Earlier this year it was Heartland -- the Ota City, Japan-based company that has called Greencastle home for a quarter-century now -- donating a generous and quite unexpected $100,000 to the City of Greencastle in celebration of its 25 years of operations here. (City officials are still debating how best to use that money, by the way).

 Saturday afternoon at the Dixie Chopper Business and Conference Center at the Putnam County Airport, however, it was all about Heartland and its employees as the company's 25th anniversary celebration continued.

Just as a mutual admiration between Heartland and Greencastle has been unmistakable since the company turned the community's post-IBM Corp. economic recovery into an international effort on Aug. 18, 1987, the mutual admiration is also evident between employer and employees.

As Heartland President Toshio Kawahisma began to address the crowd Saturday night, he sheepishly admitted he does not speak English too well. But the man never said he couldn't communicate.

His presence at the podium was accompanied by a movie screen showing a slide of his remarks in English. And his language issue admission brought a round of impromptu applause undoubtedly not only in appreciation of his efforts to speak in English but also in leading the company into its latest growth spurt.

Some 600 persons were in attendance Saturday, representing employees and their families and friends, so many that Dixie Chopper had to open the doors to the adjacent hangar to the south just to accommodate them all for dinner.

Outside, meanwhile, there were pony rides, bungee jumps, face-painting opportunities, balloon animals and other attractions from the people at Big Bounce Funhouse. Inside there were enough candy and cookies (many decorated with the number 25) to fill trick-or-treat bags from here to Ota City.

And food. Glorious food. Juicy, tender steak filets (or chicken parmesan in case some folks weren't into red meat), dished up by the staff at the Final Approach.

President Kawahisma, looking back on Heartland's Greencastle tenure, waxed philosophical for a moment.

"There is a Japanese proverb saying, 'Luck, geographical advantage and harmony.' Those are said (to be) three key ingredients for success. Heartland continues to grow because these key ingredients have been with us."

Speaking specifically to the workforce, he added simply, "Thank you very much for coming today to celebrate 25 years of our history.

"Heartland was founded in August 1987 here in Greencastle. In the history of a quarter-century, I believe there must have been good times and also critical challenges. Your support to the company helped overcome such difficulties."

Kawahisma urged his employees to enjoy the day and take home a big prize from the raffle drawing as Heartland celebrated the company's "long-lasting and ever-evolving history."

"Thank you very much for your dedicated and continued support of Heartland," he concluded.

A short video that followed was interspersed with messages like "Our success depends upon quality" and "The customer is always first," just as you would expect to find on display at most American factories.

Yet that timeless American philosophy and logic, combined with Japanese techniques and ingenuity have helped create a quarter-century success story as the American headquarters for Shigeru Industries Ltd. operations continues to expand.

Twenty-five years ago, when Heartland Automotive bought the old Ryan Building at 300 S. Warren Drive on the city's southeast side, it promised to bring 100 new jobs to a community that had just lost 985 positions with the closing of the IBM plant. That original 107,000-square-foot facility, which IBM had primarily used for storage, had been built several years earlier as a new facility for the Angwell Curtain factory.

Today, after expanding operations multiple times, Heartland now employs 450 people in a 300,000-square-foot facility that bears little resemblance to the old Ryan Building.

Over the past 25 years, local officials have noted previously, Heartland's investment in equipment alone has been well over $50 million as part of an existence that undoubtedly has been mutually beneficial to both city and company.