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Economic Development

Northwest Indiana is a hotbed of activity with businesses expanding, new businesses arriving and new amenities being added, further enhancing the quality of life for the entire region.

“We have 79 projects currently in the pipeline [June 2017]. These are true, active opportunities to bring jobs and investment to Lake County,” said Karen Lauerman, president and CEO of the Lake County IN Economic Alliance (LCEA). “The realization of just the top 20 projects would add 8,500 new jobs and approximately $700,000 million in capital investment.”

LCEA, a nonprofit independent organization, partners with communities and elected officials, chambers of commerce, regional and state economic development groups along with workforce development, colleges and universities to drive the county’s coordinated effort for economic growth. With the support of several other key driving forces, the Crossroads Regional Chamber founded LCEA in 2013 to fulfill a component of their mission to attract and retain quality jobs throughout the county and the whole of northwest Indiana.

“Lake County’s current target sectors include an emphasis on food processing and distribution, advanced manufacturing, logistics and warehousing, e-commerce fulfillment, call and data centers. There is also heavy interest in health care/medical, office, retail and hospitality to compliment residential development,” according to Don Koliboski, LCEA VP of Economic Development.

Promoting Lake County and all the communities as an ideal location for these industry clusters is a primary role for LCEA. In the first six months of 2017, LCEA participated in more than 16 trades shows, conferences and site consultant gatherings. According to Lauerman, LCEA also reaches out on a strategic path meeting independently with developers, brokers, companies and investors throughout the Midwest.

“Both the large scale and the direct one on one meetings put Lake County and available sites in front of hundreds if not thousands, helping us build and foster important relationships with decision makers and advisors. Equally as important, is delivering the friendly business climate, open for business message in our marketing, advertising, public relations and digital media to support the in-person activities,” Lauerman said.

As the two primary communities in the Crossroads Regional Chamber footprint, Merrillville and Crown Point are hubs for economic impact through retail and hospitality (hotels, restaurants and recreation); a great downtown destination in Crown Point and strong larger scale retail in Merrillville. She said several deals are in process to repurpose available big box stores sites for new uses such as medical office, service centers, call centers and even light assembly/production operations.

LCEA works with Crown Point, Merrillville and 19 other communities facilitating the economic development process with companies and consultants seeking to locate their businesses in Lake County. Be it locating an ideal site(s), identifying parcels for development or build to suit facilities, coordinating state and local incentives, public meetings/hearings, media relations, LCEA is able to guide projects from the initial stages to completion.

Lauerman noted that Crown Point and Merrillville are proactive communities. Crown Point is the home of a new sports complex. With LCEA, they are working several large-scale projects on their portion of I-65 corridor, taking advantage of their logistical location, identifying larger parcels for development and talking with national developers like Opus and NAI Hiffman in attracting further economic development opportunities along the interstate.

Polycon Industries, a manufacturer in Merrillville, recently added 150,000 square feet of space and 100 new jobs to the existing operation and workforce. Merrillville is also home to one of the leading Class A Business/Certified Technology Park, AmeriPlex at the Crossroads anchored by the Purdue Technology Center. Most recently, LCEA and the town welcomed national developer Becknell Industrial to break ground on a new 182,000-square-foot speculative building (building without a confirmed tenant) bringing more available space to the marketplace on I-65.

Since 2015, LCEA successfully facilitated the creation of more than 2,000 full-time jobs and approximately $200 million in capital investment. These projects touched various communities throughout Lake County.

“Overall, the county and communities ca me together on the economic development front to ensure everyone’s well-being and prosperity. A win for one community is a win for all because it means jobs and investment for residents across the region with the ancillary effect of dining and buying local – a great program that Crossroads Regional Chamber promotes on a daily basis,” Lauerman said.

With local elected and business leaders amenable to and engaged in the process of recruiting new and retaining existing business, Lake County is moving forward. Though LCEA knows they may not win every one, but staying in site selection game provides an opportunity to hit a home run or even a grand slam.

The area has a lot going for it, she said, it’s the Midwest location, cost of doing business, proximity to Chicago and its amenities, skilled and educated workforce, connectivity, transportation infrastructure and an affordable quality of life. “It’s a very attractive proposition.”

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