Valparaiso, IN – Members of the Regional Council of Economic Advisors outlined nine key indicators during Northwest Indiana: Regional Economic Trends and Opportunities as they look to chart a direction for the region’s future.
Data on such indicators as household earnings, private sector sales, per capita personal income, average wages and education have created a picture of the current economic state while providing a platform to track trends. “We are creating a foundation and look to plot a course for Northwest Indiana,” said Don Babcock, director of economic development at NIPSCO and chairman of the Northwest Indiana Forum Board of Directors. Current data from Dun & Bradstreet and other sources revealed shining economic spots, including an increase in per capita personal income from $27,280 to $34,139 in Northwest Indiana. The 25 percent growth from 2001 to 2009 was at a higher level than the rest of the state, which saw a 19 percent increase, and on track with the U.S., which was at 25 percent.
While construction of buildings and real estate are declining region industries, the report highlighted ambulatory health care, primary metal manufacturing and local government as areas of growth. Manufacturing is also the biggest industry in the region. “There are some real jewels along the way and up and comers,” said council member Paul McGrath, PhD, of Purdue University Calumet. “While we want to attract new business, we also need to maintain the base we have.”
Council member Martine Duchatelet, PhD, of Purdue University Calumet, emphasized the importance of education for the region’s workforce and called on community and business leaders to help mentor the next generation. “To me, the most important resource we have in the region is people,” added council member Tony Sindone, MA, of Purdue University North Central. “We need to enhance and improve the skills of our work force.”
The event wrapped up with afternoon break-out sessions to drill down the data by county and prompt discussion. “Hopefully, this information generates dialogue,” said Mark Maassel, president and CEO of the NWI Forum. “We need to plug in and think through how to move the needle forward.” The project was launched after a Duneland Chamber of Commerce economic development summit in the fall of 2010. “For years people in academia and area economic development professionals have sought answers to key questions about our economy from different perspectives,” Babcock said. “The effort here is to identify questions that are important to economic development professionals and seek assistance of those in academia to give impartial answers that are based upon known data or projections that are rooted in reasonable assumptions.”
Additional council members include Derek Bjonback, PhD, of Purdue North Central and Virginia Shingleton, PhD, of Valparaiso University. The project has been a united effort for the Duneland Economic Development Company, NIPSCO, NWI Forum, NWI Small Business Development Center and the Center for Workforce Innovation along with Ivy Tech and Indiana University Northwest.
Presentations are available online at www.nwiforum.org/development in the Resource Center.