More than 100 years ago, the city was built by a network of small business entrepreneurs, and the 21st century offers opportunities in self-employment for those who will be tomorrow’s professionals.

Thirty-eight students in 8th through 12th grades from Hammond High, Morton High, Gavit Junior/Senior High School and the Hammond Academy of Science and Technology learned how to chart their successful careers at the “Young Professional of the 21st Century – Part 1” program at the Hammond INnovation Center.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. greeted the students and told them about the opportunities available in such fields as health care, where Franciscan St. Margaret has had a presence for 100 years.

After polling students about what kinds of careers they were interested in, INnovation Center business consultant Sue Anderson discussed various hot careers for the future. Those include solar energy, technology of all kinds and health care careers such as physical therapist and sports medicine.

Students received hands-on experience with Onet, software that provides career plan development.

Social media plays a large part in students’ lives, said Lourdes Castellanos, owner of Creative Solutionz Inc. Castellanos explained the responsibilities involved in using social media.

“Technology, while convenient, is also a responsibility that can directly affect (students’) futures. Social networking is viewed by many as simply fun and an outlet to do and say what they want; however, businesses are viewing it much more seriously and utilizing that information to assess potential employees,” Castellanos said.

A walking tour of downtown Hammond introduced the students to the many historic buildings and how they have been repurposed.

“We developed the walking tour and a booklet to take with them,” said Sue Anderson, a business consultant at the Hammond INnovation Center, a technology business incubator that operates under the leadership of the Hammond Development Corp.

Art Russell, vice president at Centier Bank, explain the bank’s history and the benefits of entrepreneurship. It is as important now as it was 118 years ago when Henry Schrage opened his bank in Whiting, Russell said.

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Money Smart Kid Contest

February 13, 2014

In conjunction with the Federal Reserve’s 8th annual Money Smart Week, April 5 – 12, 2014, Lakeshore Public Media, Junior Achievement and the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana are sponsoring the Money Smart Kid Contest, with support from the entire Northwest Indiana Money Smart Council.  Northwest Indiana students in grades 6 – 8 have the opportunity to enter the Indiana state contest with an essay of 300 words or less and to also enter the Northwest Indiana video contest.  This year’s question is:  Every investment has a certain amount of risk and an expected return.  Imagine you are speaking to an investor; describe how investing in you (such as paying for college or technical school costs) will produce a return.  Please be sure to discuss what types of risk the investor would face.

 This year’s contest in Northwest Indiana is an inaugural video contest!  Students are encouraged to answer the question with a minimum 60 second and maximum 90 second video.  Three finalists will be selected to attend the Money Smart Press Conference on April 3, 2014 and one student will be named this year’s Money Smart Kid, winning an iPad2.  The first runner up will receive an iPad Mini, followed by the 2nd runner up receiving an iPod Touch.

The video should be submitted by March 3rd to youtube.com.  Students will need to sign in with email moneysmartkids@lakeshorepublicmedia.com and the password moneysmart.  The video will need to be uploaded to Lakeshore Public Media and entries must include their name in the title before it is uploaded!  Applications are available on the Northwest Indiana Money Smart Week website, http://moneysmartweek.org/ms_kids_contest or by contacting the Northwest Indiana Money Fair Council chair, Dian Reyome, at dreyome@centier.com.  The completed application should be submitted by:  fax 219-756-4312; email moneysmartkids@lakeshorepublicmedia.com or mail Lakeshore Public Media, 8625 Indiana Place, Merrillville, IN 46410.

In order to also be considered for the Indiana state scholarship prizes, all Money Smart Kid Video entries from Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Jasper and Newton Counties, must submit a written essay based on their video.  The essay should be submitted as directed on the Indiana Money Smart Kid site – http://www.moneysmartweek.org/ms_kids_contest.

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Bossi Joins Centier

February 6, 2014

Lisa BossiMichael E. Schrage, President and CEO of Centier Bank, announced that Lisa Bossi has joined Centier Bank.  Bossi is Vice President of Cash Management, serving Northwest Indiana. Her office is located at 9701 Indianapolis Boulevard, Highland, IN 46322.

Bossi joins Centier with more than 25 years of banking experience throughout Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana.  During her professional career, she has serviced various sized businesses, from start-ups to large corporations.  As a member of Centier’s Cash Management team, Bossi works with lenders to provide commercial clients banking and business options in order to save them time and money.

Bossi is an active resident in the St. John community.   In addition to serving on the St. John Chamber of Commerce, Schererville Chamber of Commerce, and Crossroads Chamber of Commerce, she serves on the Salvation Army Board of Directors.

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Jennifer CallisonMichael E. Schrage, Centier Bank President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board, announced the addition of Jennifer Callison to its board of directors.  Callison is Vice President, Realtor, and Broker for Mike Thomas Associates/F. C. Tucker Real Estate Firm in FortWayne, Indiana.

Callison has been involved in the Real Estate business for over 16 years.  She manages four offices and more than 100 agents throughout Northern Indiana, with annual sales in excess of $200 million.  Since becoming Managing Broker in 2003, the company has added two offices and increased over $50 million in volume.

“As a trusted member of the Fort Wayne business community, Jennifer Callison possesses the knowledge, leadership, and talent that is important for our growing bank,” stated Schrage.  “She joins a board of trusted business leaders and community servants from growing regions that we serve.”  Schrage added that Callison, along with her brother, Jeff, is second generation of a Fort Wayne family business, founded by her father, Mike Thomas.  “Jennifer understands the importance of preserving a family legacy in business and that is what Centier Bank has done for nearly 119 years.  It is because of our board of directors, associates, and clients that Centier remains the ‘bank of choice’ preserving independent community banking in Indiana.”

In addition to her role Mike Thomas Associates/F.C. Tucker Real Estate, Callison is active in her community and has been involved with Mad Anthony’s Children’s Hope House, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and The Mouse Project.  She is a professional affiliate of the National Board of Realtors, Indiana Association of Realtors, Indiana Regional MLS Board, Task Force for the Legacy Fund for Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, and the Leadership Forum of Northern Indiana.

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Starting with their 2014 annual campaign, the United Ways in Lake and Porter Counties will offer select companies and employees a new paperless way to give back to their community with a simple click of a computer.

The new giving platform is an online electronic pledge collection tool called ‘e-Pledge’ for short.  It makes giving quick, easy, secure and cost-effective.  E-Pledge reduces, or in some cases eliminates, the paper forms traditionally used in United Way-led workplace campaigns, resulting in improved efficiency for all.

“We think e-Pledge is a ‘win-win-win’ for the company, their employees, and United Way,” said Jeremy Miller, Chief Operating Officer with Lake Area United Way.

“E-Pledge works with United Way’s secure database Andar 360 to safely store donor data, send emails directly to a company’s employees, set up a customized branded website that includes special messages from the CEO, promote special events and employee incentives. It also automatically tracks pledges and runs real-time reports,” explains Miller.

“A company’s entire United Way campaign can be set and ready to roll from one computer station,” he adds.  “You can even launch multiple locations simultaneously with a push of a button.”

Two companies in Northwest Indiana agreed to pilot the e-Pledge campaign in 2013.  Centier Bank agreed to test run an e-Pledge campaign for their employees in 14 counties across Northern Indiana as far east as Allen and south to Tippecanoe Counties.  This year, employee contributions to the Lake Area United Way and the United Way of Porter County increased 17 percent.

“The United Way’s’ new e-Pledge system really paves the way for efficiency in community fund-raising.  Centier associates are accustomed to electronic communications and we received a great response from this new product enhancement,” stated Art Russell, Ambassador for Centier Bank’s 2014 United Way campaign & Vice President Lake County Community Development/CRA.

Computer Services, Inc. (CSI) piloted an e-Pledge campaign in Porter County.  Not only did they agree to test and provide feedback on the new system, their campaign increased 14%.  Additionally, Larry Moore, CSI Vice President, agreed to donate half of the cost of the software which can be used for any company campaign in the future.

“We are very grateful to both Centier Bank and CSI for their willingness to be the first in the region to test the new software.  We appreciate the generosity of their employees,” said Sharon A. Kish, President of United Way of Porter County.

The United Ways are seeking more companies to take advantage of the e-Pledge system, says Miller.  “Interested businesses can contact us if they’re interested in exploring and signing their company up for e-Pledging in 2014,” he said.  For more information, contact Lake Area United Way at jmiller@lauw.org and United Way of Porter County at sharonk@unitedwaypc.org.

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There is a lot of information out today regarding the data compromise affecting Target Store shoppers. Please know that Centier is aware and is actively and very closely monitoring this situation for all Centier clients. As part of our security procedures, we constantly monitor all Centier card activity for fraud. We are taking extra steps to analyze information related to this situation to ensure your card/account is secure.

We have identified clients who have used their card at Target during the timeframe of the security breach. As a proactive security measure, we are reissuing cards to these individuals.

We will continue to provide updates as they become available. If you have specific questions related to your Centier card or account, please call our Client Service Centier at 1-888-CENTIER (888-236-8437).

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The Regional Development Company (RDC) recently celebrated 20 years of serving small businesses throughout Northwest Indiana and recognized Centier Bank as “Most Active Bank Partner” during the past two decades.  Centier Bank was also honored as “Bank of the Year” in 2013 for its efforts in community business lending.

The Regional Development Company is a certified development company that specializes in the 504 SBA Loan program, primarily in Northwest Indiana.  Locally, the Regional Development Company administers the SBA 504 loan program and works with banks to identify potential SBA 504 borrowers.

Over the past twenty years we have built a strong partnership with the RDC, working together to get small businesses the financing that they need to bring support, goods, and services to the community,” stated Mike Schrage, Centier Bank President and CEO.  “Our teams have demonstrated strong leadership and a passion for what they do, and that’s what makes Centier Bank and RDC projects so successful.”

As the area’s leading bank in commercial real estate lending, Centier offers the 504 SBA Loan program as an instrument to help local communities grow and develop economically.  The program provides small companies with long-term fixed-rate financing for expansion, modernization, and for land and large equipment purchases.  In addition, job creation is a defining part of the SBA 504 loan program.  In the past 20 years, 5,331 jobs have been created or retained through projects supported by the RDC.

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American Banker magazine has named Indiana-based Centier Bank among the nation’s Best Banks to Work For. Centier placed #4 of all banks listed under $3 billion in assets.

Centier Bank was recognized for its exceptional corporate culture, which includes numerous work-life balance initiatives, including an on-site health clinic that is open to all employees with insurance, regardless of whether or not they are insured through the bank.  Centier opened the OurHealth Clinic in April 2013 on Centier’s Merrillville campus, and has since opened a second location in Valparaiso.

“We are honored to receive this accolade from American Banker,” stated Mike Schrage, Centier Bank president and CEO.  “Being recognized among the best in the nation is a major accomplishment for us.  It lets us know that what we’re doing for our employees extends beyond just the local service we provide.  We are leading best practices that impact the banking industry.”

Centier has long been recognized as a leading employer who supports its workforce with wellness amenities and programs to create a healthy work-life balance.  In addition to its on-site health clinic, the company also offers flexible scheduling, day care discounts, infertility assistance, wedding and high school graduation bonuses, and a senior care benefit for associates, parents, and grandparents.

“We have always done our best to create a family-friendly atmosphere,” stated Schrage.  “The friendliness that our customers experience when working with us is genuine…our employees are happy and we do the best we can to keep it that way.”

Centier Bank has developed a strong reputation as an employer of choice, having been recognized for the last seven years as Indiana’s Top 10 “Best Places to Work” by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.  Centier is now the largest privately-owned independent bank in Indiana and remains committed to being owned and operated by the Schrage family in the future.  The bank has 46 retail banking locations in Lake, Porter, La Porte, Marshall, and Tippecanoe Counties in Indiana, with additional business banking locations serving Carmel/Indianapolis, Mishawaka, and Fort Wayne.

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Centier Bank reported its third quarter financial results with total assets at $2.276 billion for the period ending September 30, 2013.  The earnings for the third quarter were $6.8 million and this increased the nine-month period earnings to $20.6 million.  This is a $2.3 million or a 12% increase over the $18.3 million of earnings for the same nine-month period of 2012.  The Bank continued to see loan growth with an additional $28 million of net growth in the third quarter.  This increases the net loan growth for the nine-month period to $103 million and net loans reached $1.85 billion on September 30th.

The Bank continues to see an extremely active residential mortgage market and has helped 964 customers purchase or refinance their mortgages on more than $147 million of home loans in 2013.  Equity capital reached $225 million, an increase of $24 million in 2013 and $28 million over the past year.  The Bank remains well capitalized by all regulatory standards.

“Consumers are ready for a new start, and many of them are starting with a new place to live,” stated Mike Schrage, Centier Bank President & CEO.  “Our lenders and underwriting teams are working hard to get families into homes,” Schrage said in reference to the bank’s growing mortgage lending division, which has originated over $400 million in new first mortgages in the past two years.  He expects to generate an additional $500 million in mortgages over the next two years, in support of homeownership.

Next year, Centier is planning to expand its retail presence, with two new branches in Lafayette, and new construction on full-service banking centers in Mishawaka and Carmel. “Our business plan has always included retail branches in St. Joseph, Hamilton, and Tippecanoe counties,” Schrage stated.  “A key differentiator in banking with Centier is our personalized service, particularly in commercial banking, and businesses in these regions have responded well to us.  Soon, they will have even more options from a full-service branch to address their personal and business banking needs.”

Small business lending has experienced a growth spurt as well, and Schrage credits a coordinated joint call effort between retail branch managers and Centier’s new small business lending division.  The result is the bank’s ‘Retail Call Officer’ program, which provides proactive outreach to businesses within communities.  The result, says Schrage, is a deeper understanding of business needs.

“We have created a unified team of about 15 bankers to meet the financial needs of small businesses around the state.  To date, we have about $75 million in small business loans outstanding, and we’re just getting started,” says Schrage.

Founded in 1895, Centier is now the largest privately-owned independent bank in Indiana and remains committed to being owned and operated by the Schrage family in the future.  The Bank has been named “Best Bank for Business” for the past eleven years by the Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly publication and was listed on the Indiana Chamber’s “Best Places to Work” top ten list for the past seven years.  Centier Bank was also named The Times’ Best of the Region as Best Bank, Best Place to Work, Best Financial Advisor, and Best Customer Service.  Most recently, Centier was named in the top five of the Top 50 Community Bank Leaders in Social Media.  Centier currently has over 10,000 Facebook Likes and growing.

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In a continued effort to provide exceptional financial services and tools, Centier Bank has partnered with MortgageKeeper Referral Services.  Centier has subscribed to MortgageKeeper, which is now available for free to Centier customers and employees.  MortgageKeeper is an online financial resource assistance tool that generates referrals to trustworthy local, state, and national resources to those who are struggling to maintain their debts and household expenses.

“As a community bank, our goal is to inform, educate, and empower consumers so that they make better financial decisions,” stated Mike Schrage, President and CEO of Centier Bank.   “Finances are personal, and sometimes you’re not sure how or who to ask for help…it can be overwhelming.  MortgageKeeper allows users to participate discreetly and Centier has made it available for anyone to use – you do not have to be a Centier customer to use the system.”

Centier Bank is excited to be the first bank in Indiana to feature this service, which can be accessed on the bank’s website at Centier.com/mortgagekeeper. This new service provides links to resources including Hardest Hit Funds resources, food assistance, child care assistance, employment resources, housing and credit counseling, down payment assistance, and much more.  Local, state, and national results are generated by simply answering four basic questions and providing a zip code, personal information is not required to take advantage of this service.

“We are thrilled to provide this free referral service to consumers within our communities,” stated Dian Reyome, Centier Bank Financial Capabilities Coordinator/CRA Advocate.  “The worst thing you can do is ignore a mounting financial hardship.  This service connects consumers with agencies that have the tools and means for preventing foreclosures and assisting with other financial and family needs.”

According to its Homeowner Needs Status Report for Q3 2013, MortgageKeeper Referral Services showed its highest number of referrals ever.  The report showed that homeowners received 325,000 referrals from MortgageKeeper in Q3 – 60% more than the same quarter last year. The top five referral categories are:  Housing & credit counseling requests, followed by utility assistance, employment resources and support, food assistance, and affordable rental housing.

“While we are relieved that the worst of the housing crisis seems to be behind us, struggling homeowners and those transitioning to rental properties still need financial support and advice,” said Rochelle Nawrocki Gorey, president of MortgageKeeper Referral Services. “Our subscribers continue to find our product to be immensely helpful as they assist those still in need.”

MortgageKeeper Referral Services is the only platform dedicated to connecting consumers to best-in-class local resources. Trusted by top servicers and housing counseling agencies, the application powers more than 3,500 referrals a day in 160 markets throughout the United States.

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