The creation of the Lake County IN Economic Alliance is a good step toward strengthening economic development in the county.
The new initiative is a co-creation of the Crossroads Regional and Lakeshore chambers of commerce. For Crown Point, East Chicago, Hammond and Merrillville, it will be the primary contact for economic development leads generated by the Northwest Indiana Forum and the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
As such, it is a step toward the necessary consolidation of economic development efforts in Northwest Indiana.
Last fall, Gov. Mitch Daniels admonished Northwest Indiana to streamline economic development efforts. Elsewhere in Indiana, the standard practice is to have a single regional economic development entity -- like the Northwest Indiana Forum -- generating leads and a single economic development entity at the county level, following up on them and determining how best to market the county's assets. Individual communities offer any necessary incentives to seal the deal.
Lakeshore Executive Director Dave Ryan and Crossroads Regional Executive Director Sue Reed said they're starting small and going slowly at first, but other communities would be welcome to join this new alliance.
"As we grow, we want to see other communities step up to the plate," Ryan said.
The alliance will begin by conducting a retention and expansion survey to see which businesses are considering expansion or a possible departure. Visiting business owners and managers could help grease the wheels for expansion by determining what obstacles need to be overcome and what resources might be available to help.
A visit could help keep companies from fleeing, too.
A frequent reaction during an office visit like this is, "I've been here 15 years and no one's darkened my doorstep around here," Ryan said.
"It really means a lot to them," Reed added.
That's the kind of "boots on the ground" economic development effort Lake County needs. Bringing new businesses to town grabs headlines, but existing businesses need attention too.
"Job growth, most of it comes from retention," Ryan said.
This new alliance is a step in the right direction for Lake County. We look forward to its success and eventual growth.