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)
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
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.
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.