Ants’ king of the hill giving back to city
The link between a sports star and his or her community is so valuable, it’s hard to understand why more teams, and more stars, don’t do everything they can to cultivate the relationship.
But this isn’t the place to analyze how Bulls management could have believed they could have a better team without Michael Jordan, or whether LeBron James would have been happier staying in Cleveland.
Our editorial board had a visit from a basketball player who has become, in his own way, as much a part of Fort Wayne’s image as Jordan was of Chicago’s or James was of Cleveland’s.
Ron Howard came with his wife, Reesha, an equal partner in what is clearly one of this city’s most dynamic families.
Ron has the title of Mr. Mad Ant, having been with the franchise with only a couple of breaks since it was founded as an NBA Development League team in 2007.
This year, he added a few more titles: the D-League’s co-MVP and its all-time leading scorer; recipient of the sportsmanship award; and one of those who made the Mad Ants’ 2013-14 championship possible.
Reesha has the title of Mrs. Mad Ant, playing an equal part in the family’s success inside and outside the world of basketball.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Ant are thoughtful and realistic about the challenges that professional sports throws at young athletes. Knowing that Ron’s basketball career can’t last into middle age, and wanting to give back to the community that they’ve become part of in the last seven years, they have found a business venture that they believe can carry them past his last ball game and help Fort Wayne’s young people, as well.
It’s called Game Day Sports Camp, and with sponsorships from several organizations and space provided by Concordia Theological Seminary, it offers six-, four- or two-week summer camps for kids K-8. The Howards’ camps, which are enrolling now, offer a chance to do a lot more than basketball. There are other outdoor activities mixed with less-strenuous alternatives such as arts and crafts, painting and puppet-making.
Listening to Ron and Reesha Howard talk about the camp, we wanted to join up, too. But all of us were a bit too old, and we will have to settle for looking forward to next fall’s Ants season.
Chrysler’s comeback has a Hoosier feel
Things were looking grim for the U.S. auto industry when President Barack Obama offered a bailout to General Motors and Chrysler in early 2009. They looked even grimmer for Chrysler after state Treasurer Richard Mourdock sued to stop the federal deal because Indiana stood to lose $6 million of the $42.5 million in pension funds invested in the company. Mourdock’s approval of the purchase of junk bonds from the struggling automaker put the funds at risk, but he placed at risk an estimated 124,000 automotive-related jobs in Indiana when he sued to block the deal.
The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately declined to hear the case and the state’s additional loss was limited to the $2 million in lawyer fees spent by the state treasurer.
Things didn’t turn out too well for Mourdock, but the Chrysler picture certainly has brightened since those grim days five years ago. This week Chrysler/Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne was in Indiana to mark the opening of a new transmission plant in Tipton, where a failed state economic development deal with Getrag Transmission was turned around to create 850 jobs. That’s on top of a $343 million investment made by Chrysler in Kokomo that saved 1,184 jobs in 2010. Obama visited Kokomo later that year with Marchionne and yet another transmission line was announced, with an investment of $843 million.
Since late 2009, Chrysler has invested $1.6 billion in Indiana and added 2,600 jobs. The Kokomo Tribune reports that – if all goes well – Chrysler could employ 7,350 workers here by next year – a 60 percent increase in its Indiana workforce in just six years.
Not so grim after all.