MUNSTER — Gov. Eric Holcomb sees unlimited potential for business and residential growth in Northwest Indiana so long as leaders and communities continue working together.
The Republican declared Thursday that no place in the state is as well positioned to attract the people and companies that are shaping the future, thanks to the Region's proximity to Chicago and its location in a state with low taxes and a low cost of living.
"You're undoubtedly a powerhouse," Holcomb said. "I would love to bring 5 million Hoosiers up to the Region and show them the beaches, show them the scenery and show them how close to the world that their marketplace is."
But he said therein also lies Northwest Indiana's challenge: Putting in place the amenities desired by the next generation and getting workers the skills that employers want.
"What is it you want to be known for? What is your niche?" Holcomb asked. "Because what really gets investment is those quality-of-life, those quality-of-place items."
The governor said the state is doing its part by expanding pre-kindergarten availability, increasing education funding, investing in Purdue University Northwest and other college campuses, developing new workforce training programs and tackling the drug crisis.
He then challenged some 200 supporters of the One Region organization to not let partisan or municipal differences distract them from taking the steps they believe are needed to take Northwest Indiana "to the next level."
"We've got strong leadership here ... that wants to do more, that is looking to the future and not to the past," Holcomb said. "That's why I'm so stoked to be a part of the team."
Holcomb's speech at the Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Munster was just one stop on a whirlwind trip across Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties — his fourth visit to the Region in the four months he's led the state.
"I jokingly told my wife before I departed that I may be looking for a second place up here; it would be a lot easier just to stay," Holcomb said.
His day began on a South Shore train traveling between Michigan City's 11th Street and Carroll Avenue stations where he ceremonially signed House Enrolled Act 1144, incentivizing transit-oriented development along the soon-to-be double-tracked commuter rail line.
"This has been a long time coming and there's going to be so many great things in store," Holcomb said. "We're going to connect with the nation's third biggest economy (Chicago) in ways that we never have before."
Holcomb was quick to credit Northwest Indiana's legislative and local leaders for working across party lines to realize a long-sought project that he described as "game-changing."
House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, gave the love right back.
"We have a chief executive who I've come to look upon as a very important partner in the growth of our great state," Pelath said. "Not only is he a good listener, but he's a pragmatic human being."
Holcomb then traveled to East Chicago to ceremonially sign House Enrolled Act 1344.
It effectively continues his prior executive order directing state agencies to closely work with local and federal authorities to assist in the cleanup of lead-contaminated properties.
"We have all come together, we've all gotten around the table and we said there's an issue that needs to be addressed here," Holcomb said. "We're not just going to admire the problem or talk about the problem — we're going to address it."
The governor also visited Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, toured the BP Refinery in Whiting and spoke at a Valparaiso fundraiser for Porter County Republicans.