Busy Year for the Forum • Northwest Indiana Business Magazine

Busy Year for the Forum

Bringing jobs and investment to Northwest Indiana.

2011 has been an exciting year for Northwest Indiana and the Northwest Indiana Forum. We continue to market and promote the region, build and foster key relationships, and work to bring quality, higher-paying jobs and capital investment to the region while protecting and respecting the environment.

In its primary economic-development role, the Forum worked with our partners to bring some large employers into Northwest Indiana and is involved with many active projects at this time. As a key contact or “go to” group, the Forum offers a variety of services to create a seamless process for companies and others as they look to locate in Northwest Indiana.

Capitalizing on Illinois's dramatic increase in income taxes, the Forum launched our “Feeling Squeezed by Taxes?” and “The Grass IS Greener” campaigns highlighting the advantages of our region and state. This campaign was closely coordinated with the Indiana Economic Development Corp.'s efforts. More than 25 trade shows and conferences, updated marketing materials and a number of other activities enhanced the campaign. The Forum has also acquired computer databases and other tools to help companies find a great site here in Northwest Indiana. This campaign generated interest from companies from Illinois and other states.

With an IEDC regional economic development planning grant, the Forum created hard-hitting, decision-influencing ammunition that adds precision and impact to marketing and business attraction efforts: cost/condition modeling, qualitative business operating advantages and competitive area comparisons.

The Northwest Indiana Economic Development District, a partnership between the Forum and the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, received a grant to develop and to apply for formal recognition by the U.S. government. This recognition will provide local communities access to federal funds for which they would not otherwise be eligible.

On the environmental front, the Forum was actively engaged with many businesses to support the issuance of needed permits, long-term initiatives such as the Great Lakes Compact and a focus on Asian carp and its potential entry into Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes. In particular, the Forum is active in issues around the potential closing of the Chicago Area Waterways System to limit invasive species. Such a closing could lead to a regional economic loss of $2 billion, increased truck traffic and flood potential for residents near the Grand Calumet/Little Calumet Rivers. The Forum remains actively engaged in striving to find a balanced solution.

Working cooperatively with more than 50 organizations to actively promote Northwest Indiana on the regional front and equipping regional leadership with insight and information necessary to position Northwest Indiana for a bright future, the Forum hosted:

* The U.S. Department of State visit by the Foreign Press Corps to the urban core of Northwest Indiana. This tour resulted in many positive international stories and solidified a strong relationship between Northwest Indiana and the State Department's Foreign Press Corps.

* U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, who discussed the education of our future workforce–the ways in which to enhance the “work ready” nature of high school students, whether they seek more education or employment.

* U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, who presented views on the creation of jobs in the economy as a result of improved rail service.

* “The Importance of Land Assembly in Economic Development,” a primer on the various aspects of creating a land package to attract developers and investment.

But, we know we are not done. We are already planning and preparing for the next steps in building Northwest Indiana. And as the skies slowly begin to clear, the Forum is ready for an upward climb in 2012.

Mark Maassel is the president and CEO of the Northwest Indiana Forum.


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