How can Northwest Indiana reach its full potential? Best results are produced by attention to both body and soul. Much effort in recent years has been focused on the “body,” that is to say, promoting economic opportunity — jobs, jobs, jobs.
Several regional groups are dedicated to encouraging businesses to locate here: the Northwest Indiana Forum, Lake County Economic Alliance, and Valparaiso and Greater LaPorte economic development corporations, to mention just a few. State and local governments also offer incentives. And a measure of success has been achieved.
Companies such as Modern Forge, Hoist Liftruck and Polycon have settled here.
It seems many transplants coming from Illinois are older, 20th century-type businesses rather than more technology-intensive companies. We need both, of course.
Well-paying manufacturing jobs built Northwest Indiana, and we should be grateful companies like those mentioned above call Northwest Indiana home. But we also need more advanced-manufacturing and high-tech companies.
Fortunately, there are hopeful examples, including Tri-State Automation in Hammond, RMS in Munster and Monosol, with facilities in all three Region counties.
The Society of Innovators has done wonderful work in spotlighting local innovations, including even at our long-term industries.
But what about our “soul,” or what also could be called "quality of life?"
A recent column by Leigh Morris described many of the cultural opportunities that abound locally. His list was impressive and is a solid reminder there is much of interest in Northwest Indiana.
Still there is more to soul than concerts, plays and festivals, as important as they are. The added aspect of soul could be called “character” — the willingness to do things the right way.
Two events in April, occurring within a week of each other, go directly to our regional character and show we really do have soul.
For the seventh year in a row, the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission is hosting an annual ethics summit. The general public is invited to this free event to hear insights from former Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke and learn about the ethical and policy implications of elected officials who neglect their official duties for months at a time. A lively discussion of this topic will be presented by the nationally recognized debate teams from Chesterton and Munster high schools.
The summit is April 7. The following week, on April 13, is World Civility Day, a day-long event focusing on civil discourse where participants will be encouraged to listen and learn from each other.
The nearly simultaneous occurrence of the ethics summit and World Civility Day should send a powerful message that there is more to Northwest Indiana than meets the eye of people passing through.
The many billboards along our expressways advertising “gentlemen’s clubs” may imply loose morals. Criminal corruption trials and gang member prosecutions may cause outsiders to see us as a rough, no-holds-barred kind of an area, but this is not who we are.
The two events in April show we have a depth and wisdom from which other parts of the country could well profit.