Officials in northwest Indiana are celebrating early progress in an initiative to revitalize the region’s economy. Ignite the Region was launched in 2018 and Northwest Indiana Forum Chief Executive Officer Heather Ennis calls the effort a “game changing initiative” that has already seen early success. She says 28% of the five-year initiative’s goals have already been implemented with nearly double that currently in progress.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Ennis said job and population growth are two key successes for the region.
“From the beginning of this year until August, our job numbers for northwest Indiana have outpaced those of 2019. So even during a pandemic, the efforts that we’re seeing be put forth in the business development and marketing pillar are really paying off,” said Ennis. “Where we had seen negative migration of folks leaving northwest Indiana, our population growth has gone up.”
The initiative has five main pillars: Business development and marketing, entrepreneurship and innovation, talent, placemaking, and infrastructure.
The region is also touting milestones in the business development pillar, including the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority reaching a lease agreement for United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE: UPS) to begin operations.
“Under entrepreneurship and innovation, we’re seeing the Northwest Indiana Biz Hub, which is a connectivity tool for entrepreneurs and innovators to be able to get resources. That’s a really exciting thing that’s come to fruition,” said Ennis. “Impact Labs, which is going to be northwest Indiana’s space for entrepreneurship and innovation is moving forward at a great pace and we’re in partnership with Purdue University Northwest on that.”
She adds placemaking efforts such as the Double Track project for the South Shore line also continue to take shape and attract the attention of talent looking to possibly relocate.
Ennis says officials will continue to evaluate the remaining items identified in the strategy to see if they are still necessary.
“We want to continue to update this plan and look at what’s next and make sure that the goals and the targets that we’ve set out for ourselves are really the things that we want to see come to fruition because we know that as we move forward, those things are going to change and that the opportunities for advancement may not be what we thought they were two years ago.”
Ennis explains some of the initiative’s early successes and some that are still in progress.