Hanna: RDA needs to move beyond the lakeshore
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent June 14, 2012 5:40PM
Updated: July 16, 2012 6:31AM
VALPARAISO — The focus of Northwest Indiana’s Regional Development Authority needs to shift from the Lake Michigan shore and develop a unified plan, according to the organization’s head.
Northwest Indiana needs to look beyond the lakeshore for what it could do together, said RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna.
Hanna appeared before the Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce Thursday to go over what the RDA has done and what it is working on, but he said the past projects — the Portage Lakefront Park, Marquette Park in Gary, the East Chicago shoreline and others — aren’t unified by a plan.
“It’s been sort of one-off stuff. There’s been no vision,” Hanna said.
The area tends to look inside itself for both answers and problems. Instead, Northwest Indiana needs to work together and reach out to the world, and tourism boards should work together, such as Alabama and Florida working together as “The South Coast” or the neighboring state saying ”Visit Michigan” rather than concentrating on one area.
“It’s a shame we don’t have a collective marketing strategy,” he said.
With the projects the RDA has already worked on, there’s a foundation on which communities can build, Hanna told the group of almost 100 people. Northwest Indiana also needs to look to how it can take advantage of things the RDA has done and build from them, “otherwise these investments will not be fully realized.”
The area also needs to develop shovel-ready industrial parks and places with infrastructure for building, he said.
Hanna also asked people to contact the state Legislature about the coming loss of about one-third of the RDA budget.
The RDA receives $10 million a year from Major Moves, which is ending, but he feels optimistic that the Legislature will come through with some funding.
“The big thing we have to show them is a return on investment,” about $1.50 coming in for each $1 spent, Hanna said.
As for continuing bus services, Hanna said the RDA cannot do it and still be able to fund other projects. He said it would be tragic if inter-city bus lines were to fail. Mass transportation is an economic indicator, he said.
The number of riders has increased, but “it’s never been really well-collaborated or coordinated,” he said. “There’s nothing easy about Easy Go — buses are difficult.”
However, he remains optimistic “there are options out there at the county level,” he said.