NIPSCO's solar array

NIPSCO recently had this 100-kilowatt, alternating current solar array installed for its Valparaiso office.

American Electric Power Foundation, on behalf of Fort Wayne-based Indiana Michigan Power, is donating emergency funds of $240,000 to help communities it serves in Indiana and Michigan deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The foundation will be making the funds available to local nonprofit groups that support basic human needs such as food and shelter, according to an I&M announcement.

“It is important to all our team members at I&M to support and enhance the quality of life in the communities we serve, and without hesitation we want to step up at this uncertain time and help,” Toby Thomas, I&M president and chief operating officer, said in the announcement.

“The AEP Foundation has made it possible for the people at I&M to once again be there for our neighbors. These funds will help our communities and customers to focus on staying healthy and provide much needed aid as we navigate this pandemic.”

The amount will be part of $1.5 million the foundation plans to contribute in similar donations to nonprofit groups in 11 states.

Frontier enters 60-day grace period

Frontier Communications Corp. has entered a 60-day grace period for a senior unsecured notes payment that was due in mid-March

The major provider of broadband, phone and subscription television service in the Fort Wayne area said it elected to defer making interest payments while continuing talks with creditors.

“We remain actively engaged in constructive discussions with our bondholders as the company continues to evaluate its capital structure with an eye to reducing debt and interest expense,” Frontier said in a recent announcement.

“As part of this process, Frontier has made the decision to take advantage of the 60-day grace period allowed under the indenture to facilitate ongoing discussions as we work to reach a comprehensive resolution,” it said.

“Importantly, we continue to provide quality service to our customers without interruption and work with our business partners as usual.”

The Norwalk, Connecticut-based telecom with operations in Indiana and 28 other states asked creditors months ago to help it come up with a turnaround plan, which involved a pre-packaged bankruptcy filing before debt of $356 million was scheduled to come due March 16.

NIPSCO solar projects completed

Inovateus Solar has completed the first solar installations for Northern Indiana Public Service Co.

A 120-kilowatt, alternating current (kWac) array with about 430 solar panels went up at NIPSCO’s Merrillville headquarters in Merrillville where it will generate 216,958 kilowatt-hours of clean power each year.

The company had additional 100 kWac systems with about 360 panels installed at its offices in LaPorte and Valparaiso, according to an Inovateus announcement.

Each of the smaller projects will generate 181,841 kWh of solar power annually. Combined, the solar projects will provide enough carbon-free power to offset the equivalent of planting more 10,000 pine trees each year they are in service.

“We’re proud of these projects for two reasons,” Tyler Kanczuzewski, vice president of marketing and sustainability for South Bend-based Inovateus, said in the announcement.

“First, many of our employees are NIPSCO customers, so they, their families, and the entire northern Indiana community are now benefiting from NIPSCO’s transition to cleaner resources to save energy and money,” he said.

“Second, these are our company’s first zero-waste solar projects. Thanks to John and his team, it was a great success, and we intend to continue the practice for our customers.”

Inovateus said it collected all wooden pallets, scrap wire, cardboard, excess plastic conduit, metal and plastic bands and all other packaging materials for the projects to prevent about 3.7 tons of construction waste from going into Indiana landfills.

GM to help boost ventilator production

General Motors Co. is collaborating with a Bothell, Washington-based respiratory system manufacturer to increase its production in the face of anticipated hospital equipment shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ventec Life Systems makes 10 types of respiratory devices and is known for its VOCSN, which it says seamlessly integrates a ventilator, oxygen concentrator, cough assist, suction and nebulizer.

“With GM’s help, Ventec will increase ventilator production,” Chris Kiple, Ventec CEO, said in a news release announcing the arrangement.

“By tapping their expertise, GM is enabling us to get more ventilators to more hospitals much faster. This partnership will help save lives.”

GM, the Detroit-based vehicle maker that operates a Fort Wayne Assembly Plant for full-size pickup production, is offering its logistics, purchasing and manufacturing expertise to help Ventec boost its ventilator production.

“We are working closely with Ventec to rapidly scale up production of their critically important respiratory products to support our country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mary Barra, GM’s chair and CEO, said in the announcement. “We will continue to explore ways to help in this time of crisis.”

Ventec and GM are coming together for the project in cooperation with, a national, private sector coordinated response to the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are grateful for the partnership between GM and Ventec Life Systems, which will enable Ventec to drastically scale production of critically needed respiratory care products,” the organization said in the announcement.

“This is a vital step in delivering relief to our healthcare system, which is threatened by the spread of COVID-19. As this virus continues to endanger the lives of countless Americans, is working to unite the business community around a common threat to our economy and our way of life,” it said.

“We know the strength of this effort relies on urgent coordination between the public and private sectors in order to get through this crisis.”

Indiana 211 gears up for COVID-19 calls

Indiana 211 recently created a website where state residents can find health and human resources help dealing with COVID-19 and recently started hiring to provide that kind of information over the phone to a larger volume of callers.

New website for COVID-19-related information is at: and the phone lines for information on services in Indiana are 211 and 1-866-211-9966.

Indiana 211 is a free service created to share information on the help available through community health and human services agencies and to connect callers to those agencies “quickly, easily and confidentially,” an announcement said. “This includes needs such as food, utility, health care, childcare assistance, etc.”

The organization is adding up to 30 community navigators to its workforce to help a growing volume of callers identify and prioritize their needs and get connected with valuable community resources.

Veteran reporter Doug LeDuc joined Business Weekly in 2006 and primarily covers banking and finance and technology. You can send information for his weekly column to or call 260-426-2640, ext. 3309.

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