By Giavonni Nickson
The U.S. Department of Commerce has declared three Indiana counties an Economic Development District. Lake, Porter, and LaPorte counties each received the designation and expect it will open doors to federal funding for economic development planning and projects. The designation was made by the Economic Development Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce.
U.S. Economic Development Division (EDD) defines Economic Development Districts (EDDs) as multi-jurisdictional entities, commonly composed of multiple counties and in certain cases even cross-state borders. They help lead the locally based, regionally driven economic development planning process that leverages the involvement of the public, private and non-profit sectors to establish a strategic blueprint for regional collaboration.
Gary will be a part of the strategic blueprint, known as a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). CEDS is helping cultivate a strategy-driven plan for regional economic development in NWI designed to drive economic growth. These slated plans will fully support Gary’s “Revitalize the City” initiatives.
Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s (NIRPC) chairwoman Diane Noll and the commission’s other members will now serve as the board members for the new economic development district. NIRPC is a council made up of local governments from 41 municipalities to address regional issues relating to transportation, the environment, and economic development. The new designation as Economic Development District enables NIRPC to receive economic development assistance and strengthen existing federal partnerships.
Gary is an integral part of Northwestern Indiana’s region rich with opportunity, natural lake landscape, and a strong legacy. Gary’s prime location also presents the advantages of transportation infrastructure.
For years, planners have struggled to accurately identify the specific influences that shape the region’s future. In spite of all the tools and training, there remains no measure to predict with total certainty how a region will change over time.
Change is certainly happening now and NIRPC has published its NWI 2050 that outlines visions of a more connected, renewed, and united region. The financial support from the new designation may be what the region needs to help bring strategic plans to fruition.
EDD investments serve as the catalyst for plans that will support entrepreneurship and business growth, enhance and grow their existing economic assets, and create well-paying jobs in growing sectors. This provides a pathway for opportunities to enhance recent economic and job growth in Gary through major business partnerships with Alliance Steel, Fulcrum Bioenergy, Goodwill Industries, and Amazon.
With economic development investments, the EDD can help communities in NWI further utilize their unique assets.
EDD’s economic footprint is extensive. Across the country, investments have been made for technical assistance, post-disaster recovery assistance, trade adjustment support, strategic planning, and research. According to the agency, they offer the most effective investments to help communities succeed in the global economy.
In the Midwest, Indiana’s neighboring state Michigan has already reported success stories from their Economic Development District designation.
A few months ago, a $3.2 million EDD public works project helped fund water and wastewater facility upgrades in Grayling, Michigan. The upgrades attracted foreign-based particle board manufacturer ARAUCO. The $400 million particleboard mill helped boost economic growth in the area with a newly built state-of-the-art plant. The facility is considered to be the most modern and productive mill of its kind and marks the renewal of the composite panel industry in North America.
NWI now stands in line to be part of the next wave of EDD’s success stories.
Giavonni is a passionate freelance writer native of Gary IN. She covers business, politics, and community schools for the Chicago/Gary Crusader.