DOUG ROSS: Celebrate report's birthday by blowing off dust

2013-12-20T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: Celebrate report's birthday by blowing off dustBy Doug Ross, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357

If the much-ballyhooed Porter County Jobs Cabinet report had a soundtrack, it most likely would include "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas. Just change the lyrics to "Dust on the Shelf."

I occasionally accuse Porter County government of being dysfunctional. The response to this report is a good example.

On Wednesday, the Porter County Economic Development Alliance hosted a breakfast meeting to revisit the Jobs Cabinet's final report, issued a year earlier.

The report easily could have been reissued with only a one-keystroke difference — to change the date from 2012 to 2013.

"We gave a list of recommendations, and it's really a menu. It's not prescriptive at all," Jobs Cabinet facilitator Bill Hanna said Wednesday. Hanna is president and CEO of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

In the year since this report — commissioned by Commissioner John Evans — was released, the Porter County Council has not officially heard the recommendations.

That should be easily rectified. The council should swiftly schedule a presentation by Hanna and others, then review the recommendations.

Among the advice was to create a Porter County Department of Economic Development. It need not be a big agency. The executive director, with any necessary staff support, would report to the commissioners.

But the department can't be created without funding, and that's the council's bailiwick. This executive director wasn't included in the 2014 budget approved by the council this year.

The danger for Porter County is to look around and see signs of the improving economy, then conclude nothing needs to be done.

The county needs to do something before another economic downturn, Hanna said, because by then opportunities would have been lost.

Porter County sold the government-owned hospital, which created an enormous nest egg growing interest that could be tapped for some of the Jobs Cabinet's recommendations. The remaining large asset is the county-owned airport in Valparaiso.

There's already some development near the airport. Planning well could attract additional business investments without limiting the airport's ability to grow.

The county's proximity to Chicago is another big selling point. Improved access to the rest of the Chicago metro area would allow the county to better tap one of the world's largest economies.

There are many other recommendations in the report for the council to consider.

Even focusing on two or three for now would be better than continuing to ignore the report. 

Recommendations like this that gather dust are signs of government negligence and dysfunction. Worse, they discourage continued engagement and trust in government by major stakeholders.

Lake County residents know what I mean. Just say Good Government Initiative, and they'll talk of missed opportunities.

Porter County is headed that same direction. It's up to the County Council to make sure that doesn't happen. Dust off this report.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Follow him at and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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