Chesterton Tribune

Countywide cabinet announced for economic development

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A Porter County “Economic Development Cabinet” has been created to direct a county-wide strategic plan focusing on job creation and shovel-ready development sites.

Porter County Commissioner John Evans, R-North, Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas, Portage Mayor-elect Jim Snyder, and Jim Jorgenson of the Porter County Economic Development Alliance announced the new initiative this morning.

The point of the Economic Development Cabinet is to unify and coordinate the mass of studies and plans conducted over the years, the county’s municipal redevelopment commissions and related organizations, and the various pots of CEDIT funding to create a “Strategic Plan for Jobs,” according to a joint statement.

Evans, noting that these groups already work together well, said that the cabinet will “engage experts in the field to assist in bringing the information together, develop strategies and goals, and identify funding resources and an organizational structure to execute the plan.”

“Now is the time for this plan in order to continue the momentum created by the Fronius project in Portage, the Northcoast expansion south of Valparaiso, and the new $225-million state-of-the-art Porter hospital that will open next year,” Evans said.

“We have unique and valuable assets and natural resources throughout the county that we need to study and understand how they can be positioned in an overall county economic development strategy that will benefit all of the communities and citizens of Porter County,” Evans added.

Evans said that the local economy “is starting to show some signs of recovery” and that the Economic Development Cabinet will put the county “in a position to be proactive in marketing for new job creation, to help existing businesses expand, and to create shovel-ready sites for new and expansion opportunities.”

The cabinet will have nine seats. Five members will be selected by the Porter County Commissioners—including a representative of the Northwest Indiana Building Trades—and Costas and Snyder will each make one appointment. The two Porter County appointees to the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority will also be asked to serve.

Applicants for appointment must be able to demonstrate at least five years of professional experience in at least one of the these areas: regional or local economic development; business or finance; planning, engineering, transportation, or public utilities.

No elected officials will be eligible for appointment to the cabinet. “This group needs to be able to do its work and we need to get out of the way,” Evans remarked.

Letters of application should be sent to Evans, Costas, and Snyder and must be submitted by Thursday, Jan. 5.

Evans hopes to announce the appointments by Jan. 15 and to see the cabinet convene immediately thereafter.

The process is expected to cost $100,000 or more, with the county contributing 75 percent of the funding. Local municipalities will be asked to make up the difference.

The cabinet will sunset “when its work is complete, 12 to 18 months from now, Evans said. “We don’t have time to waste. We need to get this going now.”



Posted 12/19/2011