GUEST COMMENTARY: LaPorte County needs more economic development help

2013-09-12T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: LaPorte County needs more economic development helpBy Willie Milsap nwitimes.com
September 12, 2013 12:00 am  • 

As LaPorte County Commission president, I was very pleased to help host Lt. Gov. Sue Ellsperman in the county complex meeting rooms Aug. 27 for the latest stop in her 92-county statewide listening tour. I'd like to share with your readers the letter I handed to the lieutenant governor and her staff:

First off — Welcome to LaPorte County. It is great to have our lieutenant governor here, and I very much appreciate the 92-county listening tour you are conducting.

Let me say on behalf of the county commissioners, we welcome you and always want you to feel you can call us as well.

I am very much hoping this listening tour signals a change in attitude from what this county received from the last governor who tended to knock the entire Northwest Indiana region when he said we were not a good "sandbox" for business or new jobs.

I have a hope and a feeling things are going to be different with this governor and with you as lieutenant governor.

You came up here wanting to hear concerns from county officials. Quite honestly, we are tired of being a donor county. Of feeling that we send more tax dollars to Indianapolis than we see coming back in return. Of feeling our concerns don't matter as much as the concerns of residents in the donut counties around Indianapolis who seem to have gotten the lion's share of new jobs, tax incentives and new programs over the past eight years.

I put together a comparison two years ago to show how LaPorte County wasn't getting its fair share of economic development incentives under then-Gov. Mitch Daniels. I am providing you and your staff with copies of that study. With 2 percent of the state's population, we received just one-tenth of 1 percent of state economic development incentives. As a result, we have one of the state's highest unemployment rates, and a new Ball State study shows LaPorte County residents' personal incomes are about 30 years behind the national income average. That's not right, and it's not fair.

We need as much attention up here as the people of Carmel, Fishers and Avon have received.

We have now established a LaPorte County Office of Economic Development that is ready, willing and able to work with state officials on job creation. I met with the new head of IEDC, Eric Doden, a few weeks ago, and I was impressed and very hopeful we are going to see more attention up here than what we got under the person who used to hold that job — Mitch Roob.

I provide this information and extend a hand in friendship asking state government to consider us a full partner. All we ask is our fair share of state incentives and programs and that this administration do a better job of focusing job creation in Northwest Indiana rather than just a few already prosperous counties around Indianapolis.

Willie Milsap is president of the LaPorte County Commission. The opinions aer the writer's.

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