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Changing Lives: Honoring Bill & Gayle Cook

Jobs, economic development and education the results of Cooks' work

By Steve Howard
Former president, Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce
June 17, 2010

Gayle and Bill Cook’s many contributions to the restoration and preservation of historic structures and their bighearted support of our institutions are the most visible aspects of the couple’s impact on our community, region and state.

As significant as those investments are, the less obvious outcomes of the Cook’s activities are more important:
• Jobs. Jobs are “gifts that keep on giving.” The Cooks have been responsible for creating thousands of secure and well-paying jobs. People with good jobs pay taxes, buy houses, educate children, invest in communities, patronize local businesses, pay for healthcare, and in many other ways contribute to our wealth and wellbeing. Their children tend to do the same. The good outcomes produced by Cook-created jobs are less obvious than the West Baden/French Lick restorations and other Cook investments in bricks and mortar. But, the jobs are more important.

• Economic Development. The Cooks have been the linchpin in the process of establishing a new regional economic development segment, life sciences. Cook Group led the way in showing us how to shift emphasis from 20th century to 21st century economic development. This has fundamentally changed the basis and culture of our economy. It has put us at the cutting edge of the new economy.

• Education. Cook Group was the avant garde of a group of new local companies that need a much more sophisticated level of education and training for employees. That need has driven improvements in our educational institutions, especially at Ivy Tech. The new Gayle and Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship at Ivy Tech Bloomington and other life science focused programs are particularly notable examples of education changes the Cook pacesetting has stimulated.

• New Standards. Bill and Gayle Cook have established new standards for both entrepreneurial success and community investment. They have shown us how important entrepreneurial activity can be to a community. They have set the bar for how entrepreneurs can share their rewards.

Unfortunately, we have not always been as fully supportive of entrepreneurs – the Cooks and others – as we should have been. Gayle and Bill Cook’s activities and investments offer a fine example of why entrepreneurs are vital to our economic health. We need to recognize, value and learn from their example. We need to encourage others to emulate them.

In our enlightened self interest we need to rethink and reinvent how we support our entrepreneurs. The Gayle and Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship at Ivy Tech Bloomington offers a perfect venue in which to do just that.

Steve Howard
Copyright: 2010