The regional planning agency on Thursday adopted a plan to improve Northwest Indiana’s economy and make it more resilient to disruptions like the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
It calls for improving regional infrastructure, attracting and retaining more skilled workers, and expanding the regional economy by growing businesses of all sizes.
The Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission hired TIP Strategies Inc. last year. from Austin, Texas to come up with a plan. TIP Strategies also helped develop the Ignite the Region plan, which was adopted by the Northwest Indiana Forum in 2018.
Denarie Kane, NIRPC Economic Development District Coordinator, summarized the new economic development and resilience plan for NIRPC members.
The plan notes that the region’s challenges include slow population growth in Lake and LaPorte counties, relatively low education levels in the same two counties and job growth that lags behind population growth.
Population growth in Porter County followed the national trend, the plan says, while Lake and LaPorte counties lagged far behind.
The plan also notes that lower levels of education in Lake and LaPorte counties also led to lower earnings.
His recommendations include strengthening regional infrastructure by expanding high-speed Internet service, completing the two-track South Shore Line and West Lake Corridor projects, making public transportation accessible and efficient for everyone, creating more “shovel-ready” locations for commercial, industrial and residential development and population growth skilled workers for highly demanded jobs.
NIRPC’s executive board approved the plan Thursday without comment.
“Thoughtfully responding to disasters and planning for economic resilience is no small undertaking,” the plan concludes. “The NIRPC and the leadership of the region should be celebrating the fact that they have taken great strides in ensuring the vitality and sustainability of the region’s economy…
“Going forward, immediate and sustained implementation efforts will require a coalition of individuals and organizations to champion the projects within their purview.”
The organization’s full commission was scheduled to meet Thursday, but the meeting’s 26 members fell short of the quorum needed to pass official commission business, including next year’s budget and an agreement to pay CEO Ty Warner.
Those can be taken up at a scheduled meeting of the full commission on Jan. 19, Warner said.
Tim Zorn is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune