The NWI Regional Development Authority (NWI RDA) was the topic of conversation during the Duneland Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn on Wednesday, June 26. “It’s pretty amazing what’s been accomplished in the past few years, given the size of our office,” said Sherri Ziller, the RDA’s Chief Operating Officer. Among those achievements: the Gary Airport Expansion Project; the Marquette Park Pavilion; and the Gateway to the Dunes project - a keystone initiative in Porter County that includes creation of the Dunes Kankakee Trail.
“Our third-party ROI study found that from 2006 to 2015, $1 of RDA investment leverages $2.57 of non-RDA funding, and returns $5.21 in cumulative economic impact,” Ziller said. “Additionally, RDA investments from 2006 to 2015 will support about 4,000 jobs annually. Our next goal is to secure renewal of $10 million in annual state funding beyond 2015.”
That $10 million will support a full slate of RDA projects in Lake and Porter counties, including increased connectivity to Chicago; development at and around the Gary Airport; the Trauma Center and Teaching Hospital study; Brownfield remediation in Gary, Hammond and East Chicago; further shoreline development in East Chicago and Portage; and more economic development partnerships with the Indiana Economic Development Company and local communities.
“Anyone can work with the municipalities to submit a project for consideration to the RDA,” Ziller said. “All of the information for RFPs is on our website [www.in.gov/rda]. We strongly suggest that people work with their municipalities to put together plans – documents which will include funding mechanisms, planning documents, etc. We’ll then review the proposals and ask questions before handing them to our panel. More questions will be asked until we’re sure that we’ve completed our due diligence in moving the projects forward.”
On Monday, July 1, at 1:30pm, Duneland residents will have the opportunity see concrete evidence of the RDA’s role in Porter County during the Groundbreaking Ceremony of the Dunes Kankakee Trail. The ceremony will be held at Mile 0 of the new trail, which will be located at the Historic Gates of Indiana Dunes State Park (1600 N. CR-25 E. Chesterton, IN). “This is a wonderful opportunity to see what can happen when visionaries come together with the right opportunity and funding,” says Heather Ennis, the Chamber’s Executive Director. “So many community leaders worked so hard to make this trail happen, and the RDA can’t be thanked enough for their contribution to the effort.”
The Duneland Chamber of Commerce is a catalyst organization committed to ensuring that its member communities are vibrant places to live, work and play. Through service to the towns of Beverly Shores, Burns Harbor, Chesterton, Dune Acres and Porter, the Chamber provides a unified voice for robust community-building events, meaningful educational programming and smart economic development in the Duneland area. For more information, please visit www.dunelandchamber.org.