GUEST COMMENTARY: Built on strong foundation, NWI has profound potential

2012-02-19T00:00:00Z 2012-05-23T17:15:15Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Built on strong foundation, NWI has profound potentialBy Pete Visclosky nwitimes.com
February 19, 2012 12:00 am  • 

There are some simple facts about Northwest Indiana that are frequently overlooked.

This is a region with assets that many localities around the world would love to have. It's no coincidence that ArcelorMittal, U.S. Steel and BP have invested billions in Northwest Indiana in recent years. This is an area built on steel and centered on manufacturing, possessing an array of transportation options, and led by public officials and community groups that link these unique assets.

Our region needs to harness its latent potential and develop into a renewed hub of manufacturing and transportation for years to come.

Steel is at the heart of our region. It's our foundation, and what brought most of the population of Northwest Indiana here in the first place. Due to the industry's enormous investment in the community, we boast a large skilled workforce and a developed system of educational institutions.

Furthermore, with nearly 15,000 steelworkers employed at ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel, Northwest Indiana possesses a sizable service sector as well. Their presence and partnership also has been essential in developing an advanced and uniquely connected infrastructure that most communities in the U.S. and around the globe simply cannot match.

Northwest Indiana is perfectly situated. It lies at the crossroads of four major interstates, I-80, I-90, I-94 and I-65, and many highways that offer unparalleled access to shipping throughout the Great Lakes region. This area also possesses extensive rail networks, which directly link to virtually every major rail line east of the Mississippi. Moreover, the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor accounts for 15,516 jobs and generates almost $7.9 billion in revenue for business.

We also possess the Gary-Chicago International Airport, which recently broke ground on a $153 million expansion and will be in position to offer the Chicago area a badly needed third major international airport.

Northwest Indiana's local governments, representing diverse constituencies and interests, have worked together to realize goals only possible through regional cooperation, such as the Marquette Plan and the promise of extended South Shore service.

This progress has come from successive administrations and has crossed party lines. It reflects a growing progressive, cooperative ethic that only enhances our possibilities going forward. I hope incoming administrations will carry on, benefit from, and expand on this cooperation to realize our region's tremendous economic potential.

Our local governments have worked in concert with public and private ventures to create a singular new vision of Northwest Indiana's future. The Regional Development Authority has worked mightily to begin rebuilding and expanding our physical infrastructure such as the Gary/Chicago International Airport and restoring our lakeshore.

One Region, One Vision and the Northwest Indiana Quality of Life Council also have been instrumental in crafting a vision of regional development, building trust between communities. Through innovative policies and hard work, these groups are doing their part to improve Northwest Indiana residents' quality of life.

Together, these factors add up to one comprehensive vision: a better future for Northwest Indiana through investment, unity and cooperation. I am excited to see what the future holds for the next generation, and humbled by the great work that has laid the groundwork for a better tomorrow.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., represents the 1st District. The opinions in this column are the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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