More than a century ago, our ancestors transformed Northwest Indiana into a center of steel production and manufacturing in the American Midwest.
I once wrote of these pioneers that opportunity was created by a generation with a vision of the future, a generation that relished taking risks. Today, I write as a devoted lifelong resident of Northwest Indiana and challenge us to relish risk-taking once again, making real a vision of a brighter economic future.
We are blessed with a landscape of exceptional physical characteristics, which I consider to be the bedrock of our economic potential. The largest bodies of fresh water on the face of the Earth sit just to the north of us. Four major interstates and every major rail line east of the Mississippi River converge here. The ships that leave our ports deliver cargo worldwide. How we use these assets to create jobs and build prosperity for ourselves and future generations is the great challenge that remains before us, and the focus of my work in Washington.
We need to generate more business, more jobs and more economic development without delay. In part, that means we must maximize the ports we have.
To that end, we have made significant progress: As of last year, the dredging of the Indiana Harbor Ship Canal began for the first time since 1972, and will bring the canal’s depth from 20 feet to 27 while removing more than 1.6 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment in the process.
I am excited for the results this process will yield when it is completed, as more ships will be able to pass through the canal fully laden, allowing our local industries to remain competitive in the global marketplace.
It is important not to ignore the vital role that rail transportation will play in efficiently shipping cargo and creating good jobs today and tomorrow.
I was happy to have worked with former Gov. Mitch Daniels and others to secure $71.3 million for rail projects throughout our region, including new at-grade freight crossings, new parallel sidings and signal upgrades. The improved movement of freight promises real economic benefits for the region, benefits I will continue working hard to deliver.
My vision for Northwest Indiana extends beyond protecting the jobs we have today into fostering a diverse and growing economy centered on the jobs of tomorrow.
I was proud to work with Ivy Tech to secure a new distribution and logistics center. Our federal taxes helped Purdue University Calumet establish the Water Institute, Energy Efficiency and Reliability Center, and the Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation. This wise investment of public money will play a key role in educating residents for new opportunities in a diversified local economy, help existing businesses be more efficient and improve the quality of our physical environment.
Success takes vision, and it requires risk. Our local leaders are cooperating, improving our communities, and communicating like never before. Still, I believe we must continue to encourage the same industrial and entrepreneurial spirit of the early 20th century to move Northwest Indiana forward in the 21st century.
With vision, hard work and persistence, we can make the region an even greater engine of our nation’s economy.