Joe Coar's carpenter roots blossomed into a long career at Tonn and Blank Construction, an example, he emphasizes, of what can be done with opportunities outside of college.

“I continue to sell the building trades to the school systems in Northwest Indiana," Coar said. "I do it because of the emphasis on career paths in high school. Kids are pushed and pushed and pushed to go to college."

As the recipient of the Partners in Progress award, Coar has shown ongoing leadership and support for progress in Northwest Indiana.

He started with Tonn and Blank in 1967 as a carpenter apprentice in the company’s custom wood shop. Over the years, he moved from the wood shop to the field as a carpenter and into supervisory roles as assistant and superintendent. He worked his way up into management as manager of operations and eventually vice president of operations.

“I was very fortunate to be able to work with and for very talented people who supported me and helped me become a superintendent,” he says.

Coar held the VP of operations position for 25 years before retiring in December 2014. He now serves as a consultant for Tonn and Blank.

Throughout the years, Coar has left an imprint on the region participating in a range of projects for Urschel Laboratories, Sisters of St. Francis facilities and Computer Services Inc.

“The Sisters are very special to me … I have worked with the Urschels in some capacity since the time I started with Tonn and Blank. I have been blessed to become business partners and close friends with three of the four generations,” he said.

Larry Moore, vice president of Computer Services, has known Coar for more than 20 years. Tonn and Blank built the CSI facility and has added on to it six different times, recently completing an upgrade.

“He has an infectious personality and passion for his profession. He is one of the few leaders in Northwest Indiana who is welcomed and effective in both board rooms and union halls,” Moore says. “That is a very unique characteristic.”

Through his many roles, Coar has also had the opportunity to connect with the community. He has served on various economic development and industry boards including for Construction Advancement Foundation, Ready Northwest Indiana Workforce Development, Northwest Indiana Forum, Northwest Indiana Business Round Table and LaPorte County Redevelopment. He also has been Duneland Health Council executive board grant chair and on the Dunebrook LaPorte County executive board.

Coar says Tonn and Blank served as a catalyst for his involvement in non-profit organizations. Whenever he gives of his time and talent, Coar said he gets back double.

"What I get back is joy and appreciation from the people who we’ve helped and a reminder of how fortunate I am and that inspires me to do more," he said. “So what started out as good business ends up being a lifetime of joy and satisfaction in learning how we can all make a difference in our communities by serving.”