BILL MASTERSON JR.: Our collective progress is the best measure of individual achievement

2013-02-17T00:00:00Z BILL MASTERSON JR.: Our collective progress is the best measure of individual achievement nwitimes.com
February 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

This is the biggest and most successful business development, progress and innovation section we have published in the history of the Times Media Co. Of course, that accomplishment is a reflection of the focus and commitment of every one of the dedicated people on our staff. But we are in the news business, so we are well aware that it's never just all about us.

The Big Picture item is that this region is in an intense and sustained growth mode and The Times' record-breaking win is just an incidental part of our role in being the good news messenger this year.

Like any business leader in Northwest Indiana, expansion makes me just a little nervous. But I am well aware of established truths about strategic investments in rough times that create large benefits when the times get better. That is how Northwest Indiana is doing what it's doing right now.

I have watched this transition, not only in media, but in transportation, retail, health care, financial, technology, education, manufacturing, real estate, energy, entertainment, even government; almost every sector you can name has risen to the challenges of recent years.

While most businesses have cut back on certain types of products and services, almost inevitably those same businesses have gone into completely new areas, creating efficiencies and meeting the high-quality standards that customers demand.

Tumultuous change puts more pressure on leadership than ever before and yet, I see example after example of leaders who meet and exceed those challenges. Even with the prediction that customers will probably cut back on fuel this year, one of our local leaders says he will be opening new locations and hiring staff and managers this year. (Yes, this is the same person who turned an apple orchard into a destination.)

Not only are we seeing consolidation and smart acquisitions in retail areas, it is also happening in health care and at the same time as the care-giving model shifts vertically and horizontally. Population surging into late middle-age requiring residential care and government offering incentives for prevention and wellness create competing interests, yet there's growth in facilities and the range of services our providers offer.

The rise of a utility like NIPSCO has been unprecedented, but it's expected to continue. The company's user-focused infrastructure is there. In areas like commuter rail, energy, real estate and manufacturing, we are seeing stability and strength pay off as well. NIPSCO is just as focused about its employees and being a great place to work, along with its attention to its relationships with business partners in the area.

I am constantly reminded that creative response is as important as nerves of steel. Our Northwest Indiana leaders might not be known for patience, but they are usually thought of as good listeners. You can't respond quickly and creatively if you aren't listening.

I was amused to see our former Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is now president of Purdue University, announce a listening tour around the campuses. He's been on a listening tour for most of his career. So have I. And so has every corporate director, general manager, professional executive and business person I know.

Coming here as an outsider from South Dakota more than seven years ago gave me an edge. I had to listen because everything was new. The Northwest Indiana leaders I know and admire have the ability to listen and analyze every idea as though they have never heard it before.

The choices made by these visionary individuals are based on experience and knowledge, but what puts it over the top? Timing. We're not inclined to give up or give in here, but we are a resilient bunch of people who can move quickly, too. Like when you realize something you thought was a joke five years ago is not a joke anymore. (Yes, many people do read the news on their phones.)

This three-part progress section is about those visionaries and what they've done to transform their industries and our local economy. Their accomplishments are individually amazing, but keep in mind that nobody can go the distance without the supportive economic environment we have developed over the course of the last decade.

Like it or not, it's never been more true or more obvious: We're in this together.

Bill Masterson Jr. is publisher of The Times Media Company. Follow him on Twitter @nwi_BMasterson

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