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Page last updated on February 4, 2019 at 12:57 pm

Welcome, everyone!  Welcome to the future! Built on the foundations of the past. I’m so glad everyone could be here for this special occasion at this beautiful spot.

If it’s your first time at the Mill, it’s stunning, isn’t it?  I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you are suddenly inspired to come up with ideas for start-ups or side-gigs, right now, right here, just to justify joining The Mill for a seat in here.

Creating this space, and getting to this day has been a LONG journey, involving the efforts of so many people, with vision and dedication. It’s impossible to thank everyone who has played a role through the years, but I will highlight past mayors, 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, when that was just a phrase on an architect’s rendering -- companies like Tasus/Tsuchiya and PedCor, and Co-Work joining The Mill -- and the pioneer 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; additional contractors: Neidigh, HFI, Cassidy Electric, Ryan Fire Protection, Platformatics?] And our tech/innovation leaders and companies who have had this steady vision for more than a decade, to activate this Trades District.

Let me also give a shout out to some of the major financial backers of this project. Please join me in thanking major contributors to the DMI nonprofit corporation that operates The Mill, from Cook Group, to IU. Finally it’s all of you, because city TIF dollars, public dollars bought the land, and building, and funded this beautiful rehabilitation.

So to all, from boards of directors to architects to the folks who approved the funds for this project, to the folks who glazed the windows or sandblasted the bricks -- all who got us to today. Thank you!!  

You know, we could have built something new. A gleaming new building sheathed in steel and glass. Why do back-breaking restoration of this long-abandoned building, where rain had poured in for decades through broken skylights, warping the floorboards?  Why not start fresh?   

Well … just look around … these repurposed beams, the lovingly repaired skylights, and the weathered bricks. They just make you feel good, don’t they? And why? Are we nuts for antiques?  Is it simple nostalgia?

Historic preservation, with adaptive reuse, is not about putting something in the sleeve of a scrapbook, or under glass in a museum.  It’s about using where we’ve come from for support and direction. It has been said that preservation, at its best, engages the past in a conversation with the present, over a mutual concern for the future.  

Inside this old factory building, we’ve set ourselves up for those conversations, those reckonings with the past, with a mutual concern for the future. This place will foster the kinds of conversations that will inspire, instruct, and challenge a new crop of entrepreneurs.

We don’t want just to live with the memories of the thousands of hard working 19th and 20th century Hoosiers who daily exercised their crafts in these grounds. We can learn from them.

Winston Churchill said “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” That may have described the Rev CC Showers, the mid-19th century source of the Showers Furniture Company, which built this factory back in 1915. Before starting the furniture business, Rev CC had been a Methodist preacher-- a circuit rider -- a woodworker and a hotel manager. “His diverse range of professions,” it was written, “might simply reflect the fluid and entrepreneurial nature of 1800s business….at the time, this kind of flexibility was not necessarily viewed askance.”

Or maybe Rev. Showers would have appreciated the words Alan Klapmeier, a highly successful airplane company entrepreneur, said his father offered him, that sustained him through tough early times: “To be a successful entrepreneur, you’ve got to be dumb enough to start, and smart enough to finish.”

We do know this place is imbued with some serious moxie.

An early ad promised prospective customers that “Showers & Hendrix of Bloomington, Indiana, [has] an immense stock of Furniture which they offer to sell as cheap as good Furniture can be sold in the State; and having facilities for manufacturing fast, and cheaper than other in this part of the state, we propose to sell Cheaper than anybody else does, that sells GOOD FURNITURE.”

Or as you may know, with the 1910 US census, the federal government pinpointed the exact U.S. location with an equal number of Americans living north, south, east and west, and with a stroke of serendipity they couldn’t help capitalizing on, that center was at the front door of the Showers Brothers Building. The company promptly declared themselves to be – not just the largest furniture factory in the world – but just plain “the center of the universe.” They installed a marker at the exact location, which after the company’s closure in 1955, was moved to its current location on the Courthouse lawn.

Or maybe old Mr. Showers would have really appreciated the words of Victor Hugo:  “Nothing is so powerful as an idea whose time has come….” When they figured out how to build beautiful veneer furniture out of the raw woods surrounding them, and craft the dining room tables and bedroom sets and chifferobes that gave pioneer homes a sense of elegance, homes just a generation removed from the Conestoga wagon, they were on to something. And so the Showers Furniture Company thrived.

Bloomington today, 150 years later, in our Bicentennial Year, and here we are in this incredible place, filled with new entrepreneurs bristling with ideas and imagination and passion and caring.

May this be a place teeming with Enthusiasm after Failures. Filled with dreamers Dumb Enough to start and Smart Enough to Finish. Brimming with Moxie. And yes, a place where people Find those Ideas whose Times have Come.

Here in The Mill, in the Trades District, Thank you All, and Welcome to Bloomington’s Future.