• Are you subscribed to the future?

    The advancement of technology has allowed us to gain expanded foresight in our everyday lives. This foresight has allowed us to plan our personal and professional lives much more than in the past. Planning our consumption has always been something on our daily agenda, and once subscriptions were introduced we had to plan on what to consume. What newspaper we were going to subscribe to. How were we going to make the most of the Sam’s Club membership. Companies have taken notice of our willingness to do some extra planning to save money and started offering subscription based services for other things like music, where the subscription based model didn’t really work in the past (Looking at you Zune). Why is it working now? Why are consumers more open to the idea to not owning something that they are paying for? I will examine those questions and a few others for Technology Tuesday.

    First, why have subscription based models become so popular recently? The answer is pretty simple. For companies, the idea of essentially renting content is really ideal. Because managing content is a lot easier than maintaining a fleet of cars. Right now, the cost of using a musician's album is dirt cheap. The payout checks to artists from services like Spotify are laughable (as low as $0.006 per play) and some are starting to fight back. TV and movie rates are much more controlled, much like the history of those industries. You don't see movie studios complaining too much about their returns from Netflix.

    Now what does planning have to do with all of this? I believe that this has to do with Americans becoming increasingly involved with activities resulting in busy schedules. This leaves less free time to devote to activities like listening to new music or renting a movie. Heck, people barely listen to albums all the way through now. People seem to just want playlists with all their favorites and that is what services like Netflix and Spotify have noticed.

    What industry will be next to offer a subscription based model? Jewel Osco? You may laugh now, but the grocery stores are starting to be pushed towards something like that by companies like Amazon and Uber who are starting to offer food delivery in select cities. I believe that food delivery could be Uber's ticket into more rural areas like northwest Indiana.

    What industries would you like to see embrace a subscription model?

  • Habitat for Humanity NW Indiana | Veterans Build

    Habitat for Humanity Northwest Indiana Veteran's Build

    Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Indiana, a Gary-based organization is the local chapter of the philanthropic organization of the same name that operates around the world.

    Their efforts are focused on providing affordable housing for needy families. The organization refurbishes old homes and selects sites on which new ones are constructed. The homes are then provided to chosen families on a low, interest-free mortgage.

    Lisa Benko Habitat for Humanity Northwest Indiana“Our philosophy is, we’re a hand up, not a handout,” Director of Development and Community Relations Lisa Benko said. “We hold the mortgage and they pay. This doesn’t just provide them with a decent place to live, it gives them a tangible asset.”

    Habitat of NWI serves local residents who earn between 30 and 80 percent of the Lake County Median Income. They mainly operate in Gary and Hammond, where they can keep the cost to the homeowner down. They do have other projects peppered about Lake County, however. The organization also operates the ReStore in Gary, which sells donated household items of all kinds.

    The economic downturn of the last half-decade coincided with a change of leadership at Habitat of NWI. Upon acquiring the position of Family Services Coordinator, Penny Triezenberg spread the word about the organization’s aim to help area families. The requests came flooding in.

    “We’ve gotten a whole lot more applicants since then,” Benko said. “We have more applicants than we can build homes for.”

    Habitat made it a priority to help area veterans who are struggling to get by. Joining forces with the Northwest Indiana Veterans Action Council, the organization launched the Veterans Build project at the start of this year.

    “There are 37,000 vets in Lake County,” Benko said. “17 percent are living in poverty. So we sought to find a veteran or surviving spouse of a veteran with a family.”

    The chosen candidate is a veteran of Desert Storm and Desert Shield who is also the single parent of two teens. Their new home recently broke ground in Merillville.

    Veterans Build brought Habitat of NWI a lot of publicity, which meant many members of the community have been willing to help.

    “Usually organizations have just one big event every year,” Benko said. “But there’s been a lot of interest in us this year. A lot of organizations put on their own fundraisers, making Veterans Build their target.”

    The most recent event raising proceeds for Habitat was the Victory for Veterans Motorcycle Ride held at Wicker Park in Highland on Sept. 28.

    Still, Benko stresses that the heart of Habitat for NWI are the volunteers, of which the organization has about 6000 on record. In addition to publicity and word-of-mouth attracting members of the community, recent high schools have made community service a requirement, which leads many students to volunteer.

    “We’ve been getting a lot more calls since then,” Benko said.

    Most Habitat volunteer work consists of constructing houses or running the ReStore. Through this, Benko says, volunteers not only help others, but also gain valuable skills.

    “It helps teach teambuilding,” Benko said. “And you can also learn new sets of skills