Butler to launch business center with $5M gift from Old National

Evansville-based Old National Bank has pledged $5 million to launch a Butler University center focused on helping private Hoosier companies.

The center, to be called the Old National Bank Center for Closely Held Business, will have its offices in Butler’s Andre B. Lacy School of Business, but it will work with companies around the state. 

An official announcement is set for 10 a.m. Monday. 

The center will facilitate student internships, research collaborations and information-sharing on topics such as transition strategies, accounting, legal, risk and insurance. Some of the services will be free, while others will be available through an annual membership.

Services are aimed at companies that have a limited number of owners. Closely held businesses are often small businesses but larger companies can fit this definition, too.

Programming and services will launch in three Indiana cities starting this summer, Lacy School Dean Stephen Standifird told IBJ. 

“The intent is to very quickly be rolling out programming in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Evansville,” Standifird said. “In order for Indianapolis to be thriving, we really need a state that’s thriving.”

Old National already has paid some of its gift, with the remainder due over the next five years. Neither Butler nor the bank would disclose how much of the $5 million has changed hands.

With the donation, Standifird said, Butler has hired a director and an administrative assistant who will run the center. The director is Dennis Wimer, who is stepping down as associate chief operating officer for field operations at the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. Wimer’s first day at Butler will be May 15.

The size of Old National’s gift allows the center to create an endowment. Interest on the $5 million will be enough to pay the two staffers and cover programming costs without touching the principal, Standifird said.

Old National’s chief credit officer, Steve McGlothlin, will chair the center’s advisory board, and Lacy School of Business Senior Adviser Andre Lacy will serve as a board member. Additional board members will be announced later.

Standifird said Butler has been seeking to start a small business center for several years, but it was waiting until it had the resources and the right partner.

“The Old National Bank gift gives us enough to really launch and know that we are financially secure,” Standifird said. 

The school and the bank are no strangers to each other, and each party said it made sense to team up on this project.

Standifird formerly served as dean of the business school at the University of Evansville, where he met Old National Board CEO Bob Jones, along with other bank leaders.

When Standifird moved to Butler two years ago, Old National got interested in working with the school on its small-business development activities.

Community involvement is an important part of Old National’s business model, Jones said, and the Butler partnership also could help the bank land new clients.

“The more we talked, the more we realized we had an alignment with what our goals are,” Jones told IBJ. “It’s kind of a match made in heaven.”

Old National is also eager to amp up its presence in Indianapolis.

The bank entered the Indianapolis market 15 years ago, but it’s a mid-pack performer. According to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data, as of June 30, Old National held 2.15 percent of local deposits, putting it 12th among the market’s 49 banks.

While not the main driver of its decision, the change for a high-profile partnership was appealing to the bank, Jones said. “Our mission is really to be known as Indiana’s bank.”

Butler said Old National’s statewide footprint was part of its appeal in this partnership.

Old National has a strong presence in Evansville and Fort Wayne, which Standifird said will help Butler roll out center programming in those areas. 

And by offering programming around the state, Butler has a chance to improve its name recognition. That, Standifird said, should help both the school and Hoosier businesses.

Improved name recognition could help Butler recruit students from around the state, Standifird said. It also helps introduce current Butler students to smaller companies they might not have known of otherwise. 

Making these connections can help both students and employers, Standifird said, because smaller companies often struggle to compete with well-known corporations when recruiting new talent.

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