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Building upon the resilience and dignity of our citizens’ strong work ethic, we can retain our talented youth and attract more people to Northwest Indiana to again grow our population and economy.

I believe that by expanding job opportunities, improving our environment and investing in our transportation infrastructure, we will draw more people to our region and continue on a path toward a flourishing economy and a brighter tomorrow.

In order to attract and retain more people in our region, we must continue to build upon our foundational steel industry and attract new technology and manufacturing job opportunities. A robust job market is essential to drawing and keeping talented individuals in Northwest Indiana.

The steel industry remains the backbone of our regional economy and succeeds because of the stringent enforcement of our trade laws and their dedication to constantly improving steel products and efficiencies.

New steel and manufacturing technologies are growing in Northwest Indiana through places such as Purdue Northwest’s Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation and ArcelorMittal’s Research and Development Center in East Chicago.

More can be done to continue to attract other technology and industries to our region. As more people across our nation hear about how Northwest Indiana is a hub for exciting steel and manufacturing research and development, they will be drawn to use our talented and innovative workforce to expand and grow their enterprises.

In order to attract and retain more people in our region, we must continue to clean up and preserve our environment.

A clean environment and easy access to our lakeshore and public trails will draw more individuals, families and businesses to our region so they can enjoy the great natural beauty of Northwest Indiana. The historical industry of our region has provided us with a robust manufacturing base, and opportunities exist to continue to work in partnership with industry and regulatory agencies to repurpose properties and attract 21st century jobs.

I am pleased that all levels of government and citizens have come together to invest in and clean up various areas, such as the Grand Calumet River and the Portage Lakefront Park. These are examples of dedicated and cooperative efforts we must promote so we can create an inviting quality of place that is possessed of a clean environment.

In order to attract and retain more people in our region, we must make transformational investments in our transportation infrastructure. A strong public transportation network is critical to get individuals to jobs located inside and outside of Northwest Indiana.

I am proud of all of our Northwest Indiana communities and state and federal officials who have worked together to support the recapitalization and expansion of the South Shore Rail Line.

I also am proud of the dedicated work to improve operations at the Gary/Chicago International Airport, including great progress to establish a U.S. Customs facility.

We all must continue to work together so when an individual or business is thinking about locating in the environs of Chicago, they will choose Northwest Indiana, in part because of our robust public transportation options.

Now is the time to take meaningful action to build upon our ethic of hard work and increase our population. An increasing population entices young people to stay and will lead to more businesses and job opportunities, more ideas and a more evolved region that produces a brighter future for all for generations to come.

U.S. House Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, represents the 1st Congressional District, which includes much of Northwest Indiana. The opinions are the writer's.