WILLIAM NANGLE: Arnett's isolationist position is what's wrong with the region

2013-09-15T00:00:00Z WILLIAM NANGLE: Arnett's isolationist position is what's wrong with the regionWilliam Nangle nwitimes.com
September 15, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Jack Arnett is a prime example of what’s wrong in Northwest Indiana.

His vicious written attack on Speros Batistatos last week showed he fails to see the big picture in the region.

It proves he is an isolationist who cares more about his own job and turf than what is good for all of Northwest Indiana.

The background: On Tuesday, Arnett, director of the LaPorte County tourism bureau, issued a press release critical of Batistatos, the CEO of the Lake County-based South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority. In it, Arnett labeled Batistatos “the Don Rickles of Northwest Indiana tourism.”

He wrote on and on about points Batistatos had made, such as:

• The Indianapolis Colts should have done a photo shoot of cheerleaders on an Indiana Dunes beach and not in Michigan.

• The Gary Genesis Center was obsolete the day it was built.

Well, Jack, Speros has a valid point of view.

Everyone in the know is aware the Genesis Center, when it opened, lacked all the facilities common to such a center. And there have been many problems with the center in the ensuing years.

As for the Colts, they should have favored their home state for photographing the cheerleaders. Why Michigan?

But this fluff stuff cited by Arnett is not really at the heart of the game being played by the children of tourism.

Batistatos for some time has favored establishment of a regional tourism agency. He rightfully says visitors aren’t concerned about town, city or county borders. When they eat in one place, swim in another and spend the night in yet another, they aren’t concerned about who gets credit. It’s obvious Arnett is concerned, though.

Arnett is critical of the Lake County tourism authority's involvement in activities outside its county borders – such as the Popcorn Fest in Valparaiso.

Well, again Jack, you fail to understand your own industry. Where do think many of those attending the festival stay? At events such as a popcorn festival or sports playoffs, they fill rooms across the region.

That’s where the Lake authority differs from those in Porter and LaPorte counties. Batistatos and his staff of professionals understand it is a sum game. With a couple billion being spent each year in the area related to tourism, the job is to “put heads in beds, cheeks in seats.” It’s a regional economic issue, not a territorial contest.

Unfortunately, Arnett and other tourism executives don’t get the fact that big tourism dollars wash across the region. The Lake County CVA board gets it, and it sees Batistatos as doing a job that is mutually beneficial to the entire region.

Having said all this, I admit Batistatos makes a great target for such foolish criticism. He is outspoken. He can be brash. He has a short fuse. He is a part of the ongoing furor fostered by the children of tourism.

But Speros cares deeply about Northwest Indiana – all of it.

And unlike Arnett, who twists words, makes accusations and creates an uproar, Batistatos can point with pride to a solid record of accomplishment and a stream of money to local business.

It is time, Jack, for the game to end. Your press release was highly unprofessional.

William Nangle is executive editor of The Times. He can be reached at The Times, 601 45th St., Munster, IN 46321 or at bill.nangle@nwi.com.

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