“$50 million really goes a long way to helping us get our swagger back,” said Heather Ennis, president and chief executive officer of the Northwest Indiana Forum Inc., shortly after hearing the seven-county region will receive the highest award from the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative. It is one of five to receive the maximum amount from the $500 million state program.
In an interview with Gerry Dick following the READI announcement, Ennis said the northwest Indiana pitch stemmed from an economic development plan launched four years ago.
“We built this around our “Ignite the Region” plan…that has five pillars of business development, marketing, entrepreneurship, and innovation, infrastructure, placemaking and talent,” said Ennis. “It’s a comprehensive plan… we’re excited to put this $50 million to work.”
Ennis says individuals, businesses and communities from the region have already committed more than $550 million to the projects that are part of the region’s proposal for building economic growth and prosperity.
“There are so many great projects. The whole process actually was amazing to help everyone see the potential for Northwest Indiana,” said Ennis.
The region includes Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton, Jasper, Pulaski and Starke counties.
Ennis says one of the key drivers of prosperity is the Digital Crossroad Data Center in Hammond that launched in November 2020. It is connected to a fiber line in downtown Chicago that can move large amounts of data.
“There are so many great things going on with the fiber assets that we have…and continuing to build on research and development in the region.”
A portion of the new funding will be used on technology initiatives, aimed at creating a quantum computing corridor for the nation across northern Indiana. Economic development officials believe the project will draw more high-tech companies to northwest Indiana and modernize the economy.
“Which is a fantastically secure, the quickest fiber lines in the world,” said Tom Dakich, managing member of the Digital Crossroad Data Center. “And because of this [funding], we’re going to be able to do that. The state showed us that they’re committed to this.”
According to our partners at The Times of Northwest Indiana, there will be money to finish the Marquette Greenway trail spanning the length of Indiana’s Lake Michigan shoreline, developing transit-oriented neighborhoods adjacent to the South Shore Line expansion projects, and promoting local farm and food distribution initiatives.
The other regions receiving the maximum $50 million READI grant are north-central Indiana, northeast Indiana, southwest Indiana and southeast Indiana. The 12 remaining regions each received awards ranging from $5 million to $30 million.
Click here to view the Northwest Indiana proposal.
In an interview with Gerry Dick, Ennis explained how the funding will be transformative.