MICHIGAN CITY — The future is great for Northwest Indiana, particularly if the country continues to regulate the dumping of foreign steel and investments in transportation are made, said U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville.
Visclosky spoke Saturday at a town hall meeting in Michigan City with about 50 people in attendance at City Hall.
He singled out the estimated $250 million to $270 million Double Track NWI project proposed for the South Shore commuter line as an example of how the Region can build a better economy by tapping into the Chicago market. The project would add a second track between Gary and Michigan City for the South Shore Line, decreasing travel times to Chicago.
He pointed to a recent conversation he had with a fellow congressman from Indiana who said "we know that those four counties up there are the next great economic engine for the state," he said.
Visclosky said the things already being done in Michigan City to stimulate the economy are working and would be enhanced with Double Track NWI.
He said an application for federal dollars to supplement the cost was submitted in August for consideration in the president's 2019 budget.
Being a Great Lakes state and potential to draw even more from a market the size of Chicago is an asset firmly recognized in Indianapolis and he congratulated Michigan City officials for the success they're having on making their community a higher quality place to be."
If we tie ourselves to that economy, there's not another quadrant in the state that has that city whose economy is larger than Sweden," Visclosky said.
Visclosky said the need to rebuild the economy is evident since Northwest Indiana has more than 70,000 fewer younger residents than it did in 1970. Upgrading the South Shore Line and extending its service to communities like Valparaiso and Dyer will help restore that demographic by luring young professionals in Chicago to live in the Region.
Protecting the steel industry and focusing on vocational education to give people the skills for higher-paying positions in the trades are among the other ingredients for a better future here, Visclosky said.
He said some success on reducing the dumping of foreign steel from countries like China was achieved in 2016 and he vowed to push ahead with those efforts this year, he said.
More investment in the state's infrastructure is also key and he cited statistics that revealed 16 percent of the roads and close to 2,000 bridges statewide need major work.
"If we make these investments, we can have more quality jobs and get more young people to stay," he said.