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Wednesday, March 26 2014

Evansville's Well-Being Index -- Bottom 10 in the USA!

I was going to ignore this Gallup survey, released earlier this week. But then, the Honorable Mayor of Evansville, Lloyd Winnecke, felt the need to repudiate the survey in this YouTube video. In it, he says that an "extremely small percent of those people who responded did so in an unfavorable way." And, Evansville Courier and Press business writer Susan Orr wrote a story where everyone the paper interviewed (one person, talk about small sample sizes) was incredulous. "You've got Evansville lower than friggin' Detroit" the Courier and Press quoted Greg Wathen as saying.

Well, here's the facts, Mayor. The survey sampled 789 people by telephone (both landline and mobile) in the Evansville area. That's a very considerable sample size for the relatively small number of people living in it. As the Mayor says, that's over 300,000 people in the Evansville MSA, but consider that surveys for things like Senate races will sample only 1000 people to project up to the 6 million who live in Indiana.

Evansville is the lowest rated metropolitan area in Indiana, out of 7. Of those, Evansville:

  • Is most obese (28.6%)
  • Has most smokers (29.4%)
  • Has most uninsured residents (18.2%)
  • Exercises third least (48.7%)
  • Eats fruits and veggies at the second lowest rate (55.3%)

The only category where Evansville is in the top half of Hoosier metro areas is "has daily stress", which only 55.8% of Evansvilliagers expressed.

Since Mr. Wathen was curious, let's have a look at Detroit. Detroit reports fewer obese people, fewer smokers, more people who eat well, more people who exercise, more insured people. On five of the six categories, Detroit ranks above the River City.

Think about that, Evansville. Not about how Gallup is some evil organization that wants to destroy Evansville and promote Holland, Michigan. Look within.

P.S.: I'm not trying to imply that Evansville lacks amenities that other cities like Detroit or Indianapolis has, because to me Evansville seems to have most of the important ones. The problem is how people make use of them, or don't.

Wednesday, November 30 2011

RIP James Gilmore Jr.

James Gilmore headshotJames Gilmore Jr. himself was deceased nearly 11 years ago. But his company, Gilmore Enterprises lived on -- until today, when the sale of its final major asset closed.

It seemed to me like this was a good time to look back at a man who had fingers in many industries. By the time he was fifty-one, Gilmore had won a term as mayor of Kalamazoo, MI, purchased a string of car dealerships, operated numerous broadcasting outfits, helped run a family department store, and taken an Indianapolis 500 championship.

Continue reading...

Saturday, November 19 2011

End of NEWS25 Sports Channel

Just minutes ago, Mark McVicar said farewell for the final time on the NEWS 25 Sports Channel. As reported by Jacob Newkirk over the last few weeks, McVicar is among those losing their job shortly as Nexstar takes over operation of WEHT December 1, and today's Mater Dei/Guerin Catholic game was the final scheduled local broadcast before the channel shuts down.

During my time in college, I was able to work with several current and former staffers of the NEWS 25 Sports Channel, from McVicar himself to some of the producers, statisticians and camera operators.

I would take the opportunity to work with any of them again if it arose, and I hope everyone lands a position quickly.

Friday, July 29 2011

A Requiem for Integra Bank

Integra Bank is one of three victims of the FDIC and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency this week.
Integra Bank Headquarters

The Integra Bank headquarters was bustling at dusk this evening as executives, regulators and rank-and-file employees prepared for a long working weekend

Integra was based a short distance from my home, and I held a relatively small amount of stock in the now-failed bank. I don't imagine a whole lot of people care about the fate of their bank, so long as the full faith and credit of the United States Government backs up their deposits. (Which appears to be about 3 more days)

The national news reports about the bank focus on it being the third-largest failure of the year, with assets of $2.2 billion and $1.9 billion in liabilities; the first collapse in Indiana since 2009 and only the second in the whole banking crisis. The national reports indicate how Old National and the FDIC are sharing the losses. But they're lacking the backstory.

When the banking crisis first hit U.S shores, we knew that Integra was in trouble. The bank was losing money before the front fell off the industry. Then Integra took millions of dollars in TARP. $83.5 million, in fact. I saw this number in 2008 and thought that no bank their size could possibly lose that much money, and felt that the company's stock was a relatively safe investment, especially at its price of around $1/share at the time. As time rolled on and Integra began selling banking branches and laying off employees, the investment seemed less and less safe. For about nine months, it has been apparent that a receiver would be appointed after a dismal fiscal 2010 where the company lost more then $9 per share.

From here on out, the future of Integra's 52 remaining bank branches are somewhat unclear. Old National Bank will take over the branches and rename them. It seems certain that some branches will be closed because the two banks most of their geographic footprint. It is too early in the game for Old National to know how they will pick which branches to close and which to save. For example, the combined company will have 23 branches and 71 ATMs with an Evansville address. In some areas, Old National and Integra are a few hundred yards separated; a clear redundancy. I also would expect some branches to be closed in smaller towns like Rockport and Mt. Vernon where both banks had a branch. I suspect Old National will probably keep nearly all of the Illinois and Kentucky branches open, because, although both banks already operate in the state, both have a very limited presence.

By the way, the photo in this entry was taken from the Old National Bank parking garage. You can see another building owned by Old National Bank at the left, in white. One thing that will clearly not get in the way is geography.

Monday, July 4 2011

59 minutes with traffic

Evansville's fireworks display began this evening at 9:01. It concluded at 9:30. Traffic seemed to return to reasonable, non-congested, levels on all downtown streets around 10:30.

In the intervening 59 minutes, I was able to make it to six problem areas, including both ends of the official detour. I have several observations to make, in brief:

  • Drivers are unfamiliar with downtown.
  • Drivers did not plan ahead when selecting parking.
  • Traffic cops and drivers don't speak the same language.

Consider: At minute 33, there were cars lined up for blocks along 2nd Street at Main in both directions. This despite at least eight officers directing traffic at various intersections on 2nd. A large part of the problem appeared to be drivers who were trying to go west on a 1-way, turn, and go east on the next street. The police were not allowing turns at many already-congested intersections, causing some frustration on both sides. Exacerbating the situation were drivers who stopped their cars in the middle of the street either to ask the officer what his signals meant or to argue.

The other two observations I had went hand in hand. Drivers either did not plan their escapes, or did not know what choices to make to do so. Consider how far able-bodied people can walk in 30 minutes. (1 mile seems OK here) It is less than a mile from any point on the river to the new arena, which has access to a number of streets to get out of downtown.

What were the major problem spots I saw? Basically all of 2nd St., Division St. between Mary and Fulton, and First Ave. at John St. were all congested for a long time. Shorter-term bottlenecks took place on all the "tree" streets -- Chestnut, Sycamore, Cherry, and the like as folks tried to align themselves in a direction to get out of town.

WEHT promoted a story on their late news to this idea. I didn't watch their late news because I was doing the reporting for this blog. WEHT's angle was supposedly that this was a test for how events would unfold at the new arena when it opens in a few months. I'm not sure I agree with this premise because the two classes of events are in different locations with different infrastructure in place. However, it does seem to me that, at least until the visitors to downtown become more familiar with the layout of the streets, arena events will take a long time to disperse.

Monday, June 27 2011

Television Branding Suggestion

With WTVW losing its FOX affiliation this week, I humbly submit two branding concepts sure to increase viewership.:

NewsWatch7 Turn to 7

"Turn To 7" could even be supplemented with awesome jingles like this: Turn to 4

Nevermind that the two concepts are both based on the logo of two canceled CBS soap operas.

Tuesday, June 14 2011

Center for Innovation Engineering @UE

The University of Evansville yesterday announced they would create a Center for Innovation Engineering in time for the upcoming school year.

University of Evansville

“The new center will intensify the practical nature of its programs, and this Kern Family Foundation-supported project will give UE engineering students an extra edge to compete in our global environment.”

From UE press release.

This puts Evansville at the crest of what seems to be a trend of entrepreneurial engineers. Related Post: Review of book "The Entrepreneurial Engineer"

I imply that it is a trend because of reports from the mainstream media. CNN published an editorial from one student who received a $100,000 fellowship to leave college and start his own business. Dale J. Stephens was one of twenty such dropout-entrepreneurs who received such seed money.

The Miami Herald reported last month that young entrepreneurs see their own businesses as their best chance to make at least a little bit of money in a portion of the country were unemployment is 13 and a half percent.

Coming back to Evansville, one of the great things about a degree in engineering is that, upon graduation, you have the skill set to be able to create any number of products that people might find useful. The problem for many engineers is that they have no idea how to go about rendering those services to potential clients. I personally see market openings in which I could have attempted to built a business. Many of my fellow graduates will probably begin to move the same way when they don't find a "job" by the end of the summer.

On another note, the fact that the College of Engineering would rather hire their own entrepreneur rather than depend on the School of Business just a hundred yards away says at least a little something. Schools of Business have been foundering in the economic climate for various reasons. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, graduates with degrees in finance, management, and marketing all face below-average job outlooks over the next 1-3 years. Schools of Business nationwide are facing questions on what needs to change in curricula to help their students in a "new economy." At Evansville, that means that classes in entrepreneurship are being dropped from the requirements for some degrees.

It is also important to note the importance of the Kern Foundation. The foundation is based in Wisconsin, run by the family who created Generac corporation. Evansville is one of 18 colleges to receive the grant, including some well-known names in the field (e.g. Illinois Institute of Technology, Villanova, Boston University). I see every reason to think this is another good decision by the CECS.

Monday, May 2 2011

Final Week: Day 2

Second in a series

There are six days until I graduate college and cease formal education. Four years at UE, and there's a lot I want to say. And above all, a lot of people who have been important along the way. The focus is very sharply on people whom I would have been unlikely to meet away from UE.

Brandon Gaudin

For the second day in a row, I salute a person who has left Evansville to work in a larger city. Brandon Gaudin was the manager at WUEV 91.5 for a shade less than two years.

Gaudin is the kind of professional I wish every professional would imitate, always organized and on time.

The reason he gets a note here is because he was the guy who gave me my first shot broadcasting a live sporting event: softball vs. Southern Illinois. It was in this manner that I began to appreciate diamond sports. I mean really appreciate them.

But it was someone else who I really wanted to imitate: one Dan Egierski. The dude has been a part of Evansville sports since the 80s, broadcasting almost every variety of sport in Evansville. Egierski has a very unique style, one I felt was worth immitating. Did I get there? I don't think so, but the experience was priceless.

Gaudin now works for Butler University, and was able to broadcast the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Championship game on 1070 the Fan in Indianapolis. Egierski works at ESPN 106.7.

Just barely got today's entry in under the daily time limit ... will try to do better tomorrow!

Sunday, May 1 2011

Final Week: Day 1

First in a series

There are seven days until I graduate college and cease formal education. Four years at UE, and there's a lot I want to say. And above all, a lot of people who have been important along the way. The focus is very sharply on people whom I would have been unlikely to meet away from UE.

Brian Erickson, Part 1

Two years ago, 104 weeks ago, a hundred or more people, mostly in their 20s, gathered for a the fourth Sunday of Easter at the campus chapel. And the sermon began very similar to the above. Two years ago it was the chaplain, Brian Erickson who was preaching for the last time. His sermon settled in with reminiscing about the men of faith who had influenced him. He said that he wasn't one to remember much detail from the sermons they preached. He remembered the big ideas, studied the Gospels, and eventually ended up with the title "Reverend."

I'm not too interested in all of that, though. The reason Erickson was popular among students didn't have a lot to do with the fact that he knew the Gospels. It was because he was (and probably remains) witty and personable. He was also a musician who liked to provide music during the services. At some point his morning, this song popped into my head, and I eventually realized the bizarre syncrhonicity.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5Gb...

It was slid in at the end of the "farewell" service two years ago.

Erickson and his wife, Mollie, have since moved to Alabaster, Alabama. Their church, Alabaster First United Methodist, has been providing assistance to displaced Alabamans. I hadn't realized until a few minutes ago how close they were to Birmingham.

Monday, December 13 2010

Two Anniversaries

Three years ago, I was a little wrapped up in one event to recognize another important anniversary.

On December 13, 2007, Richard Strauss was getting airplay via a Flash ad at phpBB.com. For it was on December the 13th that phpBB 3 was finally released.

I don't remember exactly how I spent the day, but I know a fair chunk of it was devoted to phpBB-ing. So much so that I ignored the other major event of the day, locally at least. The 30 year anniversary of the worst aviation disaster (link to Bill Merkel's blog) to ever happen locally.

Since that date three years ago, I've come to understand far more deeply the impact which that event had on the local area. Bill's blog post links to an inter view that Mike Blake gave at the 30th anniversary.

Blake:

I come back from covering a game at [Roberts] stadium, and as soon as I come in the back door, ... and my boss, the man who ran the station, a man named Conrad Kagel, looks at me and he says 'the Aces.' And when those words were said, everything changed.

It changed the city of Evansville for decades. Everyone I've spoken to who was living in Evansville at the time remembers the event. There was a service in memoriam to that 30th anniversary at 12 noon on December 13, 2007. I remember walking past the crowd gathered on the Memorial Plaza centered on campus. There were several hundred people present, even though the event being remembered took place so long ago.

Sunday, November 28 2010

An Early Checkup on College Basketball

At the beginning of the season, I was told that Butler and Purdue would combine for more wins than the other D1 men's basketball programs put together. Here's a look at the status after most teams have played five or six games. (Notably, this post comes on the heels of both Butler and Purdue getting upset on Saturday)

Continue reading...

Monday, October 18 2010

Harry Pickens Trio

The Harry Pickens trio performed a concert earlier today. They're a jazz trio from Louisville, consisting of Pickens leading with the piano, Chris Fitzgerald taking the bass, and drums played by Jason Tiemann.

To put it mildly, it was brilliant. They played everything from "Back Home Again in Indiana" (one of my favorites), where Pickens showed his influence from Oscar Peterson, to Sting's hit "Fragile", Norah Jones's "Don't Know Why" and Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man."

There were two fantastic things about this performance:

Improvisation

Nobody had any music in front of them. At first, I thought that meant they had practiced so much that the whole set was memorized. As the concert went on, I realized that there wasn't even a set list. Pickens began each tune by playing through it, and then his triomates began to play with him, and it sounded really great. After the intermission, he said that there were no arrangements used by the band, and that every performance was a little different. That leads me to the other thing:

Joy

Pickens's seven-foot frame was sitting at a Steinway grand piano, grinning like Jerry Lewis in characature. Jerry Lewis MDA TelethonThis grin flashed whenever the drummer or the bassist hit a really tasty series of notes. Not only that, but he was jovial with the crowd, even taking requests at the end. (This was a great idea and had very good response from the attendees.)

If you'd like to experience some of the trio, they do have a couple of CDs available. I've not reviewed the recordings, but the live performance was so good that I probably will do so tomorrow.

Friday, September 17 2010

Mattingly Moves Up

The national media has just lit up with baseball news. Don Mattingly is being named manager of the L.A. Dodgers this evening.

Mattingly is one of the few "celebrities" whom I've so much as been in the same room with, Not that "two degrees of a Donut" makes him a better manager. But it will probably give the Dodgers a legitimate following here in "Baseball no-man's land."

Wednesday, July 28 2010

We Need to Score More Runs

For the first time since early July, there seems to be a good reason to have hopes for the Evansville Otters. Otters

The manager change on July 5th caused some upheaval in the player's ranks (as you expect with any coaching change). My sentiments probably hit a low last week when the Otters were shut out three times in five days.

But the hitting seems to have finally come around again. That's the significant piece that's been missing for the last six to eight weeks. In July, the team has scored an average of 3.6 runs per game while allowing 4.6. This is despite good pitching and fielding. (After being in Evansville for four summers watching at least a few Otters games per season, I find that the Frontier League is oriented more to hitters than pitchers.)

For comparison, River City scored 5.4 runs per game so far in July, and has won a number of games by just one run. They also took a couple of games by scoring 15 runs!

I know this post sounds cliché. "We need to score more runs." But sometimes coaches really do know what their talking about, no matter what Stephen A. Smith might think.

Sunday, July 25 2010

The Plight of The Gas Station Owner

BP's gulf oil problems have shed popular media light on how owning a gas station as a franchisee works.

Someone decides they want to start a gas station. They send requests to major gas brands (Marathon, BP, Shell, etc.) asking if they would accept their station as an affiliate.

The fun begins when stations open, close and change names. I bought gas yesterday at a rural station that had four different names in the recent past. It had been a BP (or perhaps even an Amoco before the buyout!), a Marathon, and an Energy Plus 24 (now CountryMark). Yesterday, though, it was operating without a gasoline brand.

I'm curious what people around town refer to it as. I would bet that most of them still think of it as one of its former brand names, probably the one which it held the longest. People tend to have resistance to changing brands. For example, a station nearby me dropped Shell's brand three years ago, and people still refer to it as Shell. Even people who weren't in the neighborhood when it was a Shell.

This is bad. Shell has a reputation for being high-priced (at least here). BP has a reputation for spilling a few million gallons of oil. Chevron and Phillips 66 have pulled out of Indiana. So a lot of station owners have switched to un-branded or self-branded gasoline or Marathon. According to GasBuddy.com, my city has 90 stations total, and 21 of them bear the Marathon M. The next largest brand is Shell with 7 of the 90. The un-branded and self-branded grouping (which I arbitrarily define as brands with less than 10 stations nationwide and includes grocery brands) has 17.

A simple listing of the major brands locally (italics were included in the "un- or self-branded" list, bold indicates "corporate" ownership):

  • Marathon - 21
  • Shell - 7
  • Buy Low - 6
  • No Brand - 6
  • Thornton's - 6
  • Casey's - 4
  • Huck's - 4
  • Kangaroo - 4
  • MotoMart - 4
  • CountryMark - 3
  • Busler - 3
  • Chuckles - 3

That totals out to 74 of the 90 stations. For the other 16, feel free to look in the master station list at GasBuddy.com.

Friday, July 16 2010

Using YouTube As A Semi-Serious Communication Method

Via the Washington Post "Campus Overload" blog:

YouTube has other purposes besides providing an open forum to submit your resignation or trying to figure out what Dan Rather just said on a Wednesday night in 1986.

You can find video of serious debates on topics from investigations at Ohio State University to the merits of Darwinism.

But there is a third class of video which can be found in the middle of these other two groups: The serious actor in a non-serious role. Just like Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia!, these messages can feel out of place but still do very well. (The Mamma Mia! film grossed $144 million)

Which brings me to my local example. Tom Kazee Searches for his Office

I give this one three stars. Its been posted three weeks, been posted a few times on Twitter and Facebook, been spammed to the entire University which he is touring, gotten a plug on the Washington Post blog (mentioned at the top of this post), and still only received 4100 views. I'm sure Evansville's social media consultant Dana Nelson would say that more could have been done with this particular video to help it get out. But at this point, its probably just in the "old" pile. The premise, writing, and performance are reasonable (if occasionally "out of place"), and the reaction I've seen from others around town is that the video is cute.

If cute was the goal, that's good. But webcasting is not the same as broadcasting or publishing. You really have to think about your audience. According to YouTube statistics, most of the viewers of the video were over the age of 50. And here I was thinking this was targeted at current and prospective students as a gesture of good faith that the school's president is interested in learning about the activities they participate in every day.

If my prediction is right, then the marketing didn't work out quite as planned. Of course I could be the one who perceived the purpose wrongly. But hey, I found it cute.