An encouraging rise in Lake and Porter county construction projects is welcome news on several levels following years of soft demand in the doldrums of an economic downturn.
Beyond the promise this uptick holds for developers, contractors and laborers is a possible economic tonic for a slumping steel industry.
In addition to celebrating and encouraging improved construction fortunes, it's also important to support federal lawmakers taking on unfair business practices that further threaten local steel.
Though a shadow of its former self, the steel industry still remains vital to Northwest Indiana's economic outlook.
The Times business reporter Joseph Pete reported Sunday that nearly 380,000 square feet of new retail space was under construction in Northwest Indiana and the south suburbs at the end of last year -- way up from the 37,000 square feet just six months prior.
More than 700,000 square feet of new industrial space is under construction in Lake and Porter counties, the highest volume since 2007, according to real estate firm NAI Hiffman.
This is encouraging news for the entire steel industry, which provides the vital structural material for such projects. Our local steel mills feed directly into this improving construction market.
But this help to our local mills isn't enough.
U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, and other members of Congress have pushed for federal condemnation of the illegal "dumping" of steel in our markets from foreign countries.
That congressional push recently led to the U.S. International Trade Commission ruling that India, South Korea and seven other countries are harming domestic steelmakers by flooding U.S. markets with cheap steel for use in constructing gas and oil pipelines.
The ruling means the U.S. Department of Commerce will move forward with an investigation into whether the imports are below fair market value and if tariffs should be imposed.
Visclosky and other federal officials should remain steadfast in their push to ensure our steel markets don't face additional challenges beyond those of a free domestic market.
An uptick in construction and safeguards against unfair foreign practices would create great promise for local jobs and prosperity within the industry.