Bailey '00 Helps Lead Vectren's Economic Development Effortby Howard W, Hewitt • May 1, 2008
Tom Bailey ’00 plays a key role in Indiana’s economic development efforts through his career with Vectren Energy. He also works with the company’s foundation, the Evansville United Way, and gives time to Wabash College.
For an alumus barely past 30 years old, Bailey has risen fast within the company, embraced challenges, leadership roles, and juggles the pursuit of an MBA with his family life.
The former Sphinx Club president is Vectren’s Manager of Industrial Sales.
"We work with customers like Toyota, Honda, Nucor Steel in Crawfordsville, and all over Indiana and Ohio," the history and English double major said. "I manage about nine people, all of whom are field representatives. We are responsible for all aspects of our customer relationship with large industrial customers. We make sure contracts are up to date, negotiate contracts, answer questions, and share marketing ideas."
The best and most recent example of Bailey’s efforts is the new Honda assembly plant near Greensburg, Indiana. He explained companies often have different sites in mind for a plant and ask Vectren’s team to determine where they can deliver electricity in the most efficient, cost-effective manner.
"The state of Indiana, for probably the last 18 months, has seen an up tick in manufacturing from the standpoint of either getting back on track, or things like the Honda plant," he said in February, 2008. "I was on the team that met with Honda officials and their lawyers to sell that site and negotiate a contract.
"It’s thrilling to me to see the culmination of a project from a site where there’s just a piece of land and watch it become a half-billion dollar investment with 2,000-5,000 jobs. I take a lot of pride in that."
Bailey wasn’t sure where his Wabash career would lead him professionally. The Illinois native, who moved to Evansville while in high school, matriculated to Wabash and started to find his path during a semester of study in Philadelphia. He actually spent a summer in marketing with the Philadelphia Phillies major league baseball team.
The Houston Astros gave him his first job after Wabash with its minor league affiliate in Virginia. But near the end of that baseball season he moved back home to Evansville. He loved the work in baseball and had other opportunities in the sport, but was uncertain about the hours and relative low pay.
Then a family friend called him to interview at Vectren where he was hired in the corporate communications office. After just over two years, he was promoted to marketing and sales contract administrator and then at the age of 28 was named to his current position.
He credits Wabash for the career flexibility he has enjoyed and, in part, for his fast rise at Vectren. "I appreciate having the liberal arts background and getting out and talking to people … that concept of learning," he explained. "Now I’m doing economics, the finance, accounting, marketing, and management side of the MBA.
"Wabash teaches you not to be a memorized book worm. I can memorize technical aspects of a job, but how do you think critically about cost and things like that? I didn’t have a business degree but I can sit there and look at numbers, press releases, and invest myself within it to see exactly what it’s about."
He looks at his job philosophically as it applies to his Wabash education but also uses the practical skills he’s learned from others.
"If you don’t have the ability to change, I believe you can still be successful but the opportunities for advancement dwindle a little bit. I work very hard on relationships with what I consider to be internal customers — the people I manage and who manage me. I put in the time that’s needed. I’m willing to take on challenges. That’s the best advice I can give to a young person coming out of college — whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability. Be ethical and moral in your decisions. Understand that they affect not only the business environment but the community."
Bailey’s community work is important. He has a served as a loaned executive to the local United Way. He also attends Wabash Nights whenever he can to talk to potential Wabash students.
"Wabash taught me to be responsible, accountable, and to know how to handle myself in the real world," he said. "I interview people for positions within my department and I always tell them, ‘I can teach you about the position and teach you the utility concept, the technical concept but what I can’t teach you is how to read intellectually, how to speak, and how to present yourself.’ And I plagiarized that essentially from Wabash!"