VALPARAISO | Its success at making the old new again without increasing taxes earned Valparaiso the 2009 Community of the Year designation from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
The announcement came Thursday morning during a ceremony on the steps of City Hall with representatives of the state and city chambers, Mayor Jon Costas and other city officials on hand. It recognizes the city's efforts to revitalize the downtown, the Eastgate commercial corridor and the North Calumet area. Taxes were not increased, and the city created a substantial Rainy Day Fund.
Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Dale Clapp said the honor was exciting for the city.
"It's really nice to be recognized at the state level that we've got the leadership that is doing things right here," Clapp said. "We all need something good to talk about in today's environment."
David Rose, former Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce board chairman and current Valparaiso Economic Development Corp. treasurer, said the award focuses on communities that provide good support in which businesses can prosper.
"You can see with a lot of the development going on in Valparaiso and the support of the retail climate and some of the infrastructure work that's going on that there's been a relationship where the city is supporting the businesses, but the businesses also are supporting the city," Rose said.
He said the award is a tool the city can use when talking to companies looking to locate in Northwest Indiana and, specifically, Valparaiso.
In announcing the award, the state chamber said since 2004, the city has invested about $40 million in infrastructure improvements, of which about $32 million was from state and federal grants. That investment helped generate about $690 million in private investments ranging from the redevelopment of the former County Seat Plaza to the Alan Harre Union at Valparaiso University and the new Ivy Tech campus.
The private investments have generated between 1,500 and 2,000 jobs so far, with the expected development of the Memorial Health Systems hospital site and the completion of the Porter's Vale shopping center still among the projects on the horizon.
"Mayor Jon Costas and other community and business leaders have emphasized infrastructure improvements and taken advantage of the many benefits of working closely together," Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar said. "Valparaiso is not only a regional destination in Northwest Indiana but a shining example for all through the state about what can be accomplished through proactive leadership and action."
The state chamber has given out the award for 20 years, but this is the first time a city in Lake or Porter County was chosen. Speaking to the crowd of about 50, including many city business leaders, Costas said the award celebrates the "values, principles and actions" of the city and its leaders that made it possible.
"It's fun to look down the street (Lincolnway) and see how different it looks today from six years ago," Costas said. "And this is just the beginning. We'll leave a city for our children and grandchildren that they can be proud of and continue to build on."
The award will be officially presented during the Indiana chamber's 20th annual awards dinner Nov. 10 in Indianapolis.