Members of the Chesterton / Duneland Chamber of Commerce who spend most of
their time minding the till and making ends meet can be forgiven if, on
reading about local and regional economic-development efforts in the
Chesterton Tribune, they tend to go all glassy eyed.
There’s the DEDC, the CEDC, the PCEDA, the RDA, the RTA, and the EDC. Of
course there’s also NIRPC. And CEDIT.
As former president Chuck Parkinson suggested at the Chamber’s monthly
luncheon on Wednesday, it’s easy to choke on the acronyms when slurping the
alphabet soup of economic development. “What does it all mean?” he asked.
“What does it all mean for us in the Chamber?”
Quite a bit actually, insofar as the Chamber has specifically committed
itself—as one of the “critical success factors” of its strategic plan—to
“leverage partnerships” with other economic developers in the region. “We
need to identify what certain groups are doing and partner with those groups
and create a climate of role clarity,” Parkinson said. “Are we always
swimming in the same direction? Probably. Do we have role clarity? Probably
In other words, you can’t tell the players without a program.
Hence Parkinson’s program on Wednesday: “The Alphabet Soup: A Guide to
Economic Development in Duneland.”
Feel free to clip this piece and tape it to the fridge.
Local Economic Development Organization or LEDO: Any group tasked with
economic development is a LEDO: a chamber of commerce, a chamber’s
not-for-profit economic development corporation, a municipality’s
redevelopment commission, a county’s tourism bureau.
It’s a functional enough term when discussing economic development in the
most general possible terms but too broad really to be of much use
Economic Development Committee or EDC: This committee is one of several
operating under the aegis of the Chesterton / Duneland Chamber of Commerce,
Parkinson said. Its goals: business attraction, business retention, and the
enhancement of the “look and feel” of the Duneland.
Among its projects: a bus tour later this spring of the key
economic-development sites in the Tri-Towns and a grant program to help
businesses freshen and invigorate their storefront facades.
Duneland Economic Develop-ment Corporation or DEDC: The Chamber’s
501(c)(3) arm, incorporated as a not-for-profit to enable it to apply for
grants, is the funding source for projects whose purpose is to “enhance the
quality of life in Duneland by promoting economic development activity and
fostering economic growth in the area.
The DEDC “has chosen to market the Duneland business community,” Parkinson
said, by bankrolling the distribution of informational materials at regional
trade shows and the re-design of the Chamber’s new website and is right now
looking for ways to fund the facade grant program proposed by the EDC.
For the record, the DEDC is a LEDO. And it has received a significant
portion of its funding from a grant awarded by an association of other LEDOs,
namely, the PCEDA.
Porter County Economic Development Alliance or PCDEA: The PCDEA is
funded by the Porter County Commissioners, was established to promote
economic development in the county, and makes grants available to its
members, which include—besides the DEDC—the Porter County Convention,
Recreation, and Visitors Commission (PCCRVC), Ivy Tech, Purdue North
Central, Valparaiso University, and the Center for Workforce Development.
Chesterton Economic Develop-ment Company or CEDC: The CEDC, like the
DEDC, is an incorporated not-for-profit whose most basic mission is the
promotion of economic development. Unlike the DEDC, the CEDC is a Town of
Chesterton municipal entity.
Originally, the CEDC was charged with determining appropriate projects on
which to expend its share of the County Economic Development Income tax
or CEDIT, which when first enacted could be used legally only for
economic development in the strictest sense. Since then, the law has changed
and now CEDIT moneys can be “used for any lawful purpose,” Parkinson said.
“Most communities rely on CEDIT for day-to-day municipal operations.”
Redevelopment Commissions or RDCs: The towns of Chesterton, Porter, and
Burns Harbor all have municipal redevelopment commissions, whose job is to
administer Tax Increment Financing or TIF districts and to use TIF
revenues on capital improvements within those districts. On the strength of
TIF revenues, RDCs have bonding authority. Thus the Chesterton Redevelopment
Commission floated a bond issue to finance the South Calumet District
TIF, on the other hand—most simply put—is a tax on the incremental increase
of assessed valuation since a base year on commercial property in a
designated district. Say a commercial property in a TIF district had an AV
of $100,000 in 2000. Now in 2010 that property has an AV of $500,000. TIF is
a tax on the $400,000 incremental increase. What makes TIF controversial is
that the entirety of that tax on the incremental increase goes to the
municipality which established the district and is not shared with any other
taxing unit (like the county, the township, or the school corporation).
Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority or RDA: Established by
the Indiana General Assembly, the RDA is intended to promote the development
of transportation infrastructure in Northwest Indiana—air, rail, and bus—as
well as the Lake Michigan shoreline. It’s funded through casino revenues,
CEDIT revenues, and state moneys. In Porter County the RDA has made funding
available for the Portage Lakefront Park, Burns Harbor planning, and
Porter’s gateway project, Parkinson said.
Last year, however, the Porter County Council split-voted to withdraw from
the RDA and that vote is currently being contested in court, Parkinson
Regional Transportation District (RTD): An entity whose creation
depended on a referendum in November 2009, when voters in Porter County for
one overwhelmingly defeated it. The RTD would have established a
regional bus public transportation system in Porter and Lake counties,
would have overseen the South Shore commuter service (including proposed
spurs to Lowell and Valparaiso), and would have had the authority to
impose a county income tax of up to .25 percent in member counties to fund
“But it went down in the flames,” Parkinson said.
Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission or NIRPC: “A council
of governments,” is how Parkinson described it, whose membership is
comprised of a representative from every municipality in the region. Its
mission: to create a regional transportation plan.
When a municipality applies to the Indiana Department of Transportation
or INDOT, or else to the federal government, for moneys with which to
fund an infrastructure project—say, in Chesterton, a Dickinson Road
extension or a non-grade interchange at the intersection of Indian Boundary
Road and Ind. 49—that project must be included in NIRPC’s regional
transportation plan to be eligible for an award.
As it happens, NIRPC is tasked with allocating to municipalities in
Northwest Indiana stimulus funds authorized by the American Recovery and
“Regionalism is very important to us as a Chamber,” Parkinson concluded.
“We’re not going to pursue economic development alone. The Chamber does not
go it alone. So we need to identify groups that we can work with. We need to
be at the table when the decisions are made. We can’t do our work separately
toward the same aim. We need to work together toward the same aim.”