Horizon Bancorp Chairman and CEO Craig M. Dwight is not one to shine a light on his own success.
Dwight describes himself as a "hometown guy" whose ride to work each day is in a Ford F-150 pickup.
"My father was a union carpenter and a farmer who always encouraged me to be who you are and not to keep up with the Joneses," Dwight said. "My 96-year-old mother was the bookkeeper in the family and taught me to enjoy numbers and never to turn down an invitation."
The 60-year-old Michigan City resident also credits his company and not himself for his latest honor of being inducted into the 10th edition of The Times Business & Industry Hall of Fame. He is the latest in a small but proud LaPorte County contingent inducted over the years, which includes the likes of Lighthouse outlets mall founder Michael Brennan (2011) and Joe Coar (2015), of Tonn and Blank Construction, inducted as a Partner in Progress.
"It's a humble honor to be considered in that realm. Thank you for the honor. I'm accepting on behalf of my company and not Craig Dwight," Dwight said.
Susan Aaron, chairman of Vision Financial Services and a longtime board member of Horizon Bank, said Dwight is so modest about his achievements she has had to remind him to provide updates about honors he's received at board meetings.
"He's one of the most phenomenal people I've worked with," Aaron said. "Craig is the driving force of Horizon's success."
Growing a community bank
Horizon under his leadership has expanded its footprint and services greatly.
Last July, Horizon Bank, with headquarters at 515 Franklin St. in Michigan City, rebranded all the remaining LaPorte Savings Bank branches after closing on its $98.9 million acquisition of the smaller 145-year-old bank.
It was publicly traded Horizon Bank's fifth acquisition in just a few years.
"I am very proud to be part of the Horizon team that by working together toward a common goal has increased Horizon's total assets from approximately $360 million to over $3 billion in total assets today," Dwight said.
"Pretty amazing that a small-town, local community bank from Northwest Indiana is now one of the top largest banks headquartered in the state of Indiana and the 342nd largest bank in the United States."
Horizon has 59 branches in northern and central Indiana and southwest and central Michigan, with offices in metropolitan areas such as Indianapolis and Carmel, Fort Wayne and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Horizon’s growth from acquisitions has expanded its footprint in Kosciusko, LaPorte, Fountain and Johnson counties in Indiana.
"I enjoy the people I work with," Dwight said. "Banking has the pulse of the community, which is what I find exciting."
Working-class roots run deep
Dwight, the father of three and grandfather of one, is a proud family man who spent his early years in the northeastern part of South Dakota, in the small town of Webster.
His grandparents were all farmers, and he said those family roots instilled in him a strong work ethic.
Dwight as a young boy moved with his family to Northwest Indiana and, with the exception of a brief banking sojourn in Michigan, it has remained his home ever since.
"My dad came here (Northwest Indiana) in the mid '60s to help build the Burns Harbor Bethlehem Steel plant," Dwight said.
After high school graduation, Dwight attended Indiana University in Bloomington majoring in business administration with a concentration in accounting.
Dwight graduated from Indiana University in 1979, and received his first job at Horizon Bank.
"I graduated on Friday and started work on a Monday," Dwight said.
Dwight worked at Horizon through 1985 holding several positions including branch manager, human resources director and commercial loan officer.
In 1985, Dwight left to work for First of America Bank in Holland, Michigan, as vice president and senior commercial loan officer.
Dwight returned to Michigan City and Horizon Bank in 1990 as vice president and senior commercial loan officer. In 1997, Dwight became executive vice president responsible for all sales and lending areas of the company.
He was named president of Horizon Bank in 1998, and chairman and CEO in 2003. In 2013, Dwight also was named chairman of Horizon Bancorp.
It was under his leadership that Horizon increased its total assets from $360 million to $3.1 billion in 2016.
Banking on NWI's future
Throughout his life, Dwight has been active in the community. He served on Franciscan Alliance's St. Anthony Memorial Hospital board for six years and the alliance's regional board for six years.
In addition, Dwight has chaired several fundraising campaigns including the United Way of LaPorte County (two years), the Martin Luther King Center (twice), Michigan City Education Fund and the YMCA.
He also has had a keen interest in economic development, currently serving on the boards of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the LaPorte County Economic Advisory Board. He is a past member of the Purdue North Central Community Advisory Board and the Michigan City Area Chamber of Commerce.
In the banking realm, he has served on the board of the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank’s Community Depository Institutions Advisory Counsel and the Indiana Bankers Association.
Don Babcock, who serves as NIPSCO's director of economic development, has known Dwight for 20 years.
"He's a tremendous community leader and an inspiration to others. He's done a tremendous job at the bank," Babcock said.
Babcock said under Dwight's leadership, Horizon Bank has become one of the most philanthropic in Northwest Indiana.
"They (bank employees) always have the utmost integrity. They share a common culture and point of view that is inspiring to many others," Babcock said.
Northwest Indiana has gained a lot of momentum because of Dwight and those he mentors.
"I've never heard anyone in Northwest Indiana say anything negative about him and his team members. They've always been there at the table," Babcock said.
Jim Dworkin, former chancellor of Purdue North Central and a longtime Horizon board member, said when he first met Dwight what struck him was his great vision and ability to keep organized.
"I've just continued to be impressed by his leadership and his style," Dworkin said.
Banking is technical, but Dwight has the ability to make it comprehensible to lay people.
"He can take a very complex subject and make it very understandable to those not in the banking business," Dworkin said.
'True community hero'
Barbara Eason-Watkins, superintendent of the Michigan City Area Schools, called Dwight a strong advocate for education.
"Having graduated from the Michigan City Area Schools he definitely understands the link between strong schools and economic development," Eason-Watkins said.
Some examples she cited include establishing a small grants program for high school and career tech teachers in need of equipment for projects.
"Dwight also established a Horizon Bank Wolves Branch in our high school cafeteria, which now employs student tellers and is giving students real-life experience, financial literacy and banking services," Eason-Watkins said.
Other projects Horizon is sponsoring through the schools are an introduction to computer coding for students in kindergarten through 12th grades as well as adult learners in the community.
Horizon also will be sponsoring the future Wells Elementary athletics program, stepping in to fill the gap in the face of budget cutbacks, Eason-Watkins said.
"When I think about Craig Dwight I think about a true community hero," Eason-Watkins said. "He is very passionate about Michigan City and the Michigan City area schools."
In his spare time, Dwight enjoys a number of outdoor sports including biking, hiking and hunting. One of his favorite biking challenges was a few years ago when he and his wife participated in RAGBRAI, the Des Moines Register's annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.
The biking journey entails riding what Dwight said was a grueling 468 miles across both flatlands and rolling hills. "The state of Iowa isn't really flat," Dwight joked.