Relatively new words in this region, and they're working wonders.
Words you might not have put together in the same sentence 10 years ago to describe our region are now becoming synonymous with local leaders in Lake County.
Today we have scores of collaborative efforts in the region that are working examples of cooperation in not only the business community, but also in the arts, government, quality of life organizations and education.
Ten years ago, the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce was formed from a collaboration between the East Chicago and Hammond chambers of commerce, and that idea grew from the spirit of cooperation that began with the three-city Empowerment Zone of Gary, East Chicago, and Hammond in 1999.
The Lakeshore chamber idea started as we began to collaborate with three cities that heretofore barely spoke to each other, and all of a sudden they were joined at the hip in order to create new job opportunities in the Empowerment Zone.
Cooperation was imperative in order to make the Empowerment Zone work, and we soon started to look for more opportunities to merge other entities, such as chambers of commerce. The Lakeshore chamber has nearly tripled in size since our merger a decade ago, and we were proud to see the most recent merger between the Crown Point and Merrillville chambers–now the successful Crossroads Chamber of Commerce.
It also was about 10 years ago that the newly hired leaders of two local universities began to do something that was previously not a normal method of operation–they began to talk to each other.
New chancellors such as Howard Cohen at Purdue and Bruce Bergland at Indiana University started to collaborate on developing curriculums that enhanced the efforts of both universities. Soon the chancellors and presidents of all the colleges and universities in Northwest Indiana were working together to enhance the quality of education for thousands of students in Lake and Porter counties. Today we are seeing record enrollments throughout the region.
U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky has been a powerful advocate for regional cooperation for many years, and the development of the Regional Development Authority in 2005 gave the region an opportunity to leverage millions of dollars for economic and community development projects in Lake and Porter counties.
Visclosky's Marquette Plan, a vision for restoring and protecting one of our most precious resources, the Lake Michigan shoreline, is now a reality, with each and every community along Lake Michigan now enjoying (with some still in the planning stages) our beautiful lakeshore.
Most recently, the Times newspaper made a monumental commitment to sustaining this spirit of regional cooperation by establishing the “One Region, One Vision” initiative. This effort has continued to grow, as evidenced by the recent gathering of 650 attendees at a combined meeting with the Quality of Life Council.
We owe a lot to Rep. Visclosky for his continual efforts to push us toward regional cooperation, and as our community leaders continue to collaborate and build upon this expanding foundation of cooperation, future efforts will be sustained for growth and development in this great region.
David Ryan, a former banker, has been executive director of the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce for the past six years. He owned The Colonial Inn in Kentland for 28 years, was involved in economic development in Newton County and was manager of communications and public affairs for NIPSCO for 12 years.