“It takes time to create excellence. If it could be done quickly, more people would do it.”
- John Wooden
In January, I delivered my second State of the State address. It was an opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments of the past year and establish markers for progress in the year ahead. There were no big surprises in my speech, and that was by design.
The challenges that face our state and communities persist. The only way we will improve these important areas — the economy, infrastructure, workforce development, drug addiction and government service — is with unrelenting focus.
After years of solid fiscal management, Indiana is well positioned for continued growth. In 2017, we passed historic infrastructure funding that starts with more than $6 billion over the next two years and will grow locally in the years ahead.We’ve taken steps to attack the state’s opioid epidemic as aggressively as it’s ravaging our families. We attracted a record 30,000-plus new job commitments and more than $7 billion in capital investments. Right now, there are more than 74,000 jobs available around the state — more than 6,400 of them are in the six-county Northwest Indiana region. This is progress.
But make no mistake, there are no easy problems left to solve, no low-hanging fruit to pluck. In truth the challenges that remain for Indiana are the most difficult to solve, because they involve transforming stubborn systems and changing destructive cycles of human behavior.
This is as true of the Region as it is for the whole state.
On the economic front, I’m excited that Northwest Indiana is pursuing greater sector diversity to create an even more vibrant and attractive destination for business and talent. Sixteen local governments have worked to support development of theWest Lake Corridor and South Shore Line and have secured 100 percent of the required local and state matching funds.
With strong local leaders — Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson in Gary, Mayor Anthony Copeland in East Chicago, Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. in Hammond and Mayor Jon Costas in Valparaiso, to name just a few — Northwest Indiana is cultivating new ground, attracting new businesses from around the world, and governing with a focused mission to improve the lives of all citizens.
And yet what weighs heaviest on the Region is that untapped potential. There’s the proximity to the nation’s third-largest city, yes, and the potential to attract families and businesses from our ever-struggling neighbors to the west. But there’s also a rich history of success to build upon, a history of innovation and entrepreneurship. There are natural gems, like the Indiana Dunes State Park, and quality institutions — like Ivy Tech, Purdue University Northwest, Calumet College of St. Joseph and Ancilla College — that are economic engines and hubs of innovation.
In fact, my administration will look to Northwest Indiana as a model. A regional approach, like the one Northwest Indiana has used for years, must be adopted by every part of the state. This is the idea that will drive our state’s new approach to workforce development. When local communities have the flexibility and support to determine their own destinies, citizens benefit.
Finally, the foundational principle from which all our work is built must be civility. This administration will remain committed to seeking and considering different points of view, and we will respect those differences as we work to address our state’s biggest challenges.
Northwest Indiana has everything it needs to achieve a brighter future, and with focus, we will succeed. In this new year, let’s resolve to remain focused on the issues that matter most and partner to advance long-term, evolutionary, positive progress for the Region.