Annie Ropeik

IPBS Economy Reporter

Annie Ropeik is the economy and business reporter for the Indiana Public Broadcasting network, based at WBAA. She’s covered farming, fisheries and other industries at public radio stations from Massachusetts and Delaware to Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, and earned accolades from the Alaska and Delaware Press Clubs for her reporting on rural business issues. Originally from Silver Spring, Md., Annie has a Hoosier mother and a degree in classics from Boston University. She also performs a mean car concert, boasts a worryingly encyclopedic knowledge of One Direction lyrics and is a Hufflepuff.

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The USDA is offering up nearly $12 million in funding to increase internet access in rural communities.

The annual federal grant program has funded one major Indiana broadband project in the past -- an $800,000 community computer center for Harrison County, near Kentucky.

Phil Lehmkuhler is the USDA's rural director in Indiana. He says it's hard to do business these days without the web -- more goods and services go online every year, putting disconnected towns at an increasing disadvantage.

Annie Ropeik/Indiana Public Broadcasting

 

A property rights battle over public access to Indiana's Lake Michigan shore is moving forward with a new issue in the mix -- erosion.

Patricia Sharkey's home in the LaPorte County town of Long Beach is about a block away from a stretch of huge lakefront summer houses. In 2013, homeowners there sued the state, contending their private property extends all the way to the water.

CB&I

Duke Energy's coal-fired power plant in Terre Haute is officially shut down. The company's air quality permit at the Wabash River Generating Station expired Friday.

 

It's the only plant the national power company will close, as it works to comply with new federal pollution rules.

 

As part of a settlement with environmental groups, Duke set a 2016 deadline for cutting out coal at its power plants, or cleaning them up to meet stricter EPA standards.

 

Vincennes University

 

Vincennes University is teaming up with Indiana manufacturers to recruit more women into tech and engineering jobs.

 

The public school will sponsor 46 women to live in a dedicated dorm while pursuing two-year science, technology, engineering or math degrees next fall.

 

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The bankruptcy filing of the nation's biggest coal company will likely have repercussions in Indiana.

St. Louis-based Peabody Energy will keep operating mines like Bear Run in Sullivan County, for now.

But the bankruptcy could impact more than a thousand Peabody Energy employees across the state.

Annie Ropeik/Indiana Public Broadcasting

Indiana has the fifth largest pig farming industry in the country, turning out 8.5 million hogs a year. But some are too small for the huge slaughterhouses that require pigs to be a certain size and condition for speedy processing.

Now, Indiana's industry to broker these smaller pigs is growing.

Nebraska-based Wiechman Pig Company opened a new facility in Delphi in late March. Inside, a big, friendly sow greets manager Jeff Petree. She's one of a couple dozen pigs he bought from Indiana farmers in his opening week.

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The state Department of Agriculture is looking for new ways to make Indiana specialty crops competitive.

They'll divide more than $380,000 among research and marketing projects for fruit, veggies and more. The federal money comes from the USDA’s specialty crop block grant program.

 

David Cornwell/https://www.flickr.com/photos/dave_cornwell/3818629571

The USDA is estimating that American farmers may plant more corn this summer than they have in years.

 

But with the news that China will begin selling off its huge corn stockpiles, economists say prices could suffer.

Indiana accounts for 2.6 percent of the national increase. Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt says the state increase came from fields that went unplanted last summer due to floods.

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Mississippi-based Hancock Fabrics is going out of business, shutting down its four Indiana stores and nearly 200 more.

The fabric and crafts retailer filed for bankruptcy in February, but no company came forward to buy its $280 million in retail assets.

Hancock Fabrics' Indianapolis, Carmel, Fort Wayne and Clarksville locations will hold clearance sales over the next few months before closing down. They employ about 40 people total.

 

Annie Ropeik

In the coming months, Subaru needs to add hundreds of workers at its huge Lafayette plant. But it hasn't been easy for the car-maker or other manufacturers to hire people with the right skills.

So they're teaming up, with trainings starting in April, to create a new workforce from scratch.

Lafayette's Subaru of Indiana Automotive, or SIA, is the only Subaru factory outside Japan. Inside, 5,000 people are turning chunks of steel into cars.

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