The Heritage Group Blends History and Innovation to Face New Challenges
When COVID-19 hit Indiana in March, businesses of all shapes and sizes quickly made major adjustments to their plans. Some small shops had to close down all together while other businesses deemed essential continued on, but with different goals, products and certainly adjusted processes to keep employees safe.
At the Heritage Group, an Indianapolis-based company that operates around the world, work continued with different operational challenges to be sure. One thing that the company already prized was the safety of its employees.
“Our employees knew that Heritage cared about their safety even before the health crisis,” says Micah Vincent, Vice President of Strategy and M&A for the Heritage Group. “We tell our employees, do it safely or don’t do it at all, and that safety-first mindset that is built into the Heritage culture has created a feeling of real trust throughout the company.”
With a diversified business portfolio that includes infrastructure materials, environmental services and specialty chemicals, Heritage employs more than 5,000 people and works all over the world. It is a family-owned business that started in the 1930s in Indianapolis and remains a leader in the community. Indianapolis is famous for its corporate leadership coming together to face big challenges, and like many others in the business and civic community, Heritage Group and its employees have stepped up during this crisis.
“Heritage already made chemicals for hand sanitizer so we were well positioned to contribute to that need,” said Vincent. The company also stepped up in other ways too, helping feed over 2,500 families through Gleaners Food Bank and contributing to the Indianapolis E-Learning Fund to help support Indianapolis educators, students and families during the transition to e-learning in response to the recent COVID-19 public health emergency.
Like all crises, this one will end. Vincent sees Heritage and Indiana in a strong position to excel again in a post-COVID-19 world.
Indiana’s stability over the years will be a key asset to coming out of the crisis and there are several things that Indiana has done to make a difference, including a strong reserve fund and modernization over the years.
“Being in a strong financial position is not a one-time choice,” said Vincent, who was the state’s director of the Office of Management and Budget under Governor Eric Holcomb. “It comes from making good choices every day. We made the hard choice to save money for a rainy day. Well, now it’s raining.”
In addition to saving money, the state has steadily moved many services online over the years which means even in conditions where personal interaction is limited the state government can still function.
Challenges will remain. Vincent thinks it is important that once businesses’ start to reopen, they are able to stay open. To do this, they will have to be vigilant about safety for their employees and customers. Avoiding a “start and stop” recovery is critical as uncertainty can be a difficult barrier for any business.
As always, great crisis will provide great opportunities for those who are prepared to innovate. While the Heritage Group and Indiana have a long history with manufacturing and the physical economy, in recent years there has been a major push to diversify the states economy by bringing traditional manufacturing together with new tech start-ups.
The Heritage Group’s innovation and growth mindset have been a driving force in that effort. One way is through the Heritage Group Accelerator and its partnership with Techstars, a national organization that helps startup companies grow. In Indiana, their partnership supports disruptive companies focused on pioneering next-gen solutions that align with Heritage business needs, from materials science to systems automation.
Heritage initially housed ten startup companies at its accelerator center, nine from outside Indiana. In the end, four of those companies decided to stay in Indiana. It is this kind of activity that will help Indiana continue to grow and diversify its economy.
The COVID-19 crisis has changed a lot of things for Indiana; however, the strong sense of community, fiscal restraint, innovation and Hoosier determination will allow Indiana and companies like the Heritage Group to not only weather this storm but come out stronger.