October 02, 2013It's not every day students get a chance to mingle with one of the most important people in state government; however, that is exactly what happened when Secretary of State Connie Lawson visited students at Crawford County Junior-Senior High School and then made the jump to Marengo Warehouse and Distribution Center for a tour of the well-known facility on Thursday, Sept. 19.
Lawson serves as Indiana's 61st Secretary of State and was appointed by former Gov. Mitch Daniels on March 16, 2012.
Secretary of State Connie Lawson, left, is given a tour of the Marengo Warehouse and Distribution Center by Brian Venturi. Photos by Leslie Radcliff
She is currently the third highest-ranking official in state government. Historically, the duties of the office included the maintenance of state records and preservation of the state seal, but as the state government expanded, so did the position's.
Lawson's present duties include the regulation of the securities industry, oversight of state elections and licensing of vehicle dealerships throughout Indiana, among other things.
Prior to serving as Secretary of State, Lawson served in the Indiana Senate for 16 years and as clerk of the Hendricks County Circuit Court for eight years, and it is that experience with finances that brought her to CCJSHS to speak with students.
"My duty today is to talk to you about financial literacy and how you can budget and develop good credit and how you can protect yourself from fraud," she said.
She walked students through "Budgeting 101" and talked to them about saving and retirement. Lawson also talked to students about not living beyond their means in order to create an environment where they can save money for a fiscal emergency.
"Fewer than 50 percent of Americans have thought about their retirement," she said. "That's really a bad thing because the average American is retired for at least 20 years."
Lawson also told students about how Indiana deals with different types of fraud, presenting them with case studies where they learned new terms like "Ponzi scheme" and "restitution."
After her talk with students, Lawson made the short jaunt to the family-owned Marengo Warehouse and Distribution Center, where she was able to tour the facility and learn more about it from owner Brian Venturi, who gave the secretary a brief history behind the storage idea.
Lawson speaks to students about how to protect their investments from fraud during her visit to Crawford County Junior-Senior High School.
"Most people don't even know how large we are back here," Venturi said. "But that suits us just fine, because we've been really lucky in that people hear about us through word of mouth from the businesses we do service and we don't have to advertise."
The Marengo Warehouse and Distribution Center is a complex of underground storage chambers and roadways originally constructed as a result of limestone mining in the area that utilized the room-and-pillar method.
"You almost need a map down here," Lawson said about the vast layout of the warehouse.
The warehouse has a controlled climate (58 to 60 degrees year-round) and is ideal for storing different types of materials. From tires to fruit, the warehouse has housed many items. The complex is located 160 feet underground and comprises nearly four million square feet of space.
In addition to temperature-controlled spaces, the facility goes one step further when it comes to cold storage.
"We're already temperature-controlled by nature," Venturi said, "but we also have a freezer warehouse down here."
That warehouse is chilled to freezing and has a wind speed of 12 miles per hour within it. In comparison, the area outside of the freezer space is held at 55 degrees.
"I don't believe I've ever thought that 55 degrees was warm before," Lawson said, "but compared to that (inside the freezer), it is very warm."
The reason for the cold temperature is due to the need to keep fruits and vegetables from some of the world's biggest yogurt producers fresh.
The Secretary of State praised the facility and its ergonomic and economic design and also its ability to stay involved in the community, both locally and nationally.
It isn't common knowledge, but when Hurricane Katrina hit the mainland, the Federal Emergency Management Agency bought a quantity of Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs) from the U.S. government in an effort to aid the displaced population and provide them with the proper nutrition. The majority of those meals were housed at the Marengo facility, and workers and owners sent more than 1,000 trucks out in three days.