northwest indiana forum


Ignite the Region


the introduction

In late 2017, multiple organizations and communities in Northwest Indiana launched an ambitious effort to develop the first economic development strategic plan for the seven-county region, including Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton, Jasper, Pulaski, and Starke. TIP Strategies was engaged in February 2018 to facilitate the planning process and to develop the planning documents. Over the course of eight months, a broad coalition of regional partners and stakeholders came together to guide and inform this initiative. The end product—Ignite the Region: A Regional Strategy for Economic Transformation—was presented to the public in September 2018.

pillars of ignite


Video Updates 2019


talent Pillar

graduation pathways


Video credit: Center of Workforce Innovations -



Ignite the Region: A Regional Strategy for Economic Transformation presents a new framework for building economic growth and prosperity in the region. The strategy provides an evaluation of Northwest Indiana’s economic development challenges and opportunities, informed by quantitative analysis, qualitative input, and the consulting team’s 20-plus years of experience working with communities across the country. It articulates a forward-looking vision of the Northwest Indiana economy. This plan provides a holistic set of goals, strategies, and actions designed to promote economic diversification and collaboration by enhancing of the region’s talent base, infrastructure, entrepreneurship ecosystem, and unique places. Additionally, a timetable for implementing the initiatives and activities and the organizations best suited to lead those efforts is included.


the challenge

Northwest Indiana stands at an economic crossroads. The region’s economy has long been driven by its deep manufacturing base, proximity to Chicago and Lake Michigan, multi-modal transportation infrastructure, and agricultural production and processing sectors. It offers scenic natural amenities, well-regarded higher education and healthcare institutions, a skilled workforce, diverse communities, and a competitive business climate. Most regions of the country would be truly grateful to possess Northwest Indiana’s assets and advantages.

Figure 1 shows the most recent results of Area Development magazine’s “Survey of Corporate Executives.” The annual survey queries executives on the site location factors they view as most important in the current economic environment. Indeed, many of the top-10 rated factors are strengths for Northwest Indiana, such as highway accessibility, labor costs, quality of life, taxes, and proximity to major markets.

However, there is a growing acceptance in the region that more must be done to revitalize growth and prosperity. The region can no longer rely solely on its traditional activities and strengths to ensure economic vitality. The causes for worry are evident. The region is losing population due to out-migration. The labor force has not grown in almost two decades. Overall job growth remains stagnant. Much of the region’s job creation is occurring in lower-wage service sectors. Poverty and distress persist in some communities.

Certainly, these patterns are not unique to Northwest Indiana. Some are the consequence of national and global forces that have been building for years and are difficult for local communities to overcome. However, there are numerous examples of regions that have successfully adapted to new economic realities and invigorated economic growth. This is already happening in places throughout Northwest Indiana. Just a few examples include housing redevelopment in Whiting, downtown redevelopment in Michigan City, and agricultural tourism at Fair Oaks Farms. The challenge for Northwest Indiana is to amplify these and other successes regionally, to position the region’s amazing assets for new opportunities, and to build a connected and sustained regional economic development partnership.



“Northwest Indiana drives its vibrant and inclusive communities by creating the most dynamic economic environment of the Midwest, fueled by innovation, diversity, and talent.”




Ignite the Region is built around five aspirational goals that serve as the pillars of future economic vitality and growth for the region. They reflect a holistic view of economic development that addresses business development & marketing, entrepreneurship & innovation, infrastructure, talent, and placemaking. Under each goal outlined within the plan are several strategies and actions needed for implementation.


Promote robust and sustainable growth by engaging in a proactive, economic development program that supports business retention, expansion, creation, and attraction.


Foster robust entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems to propel future economic growth.


Ensure that Northwest Indiana’s infrastructure meets the needs of a 21st-century economy.


Expand the talent assets of Northwest Indiana and strengthen connections to the region’s employers.


Create the amenities and places that enhance Northwest Indiana’s appeal to diverse groups of people.




Multiple Northwest Indiana organizations have been meeting monthly for the last six months and so much exciting work is happening in each pillar of the Ignite Plan. The work plan will continue to evolve as the group accomplishes tasks and identifies additional projects

Implementation Team: Marketing & Business Development - Wade Breitzke, Don Koliboski, Diane Thalmann, Clarence Hulse, Rex Richards, Karen Lauerman, Stephen Eastridge, Micha Pollak, Joe Rurode, Matt Saltanovitz Entrepreneurship & Innovation- Don Babcock, Maggi Spartz, Gary Johnson, Lorri Feldt, Sheila Brillson Talent- Linda Woloshansky, Erica Dombey, Cortney Robinson, Michelle Murday Infrastructure- Dan Vicari, Kay Nelson, Bill Steers, Ian Hirt, Bushra Rehman, Trey Wadsworth, Duayne Hayden, Tom Dakich, Andrew Kramer Placemaking- Ty Warner, Leah Konrady, Raeann Trakas, Sheri Ziller, Ashley Hodges Carolyn Saxton Facilitating - Heather Ennis

Ignite the Region - Implementation Update - September 3, 2019

Northwest Indiana Place Making Map - Showing TDD, Historic Districts, TIP Districts, & Opportunity Zones



Thank you to the more than 60 investors that have contributed to this Northwest Indiana Forum regional economic development strategy.

If you haven’t already invested, we urge you to help us exceed our upcoming campaign goal through your financial support which is critically needed to sustain our impact, compete with our peer regions and invest in the future growth of our regional economy.

For more information about contributing, contact Raeann Trakas at (219) 763-6303 or



Berkshire Hathaway Executive Group

BP Americas

Carmeuse Lime & Stone

Center of Workforce Innovations

Centier Bank

Chicago South Shore & South Bend RR

City of Gary

City of Hammond Planning & Development

City of Hobart Redevelopment Commission

City of Valparaiso

City of Whiting

Commercial Advantage

Construction Advancement Foundation

Crown Point Community Foundation

Discovery Alliance

Economic Development Michigan City

Edgewater Health


Fifth Third Bank

First Financial Bank

First Midwest Bank

Franciscan Alliance

Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors

Hasse Construction

Hoeppner Wagner & Evans 

Holladay Properties

Horseshoe Casino

Indiana American Water

Indiana Economic Development Corporation

Indiana University Northwest

Ivy Tech Community College

Jasper County EDC

Knight Foundation

Krieg DeVault

Lake County Economic Alliance

LaPorte County EDC

Larson Danielson Construction

Legacy Foundation

Luke Oil


Michigan City Redevelopment Commission

Mike Golando 


Newton County EDC


NWI Construction & Building Trades Council

Northwest Indiana Workforce Board

Paine Wetzel

Port of Indiana Burns Harbor

Portage EDC

Porter County Community Foundation

Pulaski County EDC

Purdue University Northwest

Regional Development Company (RDC)


South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority

Starke County EDC

Task Force Tips

Tonn & Blank Constuction

Town of Schererville

Unity Foundation

Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce

Valparaiso Economic Development

Weiss Entities

Wintrust Commercial Bank

ignite the region - a luncheon experience


Photo Gallery