When East Chicago native Paul Burgess joined hhgregg in 2009 as vice president of home entertainment, he instantly felt closer to home and his region roots.
"My family and I lived in Ohio for 23 years. What was really neat about the job (in Indianapolis) was coming back to Indiana and being a lot closer to family," he said. "My parents, Tom and Laura Burgess, and two of my siblings still live in the region."
Today, he is marking hhgregg's expansion in Northwest Indiana. The electronics and appliances retailer added a location last year in Hobart and is planning a spring opening of a store in Highland, where Burgess lived from ages 9 to 19. He also graduated from Highland High School.
"We chose both locations due to their proximity to what we would call the heart of retail for both areas," he said. "The Hobart location has been a great addition. The employees are terrific, and we love the customer base. I had the opportunity to be at that location when we did our grand opening.
"For me, it is truly like coming home," Burgess said. "In this downturned economy, it is really special to be part of an organization that is growing and not just creating jobs, but careers."
Burgess said the expansion fits with the Indianapolis-based company's philosophy of "slow and well-thought out progression" with the goal to be a nationwide retailer. Currently, hhgregg is in 16 states and has more than 190 locations.
"We are not expanding too fast but at a rate that makes sense. For me, to be a part of it — something growing — is really exciting," he said.
Burgess sees the company's success stemming from customer service and staying on top of shoppers' preferences whether in-store or online.
"We have a large amount of training for sales associates and managers," he said. "It's a huge focus. New employees have 80 hours of training before they sell on the floor and an additional 10 hours on a monthly basis."
Burgess' career in consumer electronics has spanned 25 years since he earned his marketing and advertising degree from Indiana University's Kelley School of Business in Bloomington. He has worked as regional vice president for Panasonic Consumer Electronics and as director of national accounts for LG Electronics/Zenith Electronics.
While he has settled in Indianapolis with wife, Mindy, who is from LaPorte, and children Sam and Abby, he celebrates the influence of his region upbringing and of his parents.
"To me, the region was always a place where everyone worked hard and was family-oriented," he said. "That helped instill in me a great work ethic."