RDA Legislation Moves Forward in Indiana General Assembly

Last Tuesday, the Indiana Senate Tax & Fiscal Policy Committee unanimously approved HB 1398, Rep. Ed Soliday’s package of administrative changes to the RDA. The committee also signed off one significant modification, an amendment that removed proposed changes to board qualifications.

House Bill 1398, sponsored by state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, mandates the RDA focus entirely on improving region transportation and infrastructure, or implementing the Marquette Plan for redevelopment of the Lake Michigan shoreline, instead of subsidizing corporate moves or other general economic development programs.

The measure, which now advances to the full Senate, also requires the State Budget Committee review RDA projects and obligates Hammond, East Chicago, Gary, and Lake and Porter counties to pay their annual $3.5 million shares of the RDA budget on time.

In response to concerns voiced by representatives of the Northwest Indiana Federation of Interfaith Organizations, work is underway on an additional amendment to the legislation which would add local hiring goals to the RDA’s mandate.

On the following Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee heard testimony regarding the RDA’s request for state funding for the West Lake Corridor expansion. The RDA is requesting $7.5 million a year for the next 30 years.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, a Democrat, and Portage Mayor James Snyder, a Republican, both urged the panel to include RDA funding for South Shore expansion in the state budget it is set to release April 9.

“As we ask for your help to move forward, I think you’re seeing a different type of Northwest Indiana. You hear ‘one region’ often; we’re putting action to those words in what we’re doing here,” Snyder said. “Because the success of west Lake County, the success of Gary, the success of Hammond is the success of Portage.

“Abandoning this would be a disaster.”

Since our inception in 2006, the RDA has invested about $30 million in regional transportation projects, including new rail cars for the South Shore commuter rail line, and parking and station improvements for the ChicaGo Dash service. Commuters who use these services every day to travel to jobs in Chicago bring back a combined $430 million in personal income annually to spend on goods and services here in Northwest Indiana. Currently, the RDA is working with local, state and federal officials to expand South Shore service to Chicago. That expansion, the West Lake Corridor, would result in an additional $231 million in personal income for the regional economy.

RDA Welcomes Chris Campbell to the Board of Directors

The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) welcomes Christopher Campbell to its Board of Directors. Campbell, Senior Vice President at Centier Bank, will serve as Porter County’s representative to the RDA.

“I am honored to be selected by the Porter County Commissioners and County Council as their appointee to the RDA Board of Directors,” Campbell said. “I have a deep interest in the region and strongly believe that by coming together we can compete with anyplace else in the county.”

Campbell holds an MBA from Valparaiso University and sits on several other Boards in Northwest Indiana, including the Boards of the Valparaiso Parks Foundation, the Porter Starke Foundation, Valparaiso Events and the Valparaiso Economic Development Commission. Campbell is also Chairman of the Board of the E.F. Wildermuth Foundation, a national philanthropic organization based in Columbus, Ohio.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to welcome Christopher to the Board and to the RDA,” said Board Chairman Don Fesko. “I look forward to working with him as we continue to lay the foundation for growth and development in Northwest Indiana.”

Bill Hanna, President and CEO of the RDA, noted that Campbell brings valuable skills and insights to the RDA. “Christopher brings additional experience in the financial industry and investing, which is more important than ever now that the RDA is gearing up to tackle its largest investment ever, the $571 million West Lake Corridor,” Hanna said. “He is also well-versed in grants and economic development, both of which are staples of RDA activity.”

Porter County Commissioner Jeff Good, who served as the county’s representative to the RDA until his election as Commissioner last November, called Campbell “an ideal choice” for the position. “He is an outstanding businessman and member of the community, and I can’t think of anyone I would rather have take my seat,” he said. “Christopher will be a great asset to the RDA, Porter County and Northwest Indiana.”

Chicago Leads Nation in Business Investment Again; NWI Lags

For the second straight year, Chicago led the nation in business investment, according to Site Selection magazine’s annual rankings. Overall, the State of Indiana shared in three of the top 10 metro areas with a population over 1 million: Chicago, Cincinnati, OH, and Louisville, KY. Of these, the Chicago market was by far the strongest, recording more business investment projects than the other two combined.

In conjunction with Site Selection’s rankings, World Business Chicago released its annual report of business deals in the metro area, (pdf) including those in Northwest Indiana. The good news: WBC counted 19 business investment projects in Lake and Porter counties in 2014, up from 16 in 2013. The bad news: that remains a meager fraction of the total deals — 624 in 2014 — done in the metro area last year.

Northwest Indiana’s lack of connectivity to Chicago compared to other counties surrounding the city is a major reason for this underperformance. It puts region residents at a disadvantage when competing for the more than 38,000 jobs these investments generated in the metro area last year. It also makes Northwest Indiana less attractive as a place to locate a business.

Currently, the RDA is working with local, state and federal officials to expand South Shore service to Chicago. Since our inception in 2006, the RDA has invested about $30 million in regional transportation projects, including new rail cars for the South Shore commuter rail line, and parking and station improvements for the ChicaGo Dash service. Commuters who use these services every day to travel to jobs in Chicago bring back a combined $430 million in personal income annually to spend on goods and services here in Northwest Indiana. The proposed expansion, the West Lake Corridor, would result in an additional $231 million in personal income for the regional economy.