Governor touts Region's Chicago connections and Indiana advantages at Hall of Fame event

NWI Times

HOBART — Gov. Eric Holcomb said Tuesday that Northwest Indiana offers "the best of both worlds" with its position in the Chicago metro area and through the tax and cost-of-living advantages of Indiana.

Its mix of "industrial might" and "nature's beauty" adds to the allure, the governor said in an appearance before approximately 460 people at the 11th annual induction ceremony for The Times Media Co. Business & Industry Hall of Fame.

"When you go from the steel mills to the dunes, when you go from the port to Fair Oaks Farms — the list just goes on and on — seeing how the Region continues to blossom, with the private sector continuing to grow, that means we can do even more to revitalize all parts of the state," Holcomb said.

Times Local News Editor Marc Chase asked Holcomb about the Region's advantages and its challenges during a question-and-answer session at the luncheon.

Holcomb touted the stability offered by the state's taxing and regulatory system, and its 20-year transportation plan. "We do offer the certainty and the stability and the predictability and continuity," he said.

For businesses looking for a home, "when you start to compare and contrast Indiana's story, there's just no comparison," he said.

Partnerships between state and local officials is key to advancing, Holcomb said.

"Quality of life is becoming even more important when you're trying to attract folks to your community," Holcomb said, "and so having local leadership partner with state leadership, that's critically important ... all of us sitting together at the same table saying, how are we going to revitalize?"

Holcomb said the fast-evolving economy, locally and globally, make education and job-training among the greatest challenges. "If anything keeps me up at night, it is this," he said.

"This is actually the most exciting, dynamic time to be alive," he continued. "The key is how we as Hoosiers figure out how to make that change our ally and not our adversary."

That requires greater emphasis on computer science and STEM education, the governor said. It requires getting more high school and college diplomas in the hands of workers, and reintegrating people coming out of the prison system. With unemployment low, moving workers from lower to higher skill positions is also a challenge, Holcomb said.

"It's that underemployment I'm really worried about," he said.

Before Holcomb's presentation, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, praised the governor for his presence in East Chicago and Gary, working on environmental and educational issues in those communities, and for the governor's work on South Shore Line improvements and expansion.

"There is no one today who has been more dogged in his work with (the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District), with the (Regional Development Authority), with our legislators and local officials, to make sure that in Washington, D.C., the applications for recapitalization and expansion are approved no matter what," Visclosky said.

Holcomb said the South Shore projects will be "another arrow in your quiver," and that they'll help solidify the reciprocal nature of the Chicago-Northwest Indiana interaction.

"It's hard for me to comprehend one-way traffic in today's world, or a one-way relationship," he said. "This is long overdue, and together we're going to get it done."