A new strategic plan from the Northwest Regional Logistics Council outlines priorities for the 11-county region designed to boost long and short-term connectivity and economic development. It involves road, rail, air and water transportation assets in what the council calls the "Gateway to the World." The 32-member group of industry executives highlighted more than 50 infrastructure projects, several public policy opportunities and mapped out talent development strategies.
NWRLC Chair Kevin Lhotak, who is president of Chesterton-based Reliable Transportation Specialists, says "working from a common agenda, we achieved alignment of priorities in infrastructure, public policy and workforce development issues to maximize short- and long-term success for the business community and the residents of Northwest Indiana."
Chicago-based Weaver Boos Consultants Civil Engineering Manager John Talbot also serves on the council. He says a significant focus of the plan dealt with work force issues. Talbot says a "slew" of programs in the region, including some efforts from Ivy Tech Community College, are working to align skills training with the needs of employers. However, he says "we have to do a lot better," especially when it comes to trucking and rail industries.
Conexus Indiana, which convened the council and others like it throughout the state, says the plan points to "priority projects" aimed at reducing "bottlenecks," including:
- Converting the existing 4-lane US 30 highway to a full access-controlled freeway with interchanges at major intersections
- Designing and building the Illiana Expressway
- Constructing a new lock at Soo to ease the passage of large vessels between Lake Superior that feed the steel mills and power plants of Northwest Indiana
- Designing and building rail lines into Kingsbury Industrial Park to provide a niche multimodal rail service yard for the distribution of cold storage commodities to and from Tampa Bay, Fla, via CSX rail providing direct rail access.
Northwest Indiana Forum Chief Executive Officer Heather Ennis adds "the plan includes major regional projects, as well as smaller – but important – local projects. Maintaining and increasing our logistics assets at both the regional and the local level creates opportunities to grow our economy and ensure more high-paying logistics jobs for Hoosiers."
The counties within the region are Benton, Carroll, Jasper, Lake, LaPorte, Newton, Porter, Pulaski, Starke, Warren and White.