Funding future economic development

2012-08-21T14:46:00Z 2012-08-21T16:42:05Z Funding future economic developmentLu Ann Franklin Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
August 21, 2012 2:46 pm  • 

PORTAGE | More economic development in all its phases is on the horizon for the seven-county region following action Tuesday by the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

At its monthly meeting at the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission building, the RDA approved spending money to fund a series of studies and projects that board members and Executive Director Bill Hanna said would stimulate private investment and future growth.

One of those developments is a joint study between the RDA and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District that was part of a report presented by Lou Martinez, chairman of the RDA Surface Transportation Working Group.

The study will develop a business plan to get area residents to and from jobs in Chicago using the South Shore rail system.

“This will be a vision for what rail service should look like,” Hanna said. “It will be done simultaneously with a partnership to develop strategic business plans. To date, we have not done this with NICTD.”

Connecting people with jobs that already exist or will exist is “one of the three legs of the economic-development stool,” he said.

The RDA board voted unanimously to fund half that study with NICTD. However, the cost won’t be known until the working groups decide on the plan’s scope, Hanna said.

Hanna also asked the RDA board to fund one-third of a tri-state territorial review being conducted by the international Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. Headquartered in Paris, France, the OEDC promotes policies to improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.

“This is the first time the OEDC is doing a review in the United States,” Hanna said.

The OEDC has determined that the 21 counties from southwestern Wisconsin through Chicago to the seven counties in Northwest Indiana are a unified economic region -- but are not taking advantage of that fact, he said.

This $50,000 study will focus on ways to utilize those connections, Hanna said.

The RDA will partner with Purdue University Calumet and the Purdue Center for Regional Development in West Lafayette; the private Northwest Indiana Forum will help facilitate a challenge grant from the private sector. Each partner will pay $16,667 for the study.

The next RDA board meeting will begin at 10 a.m. Oct. 16 at the NIRPC building, 6100 Southport Road in Portage. The board will tackle the 2013 budget and legislative action the RDA might take and will initiate the process to select a financial auditor, said Leigh Morris, RDA board chairman.

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