Porter County jobs report shelved since December

2013-08-10T14:15:00Z 2013-08-12T00:02:09Z Porter County jobs report shelved since DecemberBob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com
August 10, 2013 2:15 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | Despite much fanfare in 2011 over the creation of a Porter County jobs creation committee, the report produced by the group has generated far less enthusiasm.

The 10-page document, nearly a year in the making that cost the county $16,250 in consultant fees, sat idle after being presented to the Porter County Board of Commissioners in December.

The next step was to present the findings to the Porter County Council, but the group was busy with other issues and not ready to hear it, said Bill Hanna, president and CEO of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, who oversaw the work of the jobs cabinet.

Hanna, who did provide council members with copies of the report, said the timing is right to make an effort to attract new businesses with the economy on the upswing.

"We have not missed it, but at some point the window will close," he said.

Bob Poparad, D-at large, who has since taken over the leadership of the council, said no one has approached him about the proposal, but he is open to the idea.

Council Vice President Karen Conover, R-3rd, said she would like to see the presentation done after the upcoming budgeting period ends in early October.

"We need to give it the attention it deserves," she said.

Conover voiced frustration over the council's willingness to spend time debating requests for a few thousand dollars, while failing to help decide what to do with the $159 million in principal and $11.6 million in interest from the 2007 sale of the county hospital.

The hospital money is at the heart of the recommendations in the jobs cabinet report. The report calls on county officials to consider investing part of the hospital sale proceeds in "two to three large, extraordinary major capital projects, public or private, to provide game-changing impacts to the county."

The cabinet also suggests the county treasurer lend up to half of the hospital sale proceeds to towns, cities and school corporations "to provide low-interest financing for capital improvement projects" and/or contribute some of the funding toward a pool of money for mortgages to attract employees of relocating businesses.

Porter County Commission President John Evans, R-North, pitched the idea of placing the hospital sale proceeds in an endowment and use just the proceeds.

The Board of Commissioners were to meet last week with the County Council to discuss it, but the meeting was called off to allow more time to investigate the details.

Unanimous support of both the commissioners and council is needed to dip into the larger principal portion of the hospital funds.

Evans said in December the county would be moving on implementing the recommendations in the jobs cabinet report.

“I give you my word, it's not going to sit on the shelf,” he said. 

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