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Page last updated on November 1, 2018 at 2:21 pm

Welcome, all, for this truly momentous occasion. Welcome, on Halloween, a day traditionally associated with a few thrills and chills. It is thrilling to be here at the start of something so special. Maybe chilling to remember that raw and brisk day here barely six months ago when we plunged our shovels into the bare field just outside, with plans to transform a vacant building and site into a vital economic engine.  And to me, also a bit chilling, and thrilling, to remember just where we are, and the long, local history here.

When we broke ground in March, we knew that this transformation, this reanimation if you will, would take vision and dedication -- and for that we turned to many of you, gathered here today -- the Redevelopment Commissioners, the DMI Board, the Bloomington Economic Development Corporation, the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, many folks at Indiana University, and of course the pioneering companies that staked early claims in the Trades District, even before things started rising up out of the ground -- Tasus/Tsuchiya and PedCor, and Co-Work joining The Mill -- and the early investors in these parts -- Solution Tree and Upland Brewery, among others.  [Also - Jane Martin and Pat East, and so many city folks: Brian Payne, Alex Crowley, Kelly Boatman and Jeff Underwood, Larry Allen legal, Laura Collins, Morgan Allen, Keith Butt from Weddle, w/ Kevin Rodgerson, Nick McClelland, Kelly Abel. Blackline’s Craig McCormick design; contractors: Neidigh, HFI, Cassidy Electric, Ryan Fire Protection, Platformatics?] And finally, our tech/innovation leaders and companies who have had this steady vision for more than a decade, to activate this Trades District. We wouldn’t be here without you.

Thank you, to all of you, who carried that vision and dedication forward, who helped transform this site and this building and our collective future. So here we are, on Halloween, with this gorgeous structure risen from decades of slumber to serve as the beating heart -- the tell-tale heart? -- of new economic vitality in Bloomington.

In this our Bicentennial Year, we remember our city grew out of an old wheat field, with agricultural roots, and was described as a “crude, rough and muddy” place in early years. A community and a university grew. Within two generations, even as hogs were running across the mud of the courthouse square, Josiah Showers had the vision to turn a coffin business into a furniture manufacturing facility that eventually dominated the industry in its heyday.

Back in the 1860s, the Showers Company started small, taking native timber, grown out of the soil, and developed an enterprise of global dimensions -- while at the same time, helping the City of Bloomington develop new roads, a water source, a hospital, parks, and much more. This pioneering corporate presence knew that its fortunes were intertwined with those of the people of Bloomington. Showers Brothers hired blacks & whites, women & men, & helped its workers thrive, with banks and workforce housing and social activities tailored especially for them.  

By the early 20th century, the Showers Brothers expanded their operations on this very ground to the largest furniture factory in the world. In 1910 Plant 1 was opened (now City Hall). In 1912 Plant 2 and the glass factory opened. In 1915 Dimension Mill (Plant 3). 1916 the Administration Building, corporate offices, at the time of its opening called “the prettiest building in Bloomington.” By 1919, 1,000 employees worked on the 15 acres here.

Indy Star 3/12/19 article: 99 and a half years ago, described the activities, right here, with north to south organization, describing “From Tree to the Trade.”

“A giant electric crane gives the logs their start from the log yard and they are carried to the mill on an electric trolley, where they are cut up into the required lengths and breadths. From the mill the lumber is placed in yards for seasoning and drying and later transferred to the largest battery of dry kilns in the world. These kilns have a capacity of 500 thousand feet of lumber at one time. After the process of drying and seasoning in the kilns, the lumber . . . is taken to the dimensions plant and veneer mill. In the dimensions plant the lumber is sawed into rough forms, approximately the shape and size required for the finished product.

Unlike most furniture factories, Showers Brothers have their own veneer mill, where a great lathe peels the logs into sheets almost as thin as paper…..The dimensions mill and the veneer mill feed the two Showers plants proper, where the furniture is really made.”

The furniture company was an innovator, long ago, in this innovation district. Among other things, they were one of the first to switch from steam power to electricity; Ventilating system changed the factory air completely every four minutes. Natural light flooded in unobstructed by dust pipes or belting overhead. And Showers Brothers invented and popularized the process of laminating furniture in 1904, allowing working families affordable, beautiful wood furniture for their homes.

Bloomington kept innovating. Our university grew into one of the world’s leading research universities. A century after Josiah Showers, Bill and Gayle Cook grew a home-based workshop into a medical-device giant. And Bloomington has had entrepreneurs, builders and innovators in limestone, radios and televisions, refrigerators, elevators, medical devices, and healthcare, and arts and music, and entertainment, and on and on….

There’s a lot of history here. To Remember. To Honor. To Learn From.

How fitting it is, that this building, an incubator of Bloomington’s vitality and growth in its first and second centuries, should be called upon to foster our energetic entry into our community’s third century? To help build a more dynamic, more equitable economy here? How fitting it is that this building with such deep history has been restored to a simply spectacular new facility today. Ladies and Gentlemen, as of today, we have The Mill.

Like the Showers Company, the Mill is starting, lean and mean, with native resources, grown from the ground as it were: the skills and knowledge that each of the entrepreneurs who will set up shop here brings.  These small, start-ups, with an idea and a laptop -- or a beehive -- and an internet connection, will grow their businesses, creating good jobs and forging an entrepreneurial network, that will keep Bloomington’s name echoing around the world -- and take Bloomington herself, to new places, places that we can no sooner imagine than the folks of 1868 could imagine the city we live in now.  The city we enjoy sits on the foundations they created, and we are doing the same, in turn, for future generations who will live, do meaningful work, and enjoy a more inclusive, just, beautiful, thriving city, because of the foundations we are laying.

In closing, as we celebrate the opening of this beautiful new facility on Halloween, a day of costumes and candy and thrills and chills, it’s also, depending on your tradition, part of a sober holiday to remember and recall those who have gone before us -- as All Souls Day, or Dia de los Muertos. It is fitting that today we acknowledge 200 years of fellow Bloomingtonians, who founded this “crude, rough and muddy place,” who had the vision and gumption to grow our community from forest and fields into the thriving, inclusive, vibrant buzz of today, including 103 years ago when The Mill was built, and it’s a great day to celebrate and welcome the visionaries of tomorrow, who are setting up shop in this showplace to take us into the next century.

Congratulations to all! Happy collisions ahead, happy innovating ahead, among all who animate and activate this space. And onward we go! I can’t wait to cut this ribbon!