Cities working together to grow

March 29, 2019

MICHIGAN CITY — Growth is increasing in both La Porte and Michigan City, and local officials from both cities want to keep the trend going.

That was the gist Monday evening during the investor social event at Patrick’s Grille, hosted by the Economic Development Corporation Michigan City (EDCMC) and the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership (LEAP).

Clarence Hulse, EDCMC executive director, told nearly 100 investors that capital investment in Michigan City between 2016 and 2018 totaled over $322.5 million. During that time frame, 35 projects were initiated, 2,079 jobs retained, and 603 new jobs created in the community.

He talked statistics for the city of La Porte as well: $221.4 million in capital investments, 14 projects initiated, 1,370 jobs retained and 295 new jobs created between 2016 and 2018.

“We’ve seen great growth in both Michigan City and La Porte, and we want to keep that trend moving forward,” Hulse said. “…We’re excited because there’s a lot in store for both cities right now. We’ve got a lot of projects on the horizon, both Michigan City and La Porte. And we’re working together to show these investors how they can see their money multiply. I think it’s great for the community.”

LEAP Executive Director Bert Cook said, “Oftentimes, we hear both from the public and from the business community this desire to work together, work as partners across political and geographical boundaries. This is a perfect example of how we’re doing that.

“You have Michigan City companies, you have La Porte companies, you have La Porte County companies that are all part of one larger organization. And I think really exemplifying that partnership is what I’m most proud of.”

The investors invited to Monday’s social event all contributed varying amounts to a joint fund, managed by the Unity Foundation of La Porte County and used to help keep EDCMC and LEAP in operation.

Robert Schaefer, president of Community Dynamics, conducted the fundraising campaign for 2016-18. He said the goal was to raise $500,000, but they ultimately raised nearly $600,000 – and increased the number of donors by about 25 percent.

“The money is for not only administration, but it’s for marketing La Porte County, marketing both communities, La Porte and Michigan City,” Schaefer said. “It’s for going to trade shows, which are very important that these guys get out and meet companies that might be interested in moving to La Porte or Michigan City. It’s business attraction.

“And more importantly, it’s working with the companies that are already here. That’s the number one focus – keep what you have. So, they’re out meeting with their local companies, finding out if everything’s OK. Sometimes they have to go the mayor’s office for some help. But that’s their biggest focus, keeping what you have.”

Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer agreed.

“The majority of jobs that are created are from existing businesses that expand,” he said. “Tonight is just an opportunity for us to see why their businesses came here originally and what their needs are.

“Bert and Clarence work very closely, and that’s something that gets forgotten,” Meer continued. “A lot of times, someone will say, ‘La Porte got this job,’ or ‘This company went out in the county.’ Well, we’re working to get them anywhere we can get them in our area, and that’s where the regional thought comes in.

“I just want to emphasize that any job in La Porte County is an opportunity for a Michigan City resident. We’ve had to adapt because the big industries that were in Michigan City in the ’60s and ‘70s faded out in the ‘80s and ’90s, and so we’ve had to adapt, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”

The mayor said two initiatives he believes are bound to greatly impact economic development in Michigan City and the surrounding communities include the recent designation of the Indiana Dunes as a National Park, and the announcement that NIPSCO’s power plant along the city’s Lake Michigan shoreline will be demolished within 10 years.

Mike Riehle, president of chamber services at LEAP, said, “The people here tonight are truly vested. They want to be a part of the excitement that’s going on.

“In the next two to three years, the landscape of La Porte and Michigan City – this partnership is going to create a dynamic area that’s going to attract more business and more investment and retail centers and those kinds of things; and it’s just going to be great. I’m excited about what’s to come.”