Coordinated Regional Effort to Make a Sustainable Difference in Northwest Indiana
On January 31, 2012, Antonio R. Riley, U.S. Housing and Urban Development's Midwest Regional Administrator, convened a group of federal and regional decision makers to discuss Northwest Indiana. Although Northwest Indiana's urban core cities, including Gary have weathered decades of disinvestment, in recent years the momentum has been building across state lines and municipalities within the region, for coordinated reinvestment and planning. The meeting at HUD was to align government agencies in a synergistic effort to support this national model for regional economic revitalization.
Joined by Gary's new Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, regional planning groups and content experts as well as other federal regional administrators; the Northwest Indiana Alignment meeting participants are identifying available resources and innovative strategies to support the development of sustainable solutions for Gary and Northwest Indiana.
According to the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) of the greater Chicago region, confidence has been boosted thanks to enlightened local leadership and key investments made by the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA), a national model for regional economic revitalization. The RDA has directed funding to restore both natural and built assets, including a park on the shores of Lake Michigan, and the Gary/Chicago International Airport. Meanwhile the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) has adopted a forward-thinking, complementary regional planning strategy through the 2040 plan, which prioritizes urban reinvestment.
"Through the Gary and Region Investment Project, or GRIP, MPC is helping to attract national attention and resources to this underserved area. As foundations, policy makers, and federal agencies have learned about Northwest Indiana's progress and promise, they also see the potential for catalytic urban core projects identified by the RDA, in partnership with municipalities and local stakeholders," said Peter Skosey, MPC's Vice President.
"There is a lot of good work being done in this area, and the timing is right for the federal agencies to get involved. You could actually feel the energy in the room as we discussed our coordinated effort. This group is knocking down walls and silos and demonstrating President Obama's strategic approach to the use of federal agencies," said Riley. "And the timing is perfect with new leadership in Gary, and a lot of preliminary planning and work in place."
Assets, shared by East Chicago, Hammond and Whiting, Ind., with Gary are enviable; miles of Lake Michigan Shoreline; unparalleled transportation access to four major highways; six railroad lines; and the Gary/Chicago International Airport; and universities providing workforce training and research as well as being a critical component of greater metropolitan Chicago, according to MPC.
Estelle Richman, HUD'S Acting Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer sent letters to seven federal agencies asking them to join HUD "to take a close look at Northwest Indiana and find innovative ways that multiple federal agencies can best align resources with emerging regional goals and priorities." Joining HUD for this groundbreaking meeting were seven regional administrators and other representatives from: U.S. Department of Transportation; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; U.S. Department of Commerce; U.S. Department of Justice; U.S. Department of Labor; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Army Corps of Engineers. More than 15 federal departments within those agencies were represented.
"This convening is just the beginning of federal, community, private and state collaboration -- the right people and the right vision are in place in this coordinated regional effort to make a sustainable difference in Northwest Indiana," said Riley. "From a medical pediatric facility to improvements in transportation and public housing to economic recovery and the environment – we are united to build a stronger Northwest Indiana."