MERRILLVILLE | Gov. Mitch Daniels declared Thursday he is optimistic about Northwest Indiana's economic future, provided area communities can work together as one region and more fully engage with the rest of Indiana.
"I honestly believe that the table is set for Northwest Indiana in a way that maybe it hasn't been for a long, long time -- for a generation or two, when basically the world came to us," Daniels said.
The Republican governor told more than 600 community and business leaders attending the One Region Leadership Luncheon that Northwest Indiana's roads, rails, ports and location next to the third-largest city in the country positions the region for unparalleled economic growth -- especially as Illinois struggles with high taxes and mounting debt.
However, the frequent inability of region communities to work together on issues ranging from economic development to 911 consolidation, tends to frighten businesses from locating here, he said.
"That is not a formula for success, that is not a formula for excellence and it's certainly not a formula, any of this, for speed," Daniels said. "One Region? Well, can we be honest and say we're a long, long way from that?"
The governor said Northwest Indiana would be better served by following the example of other Hoosier communities that have lowered taxes and cut spending with an eye to luring jobs. Though, he noted, those success stories are little known by many region residents, because they get their news from Chicago television stations.
"There's a huge information gap and it's nobody's fault, but you have to read The Times to know what's going on in the rest of the state you pay taxes to," Daniels said.
He encouraged local leaders to reorganize their companies and communities along regional lines and to keep the old ways of doing things in the past.
"The whole notion of 'what's in it for me' government has got to be left behind," Daniels said.
One Region Co-Chairman Bill Masterson, the publisher of The Times, said Daniels' assessment of Northwest Indiana will make a difference.
"I appreciate his candor. I appreciate his honesty," Masterson said. "He challenges us, but I think that is what makes us better."