Sen. Mike Braun visits Jackson County

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., stopped in Seymour on Monday to visit the growing operations of Guardian Bikes on his annual mission to visit all 92 counties in Indiana.

Guardian Bikes first launched in September 2015 at the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada, before making its debut on “Shark Tank” in 2017.

Guardian Bikes accepted an offer from investor Mark Cuban for $500,000 for 15% of the company, and since then, its operations have grown to a facility based in Seymour at 2230 D Ave. East, Suite C, in the Freeman Field Industrial Park.

Braun, a Republican, is nearing the end of his fifth year traveling to all 92 counties in the state, a goal he pledged when he became senator.

“This year seems on an accelerated scale, and I think we already have 50 visits in,” Braun said. “I visit businesses, entrepreneurs and schools.”

Braun said he tries to pick interesting and new businesses as he travels around the state, especially ones that started out small and have the potential to grow, much like his own business.

Braun started at Meyer Body Company in Jasper in 1981 and eventually acquired full ownership, transferring from manufacturing to distribution. The company is now known as Meyer Distributing and has become an industry leader in auto parts distribution, employing many Americans across the country.

Brian Riley, CEO of Guardian Bikes, took Braun on a tour of the day-to-day operations and the inside of the growing facility.

Riley and co-founder Kyle Jansen started with the invention of an innovative braking system designed for bikes to stop not only faster but safer, preventing head-over-handlebar accidents.

It was 11 years ago when Riley and Jansen began in the early stages of their invention while still in college.

In the first three years of the company, they started selling their braking system to all of the big-name brands. After a little success, their braking systems were installed on bikes that were sold at Target and Walmart, but still, no one knew about Guardian Bikes.

They took the opportunity to evolve into their own brand, starting with kids bikes.

“We are 100% direct to consumer, and we wanted to bring the supply chain back to the U.S.,” Riley said.

As Riley took Braun around the facility, he explained the current phase that the operation is in and where they plan to take the company in the future.

Currently in Phase 1, the company buys the individual components, brings them to the facility and runs an assembly line that builds the bikes out of the components.

Riley said in Phase 2, they will begin introducing powder coating, and in Phase 3, they plan to bring in U.S. tube steel and bend those into frames for the bikes.

Braun said as he travels throughout the counties, one issue or challenge for these businesses is workforce.

“When I went to school, you could learn to weld, woodworking and industrial arts skills,” he said. “I think we got away from that and pushed toward four-year-degrees, but only 35% of the jobs require a degree.”

Braun said when he first started his company for 17 years, he only had 15 employees in one location. Since the establishment of the Guardian Bikes facility in Seymour in 2022, they have grown to 50 employees, including 10 remote positions.

“I think if you were to come back here in a year or two, you wouldn’t even recognize it. It’s going to grow quite fast,” Riley said.

“That’s the American dream,” Braun said.

One of the reasons Braun said he wants to come back and run for governor is to improve the education regarding life and technical skills to fill the gaps of jobs that require certain skills.

“It’s an issue as a state we can do a lot better on and visiting schools where they need to get back into teaching that broad array of skills can benefit a student, whether they want to be a doctor, plumber or electrician. We need to get back on track,” Braun said.

He said the freshman Senate office has been quite active lately and stated they have passed more legislation than any Republican Senate in terms of health care, agriculture and education.

Riley said he was pleased with meeting Sen. Braun and showing him around the growing facility.

“It was my first time meeting a senator, so that was pretty awesome,” Riley said.

Braun also visited FosTecH Inc., a firearms manufacturer in Seymour, during his time in Jackson County before traveling to other surrounding counties.