News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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February 24, 2014

Business tour: Rep. surveys tech-savvy downtown initiative

Innovators give congressman a peek at local start-ups

TERRE HAUTE — Getting successful businesses to plug into tech-savvy students is just one challenge that Tech Haute has taken on to grow the Terre Haute community.

Eighth District Congressman Larry Bucshon visited the office of Tech Haute and the neighboring Downtown Terre Haute headquarters on Monday to see local innovations he might be able to help at the federal level.

Admitting that he, himself, is not the type of person to birth a risky start-up company, Bucshon said that he knows that Indiana needs people who are willing to present their innovative ideas and do the work to grow new technology and jobs.

An example of new thinking that Bucshon learned about Monday was the Pocket Drone, a flying camera that can be controlled by a person with a GPS-enabled device.

Shelley Klingerman of Downtown Terre Haute explained how the Pocket Drone was introduced to a local audience recently by Indianapolis-based AirDroids. The flying mini camera can be used by sports enthusiasts such as mountain bikers to track their movements from the air and provide a video of an event.

With five institutions of higher learning in the area, Klingerman said, Terre Haute likely has many people with good ideas that need some boost to get start-up companies going. For some innovators, that may be mentoring by an already successful business person who could give advice about financing and promotion and networking. For others, it could be a critique of an idea and a recommendation to partner with other people who are doing something similar, or something that would be a good fit to get the new ideas ready for the marketplace.

Bucshon said having experienced business leaders give advice and financial support to small businesses is a great way to grow local innovation. He used the example of Evansville business Nflow Machine Shop that was started by two teenagers in a garage to service ATV engines. With the financial assistance and mentorship of a local businessman, that machine shop has grown into a business with multiple locations.

“If you’re a community that doesn’t have those kinds of opportunities, you are going to lose talented people,” Bucshon said of technology and innovation brain drain that attracts talented people away from Indiana communities.

Klingerman said that Tech Haute hopes to foster innovation and encourage people to open new businesses, test their products and grow the local technology community.

“Sometimes, those risks are the ones that pay off,” she said.

Tech Haute partner David Hunt said that capturing the energy and innovation of young people and those with innovative ideas before they leave the community is key to revitalizing the Wabash Valley.

“We also want to re-attract people in their 30s who might have moved away to the East Coast or elsewhere, but who want to return to the Midwest to their roots,” Hunt said. “We want to have something to bring them back home, so they can become the mentors for the next innovators.”

Tech Haute wants to be an anchor for an “ecosystem of entrepreneurship,” Hunt said, and to plug in statewide.

Bucshon’s visit to Terre Haute was part of his monthly tour of his congressional district.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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