April 13, 11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Morning Breakout Session

Session Description

This breakout session is designed to stimulate a discussion about leveraging entrepreneurial strategies to bring quality-of-life businesses to your downtown. The discussion will include entrepreneurship programs, best practices, and real-world examples in the Indiana Uplands region. Steve Bryant from Ivy Tech’s Gayle & Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship will moderate the panel with leaders from two communities implementing innovative programs that are building Main Street action plans designed to bring foot traffic into their communities. The session will also include discussions about mapping entrepreneurial resources and a high-level overview of how to create an action plan for your community.

Who should attend: Economic development professionals, employers, community development representatives, government representatives, nonprofits, and others

Session Presenters

Kate Schwenk is the Director for Heart of Jasper. She graduated from Jasper High School in 2008 and attended Indiana University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in management with a minor in human resources. Kate began her career as a human resource professional at Jasper Engines and Transmissions. She learned about the new position for Heart of Jasper while serving on the Jasper Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors 2019-2021. Born and raised in Jasper, she was eager to take the position and give back to the community that gave so much to her growing up. Kate is married to her husband, Ben, and they have two daughters, Alana and Annie.  

Nancy Eckerle is a Jasper City Council member and Executive Director of the Jasper Chamber of Commerce.

She is the President of the Jasper Strassenfest, Inc. Board of Directors, and serves as a board member with Redevelop Old Jasper Action Coalition the Dubois County Substance Abuse Council.

Eckerle is also actively involved with the Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center’s Mission Committee, Greater Downtown Jasper Business Association, Freedom Reins Therapeutic Riding School Board, Jasper’s O’Tannenbaum Season, and Patoka 2000 Beautification Projects. 

Eckerle is a 1976 graduate of Jasper High School and earned degrees in Social Work from Vincennes University and Indiana State University. 

Marce King, a lifelong resident of Owen County, is the CEO of the Owen County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development. Marce facilitates collaboration across organizations in her community and region to empower and represent the Owen County business community. She has two children, both of whom are married. Marce also enjoys hiking. Owen County holds a special place in Marce’s heart, and she is thankful for the privilege to serve her Indiana Home.

Blaine Parker is the Director of Entrepreneurship and Small Business Support at Radius Indiana. Blaine has been trained with ISBDC and SBA to be able to provide one-on-one advice and support to Small Businesses. She also assists with initiatives that help communities become more desirable places to live and work for current and potential residents. Previously, Blaine spent three years as the Membership and Communications Director for the Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce, where she collaborated with local officials, business leaders, and members to enhance the community. She also served as Interim President for six months from 2015 to 2016, administering day-to-day operations and managing her personnel staff.

Steve Bryant is the Regional Director for the South Central Small Business Development Center and Executive Director of the Gayle and Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship at Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington.

In his role at the SBDC, Steve is responsible for small business starts and growth in the South Central Indiana region. Steve also oversees the Cook Center for Entrepreneurship, which is Ivy Tech’s only center of excellence in entrepreneurial studies. Steve managed the successful development of the Center and is leading its programs to support students and small business owners in the Ivy Tech-Bloomington region.

Steve previously held positions within government, nonprofits, the life sciences industry, and higher education. Steve served as the Business Development & Marketing Manager for BioConvergence (now Singota Solutions), a small life sciences business in Bloomington, the founding Director of the Bloomington Life Sciences Partnership, Vice President of the Indiana Health Industry Forum, owned a small consulting business, and was an aide to US Senators Richard G. Lugar and Dan Coats. Steve has a BS in political science from Indiana University, a Masters in Business Administration from WGU Indiana, is married, and lives in Bloomington.