Top 10 Opportunities for Governor Holcomb to Support Northwest Indiana

Leigh-Morris Governor Eric Holcomb can gain recognition as the Governor who truly partnered with Northwest Indiana to capitalize on the region’s many assets and thereby enabled it to reach its potential. Governor Daniels showed the way by supporting the creation of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA).

It’s been clear to many that Northwest Indiana frequently has gotten short shrift from state government. There are a dozen examples of that, but perhaps none more blatant than the failure to replace the Cline Avenue Bridge. It’s been closed for seven years with only the possibility that it may get replaced by a privately funded toll bridge. Many have suggested that if the bridge failure had occurred in the Indianapolis area, it would not only have been restored, but enhanced. Part of the problem with Cline Avenue situation lies with our failure to “get our act together” and make clear that there was solid support for replacement, but the failure of state government to recognize the significant economic value and potential of NW Indiana was an even greater factor.

NWI is a very significant contributor to Indiana’s economy and merits greater state support. A few examples:

  • The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of NWI is over $32 billion, far more than any other region except for the Indianapolis Metro
  • NWI accounts for over a tenth of Indiana’s economy
  • NWI benefits from its connectivity to the Chicago Metro, which is has a GDP that is six times that of the State of Indiana

Governor Holcomb has been a frequent visitor to NW Indiana and I know him to be a fair-minded person who wants to do what is right and best for the State of Indiana. I hope he will put on his list of ”must do’s” to recognize the needs and opportunities of NW Indiana and support efforts of state government to capitalize on the region’s potential. There are hundreds of opportunities he might consider in that regard, and reasonable people might differ on which ones are most important. Here are my “top ten” for his consideration. Some will obviously have impact far beyond this region:

  1. Support the enhancement of the South Shore Line, extending service to growing population areas along the Westlake Corridor and double-tracking the mainline from Gary to Michigan City and stimulating new economic development along the line.
  2. Continue development of the Gary Chicago International Airport and the land surrounding it.
  3. Reduce congestion on I-65 by completing a third lane between US 231 and SR2.
  4. Support the development of the Illiana Expressway, including its extension to I-94 near Michigan City.
  5. Deploy a comprehensive Brownfield Evaluation and Remediation Program to further enhance the environment and prepare new areas for economic development.
  6. Complete a state-wide fiber optics study and implement a plan for providing 21st century connectivity where needed.
  7. Support the efforts of the Alliance for Regional Development to capitalize on the NWI connection to the 21-county region of NW Indiana, NE Illinois and SE Wisconsin.
  8. Provide additional state support for workforce development programming, including such initiatives as pre-apprenticeship programs to help prepare high school students for 21st century jobs and expanded support for skilled trades apprenticeship programs.
  9. Provide universal access to Pre-K and enhance funding for K-12 public education.
  10. Support the development of a Level 1 Trauma Center in NW Indiana.

Governor Holcomb obviously must strive to be the Governor for all of Indiana, but I hope he will recognize the special needs of our region and provide his leadership to help overcome the past failures of state government to address those needs.