Cooperation key to region’s economic growth, group says
SCHERERVILLE – The Lake County Economic Alliance can be the bridge between cities and towns and the economic development opportunities that bring jobs and growth to the region.
That’s the message that members of the Lake County Advancement Committee heard Friday — a message that also stressed the need for cooperation to promote region-wide economic development.
Addressing the group were Joel Gorelick of People’s Bank; Sue Reed, president and CEO of the Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce; and Dave Ryan, executive director of the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce.
Those three are the driving forces behind the Lake County Economic Alliance, a group bringing together the joint chambers of commerce formed by Hammond-East Chicago and Merrillville-Crown Point.
The alliance wants to be a one-stop shop for businesses looking for sites in the area. One day, the group hopes to bring all of Lake County into one alliance.
Right now, the county has 28 different alliances promoting economic growth. Some Indiana counties have just one; a few have two or three.
“It’s all about the future, about strategies of restructuring for the future,” Gorelick said.
While the Alliance currently represents the four communities they are encouraging all to come aboard.
“It’s a collaborative effort. We can set out and form an Alliance but we will never get any traction unless we have support,” Gorelick said.
Having a central location to identify all properties available in Lake County and get information about those properties to business site locators is essential to economic development.
With so many groups now in the region, prospective businesses don’t know where to turn for comprehensive information.
In contrast, St. Joseph and Marion counties each have one economic alliance and other counties with more than one have just two or three.
“The idea of more is not better when it comes to business attraction and retention,” Ryan said.
They said local competitiveness must be put aside; if one community experiences economic development it is good for the entire county.
They said a stronger focus needs to be placed on retaining existing businesses.
Reed said it is essential business looking to locate in Lake County have access to all the information they need to find a potential site for a project. She said an intern project uncovered only 28 of the more than 100 properties available in Merrillville and Crown Point were located on Zoom Properties.
“What a disservice to someone coming and looking to our area and not seeing all the properties available,” she said.