A new wind blows in the Region. Crises can unite communities in powerful ways, and perhaps as a result of the present one, an authentic and palpable spirit of regional collaboration has taken root to position Northwest Indiana as a region on the rise in the wake of COVID.
Over the past year, I have been inspired and encouraged by the crossing of municipal, county and organizational boundaries to work together toward shared vision and goals. From Hammond to Valparaiso, Gary to LaPorte, Munster to Michigan City, organizations and communities have joined together to address both the needs of the moment and plan for a brighter, more prosperous future. Even during the darkest times of the last year, seeds were being planted and watered that are sprouting in 2021.
Thanks to the tireless, Herculean efforts made by regional, state and federal leaders, the long-awaited expansion of the South Shore train is funded and underway, adding an accelerant to the already-trending population shift into NWI. The Region has become one of the most in-demand real estate markets in the U.S., and the major investment in our transportation infrastructure (and its corresponding Transit Development Districts) has provided a new foundation for enhancing our economic competitiveness.
In addition to improved public transit, we have also begun to more fully leverage our multimodal transportation resources. We have a real opportunity to become a major shipping and logistics hub (the recent developments with UPS in Gary and Amazon in Valparaiso and Merrillville being the latest examples).
With the planned expansion of fiberoptic along the South Shore Line, we are creating an improved digital infrastructure capable of supporting growing consumer and commercial broadband needs. The opening of the Digital Crossroad data center is another hopeful sign of things to come, providing a major node for the largest tech companies in the world, right here in Hammond.
With all these and other developments, it’s no surprise that in the last month alone, I have received several unsolicited inquiries from real estate investors across the country eager to learn more about what’s happening in NWI and seeking guidance on where to invest.
People are taking notice of the opportunities the Region presents.
One Region has worked steadily over the past year with our partners to help advance the vision for a thriving, equitable and more resilient northwest Indiana; a vision that leverages our substantial place-based assets and transportation infrastructure to attract a more diverse mix of private investment and job growth needed to increase population.
While we continue to lead the world in heavy manufacturing, much work is being done to position the Region as a hub for applied technology research and commercialization — a hub that will create new good-paying jobs and advance manufacturing technology needed to repatriate critical supply chains to our shores. Working with a network of public and private partners stretching from Milwaukee to South Bend, we have an opportunity to emerge as a true “third coast” — a center of economic gravity for the revitalization of the entire Midwest.
With its abundant collection of natural and infrastructure assets, the Northwest Indiana region is poised for substantial growth in the years ahead, provided that strong, collaborative leadership continues to capitalize on the opportunity.
NWI is the middle of everywhere. Part of the the Greater Chicago MSA, connected to the entire country through road, rail, water and air, we are home to a population greater than all but a handful of major U.S. cities. We are one region, primed for renewal.
If you analyze the assets we have, you’d likely struggle to find the full range of what NWI provides in any other comparable market. Access to fresh water, abundant agricultural and industrial resources, quality schools and higher education institutions, close proximity to Chicago, easy access to the vast majority of the U.S. population, a favorable business climate, a diverse workforce ... the list goes on.
If we continue to build upon this portfolio of assets and invest in our quality of place to help attract and retain talent, Northwest Indiana will become a magnet for investment for decades to come.
Matt Wells is the interim CEO of One Region