“It is my privilege to tell you that the State of the Chamber is excellent.”
So Jim Anton, this year’s president of the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of
Commerce, opened his remarks on Wednesday at the Chamber’s annual luncheon
and award ceremony.
One year ago, Anton noted, the Chamber’s membership totaled 326. It now
totals 371, an increase of fully 14 percent.
The European Market is going great guns, the Duneland Today magazine
is getting out the word, and “our financials are strong,” Anton said. “We’re
in a position to fund one of the biggest projects the Chamber has even
proposed: the entry sign on Ind. 49. We’re now awaiting a permit from the
state and hope to start construction in late summer or early fall.”
“We’re doing well and striving to do even more for our member businesses and
our community,” Anton concluded.
“It’s sometimes challenging to find someone willing to stand up and lead and
we’ve been fortunate this year,” Chamber Executive Director Heather Ennis
said of Anton’s tenure. “Jim’s been a fantastic president and he’s doing a
wonderful job of leading this organization.”
Representatives of the Duneland communities then gave short presentations on
the doings in their necks of the woods.
Jeff Freeze, president of the Burns Harbor Advisory Plan Commission, began
by noting that the Clerk-Treasurer’s Office, Building Department, and Street
Department have all been remodeled and renovated; that Kim Burton at the
Parks and Recreation Department is doing a fabulous job with a variety of
offerings at Lakeland Park, including Day Camp, Art Camp, and Football Camp;
and that the business and community leaders comprising the Burns Harbor
20/20 Committee are working hard to implement the branding ideas of the
Brand Leadership Team. The town’s new motto: “The Art of Green Living.”
The economy has put a damper on most construction in Burns Harbor, Freeze
added, but Lakeshore Ford is right now in the middle of a major remodeling
of the service, reception, and waiting areas.
Chesterton Town Council President Sharon Darnell, for her part, touted the
newly completed facility at 1490 Broadway: “one-stop municipal shopping,” as
she put it. “We made it a first-class place for developers to come for
information and are equipping it with everything we need to bring us into
Meanwhile, the Downtown utility project “is finally done, the pavement laid,
the street is open,” which is good for the businesses there, including the
Octave Grill, which is celebrating its first anniversary in the Downtown.
The infinitely patient folks at the Octave “had all sorts of construction
specials” during the long months of work, Darnell joked—“the water-is-out
special, the guy-out-in-front-who-is-half-dressed special”—but more
seriously she thanked them for their forbearance.
Also in the works: the Franciscan Alliance emergency department on Indian
Boundary Road, a proposed Holiday Inn Express at Ind. 49 and Indian Boundary
Road, and—very exciting—a new restaurant at the site of the old Country
Cafe: the Villanova Italian Bistro. Of the latter, Darnell said, “it will be
quite an addition to our Downtown.”
Dune Acres Town Council President John Sullivan observed that his community
is a purely residential one, with some 10 percent of its 164 homes on the
market right now. “That’s a large number of vacancies,” he said. Even so,
the Town of Dune Acres is undertaking several projects, including the
restoration of the Club House and the remediation of a flooding problem
along two main roads.
Sullivan did warn all of the communities, however, of the number of
property-tax appeals “working their way through the county,” and suggested
that those may adversely affect the second draw later this year.
Finally, Porter Town Council President Michele Bolinger highlighted ongoing
progress on the Ind. 49 Gateway project, underway with a $19 million grant
from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority. That project, she
said, “has become a household name,” with Phase II—specifically the
Dunes-Kankakee Trail portion—recently receiving $3,9 million in funding.
Although the Brickyard project—a mixed use development intended to extend
the Downtown—has come in for some “harsh criticism,” Bollinger said, “I feel
the Redevelopment Commission made a wise decision.”
“Regional relationships we’ve established over the last six years have
played an important role in our accomplishments,” Bollinger concluded.