Rarely does an event hailed as the networking party of the year live up to its name, but in the case of Horizon Bank’s Holiday Business After Hours event, the acclaim stood the test. Businesses and organizations from across La Porte County gathered in Horizon Bank’s Michigan City branch on Tuesday night to connect and reconnect, enjoy beverages and food, and have the opportunity to spread holiday cheer.
Horizon Bank joined forces with the Michigan City Chamber of Commerce three years ago to capitalize on the event’s success. While it’s always maintained a popular reputation, the partnership has allowed both organizations to celebrate their personal victories as well as their county’s victory as a whole.
“It’s been an exciting year for Horizon Bank,” said Craig Dwight, CEO and Chairman of Horizon Bank. “Surpassing $5 billion total assets, we are now the fifth largest bank headquartered in the state of Indiana. Twenty years ago, we were at just $350 million in assets, so it’s been phenomenal growth.”
Dwight credited that growth to his employees, and to the people in the room representing La Porte County.
“You can’t grow without fantastic people who come to work every day and get the job done, and we have fantastic people in Michigan City and La Porte County,” he said. “And that’s why we were able to grow.”
Katie Eaton, president of the Michigan City Chamber of Commerce, said the event served as the perfect opportunity to highlight some of the excellent nonprofits in the area. She announced Dunebrook as the Chamber’s Lakefront Career Network’s (LCN) 2020 Spotlight Organization. Each year, the LCN committee provides opportunities for young professionals to develop a personal network, to grow professionally, and to succeed in business while enhancing the community’s quality of life. Last year, LCN spotlighted Reins of Life.
“This is one of the best parties in Michigan City, and we are so thankful to Horizon Bank, and to Craig and Cara for having us here tonight and allowing our young professional group at the Chamber to participate in the event,” Eaton said.
Reflecting on its successes, Horizon Bank gave back, too. They asked guests to bring new, unwrapped gifts to donate to Toys for Tots on behalf of the Michiana Marines. With 168 pick-up stations throughout the county, the Michiana Marines will have the ability to gift 18,000 items to 3,800 households in need throughout La Porte County.
“This is my favorite time of the year, and it’s not just about Horizon Bank. It’s about giving to others and helping others,” Dwight said.
Guests relished the opportunity to give to a worthy cause, and to take advantage of the other reminder Dwight raised.
“This time of year is also about camaraderie, and getting together with friends you haven’t seen in awhile,” he said.
Cara Jones, Horizon Bank business banker for Michigan City, said this sense of spirit makes the event an extra draw for businesses in the area.
“Everybody tells me that this is the event they look forward to,” Jones said.
As a first-time host of the event, Jones had her work cut out for her, but the jovial crowd made it easy. Even so, there were new faces to meet and greet.
“You get to meet somebody new every time,” Jones said. “Even if you think it’s going to be the same crowd, you actually get to meet somebody new at every event. It’s great to be around these people, everyone is really energetic and enthusiastic.”
Attendees agreed that the event is a crowd-pleaser.
“It’s a great party and a great time to meet people from Michigan City and enjoy the spirit of the season,” said Clarence Hulse, executive director of Economic Development Corporation of Michigan City. “I enjoy getting a chance to reconnect with people I haven’t seen in a while, connect with new people, and talk about the city, what’s going on now, and what’s coming up next year.”
“We always love coming to this event hosted by Horizon. They always do a great job. I mean, when you offer free food and free drinks there’s always a good crowd!” joked Briar Leaf Golf Club PGA Professional Jay Williams. “But it’s really great to rekindle friendships because we don’t get to see people too often during the summer when we’re at the golf course. Winter is the time to see everybody again and reconnect, and this a great opportunity to do so.”
Scott Newcomb, director of plant operations for Sullivan-Palatek, Inc., said he and his team also enjoy the relaxed atmosphere Horizon Bank’s holiday event provides.
“Business is so demanding, you don’t often get a chance to network in a festive environment like this,” Newcomb said. “We love what we do, and we have a lot of employees who take pride in their work. They love Michigan City, and we try to meet as many other local businesses as we can.”
Deborah Tatum, Director of Development for Franciscan Health Foundation, said the event provided a nice opportunity to give and receive feedback on Franciscan Health Michigan City, which opened in January of this year.
“Something that’s really valuable to us and our president, Dean Mazzoni, is getting feedback from our community. We’ve been continually tweaking things based on the feedback we receive,” Tatum said. “Plus, this is an opportunity to share things that are upcoming, like our new walking trail and healing garden. I love bringing new people to see what we’ve done architecturally and with our state-of-the-art technology. We’ve been really working hard to ensure that transitions, which are always hard, are as seamless as possible.”
Barbara Eason-Watkins, Superintendent of Michigan City Area Schools, said Horizon Bank has been an essential partner to the school system. In 2014, Horizon Bank opened the MCHS Wolves Branch in Michigan City High School, offering students a valuable resource in financial literacy and other learning opportunities. With the guidance of Yolanda Davis, Vice President, Community Reinvestment Officer, Horizon Bank has expanded its outreach within the high school to include a course on business development.
“We were talking about what the kids need, and the future of learning. I helped put together a 9-week course, and it just took off from there,” Davis said. “The students really paved the way, because as we were going, they were asking for more and more.”
“Because of Horizon Bank, the students have an opportunity to think outside of the box in terms of something they want to invent, or something creative they might like to share with others and that they would need a business plan in order to put it together,” Eason-Watkins said. “Horizon has given them the chance to really think about business plans, be creative, and be supportive. They’ve just been an excellent resource.”
For more information on all the ways Horizon Bank invests in the community year-round, visit https://www.horizonbank.com/.