Chesterton Tribune



Commissioners hear plan to help startup companies

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In the interest of economic development, the Porter County Board of Commissioners have taken under advisement a presentation made by representatives of Elevate Ventures, a non-profit organization which is currently trying to introduce ways new businesses with high potential can get their start in different parts of the state.

Entrepreneur-in-residence for Northwest and North Central regions Kelly Schwedland told the Commissioners at their meeting Tuesday that Elevate is seeking $1 million in each of the three Northern Indiana regions in its Regional Entrepreneurial Action Plan over a 3-year period. Elevate, for its part, contributes $2 million a year in providing assistance to new startup companies.

The Commissioners are considering the request to chip in $200,000 for the County’s share. County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, asked that the amount be divided over a 4-year period.

Schwedland said Elevate works to help businesses find their footing by qualifying for Indiana Angel Funds, which is seed capital for businesses to start their products, services or technology, or 21st Century Funding which is managed by Elevate to generate growth and job creation.

The goal eventually will be for businesses to successfully grow out of the “incubator” or seed stage and grow on their own as starter companies and generate their own outside investment capital, Schwedland said. Firms that grow are likely to add new jobs, he said.

Elevate’s vision is to create an “entrepreneurial ecosystem” and will hold events where new business leaders can meet to share ideas, Schwedland said.

The City of Valparaiso has joined the effort recently and Schwedland said the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority has shown interest in financial commitments.

Other states that have launched programs similar to Elevate Ventures have reported success such as North Carolina, he said. Counties like St. Joseph, Kosciusko, and Elkhart have participated in launching grant programs for high-potential companies through Elevate.

Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, asked Schwedland if it was probable that these companies could stay in Porter County.

“The intent would be for them to stay here,” Schwedland said, but he advised that the companies would be inclined to locate wherever they could make the most money.

Evans said he favored the proposal because it fit the Commissioners’ initiative to attract businesses to local cities and towns and grow their tax bases.

“We’d like to be a community-oriented type body. If we can bring jobs back into Porter County where they would otherwise escape, I think that’s great,” he said.

Evans said the board will consider a funding mechanism and take a vote at its next meeting on April 15.

Phone tree

As winter storms blasted Porter County in one of the snowiest seasons on record, not all County employees were getting word that the Administration Building was closed.

Closure alerts were posted on the County’s website and through social media sites but some employees do not have e-mail or internet access at home, ITS Director Sharon Lippens said.

But now, through the current vendor and at no cost to the County, a phone tree calling service is available for those employees to receive alerts by land lines or cell phones.

“(No cost) is always good,” said Evans who thanked Lippens for setting up the service.

Lippens said the public and anyone interested can create a profile on the County’s website to receive weather and other emergency alerts.

Calumet Trail rehab

In other business, the Commissioners approved bids to be sought for construction on the portion of the Calumet Trail between Mineral Springs Rd. and Tremont Rd., a stretch of roughly two miles.

Improvements are to be made for drainage, trail signage and wildlife protection. The County is using Federal Transportation Enhancement grants and additional funding from the RDA for the work.

Plan Commission Executive Director Robert Thompson said SEH Inc., the consultant for the engineering, has submitted plans to the Indiana Department of Transportation.

With INDOT approval, bidding can start, Thompson said. Work is expected to start in late summer or early fall.

Ethics contract

Blaney said that she will be meeting with the current president of the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission, Cal Bellamy, to discuss the terms of the County’s membership.

The Commissioners voted unanimously to join the commission last month.

Blaney said that the Commission has cut the membership costs in half. It will be $2,500 the first year the County joins and $1,500 for each year thereafter.



Posted 4/2/2014




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