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Award-Winning Duo

The Emmy Awards honors the best in television, but did you know that The Heritage Group has its own pair of Emmy-award winning filmmakers?

 

Built on a friendship that developed over two decades ago, filmmakers Bill Baker and Matt Mays have witnessed their working partnership grow into an award-winning collaboration. When not writing, directing, producing and editing dynamic video content for the Heritage family of operating companies, the duo creates works of film that receive significant accolades. Recently their film, a 30-minute featurette highlighting the work and importance of The Indianapolis Prize, won in the category of Outstanding Branded Content – Long Form at the 53rd Central Great Lakes Chapter Emmy Awards.

The pair first met in college and have since built not only a strong bond, but a working relationship that thrives on creativity, collaboration and trust. “What we have in place now was not expected, but it is the culmination of a 25-year friendship and working relationship. It’s not an accident that we ended up here together, but it was by no means a predetermined arc,” noted Matt. “But it’s a pretty funny and interesting culmination of thousands and thousands of hours of working together in all corners of the world.”

Prior to joining The Heritage Group, Matt and Bill worked together on several collaborations, including a series for ESPN called SportsCentury. “That project was a Peabody and Emmy-winning series, which turned into a bunch of work for other entities like History Channel and Discovery Channel,” said Matt. What followed was an opportunity for Matt to branch out on his own, which is when he discovered The Indianapolis Prize. “The vision for it was to be like the Nobel Prize for animal conservation.”

Founded in 2006 by the Indianapolis Zoo, The Indianapolis Prize is a conservation initiative that recognizes six individuals from around the world who have dedicated their lives and work to the sustainability of the Earth’s endangered species. Winners receive a cash prize of $250,000 and the five finalists receive $50,000. Armed with a camera and the goal of capturing the stories of these conservationists, Matt and his production team hop around the globe to film in exciting locations. “Matt does the production work of going out into the field and shooting all of the footage of all of those nominees,” said Bill. “We produce a short film for each of those six finalists, which are then used and screened at the semi-annual black-tie gala where they honor the finalists and winner.”

I hope that THG has a great respect for what we can produce, and that they trust us with our work and our vision. When you see that trust in action, it’s an amazing thing. That trust engenders us to want to put our best effort forward. To be able to continue working with Bill has made all of the difference in slowly building our own little production department, and it’s all exciting.” – Matt Mays

For the team, the accolades are only part of why they choose to work for this cause. “If you get into the subject matter of sustainability and saving species, The Indianapolis Prize is undoubtedly the most important and meaningful project I’ve ever worked on,” remarked Matt.

This 25-year culmination of honing their craft has now landed the pair at The Heritage Group, and their vision for telling dynamic stories is reflected in the work they produce in the many industries of the various operating companies. From training materials to marketing pieces to content displayed throughout the building, Bill works closely with the Marketing and Communications Department as editor for all video production needs of The Heritage Group and its operating companies. Additionally, Bill serves as Multimedia Services Lead, chiefly supporting the audio/visual needs of meetings and events at The Center. Matt produces, writes, and directs video content for THG and its operating companies, while serving in roles related to events throughout the Center. “Thanks to my work with The Indianapolis Prize, I have a perspective of what a lot of natural resources look like in a number of different countries. I know what the issues surrounding environmental struggles are in those places, so I can tell better stories around sustainability,” remarked Matt.

For Bill, the relationship and missions between The Indianapolis Prize and The Heritage Group feels like a natural alignment, especially regarding environmental stewardship and sustainability. For him, the work he and Matt produce is a showcase of how these amazing scientists and conservationists are striving to make the world a better place. He noted, “Written into the purpose of The Heritage Group is the idea of building a safer, more enriching and sustainable world by harnessing the power of family, which aligns perfectly with the work that we have been involved with The Indianapolis Prize.”

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Blazing Her Own Path

Women’s Equality Day is held annually on August 26 to honor the certification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which recognizes women’s right to vote. In celebration, The Heritage Group profiled Liz Larner, General Counsel of Heritage Construction + Materials (HC+M), to examine how women’s equality has played a role in her professional life.

HER STORY

Liz Larner knows exactly where she belongs. Whether she’s negotiating a mergers and acquisitions agreement in a boardroom or touring a jobsite in a truck and boots, Liz Larner feels perfectly in place as General Counsel for HC+M.

In her role, Liz is responsible for assessing risk involved within all the operating companies across HC+M, including US Aggregates, Asphalt Materials, Inc., and Milestone. Her responsibilities also include understanding environmental laws and regulations, managing both Human Resources and safety regulations, certifying compliance, maintaining a diverse, inclusive, and non-discriminatory workplace, and above all, ensuring the safety of our Heritage employees. As Liz explained, “A lot of times people think attorneys review contracts or oversee lawsuits–Law & Order type stuff. My lens is different where I am responsible for thinking through all sorts of risks to the company and risk mitigation. I think through future scenarios where if we don’t proactively respond, there is the likelihood of increased risk.”

To put employees and customers first, Liz works diligently to build and anticipate the needs of those she serves. “People hear the word attorney and think I must somehow be intimidating. The challenges come when I try educating people that I am here to help them,” Liz noted. “My view is you always want to talk to me because I promise to support you. I always say, Do what you do, and I am here to help you do it better.

PAVING HER OWN PATH

Prior to joining The Heritage Group in June 2021, Liz’s professional career had been a self-professed winding journey that included a role in the Indianapolis mayor’s office. “I worked for the Department of Public Works, so I know a thing or two about roads, sidewalks, and potholes,” she quipped. After attending law school with the hopes of breaking out as a civil rights attorney, Liz assessed her mounting student loan debt and opted instead to work for a large legal firm. This is where she developed her expertise in mergers and acquisitions, and while serving in an advisory role with a client, was asked to become their senior legal counsel. “I fell in love with being on the inside of business within an oil and gas operating company. I would close the deal, deliver a new company, determine benefits and payroll, and manage operations. Wanting to be on the inside of the business as a teammate while assisting with the legal aspect all resonated with me.”

This career shift sent Liz on a path in which she often found herself as the only woman operating within male-dominated industries. Liz leaned heavily on her upbringing and ability to connect with everyone. She noted, “My dad worked in construction and has always been a source of good advice.” That guidance includes being well-versed in the language of construction, over-preparing, and meeting people on their turf. “I learned early on that in order to gain trust and respect, I had to take as many face-to-face meetings as possible,” remarked Liz.

These traits have proven to be beneficial, particularly during tenses. “Meetings like that can be a painful process as it can get very contentious,” she said. In one proceeding, Liz recognized that the older male attorney representing the other side would not address her directly. “He only spoke to the man to my side, who is not only 10 years younger than me, but also has less legal experience.” Despite making decisions the entire meeting, the opposing side continued to not acknowledge Liz. “He wouldn’t look me in the eye,” she lamented. At the conclusion of the negotiations, the opposing representative finally recognized Liz, “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in these two days it’s that you are essential to this process.” Feeling accepted, Liz knew her deep knowledge, experience, and her friendly-yet-commanding approach is what earned her the respect.

While she has still experienced setbacks, Liz is thankful for the women before her that blazed trails to allow her to find her place. “I had some people who paved the path ahead of me and now I am interested in helping young women come up through the ranks,” said Liz.

FINDING OPPORTUNITY

Since joining The Heritage family, Liz has found a place that allows her to lean heavily on her expertise while operating in a welcoming, professional environment that celebrates her individual attributes. “One of the reasons I was attracted to The Heritage Group is because the opportunities are limitless and the culture is such that I can use my skill sets in ways that are truly appreciated,” Liz said. She also feels supported and empowered by witnessing strong women in leadership roles at Heritage. “In my past, there have been very few women in leadership roles. While I have typically reported to men, and while I still do, I’ve never been surrounded by as many women leaders as I am now. It’s refreshing,” Liz observed.


“One of the reasons I was attracted to The Heritage Group is because the opportunities are limitless and the culture is such that I can use my skill sets in ways that are truly appreciated,” Liz Larner, General Counsel, HC+M


While ensuring her fellow female colleagues are afforded mutual respect and are aware of avenues to develop their talent, Liz indicates there is still potential for empowerment opportunities in the professional setting. For her, achieving equality within the workforce means that male colleagues, especially those in positions of leadership, need to be challenged and encouraged to advocate for all voices. “I want men in leadership positions to be champions of equality, to be mentors for women,” said Liz. This advice also extends to female colleagues. “There have been times when I’ve questioned whether I should be at the table. I tell younger women to sit at the table. I remind them that they belong there,” she asserted.

For Liz, gaining equality in the workforce means that women need to consult in more advisory roles, sit on more boards, and serve in leadership positions. While she notes that equitability awareness is increasing, she’s persistent in her belief that the road ahead is long. Looking to the future, Liz’s steadfast expectations are as high as her ambitions. “There’s scientific data behind the fact that women in leadership is better for professional relationships, it’s better for cultures, and it’s better for revenue.”

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Giving Back with Give Bags: Supplies for Students

Pictured: Mitch Kovalsky, Project Engineer at Asphalt Materials, Inc., with his Give Bag

Last month, the Heritage family of companies collected supplies for local schools and organizations benefitting students as part of the Give Bag campaign. First launched with a diaper drive in March, this year’s campaign features four opportunities throughout the year for Heritage employees to give back, culminating in a Day of Service in November. Each collection aligns with The Heritage Group’s strategic giving priorities: sustainability, STEM education and families. In May, locations across the country collected items for foster youth, which were donated to dozens of local organizations. As the school year approaches, everything from backpacks to notebooks to art supplies went into Give Bags this July, resulting in a total of 15,763 items. 


“We all need help sometimes, and I’m more than happy to help out in any way that I can. It’s great to work for a company where helping the community is a priority.” — Rebecca Rivers Duncan, business administrator at Asphalt Materials, Inc. (AMI) and a member of the Social Impact Task Force


THE RIGHT PATH

Interns Nate Foy and Fergus Washington-Smith pack some of the 5,116 items from AMI to be donated to the Glick Center.

At Heritage Construction + Materials’ (HC+M) Indianapolis location, donations were delivered to The PATH School (TPS), a free public charter school for grades K-8 that supports students’ social and emotional – as well as academic – growth. Their mission hits close to home for HC+M executive assistant Maly White, who sits on TPS’s board. “My passion is to show the youth that they can make it,” she said. “I’m a product of the LA Unified School District, and the trajectory of there to where I am now is my ‘why.’ People invested their time, energy and knowledge in me along the way, and now it’s my turn to do the same.” 

Maly joined the Heritage family following a 20-year career in social services, where she worked with students and adults with special needs. “Most recently, I worked at the Center for Leadership Development, which had a partnership with The PATH School,” she said. “When I came to Heritage, I wanted to maintain that connection in serving youth. I was approached about being a board member, and I accepted.” Since joining the board, Maly has become immersed in the school’s mission, students and environment. 

The school supply drive is only the latest example of HC+M’s involvement with TPS. Several Heritage co-workers have joined Maly in volunteering with students and donating items, including hats, gloves and scarves last winter. “Here at The Heritage Group, we’re serving people from the heart,” Maly said. “That’s the connection I make with The PATH School: albeit in a different capacity, we’re serving people.” By harnessing the power of the Heritage family, her HC+M office gathered 2,275 school supplies for the students at TPS. 

THG’s commitment to serving local families extends far beyond the first day of school. In September, employees will fill Give Bags with donations for domestic violence shelters and victims of abuse, and in November, employees at THG’s Indianapolis headquarters will partner with the Fay Biccard Glick Neighborhood Center at Cooked Creek for a nationwide Day of Service. For more information on THG’s giving and service efforts, visit https://thgrp.com/community/. 

 

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Building a Safer World

For each of our more than 30 businesses, safety is a top priority. Because we tackle the big problems, we need processes that ensure the safety of our people and our environment. These are just two of the safety stories that happen at our locations every day, one close to home and one across the ocean.

Kallo’s Safety Milestone

from left: Manu, Gretel and Monument CEO Paul Raymond celebrate the milestone on site.

On Thursday, March 17, 2022, Monument Chemical’s Kallo, Belgium, team hit 1000 days without a major safety incident or lost time injury. And with 130 employees and 70 contractors working on site at any given time, the focus on safety has a large net to cast.

“Safety is all about behavior, and repetition is how you change behavior,” Manu Gyselinck, Kallo site manager, explained. “So here at Kallo, the conversation never stops. We’re constantly reiterating the importance of reporting incidents, no matter how small. These ongoing discussions are designed to make people feel more comfortable speaking up. We want our team to understand that when you make something visible to everyone, it can become an opportunity to learn and improve.”

While it’s important that these efforts start from the top, teamwork is the only way they can actually be executed.

“When you’re talking about safety, you’re never alone,” Manu added. “We focus on tiered accountability. As a site manager, I have to push and pull these efforts forward through my own actions. But I always expect everyone on site to keep safety top of mind and motivate one another to share this mindset. Our teams know the impact these efforts have on themselves, their colleagues, and their families, so in this way, they become stakeholders in the process.”

Much of this success is due to the implementation of the “STOP Principle” that encourages putting safety first before production.

“If something is not going in the right direction, we have to stop and evaluate,” Manu shared. “Everyone has the right to raise their hand and stop the process to help keep things on track. In the end, it’s about taking care of the customer, our colleagues and the livelihood of the plant. And with a stronger plant, lower costs will follow.”

“With all the challenges on our plates each day, it’s easy to slip into a reactive mindset,” Adam Pingel, VP of operations, explained. “But that only makes it tougher to get in front of issues. Constantly reevaluating what we’re doing and how we can do it better can help us resolve issues more effectively and efficiently – and hopefully prevent them from ever happening in the first place.”

A week after the team reached the milestone, the site hosted a food truck serving a delicious lunch of hamburgers and french fries to everyone in the main office. It was a small way to show appreciation for the great effort from everyone on the team, and a reminder that safety isn’t just about hard work—when achieved together, it can also be fun.

“When we win in safety, there are great opportunities to celebrate,” Adam added. “And there are opportunities to do that every single day. Our milestone celebrations are great, but our real wins happen every day thanks to every single person on this team.”

Flying the Black Flag at AMI

Hands-on confined space training at AMI’s Eau Claire, Wisconsin, location.

Stop-work authority is a policy that permits any employee to halt a job when they recognize a potentially hazardous or dangerous situation. At AMI, stop-work authority is called the Black Flag Safety Initiative — and it’s vital to maintaining a safe and empowering workplace culture.

If at any time an employee feels uncomfortable about a situation or task, they can stop and call “black flag.” This initiates a timeout that allows others to assess the potential for risk and put together a plan to address it, even if the risk seems small.

“Black flags can be as simple as an employee recognizing they need a different tool for a job or checking with a teammate if they’re getting too hot and need a break,” said Crystal Hudak, Regional Safety Director at AMI. “Many black flags are simply employees working hard, recognizing something isn’t right, and removing or mitigating the hazard as part of their everyday work.”

Crystal on the job in St. Elmo, Illinois.

A recent example of the black flag safety initiative comes from AMI’s Utica, Illinois, location. “An employee noticed that the amount of hot material a driver requested to load would put the total amount very close to the trailer’s maximum gallons,” Crystal said. “If there was an error in loading hot material, the trailer could have overflowed or material could have leaked out of the vent while the trailer was traveling down the road.” Recognizing the risk, the employee called black flag.

Ultimately, the driver and employee agreed to load less material, avoiding the potential for a leak. “This is a fantastic example of an employee noticing a potential safety or environmental issue and taking steps to address the hazard,” Crystal said.

Throwing the black flag – notifying your immediate supervisor of a hazard or concern – is everyone’s responsibility. Each employee is empowered with the same authority to stop work, meaning even AMI’s newest hires have the ability to ensure safety if an issue arises. “All employees are empowered to call a black flag, regardless of how many years they have on the job site,” Crystal said. “All of us can notice a hazard that someone else misses.”

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Supporting Foster Families

Family: The cherished framework of our Heritage culture and one of the big reasons I was drawn to work for this company. Healthy, loving families come in many forms, foster families being one.

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Foster Kids & Families

On any given day in the United States, nearly 424,000 children live in foster families. Foster families open their homes to provide a safe place for kids who’ve experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse, neglect or other dramatic family disruption. Research shows that kids who experience highly stressful, traumatic experiences in their young lives have a higher risk for chronic health problems, mental illness and substance use problems in adolescence and adulthood. Early abuse can also negatively impact educational achievement, job opportunities and earning potential. However, a stable, supportive relationship with an adult can help children do well, even when they have faced significant hardships.

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Supporting Foster Families

May is National Foster Care Month, a cause near and dear to our Heritage family. Several employees serve as foster parents and other advocates, and we have former foster kids — including myself — among us too. To show our support for foster kids and families, our collective Heritage family is conducting a Give Bag collection May 2-20. The focus on foster support also aligns with the work of the J. E. Fehsenfeld Family Foundation (JEFFF) and is squarely in the center of Heritage’s strategic giving pillar which focuses on thriving children.

Lisa Ziemba, President, J.E. Fehsenfeld Family Foundation shared, “I’m excited to see The Heritage Group companies supporting an issue that is so important to the family foundation. For many years, JEFFF has provided regular support to a variety of foster care organizations across the country.”

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Families in the Trenches

Mike Wagley, plant operator at Asphalt Materials Inc.’s Warsaw plant, and his wife, Misty, have served as foster parents for 16 years. The children they’ve taken in through the program have ranged in age from 1 year to 17 years old. “Most kids only come into the home with a bag of clothes to their name,” Mike shared, “and most of the clothes aren’t fit to use.” Mike and Misty help their foster kids find a sense of normalcy by encouraging them to participate in school activities, sports and music. As a foster family, they enjoy going bowling, camping and visiting local racetracks.

Brandon and Rachel Roll’s family

Brandon Roll, leadman at US Aggregates’ Flat Rock quarry, and his wife, Rachel, saw a post on social media about the number of foster children in Indiana and the lack of available homes. In their hearts, they knew they had to do something. For one year, they’ve been foster parents and have welcomed 14-year-old twin girls into their family. When asked what items would be most helpful to collect for foster kids and families, Brandon suggested, “Clothes are always good (our foster children came to us with hardly any), gift cards for the foster kids so that they can purchase things that they want — this also gives them the chance to make decisions in a time when a lot of decisions are made for them — and their favorite candy and snacks.” He added, “Tickets to sports games, amusement parks, the zoo, etc., are a great gift! These fun times empower kids to be kids, something many foster children desperately need!”

Keely and Todd Hillard

Todd Hillard, senior purchasing manager for Asphalt Materials Inc., and his wife, Keely, had a desire to give back and began opening their home to kids in need last year. They currently have two foster kids, ages 2 and 4. Todd described the 2-year-old as quiet, sneaky and silly and the 4-year-old as energetic, caring and wild. Both children enjoy parks and playing. Regarding the May give bag collection for foster kids and families, Todd said, “I’m glad that our organization is supporting those in need. Foster families need support through both material needs and emotional needs.”

My Own Family

My kindergarten photo – You’ll see I got myself ready by cutting my own bangs.

I was a foster kid, too. I was part of the system my entire adolescence, in and out of different children’s homes, institutions and foster care as the cycle of poverty and addiction kept getting ahold of my young single mother. Her rights were eventually terminated when I was 13, and I aged out as a ward of the state with early emancipation at 17 years old. It wasn’t an easy time for me. I felt abandoned, like no one loved me or cared enough to protect me and help me succeed. So, personally, my heart goes out to the kids who are part of the system. It is hard to understand that this time won’t last forever when you are living through it.

The truth is countless people gave to me, from a kind word to a space in their home. Those experiences shaped me into who I am today. With my husband of 31 years, I’ve established a home where our children know the door is always open. I am an exception to the statistics. I had nothing when I was released at age 17. I worked retail to survive. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s while working full time at Riley Children’s Foundation that I put myself through Indiana Wesleyan’s evening adult program to earn a business management degree. Much of what I’ve been able to accomplish for my own family has been a result of hard work and becoming a part of this big Heritage family nearly nine years ago. I am grateful that they bet on me!

My work on the Social Impact Task Force and research into children in need of services recently led me to complete training with the Morgan County CASA program. I now serve as a court-appointed special advocate for abused and neglected children in my county.

Submitted by Patti Gault, Strategic Communications Director, Heritage Construction + Materials; Vice Chair, Social Impact Task Force, The Heritage Group

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Giving Back with Give Bags: Diaper Banks

Pictured: Social Impact Task Force Vice Chair Patti Gault, Strategic Communications Director at Heritage Construction + Materials, purchasing diapers to donate with her granddaughters Norah and Audrey.

THG’s Alex Ray, Director of Business Development, poses with his family at The Center’s diaper collection point.

During the month of March, 25 locations across the nation harnessed the power of the Heritage family to make an impact at a local level. The first of four collections to take place in 2022, our Heritage diaper drive encouraged thousands of employees to contribute to diaper banks in their communities. Altogether, the Heritage family donated 35,532 diapers and 30,473 other supplies, like baby wipes and baby powder, for a combined total of 66,005 items.

The sum is only one side of the collection’s impact. Each participating location chose one or more local organizations to receive their donations, ensuring that the items collected made a difference in our communities across the nation. Last month’s campaign was the Heritage family’s first chance to use their Give Bags, large reusable totes provided to employees to facilitate donations.  

From Ohio…

Candy Faloon of East Liverpool’s United Way poses with HTS’s donations.

Heritage Thermal Services (HTS) in East Liverpool, Ohio, collected 1,060 diapers and 1,435 other supplies, including baby wipes and baby shampoo. Raymond Wayne, HTS’s Public Affairs Specialist and a member of The Heritage Group’s Social Impact Task Force, which organized the nationwide diaper drive, saw an opportunity to serve the surrounding community. 

“When I came to East Liverpool, our team here began engaging with the community even before operations got underway, and those activities remain ongoing,” Raymond said. 

“The Social Impact Task Force is an opportunity to share best practices with others in the company who are committed to serving the communities where Heritage employees live and work. The diaper drive was the task force’s inauguration, and we were not going to miss the opportunity to help make it a success!” 

As HTS employees gathered diapers and supplies in their Give Bags, Raymond connected with Candy Faloon, director of the local United Way, to coordinate a recipient. Candy passed the donations on to Family and Community Services, the local social services agency with the greatest need for diapering essentials. 

…to Texas

David Flowers, Facility Supervisor, poses with donations at Monument Chemical’s Houston collection point.

Over 1,300 miles away, in Houston, Texas, Monument Chemical collected 9,683 diapers and 12,729 diapering supplies for multiple local organizations. Monument Chemical’s Health, Safety, Security and Environment Coordinator Gloria O’Bannon, who also serves on the Social Impact Task Force, organized the area’s Give Bag collection. For Gloria, the campaign was a team effort: “Our site champions did a great job of engaging our employees by establishing a dedicated drop-off point for donations, sending emails, and highlighting the drive on TV monitors out in plant. I also attended safety huddles to explain the Give Bag concept and our goals for the year.” 


“Working for a company that cares about the community where our employees work and live is very important to me.” — Gloria O’Bannon, Monument Chemical


Because of the geographic scope of Monument’s operations, Gloria’s team had to get creative by coordinating the delivery of online donations. “It was fun getting Amazon deliveries and seeing our remote employees participate in the drive,” she said. Monument Chemical’s Houston location ultimately contributed one-third of the total donations from the Heritage family. “In fact, we had so many donations, we were able to support multiple organizations,” Gloria said, “including Arms of Hope and Meade County Community Action.” 

A Year of Giving

In May, the Heritage family will come together again to fill their Give Bags with donations for foster children and youth-serving organizations. By harnessing a network of over 5,000 employees nationwide, the Heritage family hopes to make a similar impact later this spring. Until then, locations continue to get involved in their local communities through educational initiatives, donations, household hazardous waste collections and volunteering.  

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Heritage Accelerator Alumnus Wins Innovation Showcase (Again)

The Heritage Group Accelerator powered by Techstars fuels innovation by giving participating startups face time with mentors from across the Heritage family of companies, access to the Heritage Research Group, and a dedicated accelerator team supporting the entrepreneurs. The latest proof of the program’s value comes from Ateios, which was selected into the inaugural accelerator program in 2019 and received additional funding from HG Ventures. Ateios placed first of 22 startups in the Venture Club of Indiana’s Innovation Showcase, which serves as a state finals event at the NCAA Hall of Champions.

Ateios CEO Rajan Kumar (left) and HG Ventures’ Jonathan Schalliol at the 2021 Innovation Showcase

Ateios aims to enable innovations through ultra-thin, flexible and conformable batteries. Compared to typical coin cell batteries, Ateios’s flexible models are more than five times thinner and deliver up to five times higher energy density. As Ateios brings their product to market, these capabilities promise to help people around the world through improved wearable medical devices.

Their innovative manufacturing process caught the eye of Jonathan Schalliol, Director at HG Ventures, when the company applied to the Accelerator in 2019. “It was clear from the first time meeting Raj [Kumar] that Ateios had great potential and was an ideal fit for our accelerator. Their novel battery technology and a team driven to do whatever what it takes to bring it to market is a winning combination.” The supportive network and partnerships that Ateios’s team built during the Accelerator made the company more competitive. Ateios has since moved from La Jolla, California to Indiana.

Kumar, CEO of Ateios, is not the first Heritage Group Accelerator founder to take home the first-place prize at the Innovation Showcase. In 2020, judges awarded first place to MITO Materials, whose specialty additives are engineered to help manufacturers create lighter and more durable products. Since the Accelerator, founders Haley Marie and Kevin Keith have been named to Forbes’ 2021 30 Under 30 list in the Manufacturing & Industry division.

There’s a good chance that one or more of this year’s Accelerator class will feature in next year’s Innovation Showcase. Until then, the founders will take advantage of the opportunities and connections provided during their 13 weeks at The Center.

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Behind Mentor Madness

Pictured: HG Ventures Senior Associate Nida Ansari consults with the Simplifyber team.

As The Heritage Group Accelerator powered by Techstars reaches its midpoint, its 2021 cohort of entrepreneurs have spent over 50 hours connecting with more than 70 mentors from both the Heritage family of companies and the Indianapolis business community. Known as Mentor Madness, these three weeks serve as an opportunity for participating startups to make important connections, practice their pitches and engage in valuable discussions about business strategy.

Startup founders meet at The Center.

Utilizing expertise from 30+ operating companies, mentors from The Heritage Group (THG) provide key insights into their markets and industries. Not only does the 13-week accelerator add value to the entrepreneurs, but mentors are exposed to innovative and disruptive technologies that could revolutionize existing processes.

Any businessperson understands that success does not happen alone. For the founders in the cohort, mentors are a vital resource who also benefit from their participation in the program. Linda Osborn, Director of Analytical Research at Heritage Research Group, states that as a mentor, “not only does this (program) allow me to pay it forward as my great mentors did for me, but it is invigorating to be around these entrepreneurs. The founders sometimes develop innovative ways to meet challenges that we face on a global scale.”

THG and program mentors share in the excitement and take pride in seeing the entrepreneurs adapt to challenges and overcome hurdles. Nida Ansari, Senior Associate at HG Ventures, states that “many of these entrepreneurs have had significant personal challenges before getting here, and we get to know what drives them. THG gives them access to labs, resources and minds that these folks will leverage to change their business in leaps and bounds.” The mentors, many with an entrepreneurial background themselves, share personal experiences that founders can relate to and then apply to their own strategies.

Founders attend Techstars’ Concept to Commerce event.

Basil Merriman, Director of Strategy on THG’s Strategy + Mergers & Acquisitions team, says, “My favorite part of being a Techstars mentor is being around the entrepreneurial energy of the founders.  It’s inspiring to see someone create something from nothing, and you can really feel the passion and vitality when working with the teams.” This same energy carries over into THG, as conversations and experiences with the Techstars cohort encourage critical thinking and spark innovation within the Heritage family of companies. “The mindset that comes with partnering with a company like Techstars forces us to think differently and gives us fresh perspective to further differentiate from the competition,” says Chris Ames, Senior Strategic Manager at Heritage Interactive Services.

Anthony Rogers, VP of Technology and Growth for Retriev (formerly Heritage Battery Recycling), says, “I think THG brings a wealth of commercial, business, and technical experience to the table. THG is able to make connections in ways most venture firms aren’t able to, and I think that adds a lot of value to the Techstars companies.” Participating founders utilize these resources leading up to and beyond the program’s culmination, Demo Day, where each startup pitches at The Center to local investors and THG representatives. While Demo Day is the last step of the Accelerator, it’s only one of the first steps in the mission HG Ventures shares with its Accelerator companies: building the future, together.

With every day bringing new chances for innovation, mentors take pride in working with founders to turn big challenges into even bigger opportunities.

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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.