The beginning of a new decade brings great promise to Northwest Indiana.
I am more encouraged today than I have been in years.
The signposts all point in a positive direction. New jobs. New facilities. New leadership.
The steel mills are hiring. Ford is retooling its nearby plant and adding 1,200 jobs. The $3.8 billion expansion at BP's Whiting refinery is swelling the employment ranks.
While our economy remains sluggish, much activity suggests we're on track for a strong recovery. After all, this region has been and will continue to be the bedrock of the nation's economy. And as development occurs, jobs will blossom.
Looking forward into this new decade, there are many projects that bode well for the region.
High speed rail is on a fast track. Construction of a replacement for the missing link of the Cline Avenue Expressway is in the offing. I believe the Illiana Expressway will be built.
Watch for new office buildings and store fronts in the Portage, Crown Point and Tri-Town areas. Massive housing development – especially drawing tax-weary Illinois residents – will take off in many parts of the region.
As for health care, the new Franciscan Point east of Crown Point, the Lakeshore Bone and Joint Institute near Chesterton and the planned Porter hospital are examples of the types of facilities the future holds. Hopefully, the supporters of a Northwest Indiana trauma center – such as Indiana University Northwest and Methodist Hospitals – will succeed
A major effort to revitalize the urban corridor has begun. In East Chicago, new housing and new commercial centers are rising. The federal government, the Regional Development Authority and other local groups are poised to restore Gary to its rightful place of prominence as the region's central city.
U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky's Marquette Plan is taking off. The River Walk project in Portage is a shining example of restoring Lake Michigan's shoreline, making it more accessible to the public.
Then, too, there is the new era of leadership in the region. Typical of leaders providing positive guidance are Mark Maassel, CEO of the Northwest Indiana Forum; Leigh Morris, head of the RDA; Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas; and academic leaders such as Guadalupe Valtierra, chancellor at Ivy Tech Community College.
Finally, there is Bill Masterson Jr., publisher of The Times. He is leading the "One Region: One Vision" initiative that has brought together leaders from all sectors of LaPorte, Porter and Lake counties to address regional issues.
Getting the people of our diverse Northwest Indiana to work together is no easy task, but, after 40 years living here, I believe that day is very near. The region has such great promise; we dare not let it slip away.
I believe with strong leadership and a will to succeed, all of us can benefit from coming together.