Celebrating Entrepreneurism

Ken and Shirley Montgomery

Start with Hoosier roots, add a little Southern experience and blend it all with Anderson/Madison County relationships and you have the success story that is Ken and Shirley Montgomery, founders of krM Architecture.

Both from Indianapolis, Ken saw a time of service in the Korean War, married Shirley in December 1954 and attended school at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University.)

After graduating in 1958 Ken worked in Montgomery Alabama for a year.    The Montgomerys now of Montgomery found themselves living and working in the hotbed of the civil rights movement.  Says Shirley, “we lived in Montgomery, Alabama right after Rosa Parks and during Dr. King.  Our office was right next to the church he preached at.  We actually were there for history as it happened.”

Returning to Indianapolis in 1959 and then to Anderson in 1960. the Montgomery clan was rapidly expanding.  Ken refers to it as “a time somewhere between sanity and stupidity.” Ken worked for Arthur Henning until 1978 when he and Shirley started K.R. Montgomery & Associates as an architecture and Interior Design Firm.

The new firm, now known as krM, opened with a design for Reardon Auditorium, the County Jail, and a remodel for the Madison County Courthouse.  After working from their home for a short time, the company relocated to the Union Building finding themselves neighbors of John Pistole.  Through an agreement with Jay Ricker, krM moved to its current location on the second floor of the Historic Post Office Building at 1020 Jackson Street in Anderson.

Shirley opted to stay at home for 24 years with a growing brood of nine children.  Later she attended Anderson University receiving her Bachelor’s Degree, and then received a Master of Education with an emphasis in the History of Art and Architecture through Ball State in 2001.  She later added a Master of Architecture degree from Ball State in 2008, and authored a book on sustainability in 2012.  Shirley and her grandson, Kevin actually graduated from Ball State at the same time.

The early years of krM found the company specializing in a combination of Anderson Projects and Public Libraries.  After designing the retooling of the old Sears building into the new public library, Ken got an offer to work on the Greenwood library which son, Michael, actually took over.  From that point, krM has designed a high percentage of the public libraries in Indiana.

At one time the firm had 26 people working overtime.  The economic downturn of 2008 caused a reduction in workforce but the company survived with design work for Hospitals, Public School systems, and Anderson University. Current Madison County Projects include the new Flagship Purdue Polytechnic building, Community Hospital Pavilion and the Itopolina project. Outside of Madison County some current projects include, a restoration of the American Legion Building on The Indiana War Memorial Mall, A student Center Renovation at Earlham, Renovations at Hamilton Heights Schools, A new branch Library for Indianapolis and a restoration of the Eagles Theater in Wabash.

Today, krM Architecture continues its strong family tradition with sons Michael, David and grandson Kevin, deeply involved in the firm.  But it extends further.  Says Shirley, “we can come in to the office now and see the familiar faces of Winifrid, Stuart, Susan, Steve, Matt and Elaine and many others who have all been so important to our ongoing success.  So, it is like a family.

The younger people in this firm have progressed to the point that they will tackle anything.  We were blessed to have the projects we did, but they tackle things we wouldn’t have dreamed of trying at that age.  They are forward looking and branching into other communities.  They are so very good at the use of Technology to do amazing things.”

Among their peers, the professional recognition for krM is starting to pile up. This year krM was awarded the AIA Indiana “Distinguished Firm of The Year” and in 2014 krM was given more design awards than any other firm by the AIA Indianapolis Chapter.

When asked about their most satisfying moment in business, Shirley quickly responds, “When we drove by Anderson University and saw the Chandelier at Reardon Auditorium lit for the first time.”

For Ken and Shirley Montgomery, Anderson and Madison County suits them just fine.  According to Shirley, “A lot of our business associates became friends and remain friends.  We’re very grateful that AU is here.  The culture in our community is special because of the close relationship with the University.”

Ken adds, “When GM was here they hired the best there was.  A lot of capable people came to work here are still good friends.”

Breaking News: A Paradigm Shift

Breaking News: A Paradigm Shift


Tech firm moving HQ from Silicon Valley to Carmel - IBJ June 13, 2016

Indy lands another big-time digital marketing headquarters - Indy Star August 3, 2015

Indianapolis named one of 'America's most underrated cities for Millennials' – WTHR July 27, 2015

Indianapolis: The Midwest's Silicon Valley - OMMA Magazine July 12, 2011

Direct flights from Indianapolis (IND) to San Jose - Silicon Valley (QSF) $368.20 Roundtrip- Orbitz November 9, 2016 (68 flights leaving November 23, 2016)

It looks like the writings on the wall.

So, what exactly do these headlines mean to Madison County? I suppose nothing if you don’t think Madison County has anything to gain from all this growth.

Or perhaps you are thinking that Madison County could just ride the coat tails of our southern communities and hope the inertia eventually creeps past our boarders. Yes, but the term “Slower than molasses in January” comes to mind. After all, how long have those communities been growing and flourishing?

What if I told you that Madison County could really really capitalize on what has been happening in the Indy area? Think of it. Progress and growth has been knocking on our front door since before property values jumped in Fishers, Carmel, and Noblesville. Maybe it is time for Madison County to wake up and smell the coffee brewing at the downtown Anderson Coffee Shop. Oh, wait, we don’t have a coffee shop downtown.

Madison County needs a huge paradigm shift in the way they do business. It is starting to happen and I’ll explain that in a little bit.

Could Madison County take the initiative and look for opportunities to take advantage of Indy’s growth right now? Yes, but that would take planning, work and a huge change in perception, values and commitment to make it happen.

Here is what I mean. Take a look at the third headline. The one that mentions Millennials. Millennials are the generation after Gen Y, Gen X, and Baby Boomer. Millennials are the ones entering the workforce now and they are not your average employee or entrepreneur. Jack Schultz, author, CEO of Agracel Inc. and founder of the Boomtown Institute defines a Millennial as, “those generally born between 1980 and 2000, dwarfs the GenXers in size. These young people are going to be the most entrepreneurial in the history of the United States. I’m finding incredible examples of what these young people are already doing. Communities need to be retaining and recruiting the Millennials.

Let’s focus on that last sentence. “Communities need to be retaining and recruiting the Millennials.”

That’s the key. That is the paradigm shift.

And, Madison County has the best opportunity to grow and provide a home for new Millennials but more importantly, keep the ones we have. In fact, the Madison County Chamber has taken the first steps in the process. They have rebranded the Young Professionals into HYPE 48. HYPE48 is an acronym for Helping Young Professionals Engage in 48. 48 is the county number assigned to Madison by the state.

HYPE48 is spearheaded by Alex Byers, Digital Marketing Specialist at Element 212, and Shane Bivens, Serial Entrepreneur and Founder of Vesuvius Co-Working. Together they have a vision of HYPE48 rocketing beyond the typical Young Professional group normally associated with the Chamber of Commerce. Byers and Bivens are creating an environment built around the ideas of building community, collaboration, sustainability, openness, and accessibility.

Byers and Bivens are typical examples of Millennials. Here is how they describe Millennials:

Millennials like to be engaged in their community, they want to see their own back yard grow and prosper. Madison County needs to recognize their passion for the neighborhoods in which they reside. By doing this, a place can be created where young professionals want to move to and create a community where they can grow, both personally and professionally. This also helps to keep the ones that are already here.

Guess what? Millennials civically engage with political and cause-based initiatives and believe these activities can make an impact. In other words, Millennials believe they can make a difference and make an impact where they live.

Jack Schultz describes the Millennial entrepreneur:

“Non-PMS Entrepreneurs and Leaders – The traditional “Pale, Male and Stale” entrepreneurs and leaders are being supplanted by females, minorities, immigrants and others. This trend will explode with the Millennial generation, the most entrepreneurial and tolerant generation in the history of the United States. Communities need to appreciate and use the full potential of every citizen.”

Hype48 is going to play a huge role in channeling this passion by connecting their individual optimism and entrepreneurial spirit into one vibrant group. Through this organic growth, businesses will start and grow as the members discover how they can fulfill the needs and wants of their community and find everything they want in their own back yard.

Don’t bring your business cards to a HYPE48 meeting.

Young professionals do not want to be bothered with the typical meet and greet networking. HYPE48 members are more in tune with what they have in common with each other outside of the work place. When they meet they are more apt to compare notes on wine tasting then the work flow and capacity of their business. Oh, don’t think it is all fun and games. This relationship building is more likely to build stronger work relationships. Members are more apt to do business with someone they know, like and trust.

Bivens has seen first-hand how other communities develop into thriving places by attracting and keeping Millennials. Coupled with the potential of what Madison County has to offer and the passion Millennials have, he sees amazing opportunities for growth and new businesses.  Businesses like that coffee shop in downtown Anderson that I mentioned earlier, along with brewpubs, bakeries, boutiques, and a slew of new sustainable businesses will start because that it what it takes to keep a Millennial around.

Early Childhood Care In Madison County


This is the first of a new series of articles from the Madison County Chamber.  The purpose is to bring to you brief perspectives on a range of issues outside the central functions of the Chamber, primarily larger social issues tied to the vital role of the business community as corporate citizen.

This first PRIMEIME installment asks you to consider  the issue of Early Childhood Education in Madison County and the vital need for fund development, policy development, and program support from business and all sectors of our community. According to a 2010 U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, “To keep America competitive and strong, the business community must be actively engaged on issues related to our nation’s educational system as a means to ensure an educated citizenry of self-sufficient, lifelong learners who have the skills needed to thrive in the global workplace, today and in the future.”

The U.S. Chamber report goes on to underscore the importance of early childhood education and the need for children’s access to high quality programs that include a strong family engagement component, academic preparation, strong accountability measures,  and high quality standards.  With these factors in mind, then, how are we doing in Madison County?  Well, meet ALICE.

ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) focuses on social and financial issues related to  households above the federal poverty guidelines ($23,000 annual income for a family of four), but less than what is needed to meet basic needs. For this group of working families, for example, rainy day savings are impossible because they spend every penny on survival.  Few have liquid assets of any type. As of 2014 in Madison County, 21% of our 52,650 households were ALICE.  Another 16% were living at or below federal poverty guidelines.  Statewide, fewer than 4% of four-year olds are enrolled in state-funded pre-K programs, and thousand of these children are on lottery system waiting lists.  These few statistics do not bode well for the future of our state, or for Madison County.

And so, what can the business community do to help?

First, there is an opportunity to provide financial help to local public or private quality pre-K programs.  Second, the United Way of Madison County is an ardent supporter of the maintenance and expansion of such programs, but scarcely has the resources to fully meet the demand. The national Chamber recommends that business use its influence and voice at the policy level.  The lottery system that has thousands of pre-K children waiting in line, for example, needs to be fixed.  Although Hoosiers generally support quality pre-K programs for all children, our state legislators need to hear from the business community on the issue.  Obviously, this is not meant to discourage support of specific local programs, or to our great United Way.  Rather, it is intended to help Madison County and our state meet the demand at the massive level at which the demand presents itself.

The investment in our children is an investment in our future, and it’s personal, too.  After all, as someone once said, a high-spirited tri-cyclist is a terrible thing to waste.

Primus Mootry

Primus Mootry is a weekly columnist for The Anderson Herald Bulletin and chairman of the board of  The Anderson Impact Center.

A New Alexandria Rises














The Mercantile: New look, new name

“A lot of millennials don’t believe rural America is a good fit for them. They couldn’t be more wrong,” said  Warren Brown, Director of Economic Development in Alexandria, Indiana. There is excitement in his voice because of two forward-moving projects which will literally change the landscape of that city.

New life is being breathed into a vacant three-story downtown building which formerly housed Cox Supermarket for more than seven decades.  Milestone Ventures Inc., a development firm headquartered in Indianapolis, will begin interior demolition of the building in early November with plans to locate 20 apartments on the second and third floors. The new housing is expected to be completed within a year.

This multi-faceted project, dubbed The Mercantile, includes plans for a much-needed grocery in the building’s ground level. While there is not yet a signed contract, Brown said serious negotiations are underway with more than one grocer. He anticipates a November 2017 opening for the public.  It will fill a gap in food services that are needed to support the population of the community. Currently the Harvest Market is the only grocer in town to serve Alexandria’s population of just under 5,100.

In addition to the planned renovations to the building, three duplexes are already under construction in the back corner of the parking lot and are slated to open during the first half of 2017.

Similar projects for neighborhood stabilization have taken place in large cities such as Chicago or NYC, but The Mercantile project is unique for a city the size of Alexandria.  “From the research that we’ve done, I don’t believe another project like this has been done in a rural community in the United States ... providing affordable housing, plus the grocery which  addresses a food desert.  It is one of only two projects funded through Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority in 2016,” said Brown.



Another major addition to the city’s economic opportunity -- in the form of a huge financial boost-- was announced on October 6 when the Madison County Council of Governments approved the use of $91,500 to drill test wells and do a comprehensive water study at the Alexandria North Business Park.  Funding comes from food and beverage tax revenues.

Brown said the site is very attractive for business development because extensive work has already been done through a successful coalition of all the key players.  The business park is shovel-ready, utilities are in place,  and AT&T has certified the site as fiber optic-ready. The water study is another logical step in preparing for future industry.

“Multiple companies have looked at the business park for development. A couple are big water users. Test wells and water samples will help us make sure we are ready and have the ability to provide processed water, raw water, whatever is needed,” Brown explained.

“All of the companies we’ve talked to would produce significant job growth. It could possibly be one of the biggest opportunities in the state, let alone north Madison County.  It will have great regional impact.”

Brown said he is excited about so many good things happening in the community.  “We’re doing everything we can and doing it well.  We strive to be innovative, affordable, friendly and safe.  We want to support and grow together to make Madison County the best place to live regardless of who you are.”

2016 Indiana Health and Wellness Summit Report

By Chuck Gillespie, executive director, Wellness Council of Indiana

“Wellness works! If not, it’s your programming that is failing you!” – Dr. Dee Edington

If you missed the 2016 Indiana Health and Wellness Summit, you missed 37 AchieveWELL organizations recognized, two counties designated as Indiana Healthy Communities, outstanding breakout sessions, extraordinary exhibitors and three keynote addresses. Each helped attendees walk away thinking differently with powerful tools to act accordingly.

When the dust settled, there were four items I took away from the summit that I believe must be addressed for Indiana to be an even better place to live, work, learn and play!

1. “Indiana does not have a jobs problem; we have a people problem” is a quote directly from our first keynote speaker, Michael Hicks, distinguished professor of economics at Ball State University. Hicks unveiled the Healthy Wealth Wise Index, which provides data that shows a direct correlation between the health outcomes of Hoosier citizens with their education and lifetime earning power. Creating jobs is one thing, but having people healthy and happy enough to come to work every day to perform is a critical success factor, and the health and well-being of Indiana’s citizens are diminishing these opportunities.

2. The tools and resources are available to workplaces across the state to design, develop and manage a workplace wellness initiative, but there is a lack of focus and understanding about what needs to occur strategically. We have organizations that are considered some of the best in the nation regarding workplace wellness, but too many have not tied their wellness planning into their strategic plan. You cannot simply hire an outside vendor to “do wellness.”

3. Employees who are internally tasked with managing their wellness initiative are still too focused on implementing programs rather than assessing their strategy and developing systematic processes to deliver the right programs that will positively impact their chosen metric. Choose metrics that are controllable (hint: There are many costs of health care that are out of your control), impactful and simple to measure. Then choose programs that will help you reach those goals.

4. Your community matters. The biggest influencers on your employees are friends and family. Understand the impact the community has on your workforce. Understand that your next employee will likely be hired from within a 50-mile radius of the job site. Know that the health of your community directly impacts the health and well-being of your employees. Know that the community is equally as important as your employees in the determination of your health care cost increases.

These ideas are not new, but we have to adopt a higher level of thinking to change Indiana’s current health status. What are you doing to change the health status of employees? “Know Your Numbers” campaigns tell employees where they are and where they should be. Does your wellness initiative provide them a blueprint for how to get there? Are you offering employees the right tools?

Look at wellness as a business strategy for making your organization a best place to work – a place where people want to bring their talents. This requires focus on purpose-driven workplaces, corporate social responsibility and engagement by people.

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