The Local Impact of COVID-19

Northeast Indiana business leaders share how their businesses are faring amid the pandemic.
Jun 4, 2020
The Local Impact of COVID-19

No business has been immune to the pandemic. That holds true nationwide and also here in northeast Indiana. We talked with business leaders from a variety of industries to see how their businesses have adapted and are moving forward in a new normal world. Not all of the responses could make it in print, please go to businesspeople.com to hear from everyone we interviewed. 


Bruce Wright, Senior Vice President, Regional Manager, Lake City Bank

How have your business and employees been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis? We have more people working from home and have been doing a lot of Webex communications to stay connected and to get the work processed. Still, everyone’s attitude, from employees to customers, has been very supportive and positive.

Is your business operating in a new-normal way? Yes, with limited lobby access, we have seen our customers using our digital solutions to do their banking really increase. Everything from transactional business to loans to deposit openings can be accomplished through these channels.

Do you expect your business to survive this crisis? Yes, we have actually been busy during this period of time with Paycheck Protection Program loan processing, new account openings and serving customers. We have survived 148 years as a banking organization and will emerge from this stronger and with a focus on the future.

Words of wisdom for other business owners? Stay positive, realize this will pass and that your business is not alone in this. Also, now is a good time to collaborate with others.


Harold Berfiend, COO/CFO, IU Health

How have your business and employees been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis? With so much unknown about COVID19 at the beginning we immediately we had to make adjustments to increase safety measures for our employees and patients. Keeping our health care workers safe is our highest priority. We are doing everything in our power to minimize the risk of the exposure of the virus to team members, their families and our patients. This included adjusting schedules for telephonic patient visits and also virtual visits.  Preserving personal protective equipment for a possible surge in hospitals was one of our first steps.

Is your business operating in a new-normal way? Yes, we have shifted from nearly 100 percent in-person patient visits to more virtual based care. Presently, over 25 percent of our visits are virtual, which is incredible to think about this shift happening so quickly. In December, this number would’ve been less than 1 percent. We believe that virtual visits, when appropriate for the patient, will be larger part of our operations going forward. We are seeing more patients through the IU Health virtual visits app and we’re receiving positive feedback.

Do you expect your business to survive this crisis? Yes, absolutely. From the beginning, Indiana University Health Fort Wayne has been on a mission to deliver care differently, at a lower cost to the patient and with easier access. As an organization we will emerge stronger and even more focused on how to provide care in ways more convenient for the patients. We have recruited over 20 primary care physicians to the market and are excited to see them grow.

Words of wisdom for other business owners? The world has changed forever in the matter of months, push yourself to think of new ways to deliver your goods and services. Lean on other business owners and see how they are adapting their businesses and don’t be afraid to try a new strategy, your competitors are for sure.


Mayor Tom Henry, City of Fort Wayne

How have the city of Fort Wayne and its employees been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis? The safety of our employees was our first priority, which means we encouraged employees to work from home if possible, and when not possible, we made work areas safer with distancing and staggered work hours, plenty of sanitizing materials and we’re conducting meetings via conference calls. We also made sure our public safety employees had all of the proper PPE, to keep them and the public safe.

Is your business operating in a new-normal way? Our divisions are used to responding to emergency situations like weather events, for instance, so they quickly shifted into crisis mode and identified which face-to-face services could be modified for safety and what could be postponed. For example, City Utilities placed a kiosk outside to collect payments when we closed Citizens Square and the Botanical Conservatory held a very successful online plant sale. The Community Development Department reached out to their partner agencies and gathered information about resources for food, loans, childcare, mental healthcare, shelter and more, and placed all of that information on our website so residents could conveniently access support.

Words of wisdom for other business owners? I encourage business owners to be patient and understanding with their employees and their customers because everyone’s situation during this pandemic is different and so are our anxieties. Some employees may be nervous about coming back to work, so do everything you can to ensure they are protected, and provide them with all the necessary support and information they need to perform their jobs well. Make sure your customers also know the safety guidelines they need to follow to do business in your establishment, so that everyone in the building stays safe. Finally, understand that humans are great at adapting and as we do, we will get on the other side of this crisis and start thriving again.


Scott Hinderman, Executive Director of Airports, Fort Wayne International Airport

How have your business and employees been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis? Fort Wayne International Airport (FWA) has been impacted in a number of ways by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Travel bans on non-essential travel, stay at home orders, and the general uncertainty of the current climate have had major impacts on global and domestic airline travel. With that, FWA has seen a stark decline in passenger traffic. Airlines are pulling routes and frequencies which has reduced the number of daily flights offered at the airport. Our work force was down the “essential only” staffing and much of our administrative staff worked from home during Governor Holcomb’s stay at home executive order. In addition to this, we have paused much of our customer service focused programming including our CSA Parking Lot Shuttle Service and Hospitality Host Program in order to limit person-to-person contact for the safety of our employees, volunteers and passengers. 

Is your business operating in a new-normal way? We have made many changes to our operations to adjust to the “new normal.” All of the airlines that service FWA have put some type of protocol in place regarding passengers wearing face masks during their travels. TSA is implementing social distancing practices at the TSA Checkpoint. Our custodial staff has ramped up cleaning and disinfecting efforts in the terminal. It is important to us to keep our passengers, as well as our staff, safe and healthy.

Do you expect your business to survive this crisis? Fort Wayne International and Smith Field will survive, and I believe we will come out stronger in the end. The airline/travel industry and Americans are resilient, and while it will definitely take some time, people will travel again. Things may look different at FWA for a while, but we are taking this time to work on some major improvements for our passengers that they will be able to enjoy when they are ready to come back and fly. Sunny skies are ahead!

Words of wisdom for other business owners? Remember that at the end of the day, we are all in this together. Our community has come together in great ways during these uncertain times, and I believe that as we return to some form of normalcy, it will be our community that lifts our businesses and organizations back up. While things are much different right now, the northeast Indiana region can, and will, come back from this.


Dena Jacquay, Chief Community and Human Resource Officer, Parkview Health 

How have your business and employees been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis? As a healthcare system and the largest employer in the region, we have continued to provide needed healthcare services during these last several months. Our 13,000 co-workers have been tremendous, being present to help take care of our community while also working through the challenges that have impacted each of them and their families personally. Because we have experienced so much in the last 60 days as an employer, it is also why we have wanted to give back and share what we have learned through the webinar series done in conjunction with the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, Greater Fort Wayne and Allen County Department of Health. Our new Parkview Business Connect service also provides on-demand consulting with guidance and resources to employers during the re-start and recovery stages. We feel strongly about helping give back to our community in this way. We are truly IN this together to do what we can to slow the spread. 

Is your business operating in a new-normal way? While many of us have undoubtedly heard the words “new normal” to describe what life and work will be like in the future, the real reality will be that life and work will continue to evolve, continuously, without ever landing on a final and concrete way business will be done in the future. In any organization, you are always adjusting to new and different circumstances. While a global pandemic has a much deeper and wider impact, it is going to take a great deal of creativity, innovation and adaptive thinking to redesign work, community and places for the now and near term.  

Do you expect your business to survive this crisis? In times of crisis, we have seen incredible world-class teamwork across our healthcare system to deliver care to our community. This is our mission. It’s who we are. As a not-for-profit, Parkview Health is owned by the community and we expect to be here to take care of many generations to come.  

Words of wisdom for other business owners? Blessed are the flexible right now. Early on in the pandemic, one of our Parkview leaders shared that with me. We all have to be willing to do things a little differently and think about things differently. You must make the conscious decision to get out of your comfort zone because that is where the magic can happen. Our co-workers are the most valuable resource we have, and just as we are asking them for flexibility right now, we need to be flexible with them. Being curious and providing grace and understanding can go a long way. The voice of co-workers in any organization can provide valuable feedback and insights to help you be an employer of choice. As Maya Angelou once said, “At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”  


Clay Weir, REALTOR, Weir Real Estate

How have your business and employees been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis? The real estate industry has greatly benefitted from the advancement of technology. Traditional showings have evolved quickly during this time to using live streaming and recorded video tours. Technology allows agents to work from virtual home offices and allows electronic signatures on contracts.  Purchasing a home is still a personal experience, these advancements haven’t replaced the need to see property but instead enhances the speed of business.  

Is your business operating in a new-normal way? We were already using many of the new technologies that allowed us to do business virtually. We have adapted quite well, working to enhance our video streaming and recorded video tours to maximize exposure of our listed properties.   

Do you expect your business to survive this crisis? I have survived many ups and downs in the real estate market during the past 29 years. We will survive this as well.

Words of wisdom for other business owners? It is necessary for business owners and individuals alike to build reserves to weather storms and manage the unexpected. I hope that going forward a new sense of fiscal responsibility manifests itself.


Bryan Harshbarger, President, Briner Building

How have your business and employees been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis? Contractually we’ve had a few clients “postpone” or place their construction projects on hold. The COVID-19 virus is a concern for everyone in society, we are providing our employees with all the resources we can to allow them to make an informed decision.

Is your business operating in a new-normal way? Yes and no. With the exception of working remotely and social distancing guidelines, things are generally “normal.”

Do you expect your business to survive this crisis? Of course. Things come and go, the world will still be here on the other end.

Words of wisdom for other business owners? How you treat your employees during this crisis will separate your business.



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