The necessity and payoff of cooperation, persistence and hard work in Northwest Indiana has been nothing less than courageous this year. Though the rest of the state suffered mightily, pockets of our region fared slightly better.
The Indiana and South Chicago area -- the nation's largest second-largest steel producer - was able to benefit from insulation from the downturn later in the year because of work being transferred from manufacturing operations in other parts of the country; and our world continues to be rocked by unemployment.
But we do have much to look forward to this year: A new sports complex named after the legendary Bo Jackson is scheduled to open in Crown Point in the first quarter of 2011 on the former site of the city's water plant. Bo Jackson Elite Sports will provide $3.4 million toward the $16 million partnership with the city. The rest of the money will come from user fees, sponsors, foundations and grant programs.
Another sports complex is planned for Hobart and will be attached to the existing 124-room Hilton Garden Inn, just north of U.S. 30 at Mississippi St. It will consist of three inflatable structures covering 165,000 square feet and the air-supported structures will accommodate 12 regulation basketball courts. The domes can be reconfigured to indoor venues for baseball, cheerleading and dance, football, martial arts, soccer, softball, track and field, wresting and extreme sports, along with trade shows and large group convention gatherings.
A handful of federal stimulus-funded projects are set to begin in spring, including $770,000 in funds to pave Samuelson Road from Portage Avenue to the Indiana Toll Road overpass, Central Avenue from the Willow Creek bridge to Elm Street, and Swanson Road from U.S. 6 to County Road 700 North in Portage; Schererville's projects will deal with wastewater treatment and upgrades to energy efficiency. Indiana schools could gain more than $250 million in grants through President Obama's "Race to the Top" plan, which will be distributed in two rounds, spring and fall 2010.
Approved by the feds just days before the new year, Canadian National officials moved forward with a plan to make Kirk Yard a major hub for train transportation, which would bring with it many new jobs and support growth at the Gary/Chicago International Airport.
And the One Region One Vision message has started to take hold as elected officials and other business and civic leaders are starting to come together to look for ways to move the region forward on a positive note.
There have been many advances in technology, like progress on the long-awaited fiber optic cable along the tollway and emerging options for energy and resources. Just like the rest of the country we have been through a rough time, but there were a few good surprises last year. And with the character, determination, collaboration and cooperation of everyone, we have many reasons to be optimistic looking ahead.