Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Evans urges County Council to pick up the pace with jobs cabinet

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Jobs Cabinet laid out initiatives to promote job growth in Porter County exactly 400 days ago and County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, on Tuesday expressed frustration that the County Council has not yet taken any action.

Evans said the jobs cabinet provided a road map of where Porter County Government could utilize its resources and build partnerships between the private and public sectors in trying to make the county the “leading location for job opportunities in Indiana and the Chicago marketplace.”

Quoting what Jobs Cabinet facilitator Bill Hanna told the Commissioners at their Dec. 18, 2012, meeting, Evans said the plan would make the private sector aware that the County is “in the business of bringing businesses in” and that the only way to do that is to follow through with the plan’s initiatives.

The Cabinet, made up of public officials and business leaders, identified industries with the best potential for growth. The leading category was healthcare, followed by the steel industry and information technology. They also recommended implementing aggressive marketing, revamping transportation, land planning and expanding infrastructure.

The effort was a joint project between the County Commissioners, Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas and Portage Mayor James Snyder.

The process was funded with $75,000 from the County and $25,000 from the local municipalities.

Hanna at the December 2012 meeting said he would ask to be on the County Council’s agenda to present the initiatives, but Evans said the Council never did make time to hear the presentation.

Evans worries that prospective businesses will pass on setting up shop in the county.

“What kind of message is this sending to the private sector? It is sending the message Porter County Government is not a reliable partner. It is sending the message that we don’t follow through. Counties around us who are competitors for business growth are actively and successfully working together as reliable business partners, yet our County Council won’t even hear an hour long presentation,” he said.

Instead of turning their attention to the Jobs Cabinet recommendations, Evans contended that Council members have been “relentlessly focused” on other matters, like the falling property tax revenues and slow growth in county CEDIT income tax revenues.

Evans argued the best way to increase and diversify the County’s commercial tax base would be to bring new businesses to Porter County.

“To increase CEDIT revenues without a tax increase, the best way is to reduce our 6.9 percent unemployment rate, get our citizens working again, and get CEDIT revenues growing again,” he said.

Evans said the Commissioners have taken a few actions on their own to invigorate the jobs market here, such as the establishing a sports tourism group and a County Redevelopment Commission.

He also said the board is working with the Indiana Department of Transportation on a study of extending Willowcreek Road, in Portage, to U.S. 30, creating a second north and south route through the county.

Evans also echoed Hanna’s comments to Council members that now is the time for the County to “get in front of the pack” as Porter County is better poised for success than its neighbors given its diverse assets.

Along with Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, Evans requested that the County Council consider scheduling a special meeting to hear and discuss the Jobs Cabinet plan, separate from the hospital proceeds endowment meeting (see related story).

 

 

Posted 1/22/2014