Chesterton Tribune

 
 

County RDC looks to join up with economic development alliance

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Members of the Porter County Redevelopment Commission heard Thursday that while many businesses are attracted to Porter County’s for its economic opportunities, the biggest challenge is the lack of “shovel ready” sites.

For the duration of Thursday’s RDC meeting, Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rex Richards and other members of a group known as the Porter County Economic Development Alliance discussed some ways they could assist each other bringing businesses to the county.

Richards said the Alliance is part of a regional base that collaborates with Starke and LaPorte counties and the southern half of Lake County. If a prospective business reaches out to Porter County but would be better suited on a property elsewhere, an Alliance member will make that recommendation to the business.

RDC President Ric Frataccia said his board has expressed a desire to have a similar kind of set-up where there could be a single contact person who could advise business where the best places would be for their organization.

“That is really a powerful step forward in economic development because that means each one of us will benefit from that one call. For that I applaud you,” Frataccia told Richards.

Currently there is no single contact person for the Alliance. Every member shares the responsibility of promoting the county as a whole.

The Alliance is comprised of five economic development entities including the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce and the Portage Economic Development Company or PEDCO. The members meet at least once a month to share which sites are available for development in their respective areas.

Richards was open to the idea of welcoming a county RDC commissioner to join the group. The representative could provide input about sites in the unincorporated areas of the county.

While cities and towns are running out of room to expand, the most urgent reason growth is stalling in the county’s unincorporated areas like Pleasant, Morgan, and other southern townships, is because not all of the needed utilities are there, Richards said emphasizing the essential needs of water and sewer and technological infrastructure that commercial and industrial businesses now require.

“We desperately need additional shovel-ready sites,” said Richards.

Frataccia asked if the Alliance could provide the RDC with a list of shovel ready sites that do exist and the commission would work to “start guiding infrastructure” to those areas lacking utilities.

“If we can overcome those things, we can make it more of an attraction,” he said.

According to Richards, the areas with the greatest potential would be along highways U.S. 30 and Ind. 49 as well as the U.S. 6 area surrounding the new Porter hospital.

“We are blessed in Porter County to have so many major transportation arteries,” he said.

When interested businesses look at an area to locate they do seek incentives from the community. Richards said Indiana does not have many incentives except for tax abatements and tax increment finance (TIF) districts. This year’s passage of the Right to Work bill although contentious has attracted new business to Indiana, Richards said.

RDC member Dave Burrus said something the county should do is streamline its planning and approval process.

“We need to do our job better and faster,” said Burrus.

Ralph Ayres, who is appointed school board advisor for the RDC, said the commission is still in its learning stages of how it fits in the big picture of economic development in the county and working its way up to being able to respond quickly to interested businesses is an important goal.

The discussion ran up the clock to the point where the commission had to adjourn and postpone the other agenda items to November.

RDC member John Shepherd will deliver his presentation to fellow commission members of how TIFs could operate in the county and using technology as a tool for economic development.

 

 

 

Posted 10/19/2012