Starke County Economic Development Foundation, Inc.
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starke county economic development foundation to honor van h. janovic with robert e. hamilton award

The Starke County Economic Development Foundation will host its third annual “Prospectus and Achievements Night” on October 3, 2013 at the Knox Middle School beginning at 5:30 pm CDT. This event is open to the public.The night will culminate with the awarding of the Robert E. Hamilton Award, named in honor of the now deceased banker widely believed to be the leading force for the creation of the Foundation. This Award was established by action of the Foundation’s Board of Directors and first announced at the 25th Anniversary of the founding of SCEDF and has been awarded previously to Jack Lynch, Mathew Swanson, and Nancy Dembowski.It is awarded to a person who has contributed a great amount of service in the field of economic development as well as the community as a whole.

This year’s recipient of the award is Van H. Janovic.Van Janovic has spent a great deal of his time since opening an office in Starke County back in 1978 helping various groups and organizations in the county realize their dreams.  He has provided engineering and surveying services to virtually every municipality in the county and several not-for-profit organizations during that period of time, often at no cost to those entities.For his many years of unpaid service not only to the Foundation, but to several other municipal and not-for-profit organizations, Van is this year’s recipient of the Robert E. Hamilton Award, becoming the fourth recipient of the award since its creation.

Van was born on the south side of Chicago in 1942, and moved with his family to Starke County in 1949 where his father operated a grocery store at Koontz Lake.He graduated from Grovertown High School and then attended Purdue University, where he obtained his degree in Civil Engineering in 1966.His initial work experiences included stints with Cole Associates, Hickey Construction, and Sollitt Construction, all in South Bend. There he worked on projects involving interstates, bridges, industrial buildings, apartment complexes, heavy construction, convention centers, and powerhouses, among others.He worked on South Bend’s Century Center and the basketball court at Indiana State University, home to Larry Bird.

In late 1978, Van decided that he would open his own engineering firm in Starke County, which led to the formation of Territorial Engineering.Shortly thereafter, Van was elected as Starke County Surveyor and served one term in that position, from 1980-1984 and during that time is credited with reorganizing that office, as well as implementing the 1965 Drainage Code which had never been implemented in the county.That code has resulted in a modern drainage system that otherwise might have never come to pass in Starke County.Van also established standard contract forms which are still being used today.He also issued Ditch Bonds to help pay for needed drainage work, probably the only time that method of financing was used.He and his office have continued to this day to serve as a consultant to the Surveyor’s office.

Van’s work with the Starke County Economic Development Foundation (SCEDF) began even before the Foundation officially began.His early office was located around the corner from the bank where Robert E. Hamilton served as President, and Hamilton asked Van for some sketches on some project he had an idea about.That early work then became standard practice that continues today.During this period of time, Van and his firm have worked on virtually every economic development project the county has seen.

Perhaps his most important contribution is the creation of a Foundation “Wish Book” of projects that might come to fruition in the future.Van oftentimes would see the need for various projects, and even though money was not available at that point in time, he would do some preliminary work which included cost estimates.This Wish Book has been used by every Foundation Director since its creation, and puts the Foundation ahead of the ball when time is of the essence. There is never any bill for this work, but instead, Van does that as a community service.

In addition to his service for the Foundation, Van has also done the same types of projects for others, mostly in the realm of municipalities and not-for-profit organizations.That list includes:

  • Starke County Historical Society
  • Koontz Lake Little League
  • Koontz Lake Lions Club
  • Koontz Lake Regional Sewer District
  • Bass Lake Regional Sewer District
  • California Township Fire Department
  • Washington Township Community Building
  • Starke County Airport
  • Phoenix House
  • Koontz Lake Missionary Church
  • Starke County Public Library
  • Knox Elementary School

As with the Foundation, many of these projects were done with little or no billing being sent to the entity.Van describes that kind of work as “helping a neighbor out” and seeing early on in his career that he could influence affirmatively a lot of people by helping them out as long as he did it responsibly and never abused that role.

Van’s public service also includes 8 years of service as a member of the Oregon-Davis School Board, and as a member of the Board of the Starke County Historical Society.Van married his wife, Brenda, in 1975 and together they have one child, Elizabeth, who is currently an attorney practicing in Ann Arbor, Michigan.Van also has two sons from a previous marriage, Michael, who just opened a music store in South Bend, and Matthew, who is a published author of history books who also lives in South Bend.Michael is also father to Van’s granddaughter.


The Starke County Economic Development Foundation is a not-for-profit local economic development organization (LEDO) providing economic development opportunities on behalf of Starke County, Indiana, the City of Knox, and the Towns of North Judson and Hamlet through the development of industrial parks, rail spurs, greenfield sites, shovel-ready sites, infrastructure, and workforce development.For more information regarding Starke County Economic Development Foundation, visit