On December 31 this year, Don Babcock will retire after over 40 years of working at NIPSCO. Babcock said that he was offered a voluntary severance package that he decided to take advantage of, otherwise, he would probably still be there. Although he is looking forward to some extended time off to visit family for a few months, he has already had two job offers and plans to find a new vein through which he can serve the community.
Right after he graduated from Purdue Calumet, now called Purdue University Northwest, Babcock started his career at NIPSCO and became a nuclear staff member as the company began working on the development of a new nuclear plant in 1977.
Before getting into NIPSCO’s economic development, Babcock was part of the nuclear staff, ran the compress natural gas vehicle program, served as the assistant to the vice president of operations, worked in district management, and held many other positions at NIPSCO.
In over 40 years at NIPSCO, Babcock has received many awards, but he said the most satisfying award was given to him earlier this month. His many community efforts were recognized when the Secretary of Commerce presented him with the Sagamore of the Wabash Award, which is the highest civilian award in the state of Indiana.
Each community effort Babcock partook in was impactful to him, NIPSCO, and the community, but there were a few that stood out to Babcock.
“Over time with my fellow commissioners and Mayor Meer, we got to make some significant changes in Michigan City including new streetscapes, a new pavilion on Lake Michigan, an improved overpass on 94, and, just recently, new aesthetic improvements on US-12 Bridge by Blue Chip Casino,” Babcock said.
After mentioning that Michigan City’s farmers market could use some improvements, Babcock said someone approached him and suggested they put some farm equipment out front. Babcock ran with the idea and took it up a notch.
“I said that maybe we should put a plow on top of a 30-foot pole,” Babcock said. “They were looking at me like, ‘Don, what are talking about?’ I wanted something that was going to be a draw to the area. Over the next couple of months, I ended up working very closely with Lubeznik Center for the Arts. I’ve been very proud to be a supporter of theirs over the years. I worked with them to come up with the AgriSculpture Project. I worked with others and brought up maybe three tons of steel farm equipment from Nashville, IN, and employed three artists to build three different sculptures. Now they’re on display at our farmers market in Michigan City.”
Another memorable Michigan City project that Babcock recalled was the construction of the pavilion on the lake. He praises the high-quality, two-story building and thinks it would be great for other communities to do similar projects that would invite residents to enjoy the beautiful nature in their towns and cities.
Babcock was grateful to have been part of these and many other projects. His motivation to work at NIPSCO centers around taking care of customers, improving the economy, and bringing new industries to the community that will boost its overall value.
“When you can help bring an industry with good-paying jobs to a community and provide them with reliable gas and electric service, that is a great value. When you do that, you can feel good about the work you did with others during the day, sleep well at night, and get up and do it again the next day. I think whatever endeavor you’re in, you ought to be proud of it, and you ought to own it. When you’re not jumping out of bed every day, running to the office, and trying to lift up people’s spirits around you then you’re in the wrong job. You’ve got to have fun every day. Life is so precious.”
When Indiana’s steel industry was at its height in the 70s, Babcock recalled that many felt it had a negative image in the area. However, Babcock is proud of the progress they have made in the steel industry since then both tangibly and in the perceptions of Indiana residents.
“I think people are recognizing the tremendous assets we have here—not just the Shore Line and the South Shore, but also the great opportunities here with our universities and industries that we have here.”
For Babcock, the most important part of the job is working with other motivated individuals to work toward a better future.
“I like to be with people who dream about bigger future and want to do something about it. My whole effort at NIPSCO is to find good people and help them,” he said. “When I find someone like that, I’ll set up a meeting and compliment them or if we have some money in the budget, I’ll try to support whatever their activity is if it is going to move the community ahead. I want to work with good people who believe that our collective energies can make a greater future. That’s my general message: work with positive people who have positive attitudes and go for it.”
To learn more about NIPSCO, visit https://www.nipsco.com/.