The Times Board of Economists this month will welcome four new members who will contribute insights from their respective industry sectors of agriculture, nonprofits, groceries and retail.
Porter County farmer and business owner Tim Stoner will represent agriculture; Legacy Foundation President Harry Vande Velde III will represent nonprofits; Strack & Van Til Supermarkets Inc. CEO David Wilkinson will represent the grocery sector; and Albert’s Diamond Jewelers President Josh Halpern will represent the retail industry.
The Times Board of Economists is made up of 25 business leaders from across the region, who meet quarterly to report on the state of their respective economic sectors and forecast what might be ahead for Northwest Indiana's economy.
The board had its first meeting in 1998. A comprehensive report of each meeting is published in The Times, as well as encapsulations of each member's presentation. Results of a member survey also are published.
Tim Stoner, 48, will tell the board all about the current state of agriculture in Indiana, having spent most of his life farming, as well as operating related businesses along with his wife.
In addition to farming land in Porter, Lake and Jasper counties, the couple also operate Woody View Farm Firewood. Stoner also is a seed dealer for Beck's Hybrids, selling seed to farmers throughout the region.
Serving on the Times Board of Economists should give him an opportunity to interact with people in a variety of industries that impact our region, Stoner said.
"I know very little about steel production, for example, so it will be interesting hearing from someone in that industry," he said. "I will also enjoy telling them what we do as farmers, because that's not always well understood."
Harry Vande Velde, 55, will contribute his take on the what he characterizes as "the somewhat mysterious world" of nonprofits.
As president of the Legacy Foundation in Lake County, Vande Velde oversees an organization with $42 million in assets that gave out $350,000 in scholarships in the past year alone and distributes grants to community organizations throughout the area.
Vande Velde got his feet wet in fundraising when he was a teacher at St. Ignatius High School, in Cleveland, where he also was on the coaching staff for the nation's No. 1 ranked high-school football team.
"Even today, so much of what I do is coaching and teaching," he said.
David Wilkinson, President and CEO of Strack & Van Til Supermarkets Inc., said he has followed the Board of Economists for years as a Times reader. Now, he'll be there to discuss the grocery sector.
"The value of it is you are hearing about the local economy from a lot of different perspectives; from the perspective of a lot of different business people," he said.
Wilkinson, 57, has been in the grocery business for 37 years, starting out bagging groceries at the Strack & Van Til Hammond store while still a college student. He is a graduate of Purdue University Calumet and earned an MBA degree from Indiana University Northwest.
Josh Halpern, 40 president of Albert's Diamond Jewelers, will be joining the board to give a perspective on the state of retailing in the region and nationally. Halpern also is the incoming president of the Leading Jewelers Guild, a national strategic alliance of independent jewelers like Albert's.
"I'm just honored I was asked to be in this group with all these people," said Halpern. "I still think of ourselves at Albert's as a small family-owned company."
Halpern said what he would most like to hear from his fellow 24 members on the board is that they are optimistic about the direction of our economy.