For Sale: what used to be a town favorite has just closed, but a new opportunity has just opened. Businesses seem to pop up weekly, if not daily. But how do businesses end up in the Region? What brings them here? Besides the bustling promise of the square in Crown Point, and the tradition the Region has to offer, what else is there?
Vacant business plots always seem desolate and depressing. But someone must handle these drab spots, and flip them into marketable real estate. Without people catering to the beautification of the Region, where would we get out business?
Raeann Trakas is an employee for the Northwest Indiana Forum, and it is her responsibility to market the region and all of its glory.
“The Forum is the seven-county economic development organization, we’re the regional organization for Northwest Indiana. We’re the voice of business. That’s our members. And we’re anywhere from large business such as a BP, a NIPSCO…all the way down to a service a small business. We work with legislators and our business owners, and what we want to do is make sure that we have a really positive business climate for Northwest Indiana to attract new business here that bring a high quality, high paying job. Jobs for our residents. Also, we want the businesses that are here [we want to] help them expand. Ultimately we want people to be able to live in Northwest Indiana in our great communities and have access to good-paying, high-quality jobs,” Trakas said.
Trakas helps market Northwest Indiana and all of its attributes. She helps provide a face to the Region and allows businesses to see what the Region has to offer.
“We’re kind of the larger view of it. So there’s a business that wants to come over, they would contact us. We’re kind of the regional marketing group, we make sure we get the word out of what’s available in Northwest Indiana. And then once a lead comes in we then pass it off. Each of the counties has their own economic development, and then it goes on down to [municipalities] most of the municipalities have them," Trakas said.
Trakas and the forum are continually committed to getting their hands on new projects and any possible opportunities to improve communities and infrastructure.
"They’re the boots on the ground and they do the deals, we just kind of try to get people to take a look at us. Because when companies are coming they don’t necessarily look at, ‘I want to go to Hobart,’ they say I want to come to Indiana. We work a lot with the Indiana state economic development, and then they kind of pinpoint it down to a region, and that’s where we come in. We’re trying to make sure we sell the region,” Trakas said.
The Region possess various attributes that make Northwest Indiana ideal for a business climate.
“We have great assets here, we’re right along Lake Michigan we have the largest freshwater coast. We have great rail…we’re the crossroads of America so we have access to 80% of the country in one day’s drive,” Trakas said.
Looking at the year in review, teamwork has seen a vast improvement in Trakas’ eyes.
“We’re working stronger with our regional organizations like the RDA, with NIRPC, with NICTD. We’re really working with one region, working together as a group. Because I think that was always kind of [an] issue. We always say we’re one region and everybody’s kind of on their own doing their own group. I think that’s what we’ve done in the last year kind of under Heather’s guidance, is all working well together,” Trakas said.
While Trakas is a part of the economic development for the Region, she is also an active member in her community.
“I think I’m active [because] one I have two small kids. I have a ten-year-old and a seven [year-old], so I think I’m active in their lives as far as sports and extracurricular activities. The great thing about my job is I get to go to a lot of different events, and businesses and I really get to see all the kind of greatness of Northwest Indiana so I’m active in that respect,” Trakas said.
Trakas believes that in order to succeed, positivity and embracing your identity are key.
“I definitely think teamwork and collaboration are huge. I’ve met just so many people, so many positive people, and I’ve learned from them. I just think that’s something that I try to be also. I’m a pretty positive person as it is, but I definitely try to stress the positive because we do have a lot of great things here. I know initially people are pretty apprehensive about saying where [they’re] from, or where [they] live and they kinda say, ‘Northwest Indiana,’ under their breath and I don’t necessarily think that’s the case. I think we should be happy, and proud to say where we’re from,” Trakas said.