Checking the pulse in a human is easy. Just count the number of beats in 15 seconds, multiply by four, and you have the number of heart beats per minute. Checking the pulse of a region takes much more work.
The Times spent months working on today's 102-page NWI Perspectives special report, beginning the planning process last fall. The result is in your hands today, both in print and at nwi.com.
For today's comprehensive report, we looked in depth at agriculture, arts and culture, business, charities and social services, education, environment, government, health care, law enforcement and criminal justice, religion, tourism and recreation, and transportation.
Here are some highlights from the dozens of stories in this special section:
- Droughts in the United States shrank U.S. herds, so we're eating beef imported from Brazil and Mexico, not just homegrown. Neil Hannon, whose family has farmed in Morgan Township since the Civil War, said it will take about five years to rebuild herds here.
- Valparaiso's V-Line bus service saw 124,195 riders in 2013, a 23.5 increase from 2012. LaPorte County is planning a bus service between Michigan and LaPorte, and Gary Public Transportation Corp. is expanding well beyond the city's borders.
- The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor handled 2.5 million tons of cargo in 2013, the most since 2006. The port generates $4.3 billion a year in economic activity and supports 33,000 jobs.
- St. John and Crown Point are in the top 15 for housing starts in the entire Chicago area.
- The Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors called 2013 a "great year," with home sales up 19 percent from 2012. Nationally, the increase was 10 percent.
- Residents are gaining online access to court records.
- Ogden Dunes is planning to install elevated walkways with handrails at two of the towns beach access points.
- Local hospitals are planning recruiting efforts to cope with a looming doctor shortage.
- The Affordable Care Act puts more emphasis on keeping people out of hospitals, which opens opportunities for home-based care and transitional care.
Don't feel bad if it takes more than one day to read this massive report. After all, it took several months to bring it all together for you.