Wednesday, March 01, 2006

What One Person Can Do

“At 5:20 p.m. on July 26, 1989, I was home after work and met my wife, Alice, on our back porch. At the same moment we both said, “I’ve got something to tell you,” followed by “You go first—no, you go first” exchange. Alice told me she was pregnant with our third child. I gave her a big hug and said, “I’ve got great news, too. I quit my job today.”

With no job, no income, two children and one on the way Pete Eshelman was going to start his own business. The business, American Specialty Insurance, which focused upon risk management for the sports-entertainment industry started in their farmhouse basement. Their first client was the Milwaukee Brewers.

Within six months the company outgrew its modest beginnings and Pete and his two partners looked for a new location, “We thought about locating our new business in obvious sports and entertainment centers: New York, Chicago, Orland, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles. We ultimately decided to stay in northeast Indiana for ‘quality of life’ reasons. We felt the area provided a great base of operation to raise families and businesses.”

They looked at nearby office parks but decided to buy an old hardware building in decaying, downtown Roanoke, IN (population 1,495). Despite an initial reluctance to locate a relationship business in such a small town, they made the move and as the company grew bought up the old, historic buildings on the one block long main street. Today they’ve completely redone the old buildings, added a four star restaurant (Joseph Decuis) and grown the business to over 100 high paying white collar jobs.

The company insured the Salt Lake City Olympics, many major league baseball teams, race car teams and entertainment stars. Carol Pugh told me, “We have people like Dolly Parton, George Steinbrenner and many others in here all of the time.”

Today, because of the efforts of one individual and one company a small town’s downtown has been restored to its past elegance. If you get to NE IN, be sure to stop in.

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