Hi-Tech Talent Retained in Evansville
Losing a job is extremely stressful. For Mike Stagg and his partners, it presented the opportunity to start a new business and created a passion for bringing high tech jobs into Evansville.
In 2012, when Whirlpool announced consolidation plans that would move Evansville operations to Michigan, local employees had a tough choice to make in deciding whether to pull up roots and make the move also. Stagg’s roots run deep in Evansville, so for him there was no choice.
Knowing the abundance of talent and expertise that would be available in Evansville upon Whirlpool’s closing, Stagg contacted Haier America to entice them to relocate operations to Evansville to take advantage of that talent. They weren’t interested in moving here, but they did see the advantage of tapping the talent pool and agreed to contract work. After months of discussion and negotiation, Envolve Engineering was born.
Getting their start at Innovation Pointe in Downtown Evansville, Envolve slowly built their staff, now providing design engineering service for all appliance lines of Haier America.
Months later, with assistance from local economic development teams (including the Growth Alliance) and the City of Evansville the contracted work led to Haier America’s 30,000-square-foot R&D Center in Evansville, known as their Technology & Design Center of Excellence. The company located just outside of downtown in the former Coca-Cola bottling plant and distribution center. [More on this: Haier America Selects Evansville for World-Class Tech Center]
While a single contract got Envolve Engineering started, the partners knew they needed to diversify to be sustainable.
By 2016, the Haier work concluded and by then, the start-up firm located at Innovation Pointe had indeed diversified. They still do significant work in appliance design, but the explosion of the Internet of Things technology has provided a significant avenue for growth.
With advances in connectivity, Envolve has augmented their design work with remote monitoring; parlaying their refrigerator appliance experience to “medical refrigeration monitoring”. As an example, bone marrow requires critical storage at ultra-low temperatures.
This technology also has applications in the petroleum industry and agricultural industry. In fact, this technology can be used to remotely monitor and/or control just about anything anywhere.
Envolve remains active in the appliance design field. The company recently launched an ice maker designed as a replacement for traditional units (which are prone to high failure rates with many mechanical parts). One example of the improved design elements is the use of optical sensors in place of the problematic metal arm that senses the ice level in the bin, and frequently can become stuck or damaged.
The key to success in this arena is to create designs that are protected by intellectual property—this way they can benefit every time a unit is sold.
The number of applications for design, sensors and connectivity are endless. The company is currently working on a solution to prevent grain storage spoilage. Their design could result in up to three weeks advance notice before spoiling.
Stagg notes that while there are many cool aspects to the technology, caution is needed for security reasons. It is not as secure as wi-fi because of the rush to get into the market.
Envolve has grown to 12 employees, seven of which had been part of the Whirlpool team. Stagg and his partners are proud to have brought high tech jobs to Evansville. Their experience in design engineering, computer-aided design and plastics injection molding provides lots of opportunities to design for all types of manufacturing. While a small business, their footprint is global with customers in California, Wisconsin and China.
“There is a lot of talent here in Evansville,” Stagg notes. “Companies are doing immensely technical things.”
Envolve’s support of the community runs strong. Every employee hired since the Whirlpool closure has been a student from the University of Southern Indiana. While they are proud to be bringing new money into the community through their business, they are just as proud to keep the jobs right where they belong – in Evansville.
Author: Ellen Horan, Growth Alliance president
ABOUT INNOVATION POINTE
Innovation Pointe is a high-tech business incubator managed by the Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville. Located in the heart of Downtown Evansville, Innovation Pointe assists in the creation and growth of new businesses in the Evansville area to increase the overall wealth of our city and people. Clients at Innovation Pointe have access to countless amenities at little or no cost.
For additional information regarding office space at Innovation Pointe, please contact Celia Shoulders, Facility Operations Manager.