The Town of Chesterton has too few residents unemployed, too high a per
capita income, and too robust a population growth rate to qualify for
federal funding for the two infrastructure projects most covetously eyed by
local officials: the Ind. 49 utility corridor and the Dickinson Road
extension engineering study.
That’s the conclusion of the draft Comprehensive Economic Development
Strategy (CEDS) devised by the Northwest Indiana Economic Development
District (NEW EDD), an independent not-for-profit which is applying for EDD
status for the region from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).
EDD status would make Northwest Indiana eligible for federal assistance and
financial support for economic development projects in the region.
If Chesterton officials want such assistance for these two projects,
however, they’re going to have to look elsewhere or otherwise wait, as the
utility corridor project scored an eight out of 24 possible points and the
engineering study a seven, placing both in the “Long Term/Project to be
Yet none of the 27 projects submitted for EDA consideration scored
particularly high, in the “Immediate/Project is a Priority” category. The
top two—the KIP Industrial Park in the City of LaPorte and the Front Street
Office Park in Whiting—garnered a 16 and 15 respectively, in the “Short
Term/Final Details to be Ironed Out” category.
The top 16 projects—scoring at least a 10 and at best the 16—are all in Lake
and LaPorte counties, with half of them being in the City of LaPorte.
Submitted projects earned from zero to three points in eight categories,
with preference given to those in areas with high unemployment, low per
capita income, and sluggish population growth. Preference was also given to
shovel-ready projects with previously secured funding which would have a
“regional impact” and result in significant job creation.
Northwest Indiana residents still have two weeks to comment on the draft
CEDS—until 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 15—which can be found at www.nirpc.org
Comments should be submitted in writing to NWI EDD c/o Donald Koliboski at
email@example.com or 6100 Southport Road, Portage, IN 46368.
The CEDS makes a number of recommendations for economic development projects
over the next five years. Among them:
•Maximize technology, productivity, and efficiency of existing core
industries, like steel, including the mapping of all fiber optic systems
running through the region; facilitating collaboration between those core
industries and higher education and technology centers to find “new ways of
doing business”; and supporting the development of a regional teaching
hospital to support the healthcare industry in Northwest Indiana.
•Create diverse, emerging, and sustainable industries in the region:
“advanced” manufacturing; transportation, distribution, and logistics
companies; and life sciences.
•Redevelop urban core area, by revitalizing existing commercial and
industrial corridors; improving housing stock; and repairing infrastructure.
•Expand transportation infrastructure, by promoting the Port of Indiana;
promoting the development of the Chicago/Gary International Airport; and
securing funding for the establishment of high-speed rail.
•Improve the region’s workforce, by aligning its skills with “key industry
clusters”; improving access to qualified workers and awareness of training
resources; positioning the youth for college and workforce readiness; and
supporting “an entrepreneurial spirit.”
•Make the region desirable for business, by pursuing the Marquette Plan;
marketing recreational opportunities; supporting accessible healthcare
facilities; encouraging non-motorized transport; investing in the arts and
culture; and coordinating with country tourism bureaus.
The CEDS identifies several strengths on which Northwest Indiana can build
but at the same time corresponding weaknesses:
•The proximity to Chicago, whose media simultaneously threaten to
overshadowed the region.
•The Gary/Chicago International Airport, which however has no scheduled
commercial air service and could be made irrelevant if the Peotone Airport
were to become Chicago’s third major facility.
•The low cost of living, yet at the same time a misperception of the
region’s having high wage rates and labor costs.
•A skilled workforce which is nevertheless not skilled in emerging
•Universities and colleges, which do the region little good because their
graduates leave Northwest Indiana to work elsewhere.
•Available land but no regional land-use plan.
•South Shore Commuter Rail but no regional transit system.
•Intergovernmental cooperation, offset by a lingering parochialism which
could hinder a regional approach to economic development.
•Cultural diversity versus urban core decay.
The CEDS notes
the following about Porter County:
Porter County’s population has increased by 169.1 percent; Lake County’s has
declined by 3.8 percent.
•The region is
becoming much more ethnically and culturally diverse “due to both natural
birth rates and migration.” Over the past eight years, Northwest Indiana’s
total population increased by 25,000; over the same period, its Hispanic
population increased by 20,000.
•The region has
aged rapidly over the last decade, with the largest population increases
experienced by these age groups: 55-59 (37.7 percent); 60-64 (34.9 percent);
and 85+ (33.7 percent). By 2030, fully 21 percent of the region’s residents
will be 65 and over. “Diminishing numbers of younger persons could have
serious implications for the provision of services required by increasingly
older populations,” the CEDS states.
•The region is
lagging the rest of the nation in higher education: 48.1 percent of persons
over 25 have completed some college, compared to 54.4 percent nationally;
19.7 percent have earned a bachelor’s degree, compared to 27.5 percent
percent of persons living in Porter and Lake counties speak little or no
English, compared to 3 percent across the state and 8.6 percent across the
mean household income is $48,042, compared to the statewide mean of $47,448
and the nationwide mean of $50,740.
per capita income is $39,497, compared to the national per capita income of
County 8.7 percent of residents live in poverty; In Lake County, 16.5
percent; in Indiana, 13.1 percent; in the nation as a whole, 13.2 percent.
and 2007, employment in the region increased by 2.9 percent: management
positions increased by 56 percent, educational services by 21.7 percent,
transportation and warehousing by 16.3 percent. But agricultural jobs
decreased by 23 percent, information jobs by 11.5 percent, and
arts/entertainment/recreational by 10 percent.
•Of the four
largest employment sectors, between 2003 and 2007 manufacturing lost 5
percent of jobs and government 3.4 percent; while healthcare gained 11.5
percent and retail 4.8 percent.