HOBART — Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch touched on the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, South Shore Line and Miller Beach Creative Arts District during a speech to area business people and public officials at Avalon Manor.

Crouch focused on Gov. Eric Holcomb's "Next Level" set of policies as well as the responsibilities of her office during a lunchtime meeting hosted by the Northwest Indiana Forum on Thursday. 

Next Level's five pillars are economic growth, infrastructure investment, workforce development, attacking the drug epidemic and delivering efficient government service.

Crouch noted $147 million in road and bridge investment planned for Lake County over the next five years, as well as the South Shore's West Lake Corridor and Double Track projects, to which the state has promised a combined $180 million over 30 years.

"That, my friends, is going to bring economic development, and attract talent to your area," Crouch said.

Among the agencies Crouch leads as lieutenant governor is the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, which provides grants for a range of projects including the Miller Beach Arts and Creative District's recent effort to paint murals on local buildings.

As head of the Office of Tourism Development, Crouch expressed support for the effort to make the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore a national park, an effort being led by U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, that Crouch said would add to Northwest Indiana's $1.4 billion tourism industry. 

"By working regionally, by working across county lines, you all are becoming, and have become, a model of success," Crouch said.

The event was hosted by the Northwest Indiana Forum, with the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority as a sponsor.

Forum President and CEO Heather Ennis said the organization is embarking on a project to create a regional economic development plan that will serve as "a true, pragmatic playbook" for the seven counties in which the forum works.

The $200,000 project has secured $80,000 in funding in recent weeks. Ennis said the target completion date is late summer 2018.

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Transportation reporter

Andrew covers transportation, real estate, casinos and other topics for The Times business section. A Crown Point native, he joined The Times in 2014, and has more than 15 years experience as a reporter and editor at Region newspapers.