VALPARAISO | One of the biggest challenges confronting Porter County economic development officials is the dwindling number of "shovel ready" sites with ready access to utilities and other infrastructure, according to Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce President Rex Richards.
An example is the AmeriPlex at the Port development in Portage, which is nearing capacity, he said.
"We desperately need additional shovel ready sites," Richards said.
Richards, representing the local officials making up the Porter County Economic Development Alliance, discussed the state of economic development Thursday morning during the second meeting of the newly revamped Porter County Redevelopment Commission.
The commission, which has drawn attention because of its new-founded powers to initiate the creation of tax increment financing districts, tabled a presentation on TIFs in favor of learning about existing efforts to attract new businesses to Porter County. The commission members also voiced their intention to join the alliance.
Commission member and Portage Township School Superintendent Ric Frataccia asked for a list of the available "shovel ready" sites around the county and said an effort could be made to direct infrastructure to areas lacking these services.
Commission member and former state Rep. Ralph Ayres, R-Chesterton, asked if there is a single person or place companies can contact if interested in locating to Porter County.
Richards said the alliance does have a contact person and explained the group promotes the county as a whole.
Yet the commission was told that interested businesses do seek out the best incentive package from the various communities in the county.
Commission member and Drainage Board Chairman Dave Burrus said efforts are under way in county government to streamline the approval process for developments.
"We need to be able to do our job better and faster," he said.