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  • Unemployment drops by more than 1 percent across most of NWI
    Friday, April 28th, 2017

    Joseph S. Pete Reprinted from NWI Times

    If you thought all the “now hiring” signs outside of restaurants in Northwest Indiana indicated a robust job market, the hard data backs you up.

    Unemployment dropped significantly across Northwest Indiana in March — by more than 1 percent nearly everywhere.

    Lake County had the state’s fourth highest jobless rate of 5.4 percent, while LaPorte county was seventh out of Indiana’s 92 counties with an unemployment rate of 5.1 percent, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. Porter County’s unemployment rate stood at 4.5 percent, the 21st highest statewide.

    The seasonally unadjusted jobless rate in the Gary metro area — which is made up of Lake, Porter, Newton and Jasper counties — plunged to 5.2 percent in March, down from 6.4 percent the previous month, according to Workforce Development.

    Unemployment in the Michigan City metro area, which is just LaPorte County, fell to 5.1 percent, down from 6.6 percent.

    Both the Gary and Michigan City metropolitan areas trail behind statewide and national jobless levels. Indiana’s unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent in March, down from 4 percent in February. Nationally, the jobless rate was 4.5 percent. Joblessness in Illinois dropped to 4.9 percent in March, down from 5.4 percent in February, the first time it’s been under 5 percent since 2007, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

    Joblessness had been as high as 12 percent in Northwest Indiana during the depths of the Great Recession.

    It has since dramatically come down across the Region. In March, it dropped by at least 0.9 percent in Crown Point, East Chicago, Gary, Hammond, Hobart, Merrillville, Michigan, Portage, Schererville and Valparaiso. Most dramatically, it fell by 1.5 percent in Crown Point and Hobart.

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  • NWI becoming an economic powerhouse
    Friday, March 6th, 2015
    Reprinted from The Times Newspaper, March 1, 2015

    Good morning, Northwest Indiana!

    2020 will be another exciting year in Northwest Indiana’s journey to once again become an economic powerhouse, only this time the powerhouse won’t be built at the expense of clean air, clean water, and clean earth. It will be built on the creativity, energy, insights and education of its citizens. People will have renewed respect for not only the environment, but also our diverse people and the value each and every one of us bring to our Region every day.

    In five short years, we will have over 600 members in the Society of Innovators and we will marvel at the ingenuity of their creations. Our culture of creativity and innovation will infuse our communities with a sense of hope and pride. We will attract young and old who will have the confidence that they can “make it here” — and “make it here” even better than the hundreds of thousands who “made it here” before them.

    We will continue to celebrate the historic innovations of Octave Chanute, Judge Elbert H. Gary, the Urschels, the Kesslings, the Barkers, the Reeds, the Powers, Orville Redenbacher, Bud Ruby, and the many other great leaders and families who made their mark on the region. ArcelorMittal’s R& D Center in East Chicago will grow in national significance, and Purdue Calumet’s Center for Innovation, Visualization and Simulation will help catapult our industry to new heights.

    We will continue to produce the finest steels, refine the cleanest fuels, and deliver the best products to the Midwest, the nation, and the world. We will profit from the miles and miles of pipes, wires, cables, roads, rail, and the tremendous infrastructure working its way around the tip of Lake Michigan. We will capitalize on our proximity to Chicago and we will diversify our economy.

    We will cheer the billions of dollars in new investments by world class companies like BP, Pratt Industries, Alcoa Howmet, Urschel Labs, and Monosol. We will relish in the sweet, gummy bear success of Albanese Candies and other firms yet to come.

    The Port of Indiana will have another record year and it will have developed all its available property to the point another port facility will be needed in the Region. The Kingsbury Inland Logistics Port in LaPorte will have its third logistics tenant, and it will begin to build a reputation of reliable, low-cost rail connecting Northwest Indiana to the Gulf and east coasts.

    Our existing Class A industrial parks; Northwind Crossings, Ameriplex at the Port and Crossroads, Thomas Rose, EastPorte and others will be at capacity. New first class parks will be designed and built near interstates and rail to attract high quality, high paying manufacturers and jobs.

    Community leaders will recognize that we are falling behind Chicago and other parts of Indiana because of our failure to plan and invest in high quality business parks. Leaders will drive their redevelopment commissions and economic development professionals to help developers assemble land and reduce their risk of investing in shell and specbuildings.

    As part of our industrial development we will have made greater efforts to connect industry with academia. Ready NWI will have a stronger presence and base of support. All of Northwest Indiana will annually celebrate Manufacturer’s Day in the fall and industry will have done a better job of defining their talent needs. More young people at an early age in our schools will begin dreaming about their career and their future on the southern shores of Lake Michigan.

    The region will benefit as young people have a clearer vision and path to success. Our successful youth will draw other youth to our cities and communities. They will brag about our beautiful parks, beaches, schools and universities. They will build their homes, raise their families, and live out their dreams.

    Beyond industrial development we will focus on other high paying careers. By 2020, our outstanding medical institutions will have worked together with the NWI Forum and others to help stem the $2 billion tide of medical care going to Chicago. Through branding and collaboration the region will be known for providing high quality medical services at competitive prices. We will attract many new high paying jobs in the process.

    Finally, as I reflect upon the tremendous assets at our feet and the phenomenal opportunities that lie before us, I recognize that anything can be accomplished by finding and helping good, honest, selfless leaders and people. Over the years I have had the honor to work with many.

    That said, much more positive energy is needed if we are going to create the tsunami of change required to rebuild our economy. Northwest Indiana’s time is NOW, and the future can be more brilliant than the past — but it is up to us to make it so.

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  • In Northwest Indiana, we control our own destiny
    Friday, March 6th, 2015

    As I think about what Northwest Indiana can become in the next five years, I get a sense of excitement. We are on the cusp of more great opportunities. I believe it is my job as well as the job of all Northwest Indiana citizens to be a revolutionary force in Northwest Indiana, dramatically improving our image and business climate internally and to the world.

    We must be infectious with our enthusiasm for this place we call home. No one can tell our story better than we can, and it’s time we started focusing on the highlights of our story instead of using a microscope to find as many things wrong that we can in the region.

    We need to find ways to lift each other up — not drag each other down in a race to the bottom. Whatever we think our future holds will come to pass. Believe in the best possible Northwest Indiana, and it can happen. They say the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is today. We need to stop focusing on the would have, should have and could haves, and start the doing today. That goes for infrastructure, processes and attitude.

    It’s our future, our children’s future and our grandchildren’s future. Raising the average wage for all Northwest Indiana residents is a goal of mine, and it should be a goal of yours too. As manufacturing becomes more and more automated, those high-paying industry jobs this region was built on are continuing to diminish. In addition to supporting our existing powerhouse companies — including ArcelorMittal, BP, NIPSCO and U.S. Steel — we need to help companies with growth potential expand and find companies that can diversify our portfolio to invest here. It is the role of the Northwest Indiana Forum to seek out these companies and help our municipalities land investments that can raise our average wage above the national average — we currently reside between 87 percent and 89 percent of the national average, depending on which stats you read.

    We need an attitude adjustment, and as the regional voice of the business community, the Northwest Indiana Forum is the right organization to lead this charge. We will continue to seek out opportunities to tell Northwest Indiana’s story. And we have a great story to tell: from the $4 billion modernization project at BP to the $100 million investment in LaPorte by Alcoa/Howmet, from the $65 million expansion at Monosol to the $2.5 million startup in Green Sense Farms, exciting things are taking shape in Northwest Indiana.

    We have to stop circling the wagons and shooting in. We become our own worst enemy when we refuse to see the best side of our region. We need to tell this story better internally as well as externally. We need to believe that great things can happen in Northwest Indiana. If we don’t believe it, how do we expect anyone else to want to invest here and believe it?

    We need to stop being so balkanized. The Forum can work with our regional partners to break down these walls and build better communication. There is so much more that we have in common than that separates us. If we can change our mentality from “that’s not my job” or “that will never happen here” to “how do we make this happen” or “how do we plant the seeds so tomorrow that can happen here,” then great things will follow.

    We have all of the resources at our fingertips. We have a beautiful lakefront which is being revitalized through the Marquette Plan and the assistance of the Regional Development Authority. We have outstanding highway infrastructure that can get you to 80 percent of the US population in one day’s drive. We have one of the greatest freshwater ports in the country that had a record year in 2014. We have a regional airport that is in a system serving the third largest market in the country. And we have more class one rail service than most places in the world. Other areas would kill to have these resources.

    We have to sell this area like our lives depend on it. Because they do. It is an extremely competitive market, and if we are not willing to welcome new investment with an esprit de corps, someone else will. And then we will find more reasons to circle the wagons and shoot in.

    We have all of the right ingredients to make Northwest Indiana irresistible to investment. We just have to show the world we want it. It’s our future.

    Reprinted from The Times, March 1, 2015

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  • Introducing a New Regional Workforce Development Initiative
    Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

    The Alliance for Regional Development exists to help grow the regional economy and provide a forum for business, government and academia to learn about new and innovative ideas and network with leaders in Northeast Illinois, Southeast Wisconsin, and Northwest Indiana. Our goal is to strengthen the economic competitiveness of the Tri-State Region.

    Click here for more information: Alliance for Regional Development

    Read More…
  • Local distributors responsible for every Party Dot sold in U.S.
    Tuesday, July 5th, 2011
    DYER | For years, little LED lights called Party Dots have lit up birthday parties, baby showers, corporate events and other celebrations across the world.
    Read More…
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