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IN Business Professionals to Watch 2017. Karen Lauerman, president and CEO of the Lake County IN Economic Alliance.

There’s an old adage that you can’t see the forest for the trees. Never has that been truer to me than in the last few weeks. When asked to columnize my view of Northwest Indiana progress, I was ready to take readers on a journey of the benefits and advantages in locating, staying or expanding in the region, be it for economic development, residential living or talent attraction.

Pontificating about our proximity to Chicago and two-thirds of the U.S. population in one day’s drive, the beautiful shore of Lake Michigan, outstanding business climate, budget surplus and constitutional property tax certainty. Leading the charge of ideal locations in Lake County and all of Northwest Indiana supported by welcoming communities and counties. Sharing our strong work ethic as a region and a state that works, makes and constructs things. Encouraging a look at existing or aged facilities for a new purpose or brownfield environmentally remediated sites and greenspace for smart expansion or development.

All of these specifics are extremely important and critical to our progress as a region. But recently I have had the opportunity to see another advantage of our region that we seem to overlook. A collective body that we tout only when it serves a need or purpose ... people. Not employees, trainees, apprentices, voters, Boomers, X’s, Millennials. People. People wanting jobs, homes and a region in which to prosper.

People have an indelible mark on how others see our Northwest Indiana portion of the state. We easily share our heritage and culture to enhance understanding and diversity, faith and love to carry us through the triumphs and tragedies. We lift each other up when we are down, and never give in when things get tough. Northwest Indiana is a force when united, and proven winners when we act as one.

Leaders came together a little more than five years ago to create the Lake County IN Economic Alliance. An economic development group in Lake County to support 19 communities and unincorporated areas; coalescing efforts to become stronger, more responsive, better prepared for opportunities. Elected officials openly acknowledging a win for one community is a win for all. Growing and cultivating prosperity and progress.

Establishing this one nonpartisan, independent umbrella organization focused solely on economic development as a one-stop shop organization has resulted in an efficient and effective process, countywide lead and prospect generation in alignment with the greater regional campaign. Marketing that fosters opportunity for growth and prosperity for Lake County and all of Northwest Indiana through increased assessed value, financial investment and creation of jobs.

People make the everyday difference ... in every walk of life, every career path, every young person. People are the fabric of our region. We agree and disagree. We challenge and ask questions. We all believe in a bright future.

Though I have worked but never lived outside this forest, I know it is truly unique. Protecting and nurturing, encouraging one to branch out when feeling held back, offering a welcoming greeting home after a long journey or a short trip. The people of Northwest Indiana are our greatest advantage. We live, love and work with our heart and soul on our sleeves for the betterment of all.

Coming full circle in touting advantages of Northwest Indiana, our collective goal is to impart our region, county and community qualities to company executives, consultants and site selectors, furthering their desire to make the move,inspiring them to choose us.

Of course, we must and should always appreciate the individual trees, for those trees make the greatest Northwest Indiana forest in which individuals and companies can grow, achieve and rise beyond to reach the sun.

Karen Lauerman is president and CEO of the Lake County IN Economic Alliance. The opinions are the writer's.

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Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.