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Indiana Welcome Center

The Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond is headquarters for the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority.

Doug Ross, The Times

South Shore Leadership Center is sponsoring its first Vision Project symposium with this year's focus on tourism in Northwest Indiana.

Among the topics for discussion will be the study on a possible convention center for Lake County.

"This is the inaugural event," South Shore Leadership Center president and CEO Harry Vande Velde said.

The event will be kicked off on Feb. 6 with a reception from 5-7 p.m. at the Indiana Welcome Center, 7770 Corinne Dr., in Hammond. A daylong symposium, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 7, will follow at the Halls of St. George, 905 E. Joliet St., in Schererville.

Master of ceremonies for the symposium will be Michael Schrage, CEO at Centier Bank.

Theme for the event is "Developing the Region As A Tourist Destination — What This Really Means," Vande Velde said.

"This annual event will explore a topic of significant importance to the advancement of the quality of the place we call home," Vande Velde said.

Leading experts will present their findings and thoughts for those assembled to think about and discuss. Scholars will serve as observers throughout the program as well.

They will synopsize the key points of the symposium as well as create an activation statement for the Region to review and respond to with a plan, Vande Velde said.

Tickets are $125 for those attending both days: $50 for the cocktail party and $75 for the lunch keynote symposium.

Participants will include Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Superintendent Paul Labovitz; Maureen Hayden, director of intergovernmental affairs for Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch; TV journalist/columnist Bill Geist and several area leaders including Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura and Crown Point Mayor David Uran.

Topics will include how travel dollars improve your quality of place, featuring Roger Rickard, nationally renowned meeting and convention specialist.

Jonathan Day, of the Purdue University School of Hospitality, will discuss the economics of tourism, and Bill Krueger, of Conventions, Sports & Leisure International, will present his findings to date on an area convention center study.

The four points that the symposium will focus on is networking, building leadership toolboxes, developing a strong base of knowledge then making a statement of activism.

"This program really brings those four aspects together," Vande Velde said.

"The Vision Project invites leaders to discuss and delve into regional assets and the issues. Participants can expect a series of high-level presentations offering inspiration and benchmarks from around the United States. Each of the annual events will discover initiatives and recommend actions to advance the Region," Vande Velde said.

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