alone has 11% of its populations that does not have a high school diploma.  So, how appropriate that a research and development building once designed to house Bendix/ Honeywell engineers, is now accommodating adults seeking additional education that leads to a high school degree.  For many of these adults, this is step one, in what one hopes may lead to additional college attainment.

 
The building was transformed into an education center set up to work with approximately 300 students and to offer a full day’s school with courses of all types to assist adults with getting achieving an actual diploma, not just a GED.  The center is equipped with licensed and certified teachers across all core subjects, state-of-the art classrooms, a workout area, a cafeteria and day care facilities for those who require child care.  So what is different about this center versus other initiatives going on in our region?  The curriculum is designed to promote the “3 R’s” - Relationships, Rigor and Relevance.  There are also mentors, life skill coaches, as well as college and career advisors to help guide these students every step of the way on their journey to achieve what they have been chasing for many years.

 
Every year nearly 1 million high school students drop out of high school.  So, what happens to these students if they do not complete high school?  On average, a student who attains a high school diploma will earn $300,000 more over a lifetime than those who do not and individuals who have a college diploma earns over $1 million in wages than a high school dropout.  So, what is the goal of the Excel Center?  It really is more than a high school diploma; it is about setting up those who had no hope, to suddenly see themselves with a very bright future.  The once vacant and abandoned Bendix research and development center, has been transformed into a beacon of hope, creativity, and entrepreneurship.  The New Excel Center school building is back in business, as a transformational development center of sorts, changing the community in more ways than any engineer ever dreamed possible.  

 

 

Designing Healthy Communities

Recently our community entertained the visit of, and was honored to welcome, Dr. Richard Jackson a nation-wide renowned educator, speaker, and author on the subject of designing and building healthy communities.  Dr. Jackson has done extensive work in the areas of designing healthy architectural buildings, safe and healthy communities, and working with our youth to better understand the environment, health risks and setting up communities that keep us in good health.  Dr. Jackson also served this country as the National Director of the CDC (Center for Disease Control).


While the state of Indiana was recently named “third best state in the country in best places to do business in”, sadly, it ranks 41st in the country in overall health and wellness.  Within the same survey Michigan ranked 36th, Ohio 40, and Illinois 32.  Clearly, Indiana and its neighbors are challenged to design cities, towns and communities that promote good health and wellness.  Dr. Jackson indicated that model cities with ideal designs and layouts of healthy cities, have solid urban city plans with walkable streets, bike lanes, sustainable buildings, local food source, and suitable spaces within cities that have parks and land for people to exercise. It is even more incumbent upon the private and public sector to work more closely together to help develop our communities in a healthier context.

 
On WNIT’s Economic Outlook, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg indicated it starts with the downtowns, and developing walkable communities that promote exercise and recreation. Mayor Pete has been an active advocate for smarter two way streets, more city parks, healthier food options offered through local food producers and cities that hold each other accountable with their diets and exercise regimen.  Mayor Pete stated the Saint Joseph River, and specifically river development could continue to play a major role in addressing much of what is discussed above.  Some of the major trends and a healthy community strategy must include the newly designed and soon to be worked on, two way streets, walkable communities, urban living environments that encourage walking, battery operated micro cars and healthy sustainable local growing food options.  Smart energy building designs are more prominent, specifically re-use of older buildings either vacant, run-down or simply in need of refurbishment with new, updated efficiencies is a growing trend that we are seeing especially in rust belt regions like ours. 


Older manufacturing cities transforming into newer revitalized healthier communities is not only very possible, but also very essential.  The focus should be on developing healthier communities, which leads to lower insurance rates, less lost time employment, happier living, and a city that leads to attracting younger individuals, retaining our current up and coming workforce.  A healthier region leads to a place people WANT to live, not just HAVE to live.

 

Business Retention and Expansion

All across economic development circles, Chamber executives and Economic Development executives focus on the strategies of Business Retention and Expansion and Business Recruitment. While MANY economic development executives believe that doing both is a necessary objective of any successful economic development plan, ALL agree that a very essential part of any growth strategy has to include, first and foremost, a plan to take care of existing businesses already in the region. It is widely argued that any successful sales driven organization realizes that it is easier to grow and retain an existing client/customer, than it is to go out and take one from another entity.


It has been approximated that 11% of a region’s growth consists of new businesses recruited to an area; 9% of the growth comes from brand new start-ups within a community; finally 80% of a region’s growth comes from existing business already in the area. Also reported is that 70% of a region’s job growth comes from the businesses already on the ground. Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) has been seen to be so successful that many cities throughout the U.S. have made retention and expansion an only and exclusive strategy. Littleton, Colorado has a retention program that has become the model and staple by which many communities have tailored their initiatives. Littleton has fully believed that their infrastructure has grown immensely by solely focusing on those that are already located there, and they believe that if their local businesses are successful, thriving entities, there are no better sales people for the region than their existing companies. Saint Joseph County Chamber President, Jeff Rea, has maintained that there is a 1 in every 1,000 chance on attraction relocation leads whereby a region has an opportunity to attract a big new business to their region. But, there is a 1 to 1 chance that you can help an existing business grow and develop in your own community.


The debate remains, where should an Economic Development organization spend their time, efforts or resources; attracting a new business with a 1 in 1,000 chance or an existing business with a 1 to 1 ratio and chance of helping that business to grow and expand?  The ratios and R.O.I. (return on investment) seem like a simple formula; limited time, limited resources, limited funds, should equal, “I’m taking care of what I have in front of me and already on the ground in my city.”  Business Retention and Expansion is less “Sexy”, less publicized, but it is the most essential part of growth. It is nearly impossible to effectively attract a new business to an area, if you are not properly working with existing businesses. BRE really is the offensive lineman you never hear of, or their name is never called, they are out there every play getting the job done, but you don’t ever see their name in the news the next day. They pave the way for the running back or quarterback to get the stats. And the press… your greatest sales people to attract new business opportunities to your area, should be businesses that you already have in your town. If a community makes it easy to do business in, then it is easier to recruit new opportunities.

 
Thus is also the role of a developer and of a local construction company. Local builders need to be engaged in a community ready to design, build, develop, and construct for the growth happening and going on in a community. While it is essential for construction companies to stand ready, be prepared and to play a role in helping to attract new opportunities and business to a community, their strength remains to be a major factor in helping to build and grow those businesses doing local expansion projects. Local expansion does account for at 80% of a region’s growth, then there is a crucial and vital role of a local contractor. That local trusted advisor and contractor is a very vital part of a community’s growth and prosperity. It is another tool that helps an area become “business friendly.”  The ability to identify, work with, and partner with, a local construction company is a critical piece to every region’s growth. We, after all, are all in this together, and when one grows and expands, we all prosper.  

 

Igniting a City

When Henry, Clem, John, Peter, and Jacob Studebaker started their Studebaker Corporation in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, here in South Bend, would they ever have envisioned a technology park being built in the very area that produced wagons and eventually automobiles? Why not? They were, in every sense of the word entrepreneurs, pioneers, and dynamic industrious business leaders of their time. What we have seen is exactly just that; what has transpired is a technology park, called Ignition Park, that will help transform, energize, and ignite this community in the very area, very spot, and very way that the Studebaker's impacted South Bend, over 100 years ago.


Catalyst One and Catalyst Two are two spec(ulative) buildings, were designed by and being built by Majority Builders and will sit on the same piece of land where the last Studebaker buildings that were last standing. This is joint, private/ public partnership with Great Lakes Capital and the City of South Bend. These buildings will be a major part of a business/ technology park that will also feature a state-of-the-art General Electric Turbine testing facility (also being constructed by Majority Builders) that is a joint partnership with the University of Notre Dame and the city of South Bend.  These new building are the epitome of progress, technology, hope and transformation. Both of the spec. buildings will be completely occupied and feature businesses that inspire change, hip and cool technology.  The buildings are slated to be completed in the spring of 2016 and will help shape the city of South Bend, into a city that is inviting to a new form of technology. 


As we drive by Ignition Park, heading south of town in South Bend, we can visualize the transformation right in front of our eyes. Cities all across the country, and specifically the rust belt, have looked for new ways to help re-create themselves into a technology based economy. Older manufacturing based cities have re-invented themselves by re-using older buildings or older pieces of land that once occupied what is now defunct or obsolete manufacturing, and changing them into new technology spaces that help re-define a city. Catalyst One and Two are another example of helping a community to transform itself to a “COOL” city. Certainly one even the Studebaker Brothers could have appreciated.