GUEST COMMENTARY: At crossroads of a generational imperative

2014-02-27T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: At crossroads of a generational imperativeBy William Lowe
February 27, 2014 12:00 am  • 

The “Crossroads of America” finds itself at a crossroad, fueled by the need to retain and attract young professionals to live in Northwest Indiana.

We have an opportunity to invest in our region, and the lives of our young, emerging leaders and, ultimately, our future economic growth through the expansion of the South Shore Line.

This is a generational imperative on which we must act now.

Northwest Indiana’s current public transit options are undoubtedly fragmented, inadequately funded and in need of significant infrastructure improvements.

The benefits of commuter rail expansion have truly transformative potential. It is estimated such investment could easily outperform the economic impact of any single project since the establishment of Bethlehem Steel, breathing more than $147 million per year into our local economy by way of paychecks commuting back to Northwest Indiana from Chicago.

The benefits, though, are brought home when considering the opportunities an extension would have for just one rider, one young emerging Northwest Indiana leader.

Take, for instance, Allison Aguilera, a 2013 Indiana University Northwest MBA graduate. As an audit associate with Deloitte & Touche LLP, Allison commutes from southern Lake County to the Chicago loop via the South Shore Line.

Her one-way, one-and-half-hour commute would be significantly reduced by a South Shore Line extension, saving this young professional substantial time and money. Aguilera’s commute would be significantly reduced if provided with an express service direct from Crown Point.

Higher education institutions, like IU Northwest, prepare our undergraduate and graduate students so they, like Aguilera, can find professional opportunities that challenge and refine their skills, building successful, satisfying careers.

It is undeniable that many of these opportunities exist in Chicago.

The number of employers within one mile of the South Shore Line’s Millennium Station is nearly the same as within the five Northwest Indiana counties. Yet, these 16,000 Chicago businesses employ twice as many, and pay more than double Northwest Indiana salaries.

Greater access to these Loop-based jobs and their highly competitive salaries can only make Northwest Indiana more economically attractive, stable and vibrant, which is a way to create more well-paying jobs here.

Please become an informed, active citizen and show your support for this transformational investment by writing, emailing or tweeting your local elected officials.

Also, plan to attend the “Laying Track for the Future” event hosted by the Emerging Leaders Network on March 10 at the Avalon Manor.

Our quality of life is dependent upon our ability to help reverse the “brain drain” and the demographic graying of the region. It is the future of our region, and that of our young leaders, that is at stake.

William Lowe is chancellor of Indiana University Northwest and co-chairman of One Region. 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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