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For HC+M, Breast Cancer Awareness is Year-Round

For the month of October, social media followers of Milestone Construction, US Aggregates and Asphalt Materials, Inc., will notice a difference. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, these members of the Heritage family of companies have gone pink for breast cancer. For the individuals behind the campaign, though, awareness of breast cancer’s impact isn’t confined to just one month.

Heritage Construction + Materials (HC+M) has been raising awareness about breast cancer for years. The aim of the annual campaign is to promote increased screening and early detection—the best ways to mitigate a cancer diagnosis. According to Cancer.net, an estimated 333,490 people are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, including members of the Heritage family. Three Heritage employees who have been affected by breast cancer share their stories:

Katrina LiMandri, Director of Marketing at Asphalt Materials, Inc.

Kat with her mom Maria, aunt Frances Burgos and daughters Emryn and Auri

“My mom is my best friend, the eldest of her sisters, and a pillar that holds up our big Italian family. When the Big C diagnosis came for my mom a few years back, it was really scary for all of us. She was told by a doctor that she wasn’t old enough to get tested, but she knew in her gut that there was something wrong. She advocated for herself and got a second opinion. Luckily, we were able to catch it before it became much worse. After the cancer was removed, we’ve been blessed so far that it hasn’t returned.

“Breast cancer has affected my family pretty heavily. Not only is my mom a survivor, but just last year my aunt found out she had breast cancer and needed a double mastectomy. Because it runs in my family now, they all make sure to go get a mammogram every year and advocate for their health.


“I’m proud to be inspired and influenced by the strong women in my family. I encourage others to get tested regularly. You don’t need to have symptoms, or have it run in your family to get breast cancer.”


Kierstin Janik, Chief Talent Officer at HC+M

Janik (left) with her mom during their travels to Mount Lemmon in Tuscon, AZ

“My mom has been fighting breast cancer for 15-16 months now.  It’s a tough battle physically and mentally – COVID concerns, social restrictions and challenges within the medical field related to COVID have made it even more difficult!

“My mom was diagnosed with cancer in June 2020 after she felt a lump bothering her while doing some work in the yard. She has completed three different chemo treatments (A, C and T chemo rounds) plus surgery and radiation since then. Unfortunately, at what was to be her last appointment in March, she was delivered some gut punching news – she needed more treatments. She’s completed 8 of 14 treatment rounds since then and is hoping to be not only done with treatments by early next year, but to be cancer free!”


“[My mom is] a tough lady and has kept a positive attitude through it all. She’s been my role model my entire life and I am amazed at how she’s handled this challenging situation.”


Kathy Rice, Compliance Specialist, HC+M

“When I found out I had cancer, the oncologist said that five years before my diagnosis, I would have had a 50/50 chance. With the progress the cure made in a matter of a few years, the survival rate was 85%. I fought like mad with a positive attitude and faith in God. The large tumor disappeared during the first 12 weeks of chemo, which was kind of a miracle, so prayers work. I still had smaller tumors and needed the surgery anyway.

Kathy Rice

“I still remember the oncologist surgeon really skipping down the hall after giving me the good news after surgery: nothing spread and I wasn’t in remission, but cancer free. God blessed the doctor with positive news as it has to be hard to deal with cancer patients who may not have the outcome I had. I was an unusual case, they said. I’m now four years cancer free. God still wants me to do more work on Earth.  I figure one reason is to bug and hug my grandsons!

“I’m thankful that Heritage is scheduling the St. Vincent mobile unit for mammograms. It’s convenient for employees—in and out quick. That’s how I found out in 2016. I would have gone anyway at the St. Vincent Breast Center but to have the mobile unit at the Wellness Center just made it so easy. Employees should take advantage when the opportunity is there!”


“I wear the US Aggregates breast cancer t-shirt to fight for the cure given to me. The cure for breast cancer has made leaps and bounds over the years.”


 

What can you do to lower your risk factors?

  • Limit your alcohol use. Try to have fewer than 3-4 drinks each week.
  • Exercise moderately for 3-4 hours each week. Moderate exercise is anything that gets your heart rate up to 50-60% higher than its resting rate.
  • Avoid hormone replacement therapy after menopause.
  • If you are pregnant and able, choose to breastfeed.
  • Regular mammograms help doctors find breast cancer early—sometimes up to three years before it can be felt.

Employees participating in a Heritage health insurance plan can access regular free mammograms, which are key to early detection and treatment of breast cancer. Keep an eye on your inbox for messages from our HR Benefits team on upcoming wellness programs.

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Innovate to Accelerate

How the Heritage Research Group fuels innovation for Techstars Accelerator startups.

The Center, Electrified

Those who tuned in to virtual Demo Day, the culmination of the 2020 Heritage Group Accelerator Powered by TechStars, witnessed the final product of the development, strategy and mentoring that went into the 13-week accelerator. Each of the ten founding teams participating—some of whom hailed from as far as the Netherlands—created a five-minute recorded pitch showcasing their startup’s vision, progress and plans for the future. If you just watched the video, you might have missed the months of creative collaboration that laid the foundation for the pitches.

 

Despite the impact of COVID-19, the accelerator produced an “electric” Demo Day, according to Senior Director of HG Ventures Ginger Rothrock. “The environment in the accelerator when it’s full of founders is incredibly active and upbeat,” added Chemistry Research Manager Meghan McLeod of the 13-week process preceding Demo Day. “There’s so much energy. There’s so much excitement.”

Participating founders quickly discover a hidden gem of The Heritage Group (THG) Accelerator: the Heritage Research Group (HRG). When introducing the accelerator in a May 2021 Crowdcast, Nanci Churchill of Techstars touched on this aspect of the program: “The lab that’s on site at The Heritage Group is a world-class facility that allows startup companies to run experiments in cooperation with the HRG lab team, which is phenomenal.”

 

Staffed by a team of experienced chemists and researchers, THG’s in-house research and development laboratory solves some of the biggest business and customer problems among the Heritage family of companies. Their work is behind several innovations that THG harnesses to build a safer, more enriching and sustainable world.

A Dream Team

The process begins with McLeod, whose non-accelerator months are spent overseeing analytical chemistry research for HRG. McLeod acts as a liaison between HRG and the startups involved in the accelerator. “[When] all the companies come in, I have one-on-one meetings with them, and I identify product characterization, development, and pilot opportunities that we can work on during the program,” she described. After this initial meeting, McLeod assesses the tools at her disposal, including those on-premise at HRG facilities (all of which are accessible to accelerator startups). After identifying an expert in the area in question, McLeod assembles a team of researchers to address the startup’s unique issue.

 

The Work Begins

In the case of Mobile Fluid Recovery (MFR), a startup dedicated to the cleaning and reuse of industrial waste streams, the collaboration with HRG took about a month from start to finish. CEO Justin Edmondson described the root of the challenge in his Demo Day pitch as “unlock[ing] the liquids from the solids in the waste stream.”

 

“The waste stream he had was too high in sulfur for resale,” said McLeod, describing high-iron metal fines with resale potential. “Justin already had that in mind, and when we met, that was something he identified as a particular problem the research group could help with.”

 

To resell the metal fines, MFR had to satisfy requirements for sulfur content by removing that element from the waste stream. HRG’s chemists rose to the challenge, taking a sample of metal fines and performing elemental analysis. “We helped him both quantify and type the sulfur, and then come up with an approach to remove it [from the waste stream],” McLeod said. The process evolved to a point where Edmonson’s team could perform it in their own facilities, opening MFR’s services to valuable new customers and, potentially, a new market.

 

“Industrial waste stream management is about a $60 billion industry. We recycle only about 30% of all waste streams today,” said Rothrock, “but the EPA believes about 75% of the waste streams are recyclable. MFR is unlocking the value of waste streams that are not currently recycled… and now, thanks to our research group, [Edmondson] has a solution that adds value to the company and his customer base.”

 

This waste stream innovation also underscores an essential tenet of THG’s mission: sustainability. By reusing the de-sulfured metal fines rather than disposing of them, MFR contributes to the circular economy by eliminating waste and making the most of available resources.

From the Ground Up

Some Accelerator projects have a much longer scope. Sunthetics, a startup that aims to make the development of new molecules more sustainable, harnessed HRG’s resources and brainpower to develop their pilot product: an electron reactor that enables organic synthesis.

 

“Sunthetics was developing new hardware, and we were the first pilot users of the product. So as you can imagine, there was a lot of trial and error in the lab and collaboration with the founders to get to a functional prototype,” said Rothrock.

 

The reactor, which uses electricity to produce a small-scale chemical, is paired with machine learning software, which predicts the most efficient conditions for reactions. Configuring the reactions was just the beginning.

 

“We had a lot more optimization and work that had to go into understanding the system,” said McLeod, who brought together a large team of researchers to work with Sunthetics. “Myself and one other chemist were working with the hardware to perform the reactions, and then we had another part of the team doing the chemical analysis and method development.”

 

The outcome of the accelerator for Sunthetics was an effective, repeatable framework for testing reactions. “We can run the Sunthetics system and demonstrate improvements in efficiency over multiple tests,” said McLeod. “That was a significant outcome for the Sunthetics team.”

 

A Vision Realized

For accelerator startups, the benefits of working with HRG extend far beyond the doors of The Center. For participating startup Pretred, the accelerator served as the perfect place to brainstorm. Working to mitigate the environmental impact of tire waste, founder Eric Davis envisioned road barriers made of recycled tires. “There’s got to be something we can make out of it,” he said in a Techstars Crowdcast of the tire and plastic waste occupying a local river. “It’s high volume and potentially high value.”

 

“We have members of the HRG team who have previously worked in related industries — tire, rubber, resins, all the different components that he was using — so he found a knowledgeable resource in simply having access to those people, brainstorming ideas, [and] talking about his process,” said McLeod.

 

One such team member is Research Engineer Dennis Justice. “The wide range of product and process assignments we participate in sets us apart from other research groups,” he said. “My knowledge, matured in multiple manufacturing environments, aided Pretred directly in building prototypes and rapid production improvements.”

Dennis Justice with the Pretred team and prototype

Justice aided in identifying materials and processes needed for Davis’s idea to become a reality: six-foot-long, one-ton construction barriers made of over 95% recycled material. With his help on the first manufacturing run, Pretred went from proof of concept to a full-scale product in just two weeks. “Over a short period of time, with limited resources, the Pretred sustainable construction product has gone from an idea on paper to a one-ton reality. The company continues to build on these manufacturing learnings and uses the first set of manufactured products to capture customer interest,” said Rothrock.

 

A year out from the accelerator, Pretred is looking forward to commercial scale manufacturing and product launch as well as addressing alternative waste streams. A seed-round investment of $3 million led by HG Ventures proves Pretred’s potential within the hard tech industry.

 

Justin Edmonds, founder and CEO of MFR, will be deepening his relationship with Heritage Interactive Services. “He’s made strong connections with the business unit and is actively working with them to help solve our customer’s waste problems,” Rothrock said.

 

Currently, the founders of Sunthetics are moving forward with the reaction method pioneered in collaboration with HRG. “That’s actually one of the biggest takeaways: now they have an established method for data analysis to use with targeted customers,” said McLeod.

 

After the Accelerator

Startups leave the Heritage Group Accelerator with 13 weeks’ worth of collaboration, creativity and innovation that translate into an incredible amount of business value. In return, the impact they leave behind is a major motivator for the Heritage family. “I just love that the broader Heritage Group gets exposed to entrepreneurs and their thinking, their energy,” said Rothrock. “It’s electric. It’s awesome.”

 

As the 2021 cohort of startups travels to Indianapolis for their own turn at the accelerator, Rothrock anticipates seeing The Center once again abuzz with the same lively dynamic. McLeod agrees: “There were ten different companies that were in completely different markets, and I got to learn about all of them and be involved in that process,” she said. “Our ability to catapult both their technical and business development is incredibly valuable.”

 

To learn more about the accelerator, visit hgventures.com/hgaccelerator/.

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Trailblazing Babione sisters visit Delphi quarry

For sisters Blair and Brienne Babione, who inspired the Carmel City Council to enforce gender-neutral road signage, summer vacation began with a visit to US Aggregates’ Delphi quarry.

  • Blair and Brienne Babione, sisters from Carmel known for their role in a recent City Council resolution enforcing gender-neutral road signage, were invited by Heritage Construction + Materials to visit US Aggregates’ Delphi quarry.
  • The tour focused on careers in the material sciences, a booming field where women are historically underrepresented.
  • The girls’ father, John Babione, began his own career at Heritage Environmental Services after he graduated from college.

Brienne and Blair pose in front of one of US Aggregates’ wheel loaders.

Over the course of winter 2020, Blair and Brienne Babione noticed “Men Working” signs in their Carmel, Indiana, neighborhood. The girls, who had seen women on road work crews before, questioned the wording on the sign.

“We thought it was unfair to girls because it said, ‘Men Working’, and some girls want to do construction,” said Brienne, 9.

The sisters had reason to challenge the gender-specific language they saw. According to the National Association of Women in Construction, women make up almost 10% of the construction industry. The signs, placed around the City of Carmel by a contractor, were in violation of the 1988 Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which has prohibited “Men Working” signage in favor of more specific pictograms like a flag or human figure. After questioning the signage, Brienne and her sister Blair, 11, researched the history of the sign with the help of their mother, Leslie Babione. They found out that the MUTCD phased out the use of Men Working signs decades ago. The girls then decided to write letters to the Carmel City Council advocating for the signs to be removed. Those letters spurred City Council President Sue Finkam to introduce a resolution enforcing the MUTCD regulations.

Brienne Babione selects fossils as Bill Corbett explains how they are formed.

“’Men Working’ or ‘Men At Work’ signage communicates the false and unacceptable message that women cannot or should not work in the construction trades or other related fields,” the resolution reads.

Thanks to the actions of Blair and Brienne, the resolution was passed. Soon, the story went viral as a source of inspiration during the COVID-19 pandemic, garnering national news coverage from Good Morning America, USA Today and more.

“I wanted to thank them for using their voices,” said Kierstin Janik, Chief Talent Officer of Heritage Construction + Materials.

Janik, a woman working in the construction industry and a fellow Carmel resident, heard about the girls’ story and decided to reach out.

“As a woman in a male-dominated industry, it’s important to me that I encourage young girls to be interested in what we do. They need to see that there are role models paving the way,” said Janik.

John, Brienne, Blair and Leslie examine a vessel used to heat aggregate samples.

On behalf of HC+M, Janik sent a gift basket to the Babione home with construction-themed toys and treats. She made sure to include a note inviting the girls to visit US Aggregates’ Delphi, Indiana, stone quarry over their summer break.

The sisters were on board. Both took an interest in the labeled rocks included in the gift basket, and Blair mentioned her interest in a career in geology. Brienne, a collector of rocks and shells, who had to miss her third-grade field trip to a rock quarry because of the pandemic, was thrilled to make the visit. With clear skies in the forecast, June 4 was the perfect day to visit.

The girls and their parents were met by Bill Corbett, Plant Manager at the Delphi quarry. Corbett modified his typical tour to introduce the girls to aspects of a career in the material sciences. The tour began at the on-site lab, where the Babione family learned how various products were monitored for quality. The girls got to meet Serena Cade, Quality Control Technician for US Aggregates, who was working on drying and testing samples during the tour.

Kierstin Janik and John Babione listen to Plant Manager Bill Corbett in the quarry while Brienne and Blair hunt for rocks.

“Gender has nothing to do with how successful someone may become,” Cade later said. “If you want it, go and get it. Nothing is stopping you.”

Corbett took the family through the quarry, answering questions like “Why are the rocks shiny?” and “How does the front loader run?” Surrounded by machinery, piles of fossils and a shockingly clear blue lake, the Babione sisters learned all about careers in the construction industry.

Exposing more young girls to construction and the material sciences can help drive female participation in those industries. As of 2018, 971,000 women were employed in the construction sector. Contrasted with the number of men in the industry (which is 10 times higher), it’s clear that there’s still a “concrete ceiling” to be shattered. So how can the construction industry address it?

According to Corbett, it’s investing in young talent like Blair and Brienne.

“When kids come to the quarry, we really focus on encouraging them. Kids have a natural curiosity about this stuff that can turn into careers for them when they grow up.”

Blair and Brienne scale a wheel loader.

US Aggregates has partnered with various local organizations to promote awareness of construction careers and passion for material sciences. Groups of students from local schools regularly visit US Aggregates quarries for tours focusing on technical career skills and operations (students from Area 30 recently visited the Cloverdale location). Building a safer, more enriching and sustainable world means having women in the industries that make our world work — and the Babione sisters agree.

“If people don’t speak up, then it won’t change,” Blair said.

Organizations like NAWIC and Women of Asphalt aim to empower women in the construction industry and recruit the next generation of female construction professionals. Members of the Heritage family seek to do the same through educational initiatives like Kids Science Camp, which took place virtually in July 2021.

Janik and Corbett show off one of US Aggregates’ material handlers.

“Our community outreach and youth engagement are really important for showing young girls (and any young person) that our construction and materials industry not only exists, but it’s interesting and could be a viable career for them,” said Janik. “We, as a company and industry, have to embrace the change in talent pool demographics and be diligent about the signals we are sending about inclusion.”

Blair and Brienne’s father, John Babione, is one of the many professionals who began their career as members of the Heritage family; when he graduated from college, Babione started working at Heritage Environmental Services in Indianapolis. His daughters’ interest in the material sciences reminded him of the beginnings of his own career.

“I was inspired by all the very bright people working at HES and the innovative solutions they were working on to help customers responsibly manage industrial waste,” he said. “Working there made me want to obtain an advanced degree, which led me to attend law school.”

John, Leslie, Blair and Brienne Babione pose in front of the lake at the Delphi quarry.

Babione looks back fondly on his time with the Heritage Family from his career in law.

“I was amazed at becoming reconnected to the Heritage Group all these years later through my children,” Babione added. “It shows me that the great company I worked for years ago continues to be a leader in the community.”

What’s next for the Babione sisters? A career in geology could be in store for Blair, whose favorite part of the quarry tour was exploring the machinery used to load and transport aggregates. Her younger sister Brienne aspires to be a veterinarian. But first, the girls look forward to a summer vacation full of dance lessons, 4-H projects and library books on one of their favorite subjects: women’s history and the suffrage movement.

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Trucking that Delivers

Heritage Transport truck driver Beth Manns on what drives her. 

Beth Manns started her workday at 3:30 a.m., but at the end of her 14-hour shift, she still walks into the breakroom with a smile on her face.

From being a rail driver to hauling oil, Manns has 28 years of trucking experience. No job ranks as high on her list as her current role: Truck driver for Heritage Transport. We caught up with Manns after a shift to get a glimpse of life behind the windshield.


“This is absolutely my favorite job ever — not because everything’s perfect, but because we’re trying to make everything perfect, and that’s what I like.”


What does the average day as a truck driver look like?

We’re allowed to run 14 hours in a day, and that’s all your time included from driving 11 hours and then three hours of fluff time. Mine’s usually pretty much on that — a lot of it is windshield time. Some of it is loading, which can be very physical because we load hoses and load product through the hose.

 

What gets you out of bed every morning?

My kids. I love to provide for them and make sure they have everything that I can give them, but I also like to set an example for being someone who shows up for work and is dependable. I want to pass that on to them. I want the next generation to know that matters.

 

How does your job connect to the rest of THG?

I’m part of a team. I’m not the biggest part, but I’m an important part. Everyone has a role to play here. I need dispatch, and I need management to help the dispatch flow easily; they need me to get out there and do my job so that they’re covered too. And my customers — they really depend on me being there, so we all try to work together to make it happen.


Beth’s lingo

  • CDL: commercial driver’s license, for operating large, heavy or hazardous material vehicles
  • Dispatch: behind-the-scenes support, helping truckers
  • Doubles: certification for pulling two trailers
  • Fluff time: time not driving the truck
  • Tanker: used for transporting liquids or gasses
  • Triples: certification for pulling three trailers
  • Windshield time: time driving the truck

What makes you most proud to work for Heritage?

I’m helping clean the environment. We take care of stuff that others want to get rid of. And we’re trying to return to the earth something valuable rather than destroy it. That’s why I love working here. As far as Heritage is concerned, because of where we are in the lineup of products, we’re at the end. We’re last, but we’re first at the same time because we finish well. We do the job right.

 

What is a truck driver stereotype you’d like to challenge?

For one, I shower every day at least twice (laughs), and another is that some of us are educated. I think that a lot of people get the impression that you become a truck driver because you didn’t have anything else to do. I went to college, and lot of us do have some education. We’re not all just steering wheel holders. We do a hard job out here, and there’s a lot of high stress. People don’t realize that the equipment we are pulling does not just stop on a dime.


What it takes to get behind the wheel:

  • CDL with vehicle inspection and driving test renewed every 4 years
  • Class A Hazmat endorsement renewed every 4 years
  • Roughly 20-30 safety training hours per year

What’s one value you always embrace inside and outside of your job?

Honesty. I like to be an honest person, and sometimes that means saying ‘no’ to things that I’m not capable of doing. That’s hard for me because I’m really a go-getter. At the end of the day, what we leave behind are footprints that someone else is going to follow, and if we’re way off somewhere, they’re going to be off, too.

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How does safety play a role in your career?

In this job it’s particularly important. We’ve had a lot of training, so it really sticks in your mind that it’s not just to do a good job for the company, but it’s to make sure I can come back tomorrow and take care of my health and my family. If I want to go home, I need to be very prepared—go above and beyond.

 

What would you tell anyone who is considering becoming a truck driver?

Get your training and get every endorsement possible because you never know how it’s going to work for you. I have a school bus license, passenger, triples, doubles, tanker, hazmat, everything. And any training that you can take that will advance you, take it. Don’t just test the water; get in and cover yourself in it.


Could a career like Beth’s be in your future? Check out job openings at Heritage Environmental Services and apply today!