Community leaders team up to build a higher education center in Plainfield
By Lindsay Doty
Brandy Wethington Perrill is one of those easy-to-talk-to people, whether she’s brainstorming about a community project or talking to a group of professionals at a luncheon.
“I always assume the crowd is smarter than I am, so just be yourself and be friendly,” Perrill said about public speaking.
The chatty, outdoorsy brunette is constantly building connections in Hendricks County. Her passion is networking for others.
“It’s easier when someone from the outside says, ‘Here are some people you should know, let me make you a connection,’” said Perrill.
She’s the executive director of the Hendricks College Network (HCN), a nonprofit that serves as a toolbox of resources for local residents, businesses and community groups. The organization gives both employers and potential workers access to career opportunities and skills training.
“Connecting our community partners, our students and employers has been what I spend most of my time doing,” she said. “It’s all about relationships, and that’s what makes Hendricks College Network so successful. We are all working towards common goals.”
Perrill believes in building confidence and motivation to send people on a path toward success and a career that works for them.
“The definition of success is different for everyone,” she said.
For the 41-year-old Belleville resident, the path to success has taken some turns. A Purdue graduate, she once had dreams of becoming an astronaut. After 9/11, the space program changed directions, and so did she.
Perrill took a job as a career counselor at an agency that helped unemployed Hoosiers freshen up their resumes and polish their interview skills.
“I was able to step in and offer them advice, and it was very rewarding for me,” she said.
That job led her to her current role with HCN. For the last 13 years, Perrill has helped Hendricks County residents build their resumes with everything from later-in-life college to skills training For the last several years, Perrill has teamed up with a group of community leaders on a large local project called MADE@Plainfield. It’s a higher education center (just announced last week) that would offer training and degree programs for students of all ages.
The plan is to build just north of Plainfield High School on Reeves Road. The center will house classrooms and laboratories for several colleges and universities, along with other organizations involved in career and workforce development.
“The collaboration for this higher education center is monumental for Plainfield and the entire region,” said Robin Brandgard, Plainfield Town Council president. “Employers are looking for well-trained employees. Employees are looking for good jobs but often lack the appropriate training. MADE@Plainfield will be a state-of-the-art facility to serve those needs.”
MADE@Plainfield was created to be an acronym for both employers and students:
Make your career, Achieve your dreams, Design your future with Education at Plainfield and Meet your growing needs, Achieve your goals, Design your workforce with Education at Plainfield.
“As our economy continues to grow at an ever-increasing pace, we believe this project will help retain and expand the training capacities our exceptional existing post-secondary institutions are doing in our county,” said Jeff Pipkin, executive director of the Hendricks County Economic Development Partnership.
Pipkin serves on the steering committee for MADE@Plainfield, along with Perrill, Plainfield Community School Corporation (PCSC) superintendent Scott Olinger and Plainfield town manager Andrew Klinger.
The Town of Plainfield is considering the recommendation to construct the facility. The town council has approved the design development for the $30 million project, but specific plans still need final approval. The project would be funded by the town and workforce partners, according to project leaders.
The facility would be located next to Plainfield High School. Construction could begin as early as next summer. (Photo provided by Town of Plainfield)
“We are excited to see this project come to fruition. It will provide many opportunities for our students to walk across the street and take college-level courses,” said Olinger.
“The idea is to build a better bridge for students moving from secondary education into post-secondary education and training that can lead to jobs in the local market,” said Klinger.
Made@Plainfield partners also include Ivy Tech Community College, Vincennes University and WorkOne.
Project leaders hope to break ground in the summer of 2020. The goal is for students to begin meeting at MADE@Plainfield in the 2021 academic year.
“We want to focus programming to reflect the needs of our local community,” Perrill said. “We know the workforce is a hot topic and logistics careers are booming. So, to have the training we need, from entry level to professional inside one building is going to benefit everyone.”
Getting to know Brandy Wethington Perrill:
(Photos by Rick Myers)
- Hometown: St. Louis
- Current town: Belleville
- Pet: An 11-year-old black German shepherd rescue named Walker.
- If I’m not working or helping the community, I’m hopefully in the forest.
- Coffee: black
- Advice to college age students? Keep an open mind for your future and meet as many professionals as you can for advice you may not expect.
- What keeps you motivated: Helping people find their success.
Get to know the MADE@Plainfield members of the steering committee who work with Brandy Wethington Perrill
Andrew Klinger, Plainfield town manager
Klinger was appointed to the town manager role in 2015. He brings more than 20 years of experience in public service in a variety of different roles, including work as a municipal manager, attorney, strategic planner and economic developer.
Jeff Pipkin, Hendricks County Economic Development Partnership director
Pipkin is an economic development veteran who joined the HCED team in 2013 and was named executive director in 2016 to help bring job and development opportunities to the county.
Scott Olinger, Plainfield Community School Corporation superintendent
Olinger has been superintendent since 2008 and previously worked as a principal at Plainfield High School.