My turn

Strong workforce and volunteerism will help NWI, and Detroit, thrive

2013-10-27T00:00:00Z Strong workforce and volunteerism will help NWI, and Detroit, thriveBy Bill Vargo Times Columnist
October 27, 2013 12:00 am  • 

A friend asked me a few years ago where I picked up my political and social views. I told him that was easy, I generally changed the radio station or TV channel when someone started to give his or her opinion.

He was puzzled. I suppose he assumed that those sources and the internet were the only places to get ideas. But it gets exhausting when the sky is always falling and the opinions are so diametrically opposed.

Instead, I turn to this newspaper and other outlets like "Time" magazine and the "Christian Science Monitor" (now a website only). My head doesn’t spin and my blood pressure doesn’t go up when I read the very good writing that comes out of those outlets.

So, it didn’t surprise me this week when I read the Monitor’s take on the Detroit bankruptcy hearings. There has been, and will continue to be, a great deal of finger pointing when it comes to the precipitous fall of the city.

After losing two-thirds of its population, you would think that Detroiters were holed up in their homes, ready to take on whatever intruder happened by. Quite the opposite, the people of this once proud city are ready to roll up their sleeves and get moving. In fact, they already have.

Tens of thousands who remain in the city have made their voices heard in terms of what they want their city to look like in the years to come. Many more who once called the city home are watching and hoping it works. 

While industry still exists in and around Detroit, it is a much leaner and more efficient model of the past. Here in Northwest Indiana, we understand the reinvention process.

The Northwest Indiana Forum, with an assist from Indiana University Northwest, Calumet College of St. Joseph and Purdue University Calumet, has laid out a future vision, a great deal of it is based on some simple logic, a highly-trained workforce.

Here we jibe with the future that Detroit has laid out. A pool of trained workers that can solve problems in the short term (on the shop floor) and think longer term are highly sought after by companies.

We have that, with many more coming through our schools and training programs. On top of that, we have an involved community of volunteers.

Every day you can open the newspaper to find another group holding a bake sale or cleaning up a park. These are "feel good" stories, but also the glue that holds communities together.

When the federal government went into partial shutdown, you would have thought the sky was falling, based on radio, TV and the internet. I was nearly ready for the power grid to go out, and then I took a deep breath and blew the candles out.

It is still people that drive the process. In communities from St. John and Lowell to East Chicago and Whiting, we see an issue or a problem and we offer a hand or an idea.

That is what we did after the mills contracted in the early 1980s; we moved on, regrouped and built a leaner workforce. Maybe the major media outlets ought to do a story on how we picked ourselves up; it would be an interesting read.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at

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