In 2018, Site Selection Magazine, a periodical dedicated to the past, present, and future of corporate real estate, ranked Indiana #8 for Business Climate. This ranking combined averaged numerous factors, including the opinion of executives, competitiveness, and taxation. For those in and out of Indiana business, whether large or small, that’s no great surprise: the Hoosier State wants to attract and keep entrepreneurs.
That hard-working spirit has threaded itself into the DNA of Indiana culture through centuries of manufacturers and industries, some of which have become iconic American products…
2Bar Keepers Friend
In 1882, an Indianapolis chemist concocted an effective powdered cleaner using oxalic acid as its primary ingredient. Originally marketed to saloons in central Indiana, it is now a popular cleaner across the United States. Indiana-based SerVaas Laboratories now produces approximately 60,000 cans a day.
3Clabber Girl Baking Powder
In the late 1700s, bakeries discovered that by adding potash (a mixture of salt and potassium) to bread, you could increase its volume and soften its texture, very desirable traits for any baked goods. At first, cooks made this ingredient at home, a lengthy process, but some companies began manufacturing this “baking powder”.
In the late 1800s, Clabber Girl Baking Powder emerged, becoming the most recognized brand of baking powder. With simple ingredients and an iconic can (the drawing has remained unchanged since 1940), Clabber Girl is manufactured in Terre Haute by Hulman & Company.
4Red Gold Tomatoes
In 1942, the Hutcherson family saw potential in a partially burned cannery in Orestes, Indiana. After restoring the cannery and planting hundreds of acres of tomatoes around it, they started a canned tomato company known first as “Indiana’s Finest” and then “Indiana Chef.”
After three decades of astounding growth, the family renamed it Red Gold Tomatoes, one of the largest canned tomato companies in the United States. Today, 80% of the tomatoes grown in the Midwest are processed and canned by Red Gold Tomatoes, which now has over 2,000 employees and is headquartered in Elwood, Indiana.
5The Saturday Evening Post
Few periodicals are as emblematic of Americana as The Saturday Evening Post. Its unique combination of informative articles, fiction, illustrations and literary hodge-podge transformed it into the most popular general interest magazine in the United States. Sadly, its throne was stolen by the rise of television, and its publishers announced the final issue in 1969.
Indianapolis entrepreneur Beurt SerVaas purchased the Post’s publishing company in 1970 and relaunched it as a quarterly, retaining the same folksy nostalgia that defined the original magazine. Today, the magazine is published six times a year by the Saturday Evening Post Society, a nonprofit based in Indianapolis.
6Hoosier Bat Company
26 years ago, Valparaiso resident Dave Cook, a former scout for the New York Yankees, decided to manufacture a baseball bat composed of wood but mimicking the lighter weight of an aluminum bat. His three-piece bat was named the Woodforce 2000, and it launched the Hoosier Bat Company.
Although many Hoosiers Bats make the rounds in Major League Baseball, Dave Cook discovered a much larger niche, marketing his bats to youth, high school, and college programs. Today, the Indiana company is one of the Midwest’s most popular baseball bat manufacturers.
7Batesville Casket Company
In 1906, John A Hillenbrand purchased the flagging Batesville Coffin Company and renamed it the Batesville Casket Company, transforming a failing business into one of America’s leading suppliers of funerary products.
Never a company to rest of simple success, Hillenbrand and Batesville expanded with innovation and diversification. Now a publicly-traded company on the New York Stock Exchange, Hillenbrand, Inc. (HI) retained its Hoosier roots, maintaining its headquarters in Batesville, Indiana.
Founded in 1897, the Autocar Company, based in Hagerstown, Indiana, remains the oldest active motor vehicle in the world…or at least in the Western Hemisphere. Autocar actually made its last “car” in 1911 and today specializes in industrial or commercial vehicles. During World War II, the company provided the US Army with a variety of military vehicles, including half-tracks.
With a focus on customer needs, the Hagerstown plant manufacturers Class 8 vehicles customized for specific use, often in severe-duty settings. Several cities—Miami, Chicago and Houston among them—depend on the Autocar Company’s vehicles for almost all municipal functions, from aircraft support to refuse trucks.
9Action Custom Straps
What do Travis Tritt, Billy Corgan, and Jimmy Buffet have in common? For one, they all use Action Custom Straps, a legendary guitar strap manufacturer in Indianapolis. Starting in 1978, Action Custom Straps were founded by the Misner family, who sought to make a heavy-duty camera strap that could be worn comfortably.
The straps were well-received, but the company closed its doors in 1986, finding the market too small and the ordering process too ungainly. The company reopened in 1999, this time focusing on the guitar strap market and using the Internet as a tool for both ordering and advertising. Professional and amateur guitar players esteem the handmade straps today.