GUEST COMMENTARY: Laying tracks for NWI's future

2014-02-16T00:00:00Z 2014-02-17T14:43:15Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Laying tracks for NWI's futureBy Jeremy Miller
February 16, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Andrew recently turned 2 years old and he has a passion: trains!

Andrew is fascinated with train cars, the tracks and even has little people he puts on his play trains. His is a resident of Lake County, along with his parents and big brother Blake. Andrew has no concept of the countless possibilities that a train can bring to our community.

You and I recognize the purpose of a train is more than simply transporting individuals from one destination to another. In fact, rail transportation represents opportunity, connectivity, expansion, and hope -- hope for economic prosperity for future generations that chose to make Northwest Indiana their home.

If made a reality, the South Shore expansion initiative can generate this and much more. In a recent guest commentary, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky wrote that he considers rail expansion “a generational imperative." We could not agree more. Over the years, we have heard voices of concern raised across our community saying that such an expansion may not be in the best interest of our region. We share Visclosky's belief that such an expansion can transform our future.

Over the past few months, Lake Area United Way has been convening conversations with local emerging leaders to give them a platform to articulate their aspirations. Our Emerging Leaders networks are spread across all three counties and include impressive young leaders like Eddie Melton (NIPSCO), Mackenna Dickt (Porter County United Way), Jennifer Holmes (Urban League), Celina Weatherwax (Visclosky’s Office), Matt Glaros (Employer Benefit Systems), Matt Saltanovitz (The Times), Charlie Roberts (Horizon Bank) and many more! They are bright, educated, energized and, most important, civic minded. Our emerging leaders’ network is the gateway to that next generation.

In our conversations, the Emerging Leaders have identified the South Shore Expansion Initiative as the number one priority for our region. We are committed to supporting these young professionals and Visclosky in their efforts to make this vision a reality. However, we need more young professionals to partners with us.

Lake Area United Way has partnered with The Times and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority to host an information summit on transportation featuring our keynote speaker, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky.

We welcome young professionals to join us on March 10 for an exciting and transportation summit on “Laying Tracks for the Future.”

Did you know a rail expansion into south Lake County will result in almost 2,000 new jobs to the Northwest Indiana economy? Economic studies are projecting this expansion could generate $2.5 billion in economic output and $1.3 billion in gross regional product. Some 300,000 vehicle miles could be eliminated, and think of the impact that has to our infrastructure and environment.

Are you on board? Will you help make it possible for Andrew to ride an expanded South Shore line?

Our economic future depends on this expansion. The time is now!

Jeremy Miller is chief operating officer of Lake Area United Way. 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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