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Panel pitches plan for creating jobs in Porter County

Updated: January 20, 2013 6:21AM



VALPARAISO — With the brunt of its work complete, the Jobs Cabinet came before the Porter County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday with a number of recommendations, including creating a county office of economic development and using principal from the sale of the hospital to help spur development.

The cabinet, announced a year ago, was formed with business leaders from throughout the county to focus on job creation.

“We didn’t want to give you something that would sit on the shelf and just collect dust. This is an action plan,” cabinet facilitator Bill Hanna told commissioners.

Hanna said during his presentation — he will give a similar one to the Porter County Council next month — that the county should focus on health care, industry, information technology and tourism.

Key points in development include land planning and acquisition; better use of the Porter County Municipal Airport; and transportation, with the hope of luring those with jobs in Chicago to live in Porter County.

An economic development director will oversee activity and guide progress, Hanna said, adding the county director could serve as a liaison to the rest of the county to reduce redundancies and improve communication.

The cabinet’s report also suggests using part of the principal from the hospital sale to invest in two or three large-scale projects to impact the county, and that the county treasurer lend up to half of the proceeds to school corporations and municipalities for low-interest financing for capital improvement projects.

The use of the hospital principal requires the unanimous vote of both the commissioners and the council; the treasurer has the authority to invest the principal on his own.

The cabinet was created to sunset in 12 to 18 months, and was expected to cost at least $100,000, with 75 percent of the budget coming from the county.

Commissioners President John Evans, R-North, asked the cabinet to remain in place for another few months to help recruit and interview candidates for the economic development director.

He plans to present the council with a county economic development income tax, or CEDIT, project to fund that position.

Commissioners would review and accept the cabinet’s report, Evans said, “but I believe we can get this going fairly quickly.”

In other business, commissioners selected Porter Regional Hospital to provide health care clinic services for county employees under their insurance plan.

Commissioners reviewed four bids for the service — including one from current provider HealtheAccess — but selected Porter because the county could pay per visit, rather than a flat fee per employee. The clinic service has been underused Evans said, and paying per visit is more cost-effective.



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