Chesterton Tribune

Porter County Economic Development Cabinet formed with 11 members

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More jobs are the goal for Porter County as County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, joined with Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas and Portage Mayor James Snyder on Tuesday to name eleven appointments for the county’s new Economic Development Cabinet.

Announced in December, the cabinet will team up to “direct a countywide strategic plan that will focus on job creation and shovel ready development sites,” Evans said, giving businesses the tools they need in becoming one of the nation’s “premier” sites for economic growth.

“This is a world class cabinet,” said Evans. “These are people who understand what it will take to create a forward thinking and sustainable plan to create jobs.”

The cabinet was expanded to eleven members rather than nine as previously announced due to overflow of quality applicants who Evans said would bring more fields of expertise to the table.

Under the original proposal, the county commissioners would appoint five members while the Valparaiso and Portage mayor would each make two appointments. However, Evans said he and the mayors had many similar interests in the applicants and the three ended up collaborating on their selections. in line with the original plan are the appointment of Porter County’s two Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) representatives.

Applicants were required to have at least five years of professional experience in the areas of regional or local economic development, business or finance, planning, engineering, transportation, or public utilities.

Elected officials were barred from the appointments to keep politics out of the mix. Evans also debunked suspicions that the group would have the authority to create TIF districts or have any taxing powers, saying that authority is reserved for elected officials.

The group will work together for at least twelve months and all have agreed to volunteer their time to be a part of the cabinet. The project did allocate $75,000 from the county and $25,000 from the municipalities that will go to projects launching the initiative.

Both Snyder and Costas are anticipating the effort will not only bring changes to their communities but a boost throughout the county.

“Life is short and it’s important to get things done,” said Costas, who encouraged the county to seek out the best professionals who can grow more jobs. He said he is “seeing more job expansions than ever before.”

Snyder, who took office at the start of January, concurred the benefits will expand beyond cities and towns.

“I’m excited to see what it’s going to mean to my constituents in Portage and the county as a whole,” said Snyder.

Evans expects the cabinet to hold its first meeting sometime over the next two weeks.

The appointments are: Doug Olson, former Mayor of Portage and current Director of Government Affairs for SEH of Indiana, LLC; Ronald D. Belin, Area General Manager of North/Indiana/South Michigan for Frontier Communications; Stewart McMillan, president of Task Force Tips; Heather Ennis, executive director of the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce and president of Duneland Economic Development Company; Kent Meihofer, senior vice-president of UGI Services; Tim Healy, Holladay Properties; Larry Hitz, owner/broker of Prudential Executive Group Real Estate; Tim Golab, Route 6 Development; Chris Hernandez, president of Northwest Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council; Harley Snyder, Regional Development Corporation; and Jeff Good, Regional Development Corporation.

Executive Director of the RDA Bill Hanna will help facilitate the group. Serving as staff support members will be Porter County Plan Commission Executive Director Bob Thompson, Valparaiso Economic Development Director Matt Murphy, Portage Director of Public Works A. J. Monroe, Porter County Tourism Director Lorelei Weimer, and Executive Directors of the Portage and Valparaiso Redevelopment Commissions John Shepherd and Stu Summers.


Posted 1/18/2012