REGIONAL GROWTH: NWI is posed for another productive year

2012-11-20T15:19:00Z REGIONAL GROWTH: NWI is posed for another productive yearMark Maassel President and CEO of the Northwest Indiana Forum nwitimes.com

With a focus on boosting jobs and the quality of life, Northwest Indiana continues to make great strides toward our future. And the Northwest Indiana Forum and our partners are a significant part of these strides.

With a goal to preserve and grow the number of high quality jobs while improving the environment, the Forum uses a collaborative approach to drive investment, job creation and an ever-improving environment. We do this by working with local economic development organizations and elected officials, as well as environmental, community and business leaders. And it is only fair that people ask how we do our work and what has been accomplished.

Through ongoing marketing and advertising about the advantages of NWI, the Forum received and responded to more requests about specific sites in 2012 than during the same time in 2011 and answered nearly 2,000 more general requests for information. We learned that companies looking to establish an operation in Northwest Indiana consistently fell in target areas of Advanced Manufacturing; Transportation, Distribution and Logistics; and Information Technology with significant interest emerging in the Energy/Fuel; Bio/Life Science; and Agri-business/Food industry sectors. This will allow even more focus in our efforts in 2013.

The Forum also promoted the region with our “Opportunity Indiana Conference” highlighting the advantages of NWI versus Illinois and other Midwest regions. Indiana Secretary of Commerce Dan Hasler keynoted the event followed by discussions on our business friendly location and climate. The “Economic Development for Decision Makers” program, geared to prepare communities for success in economic development, gathered attendance from elected and appointed officials from across the region.

National leaders came to Northwest Indiana to learn about the good things happening here and encourage our work to make the region even better. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Tom Guevera and U.S. Administrator for the St. Lawrence Seaway Craig Middlebrook highlighted opportunities for NWI at separate speaking engagements.

The Forum partnered with governmental leaders through the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission to create the NWI Economic Development District. This District received a grant to continue organizational development and the update of the regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, which prioritizes investments and positions the region for future growth. This provides a vehicle to fund needed growth efforts in NWI.

And Elevate Ventures, an Indiana nonprofit organized to facilitate and enhance high growth entrepreneurial ventures, is being supported by the Forum and others. This has increased support of entrepreneurs across Northern Indiana from virtually none to a full third of all efforts in Indiana – tying small and burgeoning businesses into to the broader economic development effort.

Environmentally, our air is cleaner than in years past thanks to the diligent efforts of both industry and citizens. Proactive measures such as the installation of pollution control equipment by industry and emissions testing by individuals have helped us reach this level. With ongoing efforts, further improvement is expected.

Work continues on the topic of Asian carp. While the potentially significant negative impact on our economy has long been a concern, issues of residential flooding and negative environmental impacts to our air and water are coming to the front. The Forum actively facilitates and participates in meetings and conversations to provide education and awareness through programs and media while partnering to find a comprehensive, balanced solution between all aspects of this issue.

2013 looks even better. With partnerships in place to market Northwest Indiana as a great place to do business, similar efforts are under way to support current employers and any additional employment or operational expansion they might propose.

Investments in improved roads, bridges and broadband will support business investment and job creation. Along with a focused effort on education and creating the workforce of tomorrow, the region is poised for another productive year.

We have much to be proud of. We learned a lot. We understand more. We work hard on problems that can be solved. We recognize real progress.

We have more to do. We will do it together.

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