EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: What has Northwest Indiana done to attract tourists?

2013-05-05T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: What has Northwest Indiana done to attract tourists?Speros Batistatos nwitimes.com
May 05, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority will be 30 years old on July 1. Throughout my tenure as president/CEO of the organization, we have led the region's hospitality industry in a wide array of issues, and I can assure you we have no intention of resting on our laurels now.

Our innovative and aggressive leadership is going to redouble its efforts to move the region's economy forward by advocating public investment in facilities which will attract visitors and centralize the industry's leadership.

Whether or not you realize it, the multi-billion dollar investment made by BP has drastically lessened the unemployment rate in the region during the greatest recession our country has ever seen. The thousands of employees working at BP have kept the region's unemployment rate lower than it would have been in these devastating economic conditions.

Reality is about to show its face, recent news coverage stated. Work at BP is ending, and layoffs have started. This should send a chill down every business owner’s spine!

As the rest of the country limps through this anemic recovery, the region will fall further behind as unemployment rates climb, spending slows and businesses large and small feel the effect of BP's construction employment ending.

Do we have a plan for public investment? Will we effectively leverage local money to secure U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky's $500 million waiting for transportation? Do we have a cohesive regional plan for our economic future? We all know the answers. No, probably not and no.

Do you the think the Colts magically appeared in Indianapolis? No. Taxes were invested to build a stadium.

Do you think tens of thousands of firefighters from all over America come to Indy in April because they feel sorry for Indy? No, it’s because taxes were invested to build a convention center.

Do you think the Super Bowl came to Indy because they never had it? No, it's because the city had a plan and spent the last 30 years making the public investments that attracted private investments resulting in Indy elevating itself to a national destination.

So here we are in Lake County, bemoaning our inferiority and acting like Indianapolis' jealous little sibling. Will we act boldly and spend part of an income tax for our future, grow our economy and create careers that can keep our best and brightest in the region? Or will we do what we have always done, in turn getting what we have always got?

Are you willing to accept more of the same? Don't complain when you have to lay off employees (or get laid off). Don't complain when your children leave the region and do not come back.

In my lifetime Indy changed itself and hosted a Super Bowl, Final Four tournaments and countless other high-profile events. What have we done?

Speros Batistatos is president and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority. The opinons are the writer's.

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