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Northwest Indiana poised for economic growth, says Gov. Holcomb

Northwest Indiana Forum President & CEO Heather Ennis speaks with Gov. Eric Holcomb and U.S. Rep. Frank Mrvan during an event in Merrillville Sept. 27.

No region of the state is more poised for accelerated growth than Northwest Indiana, according to Governor Eric Holcomb.

"Everyone can see you, and it's a lot cheaper to live here. I'm thinking about painting I-80 and 90 yellow for yellow brick roads coming out of it because this is the promised land," Holcomb said at an event hosted by the Northwest Indiana Forum Tuesday.

Holcomb said the Region's proximity to Chicago, as well as engineering schools like Purdue and Notre Dame, is extremely important when it comes to attracting semiconductor and chip makers.

U.S. Representative Frank Mrvan said the federal CHIPS Act goes a long way to shorten the supply chain and bring manufacturing jobs back home. "We have auto workers who work in Ford in south Chicago. They stopped production because of lack of chips. So thousands and thousands of cars across the country were in parking lots," Mrvan said during Tuesday's event.

Northwest Indiana Forum President & CEO Heather Ennis noted that 34 of the plan's projects are being funded in part by $50 million in state READI grants. "We'll help Northwest Indiana's working poor get to that next level of opportunity through the United Way's Level Up program. We'll connect our communities along the northern part of the Region with the Marquette Trail, and we'll do more with what we grow by looking at an ag value strategy and rural entrepreneurship in order to help the rural communities continue to succeed and thrive," Ennis said.

Holcomb said he supports the idea of a second round of READI funding, since many good project proposals weren't able to be funded in round one. "They were not just shovel-ready. They were shovel-worthy," Holcomb said.

How much additional funding remains to be seen, as the legislative budget session approaches, but Holcomb said, ideally, he'd like to match the first round.

Michael Gallenberger is a news reporter and producer that hosts All Things Considered on 89.1 FM | Lakeshore Public Media.