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June 13, 2007

Business incubator, Purdue helping to grow 'culture of entrepreneurship' in Kokomo

KOKOMO, Ind. - Frontline Logic, a company in Kokomo's Inventrek Technology Park, is a business that focuses on organizing computerized data and keeping records as accessible and easy to manage as possible for its clients.

But to create customized, user-friendly data-management solutions, the company's employees need highly technical skills. That's where Purdue University has been able to give Frontline Logic a big boost.

The Purdue College of Technology at Kokomo awarded its first bachelor's degrees in computer and information technology in May 2006, and since then, three of the six program graduates have been hired as full-time employees at the company.

"Our staff must be technically savvy and possess a wide variety of skills in the areas of software development, systems integration, data management and computer networks," said Brent Seaman, founder and director of Frontline Logic. "Purdue's curriculum provides foundation skills which coincide with our business needs, so it's been a wonderful experience being able to work with so many capable students and keep them from leaving the area and the state."

Frontline Logic was launched by Seaman in 2002. The company focuses on providing imaging services for document management and processing of records, transactions and projects; security systems to protect company data and information systems; and Web structure capabilities for management of online content, publishing and updating procedures. In addition to its Kokomo office, it maintains an office in Anchorage, Alaska.

When Seaman started the company, he had two employees. It has since grown to 14 employees, five of whom are either Purdue graduates or Purdue students working full-time at the company while also earning their computer and information technology bachelor's degrees.

Seaman said Frontline Logic furthers the education and knowledge base of new hires through staff development planning and customized training opportunities. The customized training relies on the employee's existing skills, but focuses on Frontline's technology niche and structured service delivery approach.

"Having Frontline Logic employ our students is a win-win for both Purdue and the company," said Jeffrey Griffin, an associate professor of computer and information technology at the College of Technology at Kokomo. "The students get an opportunity to see that a startup company can grow to a larger organization, and they get a chance to apply what they've learned in the classroom.

"Also, the company gets considerable benefit because the students' curriculum in the program matches so well with what Frontline Logic does. It's really showing the students that if you're a highly skilled worker, you don't have to leave Kokomo to find good employment opportunities."

Thomas Capozzoli, director of the College of Technology at Kokomo and a professor of organizational leadership and supervision, said that he sees the partnership between Frontline Logic and Purdue as the start of a new way of thinking.

"The culture of entrepreneurship in Indiana needs to be encouraged, and this is a great example that success stories are possible," he said. "The 'timeclock mentality' of grooming students to work for a big company is still prevalent in this area and in other areas in the region, such as Muncie and Anderson. While there is nothing wrong with that, we want to open students' minds to all the career options that are available.

"What we're doing is showing students that they don't have to leave Indiana to find good opportunities."

Jan Hendrix, general manager of Inventrek, said that providing students and the community with a tangible example of entrepreneurship at work can go a long way toward showing students that entrepreneurship is possible anywhere.

"While north-central Indiana still relies heavily upon the large employers, what we're doing is proving that there are options other than working for a large corporation or leaving Indiana," Hendrix said. "Those large employers are still vitally important to our area, but it's always a good idea to diversify the economy as much as possible. That way, if a downturn comes about, the community's economy can weather it much better."

For recent Purdue graduates and current students, the experience at Frontline Logic is serving as a valuable supplement to their education.

Jon-Eric Eliker, who graduated with a computer and information technology bachelor's degree from Purdue in 2006, said one of the best things he's learned while working at Frontline Logic since 2003 is how to work directly with clients.

"Since we're a small company, managing clients and selling yourself is an important part of our jobs," he said. "Unlike a large corporation where clients are assigned to us, we have to work for every client we get and make sure to please them so they'll stay with us."

Eliker said he received excellent preparation from Purdue for both the technical and people skills parts of his job, but working in the field at Frontline Logic has strengthened those skills. He said that team members are given the flexibility to work around their Purdue class schedules while maintaining client service and meeting assigned deliverable schedules.

"Programming is a commodity that anyone can be trained to do, but we need people who can think, interact and communicate with clients," he said. "At Frontline Logic, I've been given the freedom to develop these skills in ways I wouldn't at a larger corporation."

Inventrek Technology Park, Frontline Logic's home, is a high-tech business incubator founded in 2003. The Kokomo Howard County Development Corp., in collaboration with Purdue University and Indiana University, Kokomo, established Inventrek to encourage the development of high-tech businesses in Kokomo and Howard County.

Writer: Kim Medaris, (765) 494-6998, kmedaris@purdue.edu

Sources: Thomas Capozzoli, (765) 455-9218, capozzol@purdue.edu

Brent Seaman, (765) 883-1933, brent.seaman@frontlinelogic.com

Jeffrey Griffin, (765) 455-9268, griffin0@purdue.edu

Jan Hendrix, general manager of Inventrek, (765) 854-0443, jhendrix@inventrek.org

Jon-Eric Eliker, (765) 437-7247, jon-eric.eliker@frontlinelogic.com

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

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