Today, Govs. Mike Pence, Pat Quinn and Scott Walker have the opportunity to create history by rallying and encouraging community, business, government and academic leaders from 21 counties in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin around one unifying mission – to work together on common regional goals.
The challenge will not only be to identify common ground for future development and improving quality of life across the tri-state region, but also to initiate action together.
This first-time event, which is being spearheaded by the Tri-State Alliance for Regional Development, will take place at the Summit on Regional Competitiveness, held at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
The focus will be in four strategic areas: Workforce Development, Innovation, Transportation and Green Growth. You don’t have to look far to find diverse opinions and approaches to finding solutions. For example, there are many different perspectives on issues related to the Illiana Expressway, Asian carp and port development and refinery expansion, among others.
There is no question that when a business is looking to invest, political boundaries are less of an issue compared to location, market proximity, and workforce capacity and skill level. Our tri-state region has tremendous potential with its concentration of road, rail, air, water, telecommunications, and energy infrastructure – the fundamental drivers behind economic development.
Our universities and trade schools graduate thousands of highly qualified individuals annually. And the Lake Michigan fresh water coastline offers outstanding recreational, commercial and industrial potential which has yet to be unlocked in a way that creates meaningful, long-term sustainable value for the entire region and its residents.
Indiana’s Secretary of Commerce Victor Smith – who will also serve as a panelist at the Summit – raises the point that many people around the world are familiar with Chicago; however, Northwest Indiana and Southeast Wisconsin struggle with name recognition on an international or even national basis. He regularly receives questions from prospective businesses, such as: Who are those people in the tri-state region, and what do they have to offer to the world? Why would I want to live there and raise a family or invest my fortune? What are the unique attributes that make the region so special?
Creating a national model for cooperation will be no small task, but finding common ground in a few key, targeted areas and then acting on those initiatives is a recipe for success.
It will be critical to find passionate, educated and inclusive volunteers and leaders – including involvement from our media partners – who believe working together can make a difference.
With such potential, the only way we can set a better course for the future is by working together.