NIRPC adopts plan to protect against future economic disruption

A plan to improve Northwest Indiana’s economy and make it more resilient to disruptions like the recent COVID-19 pandemic was approved Thursday by the regional planning board.

It calls for improving the region’s infrastructure, attracting and retaining a more skilled workforce, and expanding the region’s economy through the growth of businesses of all sizes.

The Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission hired TIP Strategies Inc. of Austin, Texas last year to develop the plan. TIP Strategies also helped develop the Ignite the Region plan, which was adopted by the Northwest Indiana Forum in 2018.

Denarie Kane, NIRPC Economic Development District Coordinator, summarized the new Economic Development and Resilience Plan for NIRPC members.

The plan notes that the region’s challenges include slow population growth in Lake and LaPorte counties, relatively low levels of education in the same two counties, and employment growth that has lagged population growth.

Porter County’s population growth has kept pace with the national trend, the plan said, while Lake and LaPorte counties lag far behind.

The plan also notes that lower levels of education in Lake and LaPorte counties have also resulted in lower earnings.

Recommendations include strengthening the region’s infrastructure by expanding high-speed Internet service, completing the South Shore Line’s Double Track and West Lake Corridor projects, making public transportation more accessible and efficient for all, creating more “shovel-ready” locations for Commercial, industrial and residential development and growing number of qualified workers for high-demand jobs.

The NIRPC board approved the plan on Thursday without comment.

“Responding prudently to disasters and planning for economic resilience is no small undertaking,” the plan concludes. “The NIRPC and the region’s leadership should celebrate the fact that they have made great strides in ensuring the vitality and sustainability of the region’s economy…

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“To move forward, immediate and continued implementation efforts will require a coalition of individuals and organizations to champion projects that fall within their purview.”

The organization’s full committee was scheduled to meet Thursday, but the 26-member meeting was not quorate to accept official committee business, including next year’s budget and a salary agreement for Executive Director Ty Warner.

These can be adopted at the January 19 full-commission meeting, Warner said.

Tim Zorn is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune

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