As is the case with most things in life, 2011 possessed two distinct sides to it. Nationally and locally, the economy continued to struggle in various sectors, and unemployment remained unacceptably high. On the bright side, at BP we continued to make safe, steady progress on the multibillion-dollar modernization project at the Whiting Refinery.
At the same time that 8,000 building trades and contractors were constructing the largest construction project in Indiana's history, the men and women of BP were continuing to conduct safe and environmentally responsible operations of the refinery. In fact, 2011 was one of the refinery's safest years ever.
Significant progress was made on a number of other fronts in our local communities as well. Whiting has completed a large portion of the city's Lakefront Redevelopment Project, and the downtown area looks fabulous with the completion of Oil City Stadium and improvements to many businesses.
Hammond also completed much of its Lakefront Project along Wolf Lake and the walking trail bridge over Indianapolis Boulevard is nearly complete. In East Chicago, the new water treatment plant was completed and construction continues on additional units for the North Harbor Redevelopment Project. The Marquette Park Project in Gary also made major steps to completion.
All of this activity points to a positive future from an economic and quality of life standpoint for our communities at the north end of Lake County. It is good to reflect and celebrate our success. Many times, we do not do that often enough. All involved with these successes should be congratulated and commended.
As always, major challenges still remain and we must continue to move forward this year. As I look ahead for 2012 we will see ongoing construction on the BP modernization project and further progress on the lakefront projects in Whiting, Hammond and Gary.
This year provides our region with additional opportunity with new leadership at the helm in Gary and the continuation of Mayor Anthony Copeland's leadership in East Chicago. All of us who call this area our home should support the efforts of these leaders as they reinvigorate their communities.
This year also will see continued progress as representatives from the business community and elected officials representing Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties move forward with advancing the newly created Northwest Indiana Economic Development District. This body, supported by Northwest Indiana Forum and Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission staff, will continue to plan and advance economic development and job creation that will lead to future economic growth and opportunity for our region.
We are a region that has faced many challenges. Let's continue to work together to build a brighter future.
Tom Keilman is director of government and public affairs for BP America. The opinions are the writer's.