EDITORIAL: Take jobs Cabinet's report off the shelf

2013-08-13T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Take jobs Cabinet's report off the shelf nwitimes.com
August 13, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Porter County economic development advisers — the "jobs Cabinet" — released their report last December, but there has been no action on it.

If there's one Cabinet that deserves to be opened, it's the jobs Cabinet.

Yet the group's report has been sitting on the shelf even before public discussion of it began in earnest.

Porter County commissioners received the report in December. The Porter County Council was too busy with other issues to hear a presentation on the findings, said Bill Hanna, president and CEO of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority. Hanna oversaw the jobs Cabinet's work.

The report recommends tapping a portion of the county's nest egg for "two to three large, extraordinary major capital projects, public or private, to provide game-changing impacts to the county."

Porter County is sitting on $159 million in principal and $11.6 million in interest from the 2007 sale of Porter Hospital.

The jobs Cabinet's recommendations also include lending up to half of that money to towns, cities and school districts to provide low-cost funding for capital improvements.

Tapping that hospital money requires a consensus for the interest and unanimous consent for the principal. Reaching that agreement begins with communication.

John Evans, president of the Board of Porter County Commissioners, said he wants that communication about the jobs Cabinet's recommendations to begin.

"I give you my word, it's not going to sit on the shelf," Evans vowed in December.

County Council Vice President Karen Conver said she wants the council to discuss the report after the budget process ends in early October. "We need to give it the attention it deserves," Conover said.

Council President Bob Poparad said no one had approached him about the report, but he's open to the idea.

With the economy on the upswing, opportunities are emerging.

"We have not missed it, but at some point the window will close," Hanna said. 

It's time to start discussing some game-changing ideas for the Porter County economy and what role the county government — and the proceeds from the sale of Porter Hospital — might have in bringing these ideas to fruition.

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