The bellyaching, spurred by an unwarranted Northwest Indiana inferiority complex, can be excruciating at times.

Other times, some Region leaders try to embrace and channel the underdog mentality as an ill-advised marketing tool for far-fetched endeavors.

All the while, we frequently ignore our existing strengths, which are the true foundations for any future Region economic growth or quality of life enhancements.

In that vein, we all should be cheering for a Region-based plan, which just cleared an important hurdle in Congress.

We all have a big stake in seeing the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, an already Region-defining gem, obtain full national park status.

I've argued the point in several past columns, most recently urging support for a measure sponsored by Indiana's congressional delegates to turn the national lakeshore into Indiana Dunes National Park.

Why not?

In 2016, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore experienced 1.7 million recreational visits, including people from throughout the world.

Those visitors spent $73.8 million in the dunes' gateway communities, according to the U.S. National Park Service. That was up by $4 million from the previous year's dunes-related spending.

Full national park status literally would put the lakeshore on the map — a bigger one, with better marketing and more conspicuous presence to potential visitors.

So it was welcome news Wednesday when U.S. House Rep. Pete Visclosky's office announced his bill to designate the dunes as a full national park cleared by unanimous vote the House Committee on National Resources.

The measure now goes to the full House for consideration in its quest to become law.

Its success should be a rallying cry for anyone in Northwest Indiana who believes in building on our successes.

Anyone who has visited the national lakeshore's many trails and beaches knows of the intoxicating beauty it brings to our Region. Any naturalist can tell you of the rare and diverse ecosystems to be appreciated and studied here.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 workers owe their jobs to the lakeshore's presence, accounting for $39.4 million in labor income and $100.9 million in overall economic output.

The good news is all those numbers exist in a time when the national lakeshore hasn't yet attained full national park status.

It’s time to call or write our federal lawmakers and urge this measure forward — and not just the Indiana delegation, who already support it. U.S. House and Senate leadership — the offices of House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — need to hear from us as well.

Numbers to call to express your support are attached to this column. Help move the needle as the bill still requires approval of the full House and Senate.

The issue of national park status lacks the glitz or buzz of the quest by many regions, including our own, to land the new national headquarters for online retail giant Amazon.

We've heard a lot of that hype in recent weeks, even seeing what most thinking business minds would consider a far-fetched pitch by the troubled city of Gary to land the deal. I wish the Region well in this quest nonetheless.

What isn't far-fetched, though, is an already existing Dunes industry responsible for more than $100 million in economic output each year — an industry whose prominence and growth has been unanimously endorsed by a congressional committee.

Let's not take this opportunity for granted or let it slip away.

Bigger and better things await the national lakeshore — and the Region it calls home — if we work together to bring national park status to fruition.

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Editorial Page Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or marc.chase@nwi.com. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marc.chase.9 or Twitter @nwi_MarcChase. The opinions are the writer's.

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Local News Editor

Marc is a veteran investigative reporter and editor of more than 15 years, including 10 years at The Times, where he is the investigative editor. He is also the founder of the Calumet Region Civil War Preservation Project.